In this interview we talk with Florian Linke, the 1st place winner of the CG Boost Treehouse Challenge from Vienna, Austria. He will give us some insights of his journey as a CG Artist and a look behind the scenes of his winning artwork.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
Hi, my name is Florian Linke from Vienna, Austria.
I am a hobby CG enthusiast, and since my journey has only really just begun, actually winning a challenge with so many others incredibly talented people participating came as a huge surprise, haha.
I’m very interested in environments, especially environmental storytelling.
2. Tell us more about your creative path: How did you get to the point you are now?
I used to play a lot on the original PlayStation when I was a kid, and the idea of
creating entire 3D worlds digitally from scratch seemed incredibly fascinating. When
I found a way to learn the basics of CG for free with Blender and YouTube a few
years ago, it was a dream come true.
3. What was your main motivation for participating in the challenge?
The main reason for me was to see how much I had improved since I started learning Blender, by competing against other 3D artists, many of whom are much better than me, and it also looked like a whole lot of fun.
4. Where did you find the inspiration for your latest entry, and what inspires your work every day?
I’ve been into pirate themed music a lot lately, and this seemed to go well with the theme of the challenge.
Nothing is more inspiring than nature, though, and taking long hikes in the forest always helps with getting ideas.
5. What software (and plug-ins) did you use to create this image? Are there some other tools that make your life as artist easier (maybe not only CG tools but also something you used to organize your work etc.)?
I’ve used Blender for the whole project, and then GIMP for some minor color correction.
Programs that allow the creation of PBR texture maps from photos are also very useful, as well as render farms.
6. Are there any particular techniques that you use often?
I have been using the mesh to volume modifier a lot more since the challenge, as it is really easy to make clouds or mist with a particular shape with it.
I also like mixing materials together, for example, I used the separate XYZ node to make the top of the rocks and tree look mossy, and an ambient occlusion node to give the nooks and crannies of the house a little moss.
7. Can you give us a short breakdown of your entry?
First, I started with a rough first draft, to get a general idea. I then changed things around, until the general idea seemed a bit more appealing.
Then, I just replaced most of the placeholder models with better ones.
The techniques used were all pretty basic, but they worked well. The cliffs were displaced by a height map I found online. The tree was made by using the skin modifier and creating a “finger” by wrapping branches around each other, then copying that finger and changing it a little, until the hand of the tree was formed.
The treehouse itself was just made out of slightly beveled cubes that were shaped into planks and pillars, as well as some simple assets like an anchor, or barrels.
Finally I made some trees, also using the skin modifier, as well as some smaller plants and leaves from transparent images, and placed them everywhere.
8. What was the hardest part on creating your entry?
The hardest part was actually rendering, haha.
I was running a bit low on time before the submission deadline. The project turned out to be a bit too much for my machine to handle, and I unfortunately didn’t know how to use render layers at the time. Using a render farm saved me, however.
Getting the cliffs right was also really tricky, since the adaptive subdivision required the rendered preview of the object, in order to see how the final result looked.
9. Have you learned something new from participating in this challenge, and if yes, what?
Using the mesh to volume modifier was a first for me, but after a few tries it worked perfectly for the mist at the bottom of the waterfalls. Adaptive subdivision is also a lifesaver that I didn’t know of before.
10. Any advice for people who want to learn 3D art or join challenges like this?
Don’t let anything discourage you from getting into it.
Thanks to Blender and free tutorials, it is now possible for almost everyone with a capable enough computer and internet access to learn 3D art, even if they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity.
Also, learn at your own pace, even if it takes you longer than others.
Many people may not have the time to put everything into it, but even just learning a little bit every now and then goes a long way.
It might seem very complicated at first, but it really pays off immensely to keep going.
10. Any good books, podcasts, YouTube channels or other useful / inspirational content you can recommend to other aspiring artists?
I would recommend CGMatter, Ian Hubert, and Blender Secrets, as well as similar YouTube channels, as they often give a lot of extremely useful information in a short amount of time that many people may not know about.