A Self-Taught Creator Realized His Unique Idea in Blender
CG Boost keeps bringing us artworks with compelling ideas behind. No matter what the theme of the challenge is, there are always artists who create their artworks with amazing stories.
In the “Graveyard” challenge, sponsored by the leading render farm Fox Renderfarm, Andrey Agafonov, the 2nd prize winner, created his graveyard scene in a humorous way. Curious about how a graveyard scene can be made humorous, what the creative process was like, and how he taught himself to use Blender while being an English teacher? Here is our exclusive interview that can answer all these questions, and hopefully, will give you some inspiration and motivation.
- Andrey Agafonov
- 3D Artist
- Chicago, Illinois
Fox Renderfarm: Hi, Andrey! Thank you so much for accepting our interview, could you briefly introduce yourself?
Andrey: Sure. You already know my name. I am 30 years old. I live in Chicago, IL and I am currently in the process of switching careers. Always gravitating towards the creative and artistic side of things, with a background in education, design, and project management, I am looking to make it in 3D now.
Fox Renderfarm: How do you feel about winning the 2nd Prize in the CGBoost ‘Graveyard’ Challenge?
Andrey: Familiar :D It is the second time I won the 2nd Prize in the challenge. I have participated 4 times in total. With the first one getting into the final, second one earning me an honorable mention, and the latest two being among the winners, I feel that I made decent progress and reached some level of consistency.
Fox Renderfarm: Your artwork is well-made and seems to have a humorous story behind, what’s your inspiration?
Andrey: In fact, I wanted to go for something dark, creepy or even gory for this topic. But every humorous, Pixary idea I had resonated so well that I just went with the flow. I came up with the idea of a skeleton gardener in the graveyard and then linked it to the real person by the name of Lancelot Brown, known as the “England's greatest gardener”. This drove my design choices.
Fox Renderfarm: And there are 2 characters in the image, please introduce them a bit, and tell us how you made them.
Andrey: The first one is obviously Lancelot Brown or rather his undead representation. No grave can hold his passion for gardening down. His skeleton design was heavily inspired by characters from Coco. I sculpted every bone by hand keeping it as close to real anatomy as possible while also making sure they align with the stylized look I chose. I then rigged, posed and textured it, giving it some clothes made in Marvelous Designer. I think making this character took the most time.
Coco (Image via Google)
The second one is a constable of the British Police force, who arrived at the scene after receiving several reports of a strange-looking gardener in the graveyard by its visitors. You can see him questioning his choice of occupation at the moment. To tell you the truth, he is just head and arms, haha, but it is enough to do the job. I sculpted the body parts and hand-painted his skin texture as well as the subsurface scattering map.
Fun fact. No one will ever notice it because of the blur and depth of field effect, but there are some more people in the background peaking around the corner and over the fence. One of them is Inspector Gadget and another one is Dwayne Johnson. They are just planes with transparency.
Left: Inspector Gadget; Right: Dwayne Johnson (Images via Google)
Fox Renderfarm: The face of the skeleton is so vivid, how did you achieve its facial expression?
Andrey: I used a lot of reference images and studied facial expressions, including taking pictures of my own face (which I am not going to provide because I respect your mental wellbeing). The funniest thing is that initially, I planned it to be a different angle and only after a render I accidentally did without adjusting the default position of camera I saw it from a different perspective that I liked more and it ended up being in the final image.
Fox Renderfarm: The composition of the artwork is fine-balanced, did you use any elements and techniques when considering the composition?
Andrey: I had a picture in my head when I thought of the idea and first created it in blockout, then perfecting it through iterations. No magic techniques were used, it was mostly trial and error and trying to fail better. One thing I always do though, is checking my values (using desaturation).
Fox Renderfarm: The choice of the color palette and the process of colors deliver a harmonious picture, what did you consider and do when dealing with colors?
Andrey: I am glad you liked it! I didn’t really consider it much, I think I just relied on my personal taste, which I hope is not too bad. There were definitely some color theory shenanigans under the hood from reading and watching the stuff on the topic.
Fox Renderfarm: How long did it take to finish the artwork?
Andrey: Around 2 weeks. And every minute before the deadline, Parkinson's law is real.
Fox Renderfarm: What software and plugins did you use?
Andrey: It was modeled in Blender 2.81 and rendered with Cycles. Some texturing was done in Substance Painter, clothes in Marvelous Designer, compositing in Krita. I made heavy use of Graswald add-on during environment creation which sped up the process significantly allowing great control of particle systems and materials.
Fox Renderfarm: During creation, what’s the most unforgettable part?
Andrey: I have a pretty good memory and it wasn’t so long ago, so, everything, for now. But jokes aside, I think it was when the main character came together with pose, facial expression, clothes, and props. I thought: “Wow! This looks cool. It needs a good environment now and it will be a shame if I don't finish on time so I better press on”.
Fox Renderfarm: Did you meet any difficulties? And how did you solve it?
Andrey: Lots. With pain and satisfaction afterward.
I did a lot of research, read and watched many tutorials to make it look like I imagined it. It definitely pays off and you learn a ton along the way. (Now that is something no one ever said right?)
Fox Renderfarm: Could you recall your first encounter with CG? How did you step into the 3D industry?
Andrey: I took a modeling course in 3ds Max before college. Did a lot of crappy modeling while listening to Sum 41. Happy times.
Fox Renderfarm: Could you share your education and work experience along your CG journey?
Andrey: I doodled with 3ds Max after the course for the next two years and had a couple of design gigs in college. I then chose a career in education while also doing occasional design jobs on the side. I came across the short movie “Spring” and my 15-year old self punched me in the face like: “Man, this is what you are supposed to be doing!” I was determined to switch to 3D, following a self-taught approach, and I started the active phase of it with the legendary Donut scene around a year ago. I decided to participate in challenges because they offer a project-based structure, which lets you learn about every stage of the creation process.
Fox Renderfarm: How did you keep yourself inspired and motivated?
Andrey: I just do what I love and really enjoy it.
Fox Renderfarm: Anyone or any artwork that inspires you the most?
Andrey: So many… If you want some names I can include Jama Jurabaev, Nikita Veprikov, Julen Urrutia, but this list could go on and on.
Artworks by Jama Jurabaev
Artworks by Nikita Veprikov
Artwork by Nikita Veprikov
Fox Renderfarm: Any other things you want to share with CG enthusiasts?
Andrey: Just follow your passion. When you see a direction it can really take you places.
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