We’re well into the year now, and the 2and2 office is constantly abuzz with developers, designers, artists and producers gathering to discuss their latest ideas. Not only have we started working on some really exciting projects (more on that in future blog posts), but we have also started working with the talented 3D artist, Hannah Crosby.
Of course, we here at 2and2 were stoked, so we sat down with Hannah to find out everything there is to know about the world of 3D art.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your artistic background?
I was always a creative kid, sketching in my maths book and cannibalizing parts of old toys to make new ones. It’s something I’ll do for fun, even when I’m not on a job and that’s why I tell people there’s no such thing as natural talent – it’s just practice, practice.
I’ve worked in video games for around 6 years, and it’s a great intersection between my artistic side and my geeky side. A few years ago I decided to branch out from digital work and learn a few more practical skills, and now I’m also a trained prop-maker – which, again, is my geeky love of sci-fi and fantasy films showing itself.
A life-size polystyrene sculpture with bronze scenic finish.
How did you get started in design?
When I was in high school trying to figure out how I could make a career out of my artistic talent, I stumbled across a scholarship to a 3D animation course which started me on a career in video games, modelling environments and characters. Until that point I hadn’t really thought about how I could get work in an artistic field, especially not in computer graphics.
I actually got given the advice of taking maths in senior high school because at that point career advisors still thought you needed to know how to program to use a computer to create art. There really weren’t the options of courses that are available now, so I was quite lucky to fall into it.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I try to look outside the medium I’m working in for inspiration, which brings a fresh perspective. I also look at other artist’s work because it’s motivating to see what other people have achieved. As a character artist you have to spend a lot of time looking at people, seeing details and variations – so I’m a real people watcher too.
An enemy character Hannah created for THQ’s Avatar: The Last Airbender (Nickelodeon) on PS2.
What is your favourite thing about being a 3D artist?
Getting to do something I do as a hobby for a living! Also, it’s very liberating to an artistic mind to be unconstrained by physical realities, because in 3D things can be built which would never be able to exist in the real world.
An environment Hannah created for Avatar: The Last Airbender (Nickelodeon) on PS2.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Definitely staying up to date with the latest technology. It’s a constant learning process because there’s always a newer version or a better program, and of course these days there’s so many different software packages to choose from. I left off doing 3D work full-time for a few years while I was studying, and the advances in technology in those few years alone have been huge.
I know this is a difficult question, but if you could only choose one form of art (props, 3D art, 2D art) to do for the rest of your career, which would you choose?
I’d have to pick 3D art, because although I really enjoy making real, physical objects, with the increasing availability of 3D printing I can easily create real versions of all my models. You can now be a 3D artist and a prop-maker, without ever leaving your computer! The one thing that can really hamstring me in a prop-making project is not having the right tool available, or being unable to get a material I need quickly.
A shaded technical model of a Replica 1914 Cafe Australia chair – mahogany & leather…
…and the finished version!
Talk us through your process of how you create artwork?
It really depends on the artwork and what medium I’m working in – sculpting a 3 metre tall statue or doing a book illustration. All artworks have some things in common though, like finding reference of the thing you’re making, because even if it’s an original design of a creature or object you still need to make it look physically convincing.
I’ll give you an example from the work I’m doing right now: modelling and texturing a character for a video game.
First I take a look at the reference photos the client has sent us and based on their description I create my own illustration of what the character might look like. Then it’s into a 3D program (I use Maya) to block out the shape of the character and get the proportions right. I show my work to the art lead before I’ve added too many details to make sure it’s going in the right direction, and we make any tweaks that are needed at that point. Then the model gets refined, more details added and I ‘clean up’ the mesh – that is, remove any unnecessary information that would slow the mesh down in the game.
Then the model needs to be textured by creating an image file with all the colours and details on it that aren’t in the model itself. I draw the image file in Photoshop and apply it to the model using information I’ve given the program about how to map the image back onto the 3D object. It’s like taking pattern pieces for a dress and sewing them together into something you can wear.
After that I give the body a skeleton and make sure all the parts of the body know which bone moves what, so that when I bend the forearm joint only the forearm moves and not part of the foot as well! Once the body can be controlled by the skeleton it’s just like using a puppet. I record the animation of the character moving – walking, jumping or riding a bike – and give it to our programmers to put into the game.
A Zbrush sculpt and the mesh model of Bobby, one of Hannah’s personal projects.
If you want to see more of Hannah’s work, check out her website here.