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Concept Artist Damas Nawanda wanted to fill in the gaps in his 3D knowledge before applying to One Pixel Brush, so he took 3D for 2D Artists for a deep dive into Blender. He produced some amazing scenes AND gained the skills to land his dream job. Read this breakdown to see how Damas leveled up, including:

  1. Intro to 3D Modeling
  2. References
  3. Thumbnails
  4. Roman Ruins
  5. Sumba Village
  6. Final Fantasy Airship
  7. Star Wars Revenge
  8. Elven Kingdom

Hello! My name is Damas Nawanda, I’m currently working as a freelance concept artist based in Indonesia. I was a computer science student before I pivoted to concept art at the age of 26. I began my journey by working in a local animation studio called RUS Studio. After working as an animation art director and concept art mentor for a high school, I went to study concept art in FZD school of design in 2017 to evolve my skills. Then I worked for 3 years in called Stairway Games, on a project called Coral Island as the environment concept artist. I consider myself a late starter in the industry, but I think the computer science mindset helped break down my approach to creating concept art, especially when a lot of 3D technical knowledge is required.

1. Intro to 3D Modeling

I had a prior Blender experience before starting the course, but I could only do rough blockouts. My experience with Blender was frustrating at first, but once I got some mileage and accepted the occasional setbacks, it opened up so many more possibilities for my concepts. The plugins especially are amazing and really helped make my workflow faster.

Check out CGMA’s 3D for 2D Artists course taught by One Pixel Brush Concept Artist Sergio Castaneda.

2. References

For references, I used Pureref, Google, Pinterest, and Flickr most of the time. I like to categorize my references in the following ways:

  • Benchmark: reference of concept art from another artist that I admire. I usually identify what I liked from them and try to reach the same quality. These artists are usually people who worked in One Pixel Brush. I don’t use these to get ideas, I use them to push myself to create better work than I did before.
  • Visual Language: References that depict details, culture, and time.
  • Layout/Environment: Reference that inspires the layout of the design. These references are not necessarily from the same culture or time period, but if I find that their function works for my design, I usually take inspiration from them.
  • Mood and Lighting: References that show the mood and lighting that can help tell my story.
  • Storytelling: References that show how the subjects might use the space or object of the design. These inspire me to place the objects in the scene so they tell a visual story.
  • Composition: Sometimes I also gather references that inspire me to make cinematic compositions. These references are usually taken from film stills, photos, or other concept art that I admire. Of course, I try to adjust it to my own design needs, I try not to make it look too similar to these existing references.

3. Thumbnails

For week 2, I did one quick rough sketch using the symmetry tool in Photoshop. This helped me create ideas more naturally.

I then did a callout of the objects in that sketch using cropped reference pictures so that I knew exactly what they looked like before going into 3D. I think this approach guided me to be straightforward in the 3D stage.

I usually make a few thumbnails, but if I find the first one to be quite good, I usually just go for that one. I know this might not be the best approach, but I was a little bit pressed for time (LOL).

Looking to perfect your thumbnails? Explore CGMA’s Composition for Concept Art and Illustration course taught by Mauricio Abril and Axel Sauerwald.

4. Roman Ruins

For this week, I was really inspired by one of Piranesi’s etchings of Roman ruins. I liked the shapes and the vastness of the scene. Not only did I want to adapt it in my own designs, but I saw some interesting challenges I want to tackle, like how to model destruction and overgrowth.

This is my modelling workflow:

  1. I started by modeling the big shapes to focus on creating a good composition. Sergio always said it’s important make the big shape read clear and appealing.
  2. I continued adding details by looking at the visual language references. I mainly referred to Moroccan and Roman architecture. But Sergio suggested using one architecture instead, which totally helped!
  3. To make my life easier, I created some destruction modular assets to be placed around the scene. I made sure to add textures to them early as well so I didn’t have to make them again and again.
  4. I used the plugin Mask Tools to quickly create overlapping materials textures. I used 2 textures from Megascans and masked them on top of each other to create a more natural, broken layered material effect. I really like it when the textures transition looks natural, not stiff and clean.

5. Sumba Village

The assets I picked for my week 6 scene were inspired by a village in Sumba, Indonesia. The story I picked was about villagers returning to their home in the early morning, where their dog is waiting.

I began by searching for assets in Sketchfab and Megascans. Always good to see what assets are available before making your own. It can definitely speedup your process! I then made my own models for assets I couldn’t find. Having the Sketchfab plugin for Blender was an efficient way to search for assets directly from Blender.

Explore CGMA’s Environment Concept Design course, currently taught by Concept Artist/Illustrator Simeon Schaffner.

6. Final Fantasy Airship

This week I decided to try building an airship, influenced by the Final Fantasy series. It was definitely challenging.

I was very caught up in wanting to make this kind of ship, so I ended up not using a lot of kitops and hard surface addons, other than VDB clouds and cloth sim. Instead, I relied on the techniques I picked up from previous lessons.

7. Star Wars Revenge

This week, I want to pay homage to one of my favorite movies of all time; Star Wars. I thought it would be really cool to do a character with lightsabers. The brief was to make a scene about someone confronting a gangster to take revenge for their dead brother. Naturally, I thought the gangster should be a Hutt creature and some of his bodyguards. The main character was an innocent girl who turned to the dark side to exact her revenge.

Honestly, there wasn’t a lot of design in this piece. I identified what roles they should have; boss, bodyguard, and the girl. I then scoured the internet for characters and costumes that might fit into the roles of those characters. I bought a Hutt character in DAZ 3D Marketplace, found free stormtroopers models in Sketchfab, and bought the girl’s Marvelous costume in Artstation Marketplace. The marvelous costume just so happens to have the right aesthetics for a sith or dark side user.

The girl was the hardest character to make. I used the HumanGen plugin for Blender to  make the base human character. I found that HumanGen produced the best character details for Blender, it has the least 3D-doll look that other apps tend to have and was quite fast to make. I posed her in Blender then imported her to Marvelous Designer to refit the costume. I simulated the clothes to the pose before I imported it back to Blender. Finally, I added a lightsaber model that I found in Sketchfab.

Read “4 Scenes to Enhance Your 3D Skills: From Viking Huts to Nightmare Fantasies” for another 3D deep dive!

8. Elven Kingdom

For the final piece, I tried to do a LOTR-inspired environment, an overgrown elven kingdom ruins to be precise.

I was very excited to be able to make a complex scene like that. I really didn’t think I was able to do so at the beginning of the course. This time, when I think of a complex scene, I would get excited, instead of feeling intimidated as I was before.

For example, when doing the architectural ornaments of the pillars, I came up with an idea to project a curve from the pillar’s topography, then made it thicker and convert it into a mesh. This is an approach that evolved from the teachings of the week 3’s course. When problem-solving technical approaches like this, I feel like I’m starting to use the language of Blender and the process is fun too.

Final Thoughts

  • I took this course because my dream is to work for One Pixel Brush one day, contributing to big AAA projects and working with the best concept artists in the world. But I realized I am not at that stage yet. I still need to fill in gaps in my knowledge before I feel ready to apply. So, when I saw that Sergio Castaneda, an art director from OPB was doing a course on Blender, I thought that this is the perfect next step to take. I was super excited to learn from him.
  • I think Sergio’s feedback was really good, plus he had great, positive energy. In addition to providing insightful critiques, he also gave great personal points on how to push each piece even further. He took consideration of my goal of applying for OPB during a chat prior to the mentorship and tailored his feedback to my aspirations.
  • The most impactful philosophy I learned was “never open a 3D program if you don’t have something in mind”. This really helped my workflow. I wanted to streamline my process, and having a clear idea of what to model really helped make my life easier.
  • I would and I already have recommended this course to my fellow artists. I think this course can really help you be super confident in Blender. Not only does it teach you to speak the language of Blender, but it helps you feel confident and excited when dealing with complicated scenes.

LEARN MORE

CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for Art, Games, and VFX industries in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.

RELATED LINKS

Check out Damas’s work on his ArtStation and Instagram, or connect with him via Twitter and Facebook!

Check out CGMA’s 3D for 2D Artists course taught by One Pixel Brush Concept Artist Sergio Castaneda.

Looking to perfect your thumbnails? Explore CGMA’s Composition for Concept Art and Illustration course taught by Mauricio Abril and Axel Sauerwald.

Explore CGMA’s Environment Concept Design course, currently taught by Concept Artist/Illustrator Simeon Schaffner.

Read “4 Scenes to Enhance Your 3D Skills: From Viking Huts to Nightmare Fantasies” for another 3D deep dive!