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Behind the Scenes: Reaven Rave



Hello, my name is Michael Hickman and I am a 14-year-old living in the US. I am from Las Vegas, Nevada. I started using Blender when I was 11 years old, after discovering a free tool that allowed me to customize the software to my liking. Before then, I used Autodesk products at the age of eight for CAD modeling, which I thought looked terrible at the time.

Through using Blender, I found similarities with polygonal modeling in other programs and was able to quickly get a basic understanding of the software. I continued to learn and improve my skills by creating something new in Blender every week. I switch between realism and stylization in my work, and while I enjoy both, I find that stylized art has a playfulness that is not present in any other medium. I now use Blender and Krita for all my work and occasionally use Houdini for simulation.


My work is inspired by children's book illustrations. I adore the cute and simplistic designs of the animals with their corresponding environments. The facial features in a lot of my works are a mixture of different cute and kawaii arts that I find on Pinterest, mixed together to get my result.


My process mostly starts with mapping out a baseline for my work. I then add more complexity and develop a personality for the characters. To do this, I ask myself questions such as: "Where are the ravens located?" "What season are they in?" "What is the weather?" This helps me to establish a baseline for my work.


Modeling is fairly simple, using a cube with a subdivision-surface to make its shape round. This makes the object more malleable and easier to manipulate.

The shrubs and grass are made of a NURBS curve with subdivided cubes as leaves. I modeled the hat and raven using basic shaping in sculpt mode with the elastic deform tool. I aim for a look that is not too sharp or too smooth, but just right to make the piece look satisfactory.


For texturing, I utilize a photo of fingerprints, which I use at a low bump value to create distortion on the mesh. Then, I have a noise node mixed with a Voronoi node on the roughness to give a wooden contrast and develop physicality in the texture. This creates a nice sheen that feels like you can touch the model itself. The grasses and shrubs use a color ramp node with an object info node to create randomness in the variety of plants available, generating additional contrast mixed with complementary volume shaders to generate ambiance.


I created a color palette through using saturation and contrast within Blender's viewport, and I ran through renditions of the scene to see which ones stand out and grab the viewer's eye. This is the most vital part of my work, where I use the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) method to push out the best work in the shortest period of time. The details are profound at this stage, where I zoom in on specific areas to capture any possible flat areas.

Basic color script draft with an idea of colors going through renditions.


For lighting, I use a volume mixed with a Nishita sky and finally, mix it with a key light to create a profound focal point for the entire piece. This grabs the viewer's attention and complements the textures of the environment.

Lighting and environment test 1:

I decided to remove trees for a more festive feel. I removed the trees and changed the Nishita sky settings.


Thanks for reading, and feel free to ask me anything. Have a great day!

About the Artist

Michael Hickman, a 14-year-old 3D artist from Las Vegas, Nevada. He is currently freelancing and doing personal work.



About the Author

Avatar image for Alina Khan
Alina Khan

A self taught 3d artist, who seeks to excel in the computer graphics field. Currently a student, freelancer and the editor for the 'Behind the Scenes' at Blender Nation.


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