Crista posted some adorable works on Sketchfab, and here is an interview for our dear readers.
Give us an introduction, who are you, what do you do, where do you do it?
My name is Crista Alejandre and I live in Seattle. I freelance part-time as an illustrator alongside a full time office admin job not related to art. When I first started illustration I was making mostly hand drawn and vector graphics. Then about a year and a half ago I got into learning 3D and Blender, which turned into what I do now - illustrations with 3D models.
I saw some cute work on your Sketchfab, how long does each project take you?
Thanks! It varies a lot. When there's just one straightforward model that I vertex color, that's under an hour. For something more complex, like if it involves painting, or has a few different objects, the time goes up to 2 or 3 hours. Most of my personal projects are in this category. Anything else needs to be spread out over a number of evenings in the range of two or three weeks.
A lot of your work are derived from japanese products, such as anime. Are you a fan (you can develop more on this one)?
I'm a fan for sure! I was born in Taiwan where there are a lot of Japanese cultural influences, plus my father had worked in Japan. So that had a lot to do with the toys, TV shows, and movies I grew up with. Dragonball, Ranma 1/2, Astro Boy, and Slam Dunk are some series that stick out to me from childhood, as well as the Studio Ghibli movies. English is not my first language, so later on rewatching these with English subtitles became a way to practice reading. Now I still watch a lot of anime, mostly for fun but also inspiration. So I think my head's been in this space for a good part of my life so far. And the aesthetic really stuck with me.
Have you entered any contests, are you planning to?
I haven't, but I really enjoy looking at contest entries. It's interesting to see how different people interpret the prompt or theme. As for participating I hope to carve out some time for it soon!
Tell us a little about your latest art, what motivated you to create it?
Lately I've been making and printing zines and stationery items to sell at various festivals. Some of the models I made for this purpose are the undiscerning cat and fish curry.
As for motivation, it's fun to make something tangible from start to finish. And then at these events I've had a lot of great conversations with people who see my work and get curious about 3D or want to know more about Blender. There's also something very exciting and valuable about a live person, actually physically in front of you, commenting on your work. It's not an experience you usually have while freelancing with client jobs or making personal projects, so that's always a huge motivator for me.
I also like making fanart a lot. It's good practice! A recent one is the sharks in the step by step, which are characters created by illustrator Arimura Moha. I wanted to practice painting and painting faster in particular. When I'm in a hurry I have a habit of vertex coloring everything, which doesn't make for good texture painting practice... So I looked for simple characters and the sharks fit the bill.
A quick step by step would be nice, how did you create this image?
What is your workflow when you create art?
If there's concept art I start modeling right away. For original work I used to sketch, but now making a rough model is a faster way to start for me. Modeling in Blender feels very efficient since you can move a vertex quickly and axis-locked without having to click on a gizmo or something. I also have edit mode hotkeys remapped so I can reach everything with my left hand, and without awkward stretching. With this setup my right hand rarely leaves the mouse and modeling goes pretty quickly.
Other edit mode tools I use a lot include aligning vertices along an axis by scaling to zero and the magnet snap tool. Proportional editing is great for something organic or irregularly shaped, and I also like the skin modifier for making arms and legs. For anyone who uses Illustrator, it's like the variable width tool. Really useful!
After unwrapping (no particular process here) I start texture painting. Usually the model itself provides enough information for painting in shadow and light, but sometimes baking ambient occlusion and painting over that is helpful. If I'm really stumped I paint values in grayscale, color with the color blending mode, and then paint normally.
If there are many objects in the scene I vertex color the smaller and less important ones to save time. For example in the cat image most of the surrounding objects are vertex painted so that I only have to unwrap one or two objects. In most cases the material is shadeless (in Cycles emission node set to strength of 1) but sometimes I mix in a diffuse shader.
Which softwares do you use, and how do you use them to create your work?
Blender for almost every part of the process, except when I feel like I need layers for texture painting. Then I export to 3D Coat, where the texture painting mode feels like combining the best parts of painting in Blender and in Photoshop (or similar graphics software). You can paint directly on the model like in Blender but also have layers with adjustable opacity and blending modes like in Photoshop. For seamless tiling textures, I think Krita is the best because of the wrap-around function.
What are your ambitions?
3D art full time. Working for a game studio/company because I'd like to get more into game art. Or maybe jumping into freelancing full time.
What do you do to take a break from art? How do you refill your artistic energy?
Video games, though lately playing just makes me want to try modeling stuff from the game. The same goes for a lot of shows and movies I watch. To totally get away from screens I like playing the piano, doing electronics projects, and wandering around the city on foot. Seattle is really not as rainy as many people think!
Any favorite artists?
2D: Kali Ciesemier, Sam Bosma, Kazu Kibuishi, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Eleanor Davis, Nicole Gustafsson, Yuko Shimizu, Alexandre Diboine
3D: Chelsea Saunders, Heather Penn, Anna Schillings, Jessica Dinh, Matthew Tinari, Mark Henriksen, Timothy Reynolds
What can we expect from you in the future?
I'd like to keep learning about painting and efficient modeling, particular in a video game oriented way. Trying out more major 3D tools such as ZBrush and Substance Painter are also high on my list. And probably more cats and animals!
Any tips to artists out there?
I think it's a good idea to keep yourself open to new processes or techniques. Whether you learn by watching, reading, or doing, there are so many opportunities to discover something that might make your own work better or easier.
As an example, for a while I thought it wasn't possible to fill color in vertex paint so I ended up masking off areas all the time and then manually brushing over vertices. I didn't even consider that there was an alternative, but while watching some speed modeling videos I saw someone coloring by filling. Now it's a huge timesaver for me. (It's Shift + K by the way)
Looking at all of the fresh and interesting art on BlenderNation and elsewhere online is incredibly inspiring, and I look forward to learning even more about Blender and art from all of you. Thank you for reading!
Great interview, i really enjoyed the read. There are quite a few things to learn here, and Crista did a great job at explaining things. Portfolio
If you have any artist you would like me to interview next, leave a comment below!