Christian Hecker: freelance artist interview
Feelance sci-fi and fantasy artist Christian Hecker goes discusses in depth the workflow behind his latest gallery entry "Beasts Shall Rise"...
3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
Christian Hecker: Hi, my name is Christian and I'm from Nuremberg, Germany. In the ever growing world we call digital art (ArtStation, Deviantart and so on) you can find me under the name ‘Tigaer'. I'm currently freelancing and open for commission in the fields of illustration for all kinds of covers, as well as concept art for whatever is requested and fits my art style. I started my professional journey around 2008 and have learned a lot of different techniques since then. For my work it seems like I settled with a mix of 3d and 2D, combined and refined with Photoshop.
3dt: Where did you find the inspiration for your latest gallery entry? What's the story behind its creation?
CH: My ‘Beasts Shall Rise' piece is definitely inspired by fantasy epics like Lord Of The Rings and Game Of Thrones. I am a huge fan of the matte painting work that's done in these movies and episodes. Since I'm more of a sci-fi guy I said to myself that I needed some more fantasy to spice up my portfolio a little. And it certainly worked with this project. I got some fantastic positive feedback and the inclusion into the 3dtotal gallery is a great motivation as well. I must have done something right with it. Hard work pays off!
3dt: What software and plug-ins did you use to create this image? Did you face any difficulties, and how did you overcome them?
CH: This is the kind of question where I think I could write a whole book about the creative process behind my pictures. But don't worry; I will try to make it as short as possible!
Like pretty much all my work I started this scene in Vue. There I have the freedom to build the scene, find the right composition, camera angle and a starting point for the atmosphere. Before that I had to create the assets though. The terrain and mountain was done with World Machine and the height field then refined in Photoshop. This was quite a lengthy process with tons of test renders to see if the terrain worked.
Then it was time to create a city. I used a lot of models from DAZ3D for the houses. Some of them I modified a little to bring in some more variation. If you take a closer look you will notice that the city doesn't really have a very city like structure. I invested some extra time in the city but ultimately the city itself is just a filler. The hero parts are the palace, the mountainside and the dragons. And that is where I hope the eyes normally go in this scene. The palace parts are models from Cornucopia but again modified to fit my needs.
After rendering the scene with Vue and its Multipass options, it was time to refine the scene in Photoshop. There I did the already mentioned over-painting, added textures and fixed stuff I was not too happy with. The over-painting in Photoshop added an extra layer of detail. At that point I did not have the dragons in there yet. As well as the pond/waterfall part.
For the dragons I used DAZ Studio and imported the models into my Vue scene. Overall I had an eye on using the ‘Golden Spiral' for the composition and therefore carefully placed the dragons along the lines. In Vue I also experimented a little with the skin for the dragons. I wanted to suggest that it's a little transparent. Not sure if I succeeded but their skin certainly looks a little different from what we normally see.
To round it all up I decided to put the waterfalls in there and it turned out to be a good decision. They added another neat detail and depth to the scene and makes it all feel a little more alive and fantasy. The final stage then was to go into Adobe Lightroom and treat the finished Photoshop piece like a photo and push the colours. That's something I have a lot of fun with.
3dt: Do you normally use this software in your workflow? What other software and plug-ins do you favor?
CH: My current arsenal of frequently used tools are Vue, Photoshop, Cinema 4D and Lightroom. Depending on what I need or what is requested I switch to DAZ3D, The Plant Factory and World Machine. When it comes to World Machine I really enjoy the GeoGlyph extension by Quadspinner. This add-on allows to create some really good looking terrains in a rather short time and is very flexible. Every now and then I use a fractal tool called Apophysis if I want to have fun playing with some neat atmospheric effects.
3dt: Are there any particular techniques that you use often? Or do you like to experiment?
CH: Like I said earlier, my standard technique is to start with Vue and layout the scene there. Once rendered I move into Photoshop and refine everything. Of course there will always be a certain degree of experimentation involved. Especially when you are trying to do things you have not done before. I recently created a forest scene and needed some good quality trees for my foreground. So I had to use The Plant Factory (from the guys that also create Vue). I'm far away from fully understanding how that tool works but I was able to create some models that worked for me. I guess, as soon as you work with 3D in some shape or form, you cannot avoid experimenting. Since we are always looking for the most efficient way to get our ideas on paper… or screen.
3dt: What are your artistic ambitions?
CH: That is a good question I ask myself regularly, so I'm not really sure how to answer. I guess the ultimate answer would be to make a living out of the things you love to do. I'm still working on that. But also trying to refine my artistic techniques and become more efficient.
3dt: What software would you like to learn in the future to expand your portfolio and skillset, and why?
CH: It would not so much be about a software and much more a skill. I could really need more experience when it comes to 3D modeling and texturing. I do have some basic skills that do what I need but it could certainly use some improvement.
3dt: How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?
CH: The easiest answer to that would be: stay productive and create! But that's not always possible depending on your personal situation. I see a lot of artists on Instagram or Facebook posting all kinds of stuff related to their art. Even rough sketches. You have to keep the stuff coming. Unfortunately I'm not that kind of guy and do myself a little hard with Social Media. It's ultimately about showing presence and creating new content I think. You don't have to blow the audience away with everything you post. But it's not wrong to have a constant flow of content people can look at and get inspired by.
3dt: Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?
CH: There are many for all kinds of different reasons. In our field everyone knows Dylan Cole right? If you don't know him… just google and you will immediately understand. For concept art it would be James Paick, Feng Zhu and Thomas Pringle. I love their efficiency and how their often rougher/not too detailed style is totally enough for the audience to understand what's happening. For vehicle design it would be Gurmukh Bhasin. His work for Star Citizen is amazing. I'm a sci-fi guy and his super detailed ship designs are superb.
When it comes to traditional art then the work done by the artists of the Hudson River School is always an eyecatcher and should be an inspiration for matte painters in general.
3dt: What can we expect to see from you next?
CH: After going more fantasy I want to go back into sci-fi and tackle a picture that I have in my head for quite a while now. A perfect opportunity to dive a little deeper into 3D modeling. I also am in the final stages of finishing the second part of my ‘Endeavours' series of pictures I started a couple of years ago. So, there is some stuff in the pipeline for sure.