Interview With Steffen Hartmann: How to Create a Visually Striking Render With Blender
FGT3D Snowman Challenge organized by the TPN-Accredited cloud rendering services provider, Fox Renderfarm, was started in September, 2021 and sponsored by our amazing sponsors, including Maxon, Chaos, Poliigon, HDR Light Studio, Pilgway, TopoGun, Graswald, Raysync, Textures.com, Texturebox and iCube R&D Group. After the selection by our jury, 3 Professional artworks and 3 Student artworks were picked and would be awarded the prizes provided by our amazing sponsors. Congratulations to all the winners! And thanks to everyone for participating!
What a well composed and visually striking render! The second place winner in the Professional category of the FGT3D Snowman Challenge goes to Steffen Hartmann with his work, A Tale From Snow.
“The dirty bumpy look of old snow makes this snowman more terrifying and haunting. The picture shows a scary moment from a very low and tilted angle. It makes me wonder whose point of view this is. Is it from a hidden camera or someone attacked and fallen on the ground? The camera angle certainly adds a sense of mystery and suspense to the image.” One of our judges, Miho Aoki said, who is the Associate Professor of Computer Art University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Here comes the exclusive interview with Steffen, in which we can find out how he created the good composition and striking character design.
A Tale From Snow © Steffen Hartmann
Fox Renderfarm: Hi, Steffen! Thank you so much for accepting our interview! Could you give us a brief introduction about yourself?
Steffen: It’s my pleasure to give an interview. Thanks for having me.
My name is Steffen Hartmann, I'm living in Germany and I work as a freelance 3D artist and illustrator.
My main focus is on character design and portraits, but I'm also very open and happy about every opportunity to create environments, animations, props and complex illustrations.
Fox Renderfarm: Congratulations on winning 2nd place in the Professional Category of the FGT3D Snowman Challenge, how do you feel about that?
Steffen: Winning a challenge always feels good. It is also a confirmation of how far you have come as an artist. Balm for the soul.
Fox Renderfarm: How long did you finish the work, A Tale From Snow?
Steffen: It took me around 20 to 30 hours over the course of a couple of weeks. Very enjoyable time.
Fox Renderfarm: What software and plugins did you use?
Steffen: My beloved Blender for all the 3D work plus Photoshop and Topaz Studio for post processing.
Fox Renderfarm: What’s the inspiration behind your artwork?
Steffen: Side-scrolling video games for the camera position and composition plus my love for scary characters.
Fox Renderfarm: The render is well composed and visually striking. How did you make the modeling and composition?
Steffen: My initial idea was to create a side-scroller video game type of scene. So once I had the overall composition in mind I started to block out the scene with simple objects, a camera and some lights. Primitive set building.
Then I started to create the main character - Mister Snowman.
He started as a bunch of spheres and thin arms and legs made with Blenders Skin modifier. My main goal was to have a cool looking silhouette first and after that I sculpted and added all the smaller details. The hat and nose was sculpted, the teeth are just beveled curves.
The boy was made with the help of a very basic rigged human body. The cloth was simply box modeled with the Subsurface Modifier method. Some details like folds and wrinkles were sculpted with the use of the Multires modifier. I knew the motion blur would eat away lots of the details so I haven't spent much time on him in particular.
The environment was rather simple too, just a few planes with subdivisions and basic sculpting for the ground. Trees and some other background elements were free downloads. The fence was created with beveled curves - quick and simple.
Snowflakes and motion blur were added with Photoshop in the post processing phase.
Fox Renderfarm: The camera angle certainly adds a sense of mystery and suspense to the image. How did you make it?
Steffen: Dramatic camera angles for dramatic scenes. The beauty about working in 3D is the ability to quickly change camera positions, move lights around and so on.
All you have to do is make use of it and to experiment and be creative as much as possible.
Fox Renderfarm: The movements are vivid. How did you make it? Any references?
Steffen: No particular reference but I abused Photoshop's Smart Objects and the “Path Blur Filter” quite a bit to get a decent sense of movement. It’s also very helpful to export the background and characters in separate passes.
Fox Renderfarm: Did you meet any difficulties when creating this work? And how did you solve them?
Steffen: There will always be difficulties and obstacles when it comes to creating art. Good composition and striking character design is key so those areas are the hardest part for me.
Creating materials, set building, sculpting and all the technical stuff isn’t that of a problem once you are confident with any 3D tool - in my opinion.
It is really all about spending as much time as needed on the initial conceptual phase to have a good working foundation to build on.
Fox Renderfarm: Any artists or artworks inspired you most?
Steffen: To name a few modern day artists: Maxim Verehin, Oleg Vdovenko and Dan Peacock.
But I also love H. R.Giger, Zdzisław Beksiński and the work of the Resident Evil concept artists.
Skull for Tool © Maxim Verehin
The Murder of Esenin © Oleg Vdovenko
Chompy © Dan Peacock
Ridley Scott's Alien © H. R.Giger
Past Auction © Zdzisław Beksiński
Fox Renderfarm: Could you briefly tell us your educational and work experience along your CG journey?
Steffen: I’m a totally self taught artist who started his art journey roughly 5 years ago with the use of drawabox.com. Which is a great source to learn how to draw.
Later I learned digital painting until I got totally lost in the 3D realm with Blender 2 years ago.
Since then I have learned modeling, sculpting, animation, rigging and so on.
YouTube, Gumroad, ArtStation and all the other platforms are great for free and paid educational content so I never felt the urge to go to an art school.
Since about 2 1/2 years I work as a part time freelance artist for musicians, book authors, video producers and more.
Fox Renderfarm: Do you have any recommendable learning methods to improve professional skills?
Steffen: Never say never and always try out new tools and methods. Challenge yourself as much as possible and tackle your weakest spots. Have faith in yourself but always be open for critique.
Fox Renderfarm: What do you think of the FGT3D Challenge, any suggestions for us?
Steffen: No suggestions but much love from me for you guys. It was a great experience so far. Looking forward to participating in the next challenge.
Fox Renderfarm: Do you have any advice for future participants in the competition?
Steffen: Don’t fear competition or be intimidated.
Be sure to not rush and take as much time as needed to get a good concept down first.
Write it on paper, sketch/ paint it or block it out with simple shapes directly in 3D.
Collect a bunch of reference pictures, throw them into PureRef (free tool) and make use of it.
Get inspired by movies, tv shows, artworks, music, books… There is sooo much cool inspiration out there.
Submit your work right before the challenge is over. There is no need to rush and submit days or weeks before the official end. You will find yourself fine tuning your project a lot towards the end and that might be the reason for you to win or miss.
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