One of our most highly anticipated and requested kits has been for New York City’s most famous borough, Manhattan – and now it’s finally here! From spectacular skyscrapers to iconic public buildings, you can now bring the best of the Big Apple to your projects. To demonstrate these stunning 3D models in action, we turned to architecture visualization professional Ali Chidester to create an inviting cover art for the kit! Take a look at our interview below to learn more.
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KitBash3D: Thanks so much for joining us, Ali! Can you introduce yourself to our readers and describe your creative journey up until this point?
Ali Chidester: Sure thing! My name is Ali Chidester, and I’ve been an Architecture Visualization (ArchViz) artist for the last 7 years. My background is in Interior Design and Architecture, but along the way of getting my Bachelor of Science in Interior Design, I stumbled upon visualization. I have always loved design, and specifically design of the space around us, but I became especially enchanted with rendering. For me, that is the most exciting part of the design process: making an image that brings all of the elements together in one concise way that anyone can understand and react to. After discovering visualization I ran toward that as a career and never looked back. Now, I’m having the time of my life working in a field I’m passionate about, and I’m incredibly excited to contribute my cover to the fabled KitBash3D Cover Art Series!
KitBash3D: Jumping right into it, what was your first thought when we asked you to make the Manhattan cover art?
Ali: To be completely honest, a straight mixture of honored and intimidated. The Cover Series has a history of featuring the top artists from movies and video games, of course, but from ArchViz, there are only a few artists represented, and they are among the best of the best.
KitBash3D: Right! Victor Bonafonte created the art for Every City and Mike Golden made them for City Streets, Favelas, and Heavy Metal.
Ali: Exactly, and those two are titans of our space. Victor’s done such great work with Beauty & The Bit, and he art directed the Rebirth cinematic with Epic Games. And Mike was the art director of DBOX, one of the other best ArchViz firms, before founding Three Marks, and also he has his concept art project Droquis. So huge expectations for me to stand beside these two guys to say the least. And on top of that, I’m a fair amount earlier in my career than either of them and I’m a woman, which only make up 11% of our industry. So I was honored, slightly intimidated, but also incredibly excited to take on Manhattan.
KitBash3D: We are so excited too, Manhattan has been one of our all time most requested kits. It took us a long time to make it, but that’s because we really wanted to do it right. How did you take your first steps of inspiration to bring it to life?
Ali: I gathered lots of reference imagery. Typically that is where I start with any project. My work tends to be very rooted in recreating reality, so what better place to start than with real pictures? With this kit I really wanted to capture the essence of Manhattan; I wanted it to be very clear when you looked, you instantly knew that this is New York.
While I think this kit could be used to create some awesome conceptual or stylized art, which I’m sure many members of the KitBash3D community are about to go nuts with, I wanted the cover of the kit to be very realistic and representative of what New York looks like to me on an idyllic summer day.
KitBash3D: You captured it beautifully! What was your favorite part about making the cover art, or your favorite part about the kit?
Ali: My favorite part about my job is the opportunity to take something like a floorplan or an architectural drawing and present the design in a way a person can truly connect to and fully understand. Not everyone can speak the language of architecture or understand the technical aspects, but I would argue that everyone can connect with a photograph. I think the same is true with this cover, I had a lot of fun essentially taking pieces out of a box and using them to make something that bottles up the essence of Manhattan.
KitBash3D: Did this piece help you grow as an artist, or is there a lesson you tried to employ while making the cover art?
Ali: Going into this, the challenge I set for myself was creating the first Cinemagraph KitBash3D cover art. I needed to make an image that would work while static but also had elements that could loop and come alive.
This meant I had to be very judicious about render resources within the timeline I had. To render the 120 frames of animated trees and taxis, I decided to break everything into parts, so the trees are comped over the background. This meant each frame could render in less than 5 minutes.
KitBash3D: It turned out lovely; the subtle movement helps capture that idyllic moment in time. What would you like to try next with this kit (without the constraints of making a cover art)?
Ali: I would like to make some cool vignettes that just have little moments of architecture. Like a couple buildings peeking up over the foggy cloud cover. Or a small little street corner moment with a story in the foreground and a large looming building slightly out of focus in the background. Really I have a hundred ideas, I could spitball fun things to do with this kit all day.
KitBash3D: We’re glad there’s plenty more enjoyment with the kit to be had! Between your secret projects of course. If you could give Manhattan to another artist, who would it be?
Ali: Luis Tornel. I’d be really curious to see what he would do with this kit. He’s my mentor and a very close friend. We share 3D techniques, geek out over scripts, and just generally work well as a team. Honestly, I’d love to collaborate with him to make something great. What makes his work so unique is the way he looks at something and can break it down both technically and creatively. I really admire that about him, and I’d be fascinated by what he’d do after taking these pieces out of the box.
KitBash3D: Before we go, what drives you to keep learning and creating?
Ali: I’d really love to tell you something romantic and exciting like I get up in the morning, look around the mountain top feeling accomplished while I sip my coffee… But that’s not the truth. Really at this point in my career it’s about climbing, growing, and constantly improving. So what is driving me is the desire to keep getting better every day.
KitBash3D: What other artist(s) inspire you on that climb?
Ali: Three companies that I look up to are The Boundary, Eleven, and Mir. Their work always gets me excited about what is possible in ArchViz. I also get really inspired when going to conferences like D2 or Academy Day and seeing behind the curtain on how different people are pushing the envelope. Our industry is always rapidly changing, techniques improving, and technology is evolving. I think staying in touch with the community is really vital.
KitBash3D: We’ll second that last point. Thanks again for joining us and for creating a splendid new addition to the cover art series!
About Ali Chidester
Ali Chidester is a 3D artist specializing in Architectural Visualization. She has worked for notable firms including Kilograph, ZGF, Chute Gerdeman, and Collective Architecture. Ali is passionate about all types of design and loves striving to achieve photorealism in her 3D renders.
You can connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her work on her Instagram.