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We’ve talked with the amazing self-taught artist from Paris and discussed how she mastered Blender.
Hello! My name’s Melanie, I’m a self-taught freelance 3D artist and illustrator from Paris. I’ve been working as an independent content creator in Second Life for the past 7 years where I sell my 3D assets for users to customize their avatars and environments! Lately I’m also developing my art as a traditional 2D artist!
I hopped into 3D by myself shortly after dropping art school where I couldn’t find my place anymore, I started looking for a sustainable creative source of income, with the ability to stay free and independent. A friend suggested me to try selling assets in Second Life, which sounded pretty silly at first as you may know how unpopular this platform is. I gave it a go anyways, I began learning Blender modeling by myself using online tutorials and it happened to be a success. Within a year I was able to make a living out of my work, selling a whole variety of assets such as clothing, furniture, creatures and characters!
I usually start blocking out simple shapes in Blender, – or alternatively Marvelous Designer when I’m working on apparel, but that’s a totally different and specific workflow -. When it comes to characters and creatures, I’m personally more comfortable starting with geometric modeling than organic sculpting as I feel like I have more control. Once I’m satisfied with the base design, I bring it into Zbrush and start sculpting more organically, slowly increasing my geometry and detail precision. I’ll then do a manual retopology back in Blender and start projecting the high poly details and texture onto my retopo-ed model using either xNormal or Substance Painter.
I like to paint my models with Zbrush, I occasionally enjoy having some kind of basic ambient occlusion or matcap bake to guide my painting, in this case I’ll do a quick UV Unwrap before starting to paint to be able to bake and transfer these texture information into the polypaint. Once I’m done with painting, I also like to bring my 3D model in Photoshop and combine a couple of baked maps with my polypaint layers.
That’s a rather complicated question for me to answer as I feel like I’m never really putting too much thought into my work and I’m often working very instinctively! I simply love when people tell me my work makes them happy or feels heartwarming to look at. I’m amazed to be able to make them feel that way with a single image, so I do my best to fill my characters with love, joy and kindness. I’m also constantly looking at references, and feel genuinely inspired by other artists work in the industry, I like to find inspiration in my childhood memories as well. Besides, I make sure to find harmony and balance within shapes and colors no matter which medium I’m using.
Since I’m uploading most of my works to Second Life, I do render or showcase things online very rarely. It happens once in awhile when I’m really satisfied with a piece and feel like it would benefit my portfolio. I like to render my models using Blender Cycles engine which is the most convenient for me to use since I’m already familiar with the software. It’s usually very straightforward, I just set-up a few lights and a simple background, place a camera, and after a few tries I’m done rendering. Sketchfab is also another great option to showcase 3D models, especially for other 3D artists to see, I’m particularly interested in seeing other models topology, I love to inspect them from any angle and I’m probably not the only one!
I don’t think I have any secret about this, I feel that the hand painted look comes from the fact that my textures are indeed hand painted! I like to do some tweaks and color editing using Photoshop but nothing major. I also believe that adding just a bit of image grain, depth of field and flying particles helps making the image look more natural and brings everything together!