Max Bedulenko has returned to tell us about his new project called Velvet Road and share the working process behind the Nogroth environment, inspired by old Russia.
Hello! My name is Max Bedulenko and I’m a Concept Artist and Illustrator based in Warsaw. I devote almost all my free time to personal projects – one of my latest and most ambitious is Velvet Road. So I can say that I have a lot of work, and that's good – I'm always happy to show something new.
The Velvet Road and Nogroth
Velvet Road is one of my latest projects that I take a bit more seriously than my other works. I started with a project called Qheeva, and then I wanted to come up with a story that I could tell. I wanted to create my own world with its own laws. That's how it all started. From project to project I have this recurring theme: the civilizations I create use technologies similar to other universes in the steam-punk or diesel-punk setting, but society is on a much more archaic and primitive cultural level.
I was inspired by the culture of medieval Novgorod and the north of Russia, the periods of the Russian Empire expansion among others. The cold northern lands, which are not devoid of life, in which crafts and trade are thriving – all this was the main reference for me. Of course, I have many other interesting cultures in the pipeline that I wanted to talk about. I'm also in the process of working on a world map and some kind of a general history of the world. As you can see, my project has only recently begun and it will take me a very long time to put everything together into something organized and interesting. I work alone and the process is very slow. Anyway, I really hope that someday I will be proud of the world I am creating.
The composition and the main shapes are always one of the most difficult stages of the work for me. I look through a huge number of references – stills from films, photos of cities, satellite images, works of old artists, etc. I always spend a very large amount of time on this gathering of data and then I start sketching out variants of the composition simply by outlining the main shapes with default boxes from Blender. Gradually, when some coherent composition is formed I start to add smaller objects and details. It's like Lego – work and relaxation, all in one.
Buildings and Assets
Almost all the models and assets are made in Blender - I use some pre-purchased and downloaded assets among others, combining them all together. Usually, I assemble some number of assets beforehand, but things change as I work and I have to rework old assets and make new ones. It's because of these constant changes that the process can take so long. But on the whole, there are no special secrets here – I just spend a huge amount of time to make the project look vivid.
Usually, it takes a few days to polish the picture and achieve the effect of a picture rather than a bare render. At the same stage, I usually add people – here again, some PhotoBash and a lot of work. All that's left is to add some textures in Overlay mode on top to make the image look kind of rough, some noise, and Smart Sharpen. Done.
Assembling the Scene
As I’ve said before, I start with simple boxes, with which I outline the basic composition and then move on to the details. Gradually the scene develops, which I detail to a level that I think is sufficient. Then I put one or more simple light sources – it can be either a Spotlight or an Area Light in Blender, everything is primitive here. I also usually use an Environment Texture node, so I just select some photos from my collection that I like in terms of colors. It helps to get the palette that I want.
The biggest challenge for me is not starting all over again after finishing a project. I am usually quite unhappy with what I have in the process. But it always helps to move on to new projects. It's quite difficult to implement everything exactly as you conceived it – you often have to simplify ideas so that the project doesn't turn into an endless process. On average, I spend from a few weeks to a month or even months on a project. I think that the main secret is not to rush, spend a lot of time on references, and never stop.
Max Bedulenko, Freelance Artist
Interview conducted by Theodore Nikitin
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