Women on Sketchfab: Nathalie Krugel

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A quick glance at news headlines will reveal the underrepresentation, but gradually increasing prominence of women in the tech sector. After years spent as active members of the Sketchfab community, Sketchfab masters MiekeJasmin, and Abby decided it was about time to highlight the incredible work of women on Sketchfab!

Each instalment of the series will focus on one great artist, her background, what kinds of work she does, and the obstacles that she overcomes to make her work even better. The series will spotlight everyone from medical illustrators to lithic scanners to character modelers. Join us as we get to know the diverse Sketchfab community a little bit better.

Background

Hello! My name is Nathalie Krugel and work as a 3D Artist for a mobile games studio, currently in Hamburg, Germany.

Being (mostly) an environment artist since a couple of years, I am really passionate about creating unique, colourful and interesting assets and ambients. Lately, I also started to go out of my comfort zone and started to work a bit more on characters as well!

My goal is to create different moods, where different texture styles and also technical aspects play well together. I like the diversity of 3D art and, since I like to work together with other artists, to present 2D paintings in a 3D world. For me it holds a very own special charm when you can spend some time to look at one single piece of art, where there is lots to discover.

Getting started as a 3D Artist

Originally, as many others, I wanted to be a 2D/Concept Artist. I loved to draw since I was very little and started to visit an art school when I became 13, where I got introduced to many kinds of traditional media: pencil drawings, acrylics, gouache, watercolour and so on, but I rarely used any computer painting programs.

Being a passionate gamer since early childhood, I was of course impressed and interested in digital art and learned to love especially stylized, cartoonish art styles in games. I set my first steps in game development with one of the very first RPG Makers, and MS paint was my best friend for some years (mostly because it was free). I taught myself how to pixel assets for my own games, by copying and rearranging existing assets from other games. Together with my younger brother we managed to create a few funny and very short games, just for ourselves.

But I somehow have not touched any 3D programm at all, before I went to university!

 

Coming from a very supportive and loving family, I was pushed to continue my passion for art by going to University to make a Bachelor of Arts. And then, I was finally introduced to 3D in my studies of Virtual Design in the south of Germany. I even got to learn a very broad spectrum of 3D art, like: architecture visualisation, photorealistic product renderings, installations for museums and such, and of course, games and animations. I learned to work together in small teams and developed two more games, one (of course) in pixel-style and another fully in 3D. I also had the chance to work on an real VR rollercoaster experience in a real amusement park, which was definitely one of my highlights in the years of my study.

I really enjoyed working on those projects, where we put together whole environments and worlds, defining very simplistic and cartoony artstyles. I spent many sleepless nights, modelling asset after assets for our projects and looking back many years later, I loved it! 🙂

 

Working in the Games Industry

I started to work in the games industry first as a working student – and got lucky to also get hired by the same company after finished University, three years ago. I applied first with no particular role in mind, I just wanted to get real experience in a real company, and I wanted to do game art. It happened that they needed a 3D artist at that point, so I kind of ended up there, modelling and texturing environmental assets for mobile games. Characters where always kind of my weak point, so I was really happy to deepen my knowledge in something, I was already kind of good in.

It was exciting to learn how to work together with professional concept artists, and how much fun it is to put their concepts into the 3D world. I also discovered another passion of mine: high quality painted textures and the possibilities of them!

Somehow, being a 3D artist always kind of sounded very technical to me. Spending hours on modelling, material editing and waiting for your computer to render a realistic picture was not that much fun for me.

But seeing myself rather as somebody who enjoys painting more than modelling or rendering, I realized that got the chance to “get back” into painting by making textures! Figuring out materials, bringing in depth and details into low poly objects through texture are still up until now the most fun parts in 3D art for me.


I catched myself often telling others, that I really do not enjoy 3D that much and that I would rather do only 2D artworks and especially textures, but after working in a marketing department for a couple of months, creating banners and icons, I realized: nah, 3D was not too bad at all!

Later, I also got to learn the rather rough side of the gaming industry, there where many cancelled projects and sadly a big lay-off, including myself, so I joined my second games company. And this is how I kind of stayed a 3D artist for good. 

 

Getting out of the comfort zone

A couple of years ago, I got introduced to Sketchfab and I was instantly inspired and motivated, to do more creative pieces of art in my freetime.

Still, I was rather a silent watcher and could not bring myself up to finishing any piece of 3D art in my free time and also did not think I was good and courageous enough, to publish any of my artworks.

I think it really helps a lot when you are surrounded by other great artists that all do art in their free time, either concept art, 3D or music. For me, it makes me want to create art as well.

A friend told me, that uploading your artworks to the internet, for others to see, will let you grow – but not only by getting feedback and tips from them, but also by getting motivation from it! And he is totally right, I never felt so motivated in learning and creating art, then when I started to be active on Sketchfab. All the great comments I got, not only from people online, but also from friends and co-worker, who saw my work, really helped me to do a lot more in my freetime.

My boyfriend is a huge fan of pushing me out of my comfort zone, and I am really thankful for that as well. Dodging doing characters for many years (I don’t even know why, I think it is easier to make a character look weird than a house, or a car…) I realized this could not go on forever. 

 

One of my first bigger works here on Sketchfab is Mother Holle. This character was designed by my friend LauMii (https://www.artstation.com/laumii), and I know that working together with her is just great, so this is why I chose this cute old lady for my first bigger artwork for Sketchfab.

 

Also, as mentioned, I really like 3D dioramas, because there is just so much detail that you can hide in a scene and for viewers, there is then even more to discover! LauMiis concept has such a quirkyness and warmth in it, and I really enjoyed to make if feel also feel alive in a 3D world.

 

If you are interested in some workflows or behind the scenes look, feel free to read the Art Spotlight Article about Mother Holle: https://blog.sketchfab.com/art-spotlight-mother-holle/  

Some more models and scenes from Laumiis Mother Holles Universe, like her Kitchen, will follow on my Sketchfab soon!

 

Next on my agenda of ‘Getting out of the comfort zone’ where also animals, so I asked my friend Björn Sagmeister to draw me an animal character, preferably a mix between organic and metallic materials. He created Spot, and since I am also a big fan of dogs I had so much fun to work on this one.

 

Here, I tested out different lighting methods and materials in Sketchfab, like the glass helmet and its reflexion of the starry galaxy on it. I wanted to create a nice, clean look because of the metallic materials but they should also feel not too cold compared to the fluffiness of spots fur. I loved to play with a little bit of reflection here and there, the more cartoony shine on his dog tag or the rocket-trails. Using a background image for creating the mood, I also used some blue light reflecting on his helmet and tummy, and painted in a bit of rimlight on his paw by myself.

 

I love to explore the possibilities and post-processing settings from Sketchfab a lot. For all my artworks I spent hours or days to try out different light setups, filters and initial camera angles, and I must say, I am always very happy with the results.

 

 

For ‘Kitsune’ I got hugely inspired by so many great works on Sketchfab which also use watercolour-styled textures and/or the use of outlines for a more cartoony style (Thanks to the great tutorial:  (https://blog.sketchfab.com/creating-a-cartoon-outline-for-sketchfab/ ). My friend and colleague Olga ‘AsuRocks’ Andriyenko (https://www.artstation.com/asurocks) creates those amazing postcards and Artworks for Inktober, and I immediately fell in love with this specific artwork.

 

I had so much fun, getting creative, solving the problem of making a 2D ink painting still look like a painting and being flat, but on the same time, making it work and look great whenever you swing the camera.

I decided to make a mix of working with alpha-plane billboards (grass, clouds, moon) and models (bushes) und I am really happy with the result and especially, that Olga likes it as well! 🙂

Staying Motivated

Thinking back, the main reason to join Sketchfab for me was to become a better artist in general. And I am very honored and happy to get so much nice, positive feedback and support from the whole Sketchfab community! I have so many more ideas for more 3D art, and I can’t wait to share them all. There is so much more to learn and to try, but I am very eager to to that.

 

Thank you so much Jasmin, Abby and Mieke for reaching out to me and letting me contribute to this great Women of Sketchfab series. I know from my own experience that being a woman in the games industry is often a very rare sight. But I know there are so many great (female) artists out there who hopefully also can gain motivation and support from great platforms like this one.

 

Finally, thank you for letting me share my story and thoughts. To see more of my work (and some WIPs)  you can also follow me on Artstation and Instagram.

About the author

Nathalie Krugel

Nathalie, 3D game artist and huge fan of dogs. I dream of creating my own game somewhen in the future.


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