Physis Academy

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Learn, explore, work and play. Be inspired in the South of France

The Physis Approach

We teach a unique holistic engagement with artistic production. Physis has identified the grounding skills that are needed to navigate, and remain valuable in, the changing technical landscape.

Apart from the obvious software skills, we concentrate on what you really need to sustain yourself in this profession for the long term. These are are cognitive flexibility and authorial coherence. That creativity that drives us is sensitive. it needs nurturing, strengthening, discipline and protection. Physis offers methods to keep your artistic being alive and kicking. With us you will gain habits, methods and philosophical ideas that you will carry with you as you develop and evolve.

Dan says “Mastery is the route to creative freedom and authentic expression”. Mastery, for artists, means connecting the primary artistic disciplines with high levels of craftsmanship. Physis offers good practices that integrate the primary disciplines of observation, research and critical thinking, with practical technique. The integration of these things leads to better creative output.

Authenticity is the lifeblood of a sustained creative career. Practicing these fundamental intellectual disciplines keeps your mind available for tcontinuous learning and allows you to develop and maintain originality.


We offer a range residential courses from 2 weeks, to 3 months in duration. We host occasional intensive masterclasses that take place over a few days.

We also run portfolio building residencies – kind of the opposite of a retreat, where we enable you to work intensively on personal projects in a supportive and constructive critical environment, with technical back up on hand.

Our courses are designed for an international market of career practitioners who want to delve deeper. For post-graduates who have discovered that their Degree has not given them the depth of skill they want. Or those who simply want to jump in at the deep-end..We have courses suitable for those who wish to switch careers or change focus from technical to creative or, vice versa, from creative to technical. We rarely offer beginner courses except by popular demand, when we have the time.

Courses are designed by Dan Hughes-McGrail in conjunction with guest tutors. Guest tutors are carefully selected independent artists who are at the top of their practice, who are invited to the Physis centre to run specific courses.

All Courses are run in English, the lingua Franca of the Digital Art world. With advance warning, we can arrange for translators to be present.

Physis Holistic Methods

3D Digital Artwork, inherently inter-disciplinary. A project commonly involves the artist switching between Sculpture, painting, Illustration, VFX, animation, design, photography, simulation and even architecture all the while needing to be open to critique, direction and collaboration. It is difficult, but worth the struggle, because the potential of digital media offers artists total imaginative freedom. Although accessing this freedom, requires a high level of knowledge, skill and importantly – rigour.

Physis tuition is project based, taking you through full technical and artistic processes in a structured way that promotes a good practice and disciplined workflow. You will encounter some of the practices found in a commercial setting, plus others that are intended to feed your artistic being. These are no mere exercises, All tuition works towards a usable finished work. The finished work providing you with a piece of intellectual property, which can be used in portfolios or even subsequently licensed or sold if it is good enough. Collaborative working methods are built in to working methodologies for the longer courses.

A deep knowledge of the tools is the baseline for digital artists, but operating the software alone is insufficient. The route to producing high quality, authentic and meaningful artworks is through mastery of fine art skills. That is, the craft and intellectual skills associated with traditional fine art practices:

  • Observation – The methods of organising your perception so to experience the world without interpretation, in order to build a more accurate internal model of reality.
  • Criticality – The self reflective ability to independently and iteratively evaluate the quality and meaning of the artwork and understand it’s historical and cultural contexts
  • Theoretical Grounding – in visual perception, optics, perspective, colour theory, anatomy compositional, proportion, physics, Cultural theory etc…
  • Sketching / Mental Prototyping – The imaginative process (The fun part and the main reason we all do what we do)
  • Knowledge of the visual history and the traditions you work within (or against!)
  • Research and Referencing – Filling the mind with the stuff that will shape creative attention
  • Technique – Acquired through training and repetitive practice

Our purpose is to help digital artists to more fully engage with these skills and integrate them into their artistic practice. To become a fully rounded artist, with a complement of intellectual, dialogical, philosophical, and practical habits that will give them professional resilience and continuous artistic renewal.

Learning Space

The learning space is arranged into three areas.

The Art Studio, The Digital Workshop and the Study.

This arrangement helps to apply discipline the complexity of creating work. Each space represents three interrelated but differing frames of mind needed to produce Artwork.

The Art Studio is a traditional artistic environment where observational drawing and sculpting from life are the order of the day. This is a necessary part of digital art training.

The Digital Workshop is a classroom/lab where you carry out computer-based work. It’s a pleasant space with ample desk space, with projectors and screens available. Workstations are hidden away create productive and uncluttered atmosphere more akin to workshop than a computer room.

The Study is a Library. A beautiful, and contemplative space where people spend time researching, thinking and reflecting. The library is stocked with visual resources, and relevant books and Journals.

Professional and Personal Development

Digital Art and animation can be an intense and sometimes difficult career path. We offer counsel and mentoring to help you navigate opportunities and pitfalls. We can help you to articulate and then be stategic in fulfilling your creative goals.

The physis holistic approach also gives attention to your general well being as a whole human. We strongly encourage physical engagement with the environment. AKA physical training and exploration. We and our partners provide opportunities for, and tuition in, mountain biking, climbing, parkour, canoeing, paddle boarding, kite boarding, Pilates, Yoga, and Gymnastic Strength Training.

Dan says “Exert yourself, extend yourself, use your body and your senses to fill your mind, Do things you have never done before, and Learn, that is what we are for.” It’s a necessary part of artistic discipline and the reasons are manifold. The obvious benefits are that it is a lot of fun and it protects your health in an occupation that dictates a lot of sitting still. But also, a daily physical engagement with your own body’s capacities teaches you about interpreting the emotionality of movement and anatomy. You literally feel movement and gesture, which in turn enriches your understanding of embodied meaning in pose, and how that relates to the physical projection character and intentionality. Engaging in disciplined physical exercise and exploring the environment while using your body sharpens your senses, you also experience the environment and culture in new ways, enhancing your understanding of the place, expanding your consciousness of topographies, geography, architecture, geology, the flora and fauna, the relevance to human scale. These experiences inform your imagination with the detail of reality- smell, sounds, temperature, companionship – everything!  Your physical engagement creates and embodied, internal model of the world that you will have as a perpetual resource for your imaginative projects.  

Software Base

We constantly evaluate industry trends in software canons and accordingly bias our own activities towards those tools. The current software bias is:

  • ZBrush, Mudbox for sculpting
  • Maya for polygonal, subdivision and general modelling
  • Houdini, Maya for procedural and simulative modelling
  • Marvellous Designer, Maya for garment modelling
  • Photoshop, SketchbookPro for matte
  • ZBrush, Substance Painter and Photoshop for textures and painting
  • Oculus Medium for VR artistic production
  • Unreal and Unity for game engine
  • Solidworks an Rhino for 3D CAD
  • Photoscan for Photogrammetry


Physis can help you arrange accommodation and recommend local providers. There is a lot of variety in quality and price. Some clients may stay in hotels, some may even camp. Take a look at what is on offer, or ask us to help you decide.

Courses by popularity

ZBrush Upskilling


Character Design


Game Art


Digital Artist Folio Bootcamp


Oculus Medium