Hey, my name is Aleksandr Kilimnik and I am a 26 year old Concept Artist. I was born in Odessa, Ukraine but have been living in Los Angeles, CA nearly my entire life. I've taken a bit of a weird path in getting to where I am at in art as I decided I wanted to be a 3d modeler working on video games at just 13 years old... But by 18 I ended up going to Gnomon School in Hollywood to be a VFX artist for films. After working at Ingenuity Studios on movies such as GeoStorm and Get Out I knew it was time for another change, and they kindly granted me the opportunity to do some concept designs for the TV show "Ghosted" and Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do" music video.
Here is my old VFX+Concept demo reel:
I had always loved design but never felt like I could do it until I actually gave it a shot on those projects, and while it was incredibly challenging, it gave me the confidence to finally pursue concept art full time. Mostly specializing in 3D my entire life, I had to take time off from work to receive a 2D art education so I could build the foundational skills I was missing.
I am very lucky to say that I've been able to study and learn from my absolute favorite artists- John Park over at Brainstorm School and Jama Jurabaev. I attended Brainstorm School's mentorship with John Park for 6 months and I have no doubt that it single handedly gave me the foundation I was seeking. I had a lot of ground to make up and John Park is both an incredible artist and a wise teacher. After that was over I studied with Jama Jurabaev for 5 weeks in his MDP course; it had the most intense pace I had ever experienced and I’m very thankful to have been pushed so hard to learn so much. In the last week I slept for a total of 7 hours and had pulled 2 all nighters!
Once the course was done I knew I had to put it all to the test and do one new project for my portfolio, but I wasn't satisfied with my workflow. Jama Jurabaev's tutorials on Patreon opened my eyes to Blender and I was amazed at how far this program had come in the 8 or so years since I last tried it. Boxcutter and Hardops blew my mind and I really can't imagine going back to any other 3d software. It is definitely thanks to Jama and MasterXeon1001 that I am using Blender and I am so excited for what 2.8 will bring! In my eyes Grease Pencil and Eevee are the future cornerstones of my concept design process, especially once Grease Pencil is in VR!
I was watching Castle Rock and was very inspired by this idea of a town full of dread and fear of something unknown. This led me to creating "Omens I" which would be set in 18th century rainy Victorian London. I use PureRef, which is 100% free, to manage my moodboards. One thing I really like to do is mix real life reference with reference from films/other artists. It’s like getting to see both reality and how great artists interpret reality all at once. I loved the blue of the cinematic frames and noted the beautiful ground reflections in the real pictures and knew I had to make that happen in mine.
Due to my heavy 3D background, I tend to work in an assets-first workflow, and what I mean by that is I create a kitbash library of models I make myself and models from the internet made by other artists and place them into a scene before I start looking for the specific compositions I had envisioned in my mind.
I began with the Victorian England Kitbash from Kitbash3D as the base for the city. I picked my favorite buildings from the set and made a layout. It's important to have a vision in your mind before you do this because you don't want to create areas that you won't render, although it inevitably happens sometimes!
Next up were the characters! I decided to sculpt the Plague Doctor in Blender. Dyntopo made the process a breeze and I used alphas as much as possible to speed up the making of the cloth. At this point I was still avoiding rigging in Blender because I thought it would be very involved, so I had to repeat the process to create the different poses. I threw the civilians together very quickly with people from the 3dscanstore and simple cloth, once again using alphas to create the wrinkles.
The 3 week deadline I set for myself was fast approaching, and I had spent plenty of time already in R&D getting comfortable with sculpting and the general Blender workflow, so I had to speed things up for the horse. I had to learn rigging to pose them quickly, and to my amazement, making a simple rig in Blender is SO easy! Just a few bones and a couple button presses had me creating all the poses I could possibly need.
For the odds and ends like the carriage and general edits, I used Boxcutter, which I consider to be my all around saviour. There is nothing that it cannot fix or create.
Finally, I knew I would need lamp posts, so I used Grease Pencil in 2.79 to create these 2 versions and ultimately decided the dual lamp was the most interesting to use.
Since time was running out and Eevee was still not in Beta, I opted to use Octane, which I know very well. I tend to use Materialize (another free program), Megascans, and Textures.com for all my material needs. I am a big fan of creating one dirty and one clean triplanar PBR setup with a dirt node to mix between the two. Keeping things simple and procedural like this helps me build up a database of go-to textures and setups! My computer is a beast with Dual Xeon CPU, 128GB ram and 7 1080Ti's so it handled the entire project like a charm: having 100 million polygons on screen in Blender with all layers visible and 5k renders in Octane with fog taking just over 5 minutes to resolve to a good enough level. I definitely cannot wait for Eevee to be complete though, even with my computer there are delays when moving lights around and it is very frustrating to have this come up when I'm trying to be purely creative and look for good shapes made by the light.
Here are some gif's of the step by step breakdown for the paintover process. I really love this stage. This is where the technical problems fade and it’s just you, your ideas and your ability to art direct the "dead" 3D render into a living breathing moment in your world. My process is pretty simple-
- I separate the render into FG/MG/BG layers via atmosphere and fog
- I decide what the focal point is and add more interest and detail there
- I simplify the rest because it is less important
- Color Correction and final touches
I wish it were easy as it sounds! I learned from my mentors that 3D always needs art direction; left alone it is always just a cold mathematic calculation. And this paintover process is your chance to come in and turn it into art. Here were my attempts:
The Final Pieces
Well that's it, I hope you enjoyed seeing the way I use Photoshop, Blender and Octane to create concept art keyframes! I am very excited for the future. I know the guys at Hardops/Boxcutter and the rest of the Blender Community are hard at work on new amazing stuff and I know the world of concept art will only get bigger and better with schools like Brainstorm and all the amazing artists and teachers out there. I'm very excited. As for me, It's been just over a year since I last worked in the industry and while I continue to work on my portfolio, it’s finally time to start looking for work again and make my way into the concept industry for films working alongside my favorite artists!
Thanks for reading and thanks so much to BlenderNation!
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