Mari "MadMaraca" talked about her journey toward becoming a voxel artist, described the workflow in MagicaVoxel, and shared how the fog was made for the Funkazan project.
I’m Mari, also known as “MadMaraca”, a 3D designer, voxel artist, and world builder with a passion for cubes and isometric art with over a decade of experience in digital art. My specialty is voxel art, which is essentially 3D pixel art. Through my creations, I blend architecture, culture, and nature to create unseen fantasy worlds for my audience to discover.
My work has been featured in numerous exhibitions, such as the "Influences" show in Brooklyn, New York, "What Byzantinism Is This" at the Pera Museum in Istanbul, "DART 2121" in Milan, Italy, and the "Crypto Art Fair" in Abu Dhabi. Additionally, my pieces have been displayed in Times Square, New York; Los Angeles; and Shibuya, Tokyo.
I had been working as a freelance 3D artist/motion designer for several years when I was first exposed to voxel art in 2016. Upon seeing a post from a fellow artist, Timothy J. Reynolds, experimenting with MagicaVoxel (a free voxel editor), I was intrigued by the fresh and fun way to exercise creativity. So I decided to download and try it for myself and instantly fell in love with the medium. Since then, I have not stopped working with it.
Voxel art is a great choice for projects because it offers an incredibly high level of creativity and customization. You can use voxel art to create 3D models of objects, architecture, environments, or even games. It gives the artist the ability to design their projects to an extremely detailed level while still being able to quickly establish the overall shape and structure of their project. Moreover, compared to other 3D software, voxel art is considerably more accessible and has an easier learning curve.
Of course, it has its own limits too, which is why it might not be the best choice for certain projects. It is not very suitable for super realistic or complex projects, and most of the tools are limited in terms of the effects that can be applied. But even so, its simplistic nature allows it to be used in almost any artistic project, and the capacity for customization makes it one of the best software choices for people who want to create something unique.
MagicaVoxel is a 3D modeling program that is designed to create voxel-based art, similar to Minecraft. MagicaVoxel includes tools to help you create and manipulate voxels, allowing you to add and remove voxels, paint on the surface of the model, and move, rotate, and scale your model in 3D space.
The program also includes tools for editing the texture and color of the model as well as tools for creating animation and lighting effects. Additionally, MagicaVoxel includes an export feature that allows you to save your work in popular 3D graphics formats, like OBJ and 3DS.
The Funkazan Project
I start with researching materials and details about the composition and the overall shape. Then, I sketch out my vision for the illustration, trying to capture the mood I'm going for by playing with lighting, texture, and color.
The details of my illustrations are very important to me as an artist and I want to create something that grabs the viewer's attention. To achieve this, I tried to use vibrant colors and unusual compositions and added fog and steam to the design to create a more dramatic effect surrounding the area. MagicaVoxel allows for the creation of 3D objects or environments quickly and easily, and it can be used to create fog that can give a scene an extra layer of atmosphere. The fog is also customizable, allowing for adjustments in color, density, and shape.
Although creating fog inside MagicaVoxel has its own challenges too. The software does not have the same level of control or realism as other 3D rendering programs or images. Additionally, due to the nature of voxel-based environments, the fog created in MagicaVoxel can look sparse or "blocky" when a large area is covered in it. It’s also very difficult to animate the fog in MagicaVoxel organically, so if you want to create a scene with fog that changes over time or with other elements, you may need to use another program.
By building up different layers, I begin to create the atmosphere. In this piece, I used distressed textures and soft lighting to bring out the details and to make the design more interesting and engaging. After that, I focus on the finishing touches like adding shadows and highlights to create a sense of depth and realism. Usually, I spend a lot of time finding a perfect lighting setup. I want the viewer to be drawn into this surreal world, so I strive to make sure all the elements come together perfectly. For post-production, I usually use Photoshop and/or After Effects.
The total amount of time it takes me to create a piece of voxel art can vary significantly, depending on the concept and design of the artwork. Sometimes, I have a specific idea in mind, which I can work towards and make a reality. Other times, it involves more experimentation, with an element of improvisation, and this can take anywhere from 20 to 40 hours to complete. On more complex projects, it can even take up to two weeks for me to develop a fully-finished piece.
If you'd like to explore voxel art, start by learning some basic 3D software so you can begin to understand how voxels are constructed. Practice working with voxels and learn how to manipulate shapes and sizes to create convincing 3D images. Explore user-friendly programs like MagicaVoxel and Qubicle to get a better understanding of how voxels work and how they can be used to create stunning visuals.
Learn some color theory so you can properly illustrate depth, texture, light, and shadow. Study some existing voxel artworks and pay attention to the detail and craftsmanship that went into creating them. Finally, practice, practice, practice! The more time you spend playing around with voxels and experimenting, the more likely you are to create something truly stunning and find your own unique style.