Exclusive: An Interview with Jetfreak-7

Written Bydulac
Published On

As Picard Season 3 airs, there’s been a lot of new artwork and ship designs on screen. We’ve been incredibly lucky at Obsidian Fleet to be able to interview some of the artists who’ve been able to make a contribution to Picard or play a prominent role in modern Trek art. Over the next few weeks, get to know these artists, their work, their feelings about being involved in the production of Picard and their future.

This week, it’s Jetfreak-7.


The Visionary – A Sagan class render by Jetfreak-7

This is Xerix with Obsidian fleet. Today I have the privilege of interviewing digital artist Jetfreak-7. 

XERIX: Thank you for agreeing to this Interview. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

First of all greetings and thank you for the opportunity for this interview. The folks that know me IRL call me Ken or Kenneth, but here in the fun side of the Trek fandom I go by the callsign “Jetfreak-7”. I’m a Filipino guy born and raised. A bit inquisitive, a bit fiery but that’s how I see myself lol

Jetfreak: I’ve always been a creative person, sketching in my spare time, immersing myself in art books and pursuing visual arts in the digital realm. Apart from 3d rendering which I’ve become infamous for, I also love doing concept/speculative designs. I’m also quite big on history and geopolitics, where I dabble in some alternate-history military fiction.

Over the years, I’ve made a decent professional career out of my skill set and this allowed me to move to New Zealand some years ago. Currently, I’m working as a junior designer on a marketing firm here in Auckland. As for my hobbies: Star Trek and Aviation Art – these have been quite lucrative as well and I’m quite fortunate to have turned these passions into something that gives me an extra boost on the side. It’s a bit cliche, but business is good and I have some big goals on the horizon. 

XERIX: How long have you been a Star Trek fan? 

Jetfreak: My first exposure to Star Trek was thru my father, watching reruns of Star Trek: Voyager way back in 2001. Being a young kid I was instantly captivated by the aesthetic and optimistic tone of the show and growing up in that era really made an impression on me. Suffice it to say, VOY is still my fave series.

On the gaming side, another big influence for me is Star Trek: Armada 2 when I finally understood how to play the damn game in 2003/04 haha. This basically introduced me to the wide world of game modding, introduced me to the Trek fandom at large and arguably became my springboard towards going to full on 3d artwork.

XERIX: And do you have a favorite ship and/or ship class?

Jetfreak: If I were to really narrow it down to one ship, the mighty Sovereign Class period.

She perfectly encapsulates what I love about Star Trek and design in general. Quite the statuesque spaceframe, the Sovereign Class is a triumph of form and function and a true cinematic successor to the Connie Refit for the big screen. The damn thing just screams power and performance, the same feeling you get when you see engineering marvels like the F-22 or the Mclaren F1.

XERIX: How about a favorite captain? 

Jetfreak: I’ve never really given this much thought as I generally like the majority of Trek’s skippers thru the various series/films. My gut says Captain Pike, although this may be due to recency bias!!! Regardless, I like Pike as a model Starfleet captain. Can shoot from the hip if needed to like his era’s Starfleet peers and can masterfully do diplomacy the likes of what we see a century later in TNG. Very much a respectable leader and to be able to say “I love this job” is a neat bonus.

XERIX: Can you tell us how you create your fantastic artwork?

Jetfreak: Yo, that’s classified, I have enough nibbling copy-cats already!!!

Just kidding!!!

But the short answer is an unhealthy mix of programs like 3ds Max, Photoshop and some other obscure tools on my stable. I usually start with a generic idea like “exploration shot with X starship”. I look at the subject matter for some nice camera angles and work my way from there. Sometimes I get inspiration from films or other artwork and use them as a touch stone to guide my visuals.

Personally, lighting and composition are very important elements for me when setting up a shot. It can literally make or break the ship you are using and I’m very exacting and demanding in my process. Sometimes to a fault where I make renders that go unused. 

I’ve been on the digital Trek art scene for nearly 15 years now and I can certainly make it look easy. But I definitely devote a lot of thought and care to my work. I may not be as fast or on-trend as I used to, but these days I prefer quality over quantity. I’ve never been one to blindly chase fads.

XERIX: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share with us about? 

Jetfreak: A certain Doug Drexler has spoken to me about something and I will just leave it at that LOL

I have also made my mark in military enthusiast circles, one of my fighter pieces may or may not be framed somewhere in a Washington DC building.

But I always have a surprise or two up my sleeve! Just to keep my audience on their toes. A big PIC-era heavy cruiser is on the works and I would love to expand my 5th generation fighter fleet. 😉

XERIX: What are your thoughts on the ships that have just debuted on season three of Picard, the NeoConnie and Duderstadt class ? 

Jetfreak: All right before I begin please don’t take my opinion 100% as this is all truly subjective.

I can totally see why there is a direction to make callbacks to classic ships on Star Trek: Picard, this is just the zeitgeist that we live in today. Where everything old is new again. Take the auto industry for example, where the Ford Mustang and its rivals suddenly revived the old muscle car aesthetic of the 1960s and morphed them to the 2000s. To quote a certain Don, nostalgia is delicate – but potent.

But my inner insatiable lore-nerd has been quite ambivalent on the entire thing. I recognize the alleged regression of starship design informed with the TMP era aesthetic and grafted with STO-like elements. Aesthetically I am fine with the USS Titan-A and the USS Intrepid if you view these ships designs alone and without the context of Trek’s world building and all the contradictions of canon.

XERIX: Some of us are struggling a bit with these “retro” classes. They feel like a step backwards, design-wise. Can you give us any educated guesses on the reasoning behind these particular choices? 

Jetfreak: If we recognize the galactic landscape of the post-Dom War the Feds have been through a lot of crap. Attack on Mars, Hobus Supernova, Romulan refugee crisis the list goes on.

The short answer is, Starfleet operates a “back to basics” starship programme. Where Starfleet fields a numbers game of restocking its depleted ships as rapidly as possible. Old plans are revisited, aging ships gutted/rebuilt and hulls are basically reheated forms of old designs. All painted over with newer technology to mask the imperfections. 

And with the loss of big facilities like Utopia, the more sophisticated and truly purpose built types like Galaxies and Sovys may have become an endangered species. Superseded by less complex, cheaper but more functional and easily mass-built designs.

XERIX: As of the writing of this article, Picard is nearing the end of its final season. Discovery has announced that their next season will be their last as well. Where do you think the future is heading for Star Trek?

Jetfreak: Please excuse my tin-foil hat but Star Trek is very much at the forefront of the multigenerational culture shift that is permeating western culture right now. For a franchise built on the ethos of Infinite Diversity/Combinations this very concept seems to directly clash with certain purist parts of the fandom.

A persistent and toxic narrative says that nuTrek (anything post-2005) is “fake” Star Trek and certain people have wanted it to fail from day one. There is just this endless array of double-standards and perceived slights on **canon** that fanbois are more interested in nitpicking rather than watching the damn shows. This era of over-analysis has killed any enjoyment of the material. And despite what these basement critics say about DIS, PIC, LD, etc., I truly welcome Trek’s steady expansion with multiple spin-offs – the likes we haven’t seen since the mid-90’s.

The modern internet has just become such a lightning rod for vitriol disguised as “critique” that it is often hard to just have fun and enjoy the ride. This also aligns to why I keep my social media footprint to a minimum. I love Star Trek to hell and back, but certain parts of the fandom not so much!!!

Keep in mind that Star Trek is fundamentally a space pew pew show embellished with social commentary. It’s supposed to make you ponder and at times, feel uncomfortable. Why is that so hard to comprehend?

XERIX: And how about your own future. What are your plans? Might we see your designs zipping around the galaxy sometime? 

Jetfreak: Not Star Trek per se, but I am happy to share that my original F-28 Tomcat II concept design is now a playable aircraft on the mobile game MODERN WARSHIPS. Fully sanctioned by me with an exclusive licence with the developers. It’s a speculative take on an F-14 successor and seeing her flying around in a video game is all sorts of awesome.

In the Star Trek realm there’s a couple of original birds. On paper, I’m very much a *canon* type of guy but I have been a regular collaborator with Hellkite-1 (former US Military) and kjc733 (practicing Engineer) over at Majestic’s MSFC forums. Thru the years, our motley crew have bonded over our passion for Star Trek designs and game modding. Our most recent original design is the Resolution Class slipstream cruiser. Something to give the Dauntless a run for her money!

XERIX: Finally, what advice would you give people just getting started in the VFX artwork world? 

Jetfreak: Note that foremost I am doing my artworks strictly as a hobby and for fun. I am quite happy with the success that I’ve seen over the past decade and I’m quite flattered that people have been inspired (sometimes a little too inspired) to ride on my coat-tails LOL. I’ve just noticed these intense efforts to emulate me or attempt to out-do me at every corner and I just laugh that off in stride. I have never been one to subscribe to shallow competition or strive for an imaginary “first place”. Doing so is just a rat race to the bottom.

If you find success in this field more power to you, but remember that your personal achievements must be implied rather than blatantly stated. Too much and it gets annoying, and nobody likes a humblebrag. Back home we call that kulang sa pansin. **Look at me I did this!!!!** – for the 20th time in a row. Sure, bud.

Apart from investing in good equipment/software I can’t say much about the technical stuff as I really am a self-taught artist from the very beginning. But when it comes to visual mediums, tools are just that – tools. It is the artist that makes all the difference. Bragging about a 16k render is useless when you have no hard skills to back it up. Find apps that you are comfortable with and be prepared to put in the work, time and monetary investment. There is no quick fix and shortcut in this field.

I value my own personal development and preferences when it comes to creating art. I chart my own course and create content that caters to my tastes first and foremost. Therefore, my guiding philosophy is always to create artwork for yourself – everything else is secondary. Be genuine, learn the classical fundamentals and stop relying on cheap tricks and whatever fad is popular. People will respect you more for it.

XERIX: Thank you so much for your time. How may our members reach you? 

Jetfreak: As always I’m always up to something on my DeviantArt account: 

https://www.deviantart.com/jetfreak-7

Otherwise you can find me lurking and silently judging you on the Armada gaming Discord: 

https://discord.com/channels/470267638652731401/993371599178833931