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Phil Stoltz: 3D environment artist interview

Phil Stoltz

3d environment artist

3D environment artist Phil Stoltz currently works at Turtle Rock Studios, creating awesome art while continuing to hone his skills. Check out his career so far…

Phil's ArtStation

3dtotal

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?

Phil

My name is Phil Stoltz. I'm a 3D Environment Artist currently working at Turtle Rock Studios in the bright and sunny Orange County, CA. I started my career back in 2017 at Amazon Game Studios, OC, working on a game called New World. After 2 years there I ventured out to Austin, TX, where I worked on Darksiders Genesis at Airship Syndicate.

I’ve always loved drawing and being creative since I was little, and played lots of video games as well. It wasn't until I played Halo 2 when I realized people actually made video games for a living. I was so immersed in the Halo universe and wanted to create worlds and characters like that of my own. Naturally, the video game industry seemed like a good place for me to be.

3dtotal

What was the workflow behind your latest gallery image? Where did the idea come from?

Phil

My workflow is quite standard actually. I usually like to start with concept art that I find inspiring. With this particular concept, I love the color palette that was used and how it really invokes danger, and yet I still want to go to that place and explore. It seemed like a perfect candidate to turn into 3D.

I start out with a simple blockout; nothing too crazy. It's important at the beginning stages to make sure the space feels good to walk around in, and the proportions feel good at player scale. Next I like to blockout some simple lighting in the scene to start to set the tone for the rest of the project. I don't spend too much time on this step because lighting will always change once you start adding props and materials into the scene. Before I start getting deep into modeling and sculpting, I like to make a quick asset list for myself; I find that it helps when I have a physical list in front of me and I can cross things off as I go.

The first prop I made was the statue since it was one of the more visually interesting/important things in the scene. That asset then sets the tone/style for the rest of the scene as far as how I want to move forward with sculpting and material creation. Since the scene is comprised of mostly rocks, I created a small but robust rock kit that I could use to dress most of the scene. The sharper rocks in the vista weren't given as much attention since I knew the camera would never get up close to them. As I am adding props into the scene I like to start adding lights and playing with post-processing as well, to really start to get the ominous and dangerous feeling. It's just rinse and repeat after that.

3dtotal

What challenges did the image present? Did you learn something new?

Phil

The first thing I noticed in the concept was that the perspective was really pushed. Especially on the statues, to give them a very large and intimidating presence in the image. So I knew I wanted to make the statues invoke fear and intimidation in 3D, and carry the same visual weight that they did in the original concept. Another challenge was getting the transition of color in the scene to match closely to the concept. The background has nice orange/red hues and as the image gets closer to the foreground it transitions to cool blues and purples. Every time I start a project I try to learn something new and set a goal for myself. I wanted to dive into lighting in UE4 more, push it further than I was comfortable with. I also focused a lot on studying composition to find more interesting shots.

lava cave environment
Render 3

3dtotal

Do you use any other software, either for work or personal projects?

Phil

I don't use anything too crazy when it comes to my software choices. I primarily use Maya as my traditional modeling software. Other softwares I like to use are ZBrush, Substance Painter, Marvelous Designer, and Topogun. I typically use the same software for personal projects as well as work. A full list of the different softwares I like to use can be found on my LinkedIn or Artstation.

3dtotal

How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?

Phil

I think a really good way to have your portfolio up-to-date is to work on personal work outside of the professional work you do. It's important to constantly develop yourself as an artist; especially because this industry is always changing. For me, I really enjoy doing personal work in my spare time; I get a lot of satisfaction out of learning new ways of working and discovering new tools that could change my workflow. I mention personal work a lot because sometimes you may be working on a game or project for years and never get to share any of that work until the game (hopefully) ships.

3dtotal

Are you a member of any social media groups? Any favorite hashtags you check on a daily basis?

Phil

The group I try to stay active in is one called Ten Thousand Hours or 10k on Facebook. I think right now they are at a little over 80,000 members. It's an incredible group to be a part of because it's very active and anyone can post their work. Whether it's work in progress shots or final pieces. People also use it as a way to ask the community questions about software or portfolio advice. Definitely one of my favorite social media groups out there!

armoured knight with swords
Render 4

3dtotal

What are your artistic ambitions?

Phil

I definitely have many artistic ambitions! I'd like to continue pursing environment art professionally, and potentially dabble into characters in the future. I would like to get into 3D printing as well. And eventually, I'd like to work my way up to a principle artist position. One thing I love about this industry is that there is literally limitless potential for growth and new artistic areas to explore. So the sky is the limit when it comes to ambition!

3dtotal

Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?

Phil

Some of my favorite and influential artists are: Ben Mauro, Bryan Wynia, Neville Page, Feng Zhu, Raf Grassetti, Matthias Develtere, Fanny Vergne, Marco Plouffe, and many more! Each one of these artists have, at one point or another, inspired me to keep pushing myself to my limits. A lot of them have done talks or tutorials that have been influential to me in my own work. Not to mention, they are masters of their crafts and just bad-ass artists.

male knight with horns and sword
Statue Render

3dtotal

What can we expect to see from you next?

Phil

You will always expect to see personal work coming from me for sure! When Darksiders Genesis ships and the current title I am working on now gets released, you'll be able to take a look at all the work I contributed to those games! So make sure to stay tuned in!

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