Behind the Render
For all the creators out there looking to relive the Golden Age of Pirates, we present: Treasure Island. This 3D asset kit features exquisitely detailed wharfs, saloons, markets, battlements, churches, Spanish-style manors, and a majestic ship that's sure to shiver the timbers of all those who dare look upon it. One of our favorite parts of releasing a new kit is working with artists like Michaela Maria Wartbichler to create a piece of cover art that showcases the new models in all their glory. What's extra special about this one is that Michaela credits our work as playing a leading role in getting her started in 3D! So we caught up with her to discuss her creative journey thus far, her cover art, and her tips for aspiring artists.
KitBash3D: Hello, Michaela, it’s a pleasure to have you back! For those who may not remember you from your winning #kb3dcontest entry last year, can you introduce yourself and catch everyone up with what you have been up to over the past year?
Michaela Maria Wartbichler: It’s so nice to chat with you again! Long story short: I grew up in the middle of the forest in the very south end of Austria (half an hour from Italy), spent all my childhood outside in the woods searching for adventures, later received an Engineer’s degree in Software Development, and started my first digital arts company in 2013 and co-founded the second in 2017.
I guess one of the most exciting things that happened last year was when Jama Jurabaev (The Mandalorian, Ready Player One, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) asked me to work with him at his company. What a question. I mean, who in this parsec would say no? I felt a little bit like Rey in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” when Han Solo offers her a job.
KitBash3D: Haha, congratulations and what a comparison! It’s wonderful that things are going so well on your end. What was your first thought when we asked you to make this cover art?
Michaela: Haha, well, I don’t think it would be appropriate to repeat the exact phrases I had in my mind - my response to your email sounded something like “#!@*&% $#*!$%!!”
The socially acceptable way to express my feelings would be: I felt super honored and excited! To be honest, it was a dream come true. A lot of good Karma flowing your way!
KitBash3D: The honor is ours! After the initial excitement, what inspired or influenced your design for the cover art?
Michaela: Captain Darren (Head of 3D at KitBash3D) had a pretty clear vision of the overall mood for this kit. He wanted that vibrant, Caribbean, happy, sunshine feel that makes you want to get a bottle of rum, sing pirate songs, and dig your toes in the hot white sand.
For me in particular, it was important to showcase the incredible details of all the models (big compliments to the team!), as well as the possibility to build a huge-scale scene because of the well-balanced polycount.
To be honest, there was not much pre-production fanfare involved. When Darren showed me the kit for the first time, I immediately had the scene of this outlaw pirate island in my mind, scribbled it roughly, got an “Aye” from Captain Darren, and jumped right into it.
KitBash3D: I’m sure the Treasure Island team (Hebron PPG, Sebastian Bielecki, and Alexey HrDesign) will be thrilled to hear their work inspired you right away! What was your favorite part about making the cover art?
Michaela: I love setting up scenes like this and then sneaking in with a camera to explore and discover all these hidden edges, stories, and happy accidents in my world! The kit’s well balanced level of details, polycount, and textures of each model make it possible to build a huge-scale scene while also looking fantastic in close-ups shots.
Looking at the models, you can tell the people who were working on it also loved it. There are posters of outlaws, little easter eggs, paintings on the walls, signs of shops, blacksmith, doctor … but I do not want to spoil you too much. Go in and have fun exploring it yourself!
KitBash3D: We’ve been buzzing in the office for a while about how much we love this kit, so it’s so heartwarming to hear that you like the kit as much as we do, but let’s also not discount how impressive your work is! Was there anything you learned from making the cover art, or a goal you wanted to experiment with?
Michaela: A goal I set myself for this piece was to do as little post work as possible – which was a huge challenge because normally I do pretty heavy painting over my renders. Since this was a cover art for your kit, I wanted it to shine exactly the way it is by showcasing the models as purely as possible. In the end I managed to literally do nothing but a slight color correction on the final render. “What you see is what you get!”
At this point I’d like to thank my fellow Austrian friend Christoph Schindelar (Founder of RD-Textures) who kindly provided those amazing ground textures (that did not need any post work either).
KitBash3D: Shoutout to Christoph! Is there anything you’d like to try next with this kit (without the constraints of making a cover art)?
Michaela: I literally can’t wait to play with it in VR – getting to stand on that tower overlooking my island-outlaw-pirate-city… *insert face expression of excitement*. Also, there is this super dark, mysterious, bad-ass Tortuga scene in my mind since I first opened it that I’d love to try.
KitBash3D: Looking forward to both of those! Hopefully you can share the VR scene – with some sound effects it could be a relaxing staycation! What drives you to keep creating and turning those seeds of ideas into reality?
Michaela: That is a super philosophical question, but in my case I indeed know it. It started back in my childhood – all the days in the forest, at the river, in that old farmers barn – creating my own adventures and worlds in my head. It’s all these stories that constantly echo in my mind, that want to be brought to life. I am sure one of those was an outlaw-pirate-island! :)
KitBash3D: Gotta keep that childhood spirit alive! I’m sure many can relate. Do you have any final thoughts for the aspiring artists out there before we go?
Michaela: Wake up, eat, render, repeat! :)
But seriously, I actually would love to share a technique with you that I use. Whenever I am nervous or unsure about what decision to make in life, I picture myself as 100 years old with white hair, super experienced, and all those wrinkles of wisdom. Then I imagine what my wise Granny self would want me to do in my current situation. It will almost always be the same answer: do whatever scares the hell out of you the most! By doing this you activate your prefrontal cortex, which gets your mind out of that foggy cloud of fear and you can finally think clearly about what needs to be done. (Well, unless of course you are on a boat at the sea and you are afraid of the 15 sharks circling around you – DO NOT follow the fear and go for a swim).
But I know very well, fear can be a tricky thing. Our brains are hardwired by evolution to prevent us from doing things that scare us in order to keep us alive. Nowadays, we are afraid of changing our job or public speaking and our brain goes into that prehistoric survival mode, thinking this is a life or death, fight or flight situation and tries to convince you: “do not do this.”
What I am saying is – if you are passionate about that new job or opportunity – go and get it. Even if you fail, you will never have to torture yourself with that hardest of all questions: “What if I had been brave enough?”
I am sounding like a fortune-cookie, but it’s out of my own experience. In 2012 I ended my 4+ year relationship, moved into my first apartment alone in a city where I hardly knew anyone, quit the job in the advertising agency I had for 4 years and started my first company with literally nothing in 2013. I remember washing my hair with hand soap, living off a can of corn and cross bread for a week, washing my clothes at a friend's place, one time a friend even donated a pile of toilet paper to me (the toilet paper struggle is real)! But I kept using that technique I just described, and that made me push through. Follow that bliss.
If you are on fire for something, don’t get discouraged and keep kicking that fear’s ass. :)
KitBash3D: Thanks so much for sharing that mental exercise, and thank you again for your excellent work and kind support!
Michaela: Thank YOU all for being awesome and giving us this chance! <3
ABOUT MICHAELA MARIA WARTBICHLER
Michaela studied software development, media technology & media design before starting her career first as a graphic designer. In 2013, she founded her own digital arts company and expanded her skills in animation, visual effects, and 3D and VR. In 2017, she co-founded the tech startup Copter Log Services, which specializes in photogrammetry and laser/lidar scanning with drones, digitization of buildings & environments, and various Industry applications of drones and data analysis and interpretation. She is currently working with Jama Jurabaev and his team at Big Medium Small and teaching VFX and animation at the University of Applied Science in Villach & Carinthia.