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Meet the Artist: Zale

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Hi, I’m Alessio, alias Zale, I live in Italy, near Venice, and I’m studying to become a 3D artist.

My Story

My interest for the digital arts started when I watched “Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie” The visual effects weren’t really good, and I thought, “maybe I can do it, too,” so I tried to create something similar. For some time I composed some experiments using After Effects, but I gave up pretty quickly because a lot of people were telling me that I was wasting my time, and at that time I was dumb enough to listen to them.

A few years passed, this time following the PewDiePie’s wave and gameplay videos. I opened a YouTube channel and started to fiddle with editing programs and Photoshop for the graphics of the channel. Probably if I had continued I would have achieved some results during those years, at that time there wasn't much competition, but I was in high school, I was going to get engaged and I couldn't concentrate on anything else, what a mistake.

Zale's early art

I drew the left one following a tutorial, I don’t remember which tutorial, the right one is a fanart of Sword Art Online.

Still during high school, and without a specific purpose, I bought my first graphic tablet, which I still use. I was fascinated by this object, I will not lie. I thought that it was enough to have a graphic tablet to create beautiful things. I have never been really good at drawing and I will never be, so the tablet ended up in a drawer.

It is not very related to art, but during high school, while studying computer science, I realised that I liked to apply the things I was learning to create small video games rather than “boring softwares”—the only thing that I liked about “boring softwares” was the creation of the UI.

Zale Blender work

Some characters that I created during my first months with Blender

Then high school ended and I had to decide what to do. I'm not the kind of person who likes the university—too many generic courses—but I wanted to do just one thing and do it well, so looking around I found this Blender 3D course that would last a year. 3D attracted me because I considered it a middle ground between technical things and art. I was really excited about this course; less than a month after it had started, I decided that I would like to create my own animated series. I carried that idea until the end of the course before realising that I couldn't do it and that the things I had done up to that point were pretty bad, which was nothing to be surprised about anyway, I was just starting out.

Zale environment image

An environment of “my animated series”

Shortly before the end of the course, I received an interesting work proposal from a software house, and I accepted, because I needed money. This practically put an end to all the projects I had in progress, at least in the first months in which I had to adapt myself to the new routine, I started again to dedicate some time to modelling, but kept it as a hobby.

Realistic render

The first and last realistic render that I ever made.

The turning point was around March 2017. This is quite ridiculous, I bought a MacBook Pro, and I don't know, having a new computer enhanced my desire to create beautiful things. I had never published my works online, mainly because I had never really completed anything, so I decided that I would start working on small projects and that I would complete them.

In this period I discovered Sketchfab. I used this service to show on the internet the first model of this new "phase", maybe Sketchfab even played a role in my renewed interest in 3D.

Honestly, I don't find it very satisfying to create 3D models just to see static renderings.

From that moment on for about a year I created small models, completing and uploading them online, I was also beginning to get a little satisfaction from the things I did.

More or less in the middle of 2018 I decided that I would go back to study, so I made the difficult decision to leave my job (I did not like it for some things but it was good) to focus full time on something that I really liked.

Now I’m almost at the end of the first year of studies and I’m really happy with the choice that I made. I still have a lot to learn, especially about animation. I still don’t know what I will do in the future as an artist, I just know that I like to do this kind of stuff.

 

During my short "career" in the world of 3D, I tried as many things as possible to understand what I liked to do and what I was most suited for, which is why I have so many unfinished projects.

The thing I like the most is the low poly modelling with hand painted shadeless textures.

Most of my models are based on video games or concepts/illustrations made by someone else (I always include all the links to the artists in the descriptions). Generally they are all "positive" because that is the kind of feeling I would like to communicate.

The main reason why I keep working on new projects is because I want to learn as much as possible to be able in the future to work on something big. I would like to use a story that I have had in my mind for years to create a video game; the genre of the game would be something like "Life is Strange", or even better "Life is Strange : Before the Storm" because it’s a story that could be real—no superpowers, no exaggerations, just the story of a teenager. Not a lot of video games deal with normal life stories, or at least, not in the way I would like.

Favorite Project

My favorite project is “Summer Afternoon,” which is based on an illustration made by Chanin Suasungnern.

I would say that the key to creating a model like this is to try to match the model with the original illustration.

I loaded the illustration as background and, using the front orthogonal view, I started to model every single piece of the scene without rotating the view.

When the model was done it was time to add a bit of a 3D effect because modelling something only using the front view makes everything flat, so I started to rotate and deform everything from the other views (top, right/left).

Here’s a little example from another scene that I modeled:

Modelling the planar parts using this perspective is kinda complicated. To make sure that all the areas were shown (in the orthogonal view mode the horizontal surfaces aren’t shown by the camera), I had to work on their depth and angle. By combining these elements I was able to reproduce pretty accurately the original picture. This trick makes the planes lean towards the camera, but with the right balance between angle and width I managed to create a realistic proportion.

texture map

Some textures of the girl character

The texturing was kinda difficult, because I had to reproduce the original paint style, try to understand what kinds of brushes were used, pick the right colours, etc. It’s something like a reverse engineering of the illustration.

I could have projected the original illustration onto my model, but it would be a bit pointless, because I wouldn’t learn anything, and anyway the result wouldn’t be really good.

I think that being able to match an art style will be useful, because I would like to work for a big company, and being able to stick to their style to integrate seamlessly in the pipeline can be more important than having a strong personal style.

In this scene I introduced for the first time some elements, such as a small story, animations, and a few scripts in Python.

It was the first time I'd combined 3D with my programming knowledge. Maybe there are simpler methods to animate such a scene, but not knowing them I used the tools I had at my disposal.

I can't say much more about this thing because it was the first time I used Python, I managed to make the scripts but I don't think I could explain them.

If you are interested to know more about my projects, I wrote a Behind the Scenes post about my model “Summer Color.”

Software

For my projects I mainly use Blender for modelling, and Affinity Photo to paint the textures. Only recently have I started to use Substance Painter to create realistic PBR textures, and Maya, as the course I’m taking uses this software, but honestly I don't like to use it for modelling. Maybe when we will start to animate characters next year I'll be able to understand its potential.

Setup

My setup

My setup is very minimalistic, maybe too much because it looks like a mockup, but a clean desk helps me to concentrate and not think about anything else.

I use a 2016 MacBook Pro 13, a Razer Deathadder (the last piece of gear from my gaming period) and a Wacom Intuos Small.

*The mouse decided to stop working today, I hope I can save it with my poor welding skills.

Conclusion

Thank you for the time that you dedicated to read this post, I hope it was interesting, I would really like to give some advice or suggestion, but in this moment, I’m the one who needs those.

About the Author

Zale author imageAlessio (Zale), I'm a 3D art student who would like to create positive and cheerful content for video games and animated films.

 

 

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