In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.
My name is Eric Garcia, I’m 28 years old and am currently living in São Paulo, Brazil. I work as an environment artist at Odin Game Studio in some great projects.
I’m here to talk about my most recent Sketchfab project called “Surf Passion” and the workflow I used to create it, I hope you enjoy!
This diorama was made primarily for a freelance game test but I decided to do also a portfolio piece from it since I didn’t go any personal work for a long time. The game itself is a cartoony looking surf life simulator in its very first steps, so I don’t have much information about it to share yet (and little information I DO have, I don’t think I can share).
The task was to do a simple beach diorama, so the client could see how I work and if my models and textures style fits in his game idea…but I decided to go a little further and think about the soul of the environment. More than that, I challenge myself to tell a story using only a static diorama and without any characters. In my opinion, this is what greatly increases the quality of every piece of art, it must communicate something! The viewer can easily spend some minutes looking to it and gradually discovering new things to see as the time goes, this works with characters, environments, props, etc.
The big secret is to show the “scars” left by the time, what happened before that made this thing look like what it is… Let’s take an environment for example: think of the story of that place, what happened in there before you chose this static moment to produce. If it’s an old abandoned mansion, so it’s probably broken and really dirty, if it’s a sunken boat underwater scene, maybe the marine life took over the place and they’re maybe living in there now. All these things change the way that the scene will look in the end. Most of the people that are starting with environment design don’t think about these things, so their scenes looks always empty or with that feeling of “something is missing”. I could spend quite some time talking about this, but let’s move on to the actual beach scene!
Defining the backstory
When I started to think about my diorama, I began searching for various references of elements and mood along with constructing the scene on my mind, and deciding what do I wanted to communicate with that. I chose the “main character” as being a girl who is passionate about surfing and made that her lifestyle. She always wakes up early to catch the best waves and is always searching for the best places to surf. She is fearless and doesn’t care about the dangerous spots that she founds as long as she can have the best moments of her life. But how to demonstrate that in a static diorama without actually showing her?!
And here come the storytelling elements. I didn’t want to use the main common items that everybody finds on a regular beach because she found this special spot that just a few people know and it has some great waves, so she only gets what is really necessary to her, like the flip flops and a sunscreen, no need of a bag or a parasol, the less the better. I also added some elements to increase her charisma, like the towel and the scooter to show some youth, and giving a hint of her personality. I put some sand paths to give movement to the scene and to demonstrate a little bit of what happened before that moment. And also some fun elements like the shark sign.
As you can see, I tried to tell a little bit of the story in every element present, they all have a subtle “purpose” that is not going to make a huge difference in the overall scene but it helps to communicate what I wanted, these are the elements that fulfill the composition, that make the scene looks interesting to the viewer, and that is the solution of the “something’s missing” problem! That’s my biggest advice: Always think of the backstory!
That being said, let’s jump to the technical part!
Once the idea concept was pretty solid, the production gets a lot easier.
Using Maya and Photoshop, I started to build the elements, normally I like to do a list of the props that I will need so the job gets a little more organized. The first model was the scooter because it was a key visual element and I was excited to try it as I never have modeled one before.
In the modeling process, I tried to keep it simple, I didn’t have a maximum polycount to follow but I didn’t want to exaggerate since it was a test for a future game.
For the textures, I used a mix of hand painted and real photos, the sand for example, was a collage of different elements like sand, stone debris and footsteps along with some painting to make the wet sand. The textures are basically a color work, the secret here was the bakes, I baked the occlusion and the shadow maps into the diffuse texture.
I used the shadow maps as an “Overlay” and sometimes as “Linear Burn” and the Ambient Occlusion as a “Color Burn”, that way the colors get more vivid and we get more color variations from a single tone (see the blue in the scooter). Here is an example of the same maps using “Multiply”, how dark and desaturated all the colors get:
The Sketchfab configuration for this scene was really simple, since there is only diffuse textures, no realtime lights were used and I played a little with the post process filters like bloom, chromatic aberration, sharpness and vignette.
I really appreciate what Sketchfab has provided to us, this is a great way of a 3D work presentation, is much more intuitive to analyse a 3D model by actually playing with it!
That’s it! I hope you enjoyed the process and my humble advices, see you later!