Michaela Maria Wartbichler's vision of a post-apocalypse world is one filled with hope and optimism. When describing the mantra of her winning concept piece she writes, "no matter how bad things are – there is always hope and someone out there holding a smoke flare for you". We recently had a chance to catch up with her to discuss her career and journey as an artist, and of course, how she created this amazing entry for our Post-Apocalypse #KB3DCONTEST!!!
Michaela, How long have you been an artist and when did your creative path begin?
I grew up literally in the middle of a forest in the very south of Austria, surrounded by nothing but mountains, meadows, woods, and cows. So, I spent all day in the woods, searching for adventures, making up all these stories in my head. I could spend a whole day building a stone city in the river with my sister. Or destroying the hunter's high seat on a regular basis so he could not shoot the deer family that used to come to our house to eat the duck food :-D
Even in school, the teacher called me "Alice in Wonderland" because I was in my “own worlds” most of the time and constantly drawing. Ever since I tried to find ways to express all these ideas and stories and bring these worlds to life. So I tried plenty of traditional arts from charcoal, pastels, scratchboards to writing a novel and even classical voice education and writing songs until I finally landed at Digital Arts … and within 3D I found that exciting tool, where the only limitation is your imagination (and GPU’s :-D).
Well Alice, what is your process like before getting lost in one of your worlds?
As soon as I step into my ideation process, I am immersing emotionally and mentally completely into the theme and then inspiration just finds me. It can be the blink of the eye of a stranger, the sound of the wind in the trees, the smell of the first snow, an article in the newspaper ... it's like as soon as I begin to really engage with a subject, ideas keep coming up constantly, very often right before sleeping in or waking up.
When I am clear about the idea I do a scribble of the scene which is most of the time wild sketches with a lot of notes (I call them my mad notes) - unless of course, a client wants to see some sketches then I will do more polished (and understandable) ones or some value paintings. A not so serious chart:
In this stage, the process gets more technical and logical. I actually have an Engineer degree in Software Development – and that's when the "programmers thinking process” comes in really handy because your brain is trained to think of a problem/situation from every possible angle - best case to worst case and every single case in between.
So, in this stage, I am thinking about my scene from an analytical perspective and filling it with details because of logical thinking, reasoning, and conclusions.
When I am not familiar with the subject, I collect references but more in terms of documentary reports, history, researches … I intentionally do not look at other artist’s work because I do want to process my own ideas.
Once you completed all your analytics, what emotion did you want to evoke with your piece?
PEOPLE ARE AMAZING – NATURE IS AMAZING!
And no matter how bad things are – there is always hope and someone out there holding a smoke flare for you 😊
I think despite all of the bad people out there in the world or bad things happening, humans are capable of so much kindness, compassion, and love … you just don’t read about it all in the newspaper! You see it within the smallest acts of kindness all around you. Like the old man who takes his even older (seeming) dog for a walk and the little girl who carries a frog off the busy road and places it into the safety of the grass.
You know, there is always a tunnel at the end of the light (or was it the other way around :-).
Love your outlook on life and it shows through your work! Please take us through a step by step how you achieved your winning concept entry.
Ok - let's jump straight into Cinema4D - follow me into the render hole 😊
- CITY CREATION
The first step is to choose the KitBash3d kit I want my city to be built from. In this case, it was Warzone – it has the exact perfect look I had in mind.
I love the KitBash3d models because you throw them in your scene and since they have this perfect topology and UVs they look super nice immediately. The only thing I do is tweak the textures a little to get the desired look within Octane.
Now the fun part begins. Scatter 5000 buildings on a plane with some randomness to make it look like Mad Max vandalized through it. Then I make some render instances of my city plane, rotate, scale and place them to make the city even bigger and more epic (without increasing the polycount of my scene).
Now let’s create some light (super philosophical). I try different HDRI's (most favorite C4D plugin ever: HDRI-Link from Greyscalegorilla!), mix them with an Octane Sunlight, play with atmospheric fog and VDB volumes to generate the overall mood I am going for.
Next thing is to create a camera and become an explorer in my new world - experiment with focal lenses and angles. I love finding all these stunning compositions behind every randomly scattered edge because the KitBash3d models come in with all these awesome details!
I save my favorite compositions and finally choose one to continue with.
- FOREGROUND / MAIN FOCAL AREA
Now that I am happy with my background city, I begin to create the foreground elements and populate the scene – building a cosy home for my protagonist and her dog (easy for people who love playing Tetris).
Here’s a short layer breakdown of the 3D process so far:
Here’s what my scene layout in Cinema4D + Octane looks like:
Who else is guilty of obsessively rendering like 25 different render passes, although you are probably only using 5 of them? *hand up*
- PAINT OVER
Now we head on to Photoshop and I would like to give you one of the most useful PAINT OVER TIPS I learned from Jama Jurabaev (in his course “Concept Art for Movies” – super awesome!): Plan your Paint Overs upfront! Makes notes and really take some time to think about it! Here is mine (if I only had known I would present it to you I would have surely made it more pretty – but here is the unadorned, authentic truth of my note-taking)
The final paint over, color correcting, detailing, simplifying, fog adding steps you can see in this process video:
Awesome! And finally, why do you make art?
It’s not like I choose to make art, but more of I can not NOT make art 😊
I am sure every artist can relate when I say that by the way we look at the world and people, by the stories we tell, we live in more than just one world, and we live more than just one life. I know this sounds like a fortune cookie, but I have no better words to explain this.
But I still feel like I am at the beginning of this process since I am fairly new to Concept Art – actually, I created my first piece for the KitBash3d Industrial contest last year and immediately fell in love with the unlimited possibilities of creation.
Industrial 3rd place
Finally, I know this is not the Oscars, but I'd like to thank my family for supporting me ever since - love you! Especially my partner in every crime - my sister Natascha 😊
Michaela attended a Higher Technical College for Software Development & Business Organization from 2000 – 2006 (finished with Engineer’s Degree in Software Development).
Although she loves mathematics, physics and enjoyed programming, it was a little too … stiff and uncreative. So, she studied Media Technology & Media Design at the University of Applied Science in Hagenberg (Upper Austria) for two years.
From 2008 – 2012 she worked as a Graphic Designer in an Advertising Agency, where she learned all the fundamentals about design, composition, graphics, colors, layout …
2013 she founded my own Digital Arts company. She started as a classical Graphic Designer, creating Brand Worlds, Graphic & Product Designs. With time, client requests, more extensive projects and simply personal learning interest, she evolved her skills in Animation, Visual Effects and finally immersed into 3D.
A huge leap forward was Jama Jurabaev’s 6-week Mentorship “Concept Art for movies” in December 2019.