3DTotal: You have a very painterly style in your approach. Is your art background one of painting or fine art? Mikko: I’ve been playing around with computers since I was a kid. I was doing a lot of pixel graphics with DeluxePaint ten years ago. It was only a few years back when I realized you could actually paint with a computer. I had gotten more and more interested in traditional painting when I saw some great digital artworks around the internet forums. Nobody ever taught me much about painting, despite the fact that I spent a while in an art school. Now that I’ve been working full-time for a while, I haven’t had much spare time for traditional, let alone fine art.
3DTotal: How did you come to work in the games industry? Mikko: I went to an art school in Finland but didn’t quite feel comfortable over there. I quit and took a day job so I could practise painting during the evenings and did that for a year. Eventually the hard work paid off, and I joined a developer called Red Lynx. Since then, I've worked at Team17 in UK and most recently, at Recoil Games here in Helsinki.
3DTotal: Do you get to do much drawing in your current job or is most of your time spent working in a purely digital medium? Mikko: I like to do quick marker sketches when I’m trying to put down ideas. I’ve done that a lot, but recently I’ve shifted even more towards a purely digital approach. My personal works are mostly 2d digital paintings done in Photoshop. In my day job there is a lot of 3d involved too. For that I use 3ds Max, Maya, and Mudbox. Whatever gets the job done basically.
3DTotal: Could you talk us through how you approach a new painting and describe the processes you follow? Mikko: There’s so many ways. I try to avoid developing a routine. I often start with a mess, and try to build something out of it. Somehow it all ends
up looking the same, so I guess I’m not trying hard enough. As I work mostly on environment type paintings, I’ve found using 3d block modelling very helpful. It helps you to set up the perspective, and generally play around with the camera. Then I usually do a greyscale value study, just to get the basic forms down quickly. I keep adding colour gradually, refining the forms at the same time. All in all, I try to keep the process as simple as possible, avoiding any unnecessary “tricks” that could drift my concentration away from the subject. I like to play around with different tools, but when it comes to communicating an idea, I like to be as strict and fast as possible.
3DTotal: Could you describe how block modelling has helped your work referring to specific examples? Mikko: What I refer to as block modelling could be just creating a simple 3d grid to help with the perspective drawing, or something as complicated as modelling a series of rough objects and rendering a greyscale image with radiosity and cast shadows. It all depends on the complexity of the picture that you want to do. I don’t really have any good example images of this that I could share, but I’ve done some matte painting style cityscapes with a bunch of stock model buildings which literally had every window modelled in there. That kind of 3d help
can really make the painting process easier, as you can just focus on adjusting the lighting of the piece, paint interesting textures and so on. The line between a 2d and 3d artist is a blurry one. I prefer using whatever techniques that may help the piece and speed up the process.