Lead Artist at Behaviour Interactive (Montreal), Viviane Herzog, talks about her biggest inspirations and favorite subject matter
Viviane was born in the north east of France, in "a very beautiful place called Strasbourg”. She was always attracted to video games and played a lot when she was young. (Her parents didn't like it too much, which didn't stop her!) She always used to draw, and one day realized that mixing both of her passions to become a 3D video game artist would be her best chance at happiness. "And I was right, it was one of the best choices I've ever made.”
3dtotal: Did you always aspire to be a 3D artist? How did you enter the world of 3D?
Not at all. I spent five years studying chemistry in college and I loved everything about scientific theory, but I just hated working in a laboratory. So when I finally realized it was either working in a laboratory or teaching chemistry at school, I just decided to stop everything and reconsider my orientation. This is when I decided I wanted to live off my passion, and left everything to move to the south of France where the 3D school was. When my formation ended, I got a job opportunity in Montreal as a 3D character artist, for a small company that has been awesome enough to make me come from France.
Viviane wanted to practice rendering on this pinup, which was made using 3ds Max and V-Ray
3dt: Who or what are your biggest inspirations as an artist?
It started with my sister Lise, who is nine years older and an illustrator. She is probably the reason I started drawing when I was young. I also had the chance to visit a lot of museums and learn a lot about classical art.
I also read a lot of comic books, and my biggest inspirations from that period were the French artists Jean "Mœbius” Girand
and Olivier Ledroit
. I still admire their work a lot. Then the inspiration and teaching came from the internet, with all the awesome artists you can meet on 3D-dedicated websites.
Some hand-painted texture practice, diffuse only
3dt: Could you tell us about your current job and what your role involves?
I am currently working as character/lead artist on a mobile game. I am mainly in charge of all characters' design and 3D realization, as well as the visual coherence of the game, with the help of my art director. I also help other artists with improving their hand-painted texture technique.
© Regis Geoffrion
A character from a game Viviane has been working on this year, diffuse only
3dt: Which tools and software do you use, and why do you use them?
As 3D software I mainly use 3ds Max
, and sometimes Maya
. 3ds Max is very intuitive for modeling and very easy to work with when you know it well, though I would probably recommend Maya for rigs and animation.
I also use ZBrush
for the high-resolution sculpts. It can be a bit tough to get how it works at the start, but when you're used to it it's a pure pleasure to sculpt. I can also use it for textures – PolyPaint is a great tool to do a first pass on the textures or correct seams.
I use Photoshop
for textures – I love the layers system and brushes. I sometimes use xNormal
to bake normal or cavity maps. I use Marmoset
for real-time renders. It's super easy to use and gives great results. Finally, I use V-Ray
as my rendering engine for 3D stills.
© Regis Geoffrion
Another character from the same game, diffuse only
3dt: Could you tell us what your typical 3D workflow is like? How do you approach a project?
For character design I can do some sketching depending on the client's request, to make examples, but most of the time I just gather references online and improvise with it.
For a character with normal mapping, it depends if I know exactly where to go, but usually I start doing my base meshes into 3ds Max and then switch to ZBrush for the sculpture. I try to make good base meshes that I don't need to modify too much later, so when I'm done with the sculpt I can just adjust the topology of the base mesh or do a quick retopo for the low resolution model. Then I usually bake normal maps into 3ds Max and AO/cavity maps with xNormal.
Finally, based on the cavity maps, I start painting the textures in Photoshop. I can use some pictures sometimes, but I prefer hand-painted textures.
For a low-resolution diffuse only character I would just paint the texture based on the UVs snapshot or do a first pass into ZBrush and finalize the texture in Photoshop.
Every woman knows that feeling! Viviane often tries to improve her knowledge of anatomy with studies
3dt: What is your favorite subject matter to work with? What makes a project really fun and interesting for you?
I like fantasy and science fiction the most, but I enjoy working on any subject matter as long as it's not contemporary photorealistic or sports stuff. For me, 3D art is a way to create anything I wish and get away from reality – I don't want to recreate something that I could find outside. That's why I usually try to do stylized or hand-painted models, and I get attracted to these kinds of projects.
Another of Viviane's anatomy studies
3dt: What advice would you give to a 3D artist aspiring to a job like yours? What are the most important qualities an artist needs?
VH: I think passion and perseverance is the key. It's probably true for any kind of job, actually. If you really like what you are doing, then there is no reason you won't succeed in doing it. If you really like 3D art, you won't mind spending nights working and giving all your love to your models. Sometimes it won't look as good as you expected, but it doesn't matter; it will be better next time. Just keep going. Make sure you get a good amount of work in your portfolio as well, and do not be scared to share and compare your work online. There are lots of contests on all 3D forums that are excellent training. They make you more comfortable with deadlines, video game constraints, and you will meet great artists that will help you improve your skills.
Finally, never stop working on personal stuff. Sometimes when you are employed or work for other people, it might happen you get bored at some point, so it's important to keep the passion alive and work on some personal projects when you get a chance.
Viviane made this for a mini challenge on the GameArtisans forum while she was still at school, and had a lot of fun painting it
3dt: Self-improvement is important for everybody. Are there any tools or skills you'd like to improve on?
I always want to learn new things and there are still tons of things, styles, and methods I want to be better at. That's why my portfolio is quite varied; I always want to try something new and different.
I have been recently investigating more into 3D stills, which I tried already a couple years ago. I definitely want to do more of these and get a bit away from low-resolution real time models. I also want to improve my 2D skills, but still prefer 3D – that's why it's taking more time.
Some 2D for fun and for a personal 2D mobile game Viviane's been working on recently
3dt: Finally, where will we be able to see your work next? Are there any projects we should look out for?
I'm updating my portfolio regularly, so that's probably the best place to find any new work. I'm also posting it in different 3D online places such as Polycount
. There will probably be a couple of 3D mobile games I've worked on out this year.
Viviane mainly created this Victorian portrait to learn about Marmoset Toolbag 2, so it's real time, with mostly hand-painted textures
3dt: Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to take part in our interview! We really appreciate it.
Check out Viviane's website to see more of her fantastic work
Grab your copy of Sculpting from the Imagination: ZBrush – featuring the work of 50 talented artists
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