BlenderNation: Artist Interview - Ghislain Girardot (Winner of Sketchfab WOW Contest)

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Ghislain Giradrdot was the first place winner of our World of Warcraft: Legion contest and talks about that process in this interview. Originally from BlenderNation, republished here with permission.

World of Warcraft SketchFab contest winner, 1st place! Tell me, how does that feel?

It feels great! I wasn’t even expecting to be on the podium since there were many very good entries but I’m super stoked. I was hesitating a lot to participate in that contest since I don’t really feel confident enough to make art in a competitive environment but my friends were pushing me to do it and it felt just the right contest for me so I tried my best and I’m glad I did!

Have you entered any pas[t] contests?

Only two other shy attempts. One was the 2014 BlizzardFest but I didn’t finish it. I was unemployed at the time I started it but then I signed for a stressful 3D job quickly after that, for which I had to relocate and all. So I thought it was better to give myself a bit of rest and don’t do any CG before starting my contract so I could feel fresh for the first day of work. The other one was a few years ago already, it was some sort of Android Art Pack Contest on 3DOcean and I finished 3rd which was cool.

Give us an introduction, who are you, what do you do, where do you do it?

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My name is Ghislain, I’m 26, self taught artist from France and I’ve been doing CG art for ~8 years. I live in Saint-Etienne where I try my best at being a freelance 3D artist in the video game industry. I’m struggling a lot, work is really scarce but life here is kinda cheap and I have a very modest life so that helps haha. In my free time I do a lot of 3D personal projects to improve my portfolio and practice as much as possible.

Tell us a little about your latest art, what motivated you to create it?

Besides my Sketchfab contest entry, here is my latest personal project.

I wanted to start a project where I could try using sculpt bakes as a base for hand painted textures since I never did that before. I also knew I wanted to do a fantasy medium sized prop and that I wanted to create a complete asset in UE4 with animation, particles and lighting. While browsing through my inspiration folder, I was seduced by some shrine concept arts I found for different MOBA type games so I went for that.

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A quick step by step would be nice, how did you create this image?

First step was to model a few rough sketches in Blender. I quickly found a design I liked but I wanted to crash test it so I went ahead and roughly animated it to see if it would work. Once I was happy with the design, I polished the base mesh and exported everything to Zbrush where I sculpted everything.

I made a few tutorials about some techniques I used in Zbrush. It may be hard to apply those techniques in Blender since they are very tool specific but that gives you an idea.

Once I was done with the hi-poly, I did the retopo and baked as much stuff as I could : World Based Normals, Tangent Normals, AO, Cavity, Curvature map, Matcaps, Height gradients, you name it. Key to use hi-poly stuff for hand painted purpose is to extract as much tangent, lighting and depth information as you can from the model. Then it’s mostly a matter of compositing them in your favorite 2D app and stylize the result with some paint over using traditional techniques.

Last step was to import everything in UE4 which was pretty straightforward. I love that software, it’s very artist friendly and so powerful. I added the particles system and it was pretty much it. At the time the shrine was just sitting on a pedestal which I didn’t like so I pushed forward and gathered any remaining energy I had to create a little diorama and it was complete. The texturing process was a bit hectic I must say since it was my first time using sculpts for painting purposes but it was a great learning experience and I will definitely use that workflow again soon.

What is your workflow when you create art?

I never dive into a project without having a pretty good idea of what I’m going for. Most important thing for me is to take a step back, plan things and really think about what is really my project and the efforts it will require. I like to search first for concept arts and look for inspiration on internet, to figure how other people have achieved similar projects and to plan how I personally will try to achieve my goals. Once I’ve done all that, I don’t necessarily stick to a specific workflow for all technical steps. Tools are secondary to me and are just there to provide different ways to achieve art. I like to approach CG art more like traditional art so most of the time I feel like it’s pretty important to know how your overall artwork will read so I often like to have a glance at what the final piece could be ASAP by rushing some of the technical steps (crappy modeling, crappy UVs). Once you know where you are going, it’s easier to go into details and produce a polished product.

I try my best to put myself out of my comfort zone everytime I start a new 3D project so I can push my limits and try new things. It’s always about experimenting, trying new softwares, aiming for different art styles using different rendering techniques and all that involves a decent amount of going back and forth. It’s crazy how the CG industry is progressing nowadays, how much talented people are emerging everyday so I think it’s not that great to just sit on your knowledge and use the same workflow all day. I suppose it’s good to take a leap of faith every now and then and try a new approach. Worst case scenario, you’ll discover a way NOT to make your art so in a way you’ll still learn something, if that make sense.

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Which softwares do you use, and how do you use them to create your work?

I mostly use Blender for modeling/rigging/skinning/animation/UVs/3D texture painting, Krita/Gimp for more texture painting and image manipulation, and Unreal Engine 4 for real time renders. I also use Zbrush if I need to sculpt hi-res models, Substance Painter for PBR texturing and Cycles for the few pre calculated renders I have to make. That covers pretty much all I need although 3D painting is really tough in Blender without proper layers. I’m looking towards 3DCoat for that part but I’m not conformable at all with it yet.

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What are your ambitions?

Try to be a better artist, that’s my number one goal. Hopefully some day, get a job in a 3D video game company with a cool vibe where everyone’s trying to push their limits and progress as much as possible.

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What do you do to take a break from art? How do you refill your artistic energy?

I’m a long time BMX rider so I love to take my bike and ride my local skate park as much as possible. It’s a good way to disconnect from everything and have a good time with your friends and it’s all about pushing your physical and mental limits just I like to push myself with my art. Otherwise I like to watch a lot of 2D/3D artwork and stimulate my imagination as much as possible. Just playing a video game with great art direction makes me want to make art. Watching a lot of movies/TV series does that as well just like reading a good fantasy book do or listening to cool underground music. It makes my mind travel and that helps me refill my energy.

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Any favorite artists?

Oh yes definitely, there’s so many talented artists out there that I look up to. Shem Dawson aka PixelatedKiwi, Tyson Murphy, Antonio Neves, Fanny Verge, John Troy Nickel aka Hazardous, Rafael Grassetti, Tamara (FirstKeeper), Jonathan Fletcher, Bogdanbl4 and so many more. I like to have my daily dose of Polycount/Pinterest/ArtStation so I can keep track of the latest art. I really love stylized art and hand painted textures so I naturally like to follow artists who work/worked at Blizzard Entertainment, Riot Games, Allods Online, Runic Games and such.

What can we expect from you in the future?

More stylized hand painted art, that’s for sure haha. In the other hand I definitely lack human anatomy knowledge so I’ll probably dive into human body sculpting sooner or later. I’ve so many things to learn yet, it’s never boring!

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Any tips to artists out there?

I’d say most important one is to put yourself out of your comfort zone. Start a project, stick with it, don’t trash it but do your best and finish it. Add it to your portfolio so you can track your own progress and don’t feel overwhelmed by crazy talented artists.

Don’t focus too much on softwares. I feel like it’s important to remind beginners, especially within the Blender community, that CG art is art to begin with so don’t loose yourself into mere button clicking and software hype/wars (unless you want to be a technical artist maybe :D).

And last words?

Thanks a lot for having me. I had fun answering those questions, I hope my answers weren’t too boring! Best luck to anyone with their art and peace 🙂

About the author

Seori Sachs

Community Person!


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  • Simon Kratz says:

    Great insight of a worthy winner project! 🙂
    It’s cool to see everyone’s struggling with similar things, guess the journey to becoming a better artist is never over 😀

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