Art Spotlight: Portal Scene - Dog House

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Hello! My name is Sam Streed, and I am a children’s illustrator, game artist, and animator. Since graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design this June, I have been freelancing and working as a writer/illustrator with Charlesbridge Publishing. I love designing for kids, but I won’t let that take the edge off my art. Kids are tough. They can handle it.

My work as a game artist, of course, has been strongly influenced by that games I played as a kid, which could explain why I lean toward low poly models. Still, I like to experiment and try make something unique each time.

My Process

I admire the work of places like Night School Studio and Squanchtendo for their commitment to telling stories that stick, and learning a lot from other forms of media. Night School seems to learn a lot from books, and Squanchtendo maybe more obviously draws on TV shows. For this particular project, I set out to animate some inter-dimensional travel, also working to learn from TV.

As I said before, I tend towards low poly models. This is best demonstrated by the dog in this scene. I went low poly this time in particular because I wanted to focus on animation. This let me work more quickly and focus on clarity in my story. Also, I knew I would flat shade everything, so detailed topology would have been wasted effort. My textures were also constructed relatively quickly. You can see I’ve reused the same, pretty basic texture from the main house for the dog house, only adding a cute little face to make people cry when it gets smashed.

The scene as a whole was a tool for setting up the gag. A red dog house on green grass is harder to miss. I tried to make the main house cute and friendly so it is more comically tragic when their dog house is trampled. (SPOILER ALERT: the dog dies)

The last bit of scenery was the portal through which my character would travel. I knew I didn’t want to flat out copy the portal from Rick and Morty. Though it is an obvious source of inspiration for this animation, I didn’t think it was a good fit for the blocky graphic look of my world. Instead, I used a few flat shapes repeated on layers of planes in a simple mesh. The multiple layers helped give it some depth and some light animation made them feel a bit sci-fi.

Finally, a mesh outlining the bounds of my scene and a sphere to cover the background share the same flat color. This allows objects to seemingly disappear into and reappear out of thin air.

The character who walks through this scene is a pretty basic rig, but I had fun animating him. I especially enjoyed figuring out how to make his face more expressive. Eyebrows parented to his skeleton worked well with the graphic look I was after. Rather than modeling a mouth into the character, I made a small library of mouths from which to choose, trying to keep that cartoony vibe. Some simple replacement animation worked smoothly enough, and I was able to get a reasonably wide range of expressions.

After setting up a character, I usually make test animations to get used to the rig and how it moves. Bellow are a few of my practice animations.

Once I feel comfortable with my character, I sketch out some key poses and move onto animating.

Making 3D work has presented many technical challenges for me, but showing that work to other people has been by far the most frustrating. Sketchfab lets me share my 3D work with all its dimensions attached and avoid the frustration of trying to get one image that represents it well. Especially when looking at game assets, it is important to see a model from all sides.

Did you like it? Follow me for more!

I’m flattered that people at Sketchfab wanted me to talk about my project, and I am happy to have a chance to do it. Thinking through my process made me realize how much I enjoy these challenges.

I have plenty more projects here on Sketchfab and in my other portfolios, so feel free to check out my…

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About the author

Sam Streed

My name is Sam Streed, and I am a children’s illustrator, game artist, and animator. Currently, I am working as a writer/ illustrator for Charlesbridge Publishing, and freelancing to fill that empty space in my heart (wallet).


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