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May 1, 2019

Featured: Martin Nebelong

Martin Nebelong on growing VR art community: "We all help push each other forward artistically"

Martin Nebelong, a professional freelance illustrator from Denmark, took the time to talk with us about his explorations in VR art, how drawing and sketching skills translate well into VR art applications, and what this emerging space of VR artists is like.

This sculpture was made in MasterpieceVR in 5 minutes using a combination of Voxels and polygons.

How long have you been creating art and what kind of artist are you?

I’ve been doing art, or at least I’ve been trying to, for as long as I can remember. Ever since reading the first comic books as a child, I’ve had an urge to become as good as my childhood idols. Both my mom and dad are also creative people, my mom is a landscape architect, and my dad is a classical painter. 

As a kid of the 80’s, I had no internet, no Youtube or anything else, so my inspiration came from the local library, and from friends who were drawing too. Movies such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman, Back to the Future etc, were big sources of inspiration too.

For close to 14 years now I’ve been lucky enough to be able to make a living doing art in various forms and I almost never really feel like working. I’m just having fun.

Did you have any 3D art experience before working in VR?

3D has always had my interest, but mainly besides my work as a 2D artist, only now and then as something I used for paid work. I’ve been following the evolution of 3D programs and art closely though, always having been very inspired by what’s possible in 3D. As a gamer at heart, I’ve also always had a big interest in game art, and production techniques.

Summer Days was made with a combination of MasterpieceVR and Oculus Medium. The plants and grass were made in MasterpieceVR, and the girl was sculpted in Medium.

It must be exciting to see this new art space grow as you explore it. Is this your first time being at the forefront of technology directed at visual artists?

I’ve always had a big interest in the tech side of art-production. As a 13 year old boy back in the early 90’s I was using Photoshop to paint with, not something a whole lot of people were doing back then, at least not in Denmark. I remember seeing Craig Mullin’s work for the early Bungie Game Marathon, which blew my mind and still looks great today. Being one of the first to use Photoshop for digital painting back then, gave me the edge I needed as a 20 year old, starting out as a freelance artist. Today, with all the talent out there, I would have been one among millions of hopeful young artists! So much competition today!

What is it like being part of this creative paradigm shift?

VR, at the stage it’s at today, reminds me of those early years of using Photoshop for something new. It’s unexplored territory and a wonderful glimpse of the tools we will see current creative VR tools evolve into. Even today, it’s possible to do things in VR, in ways that are impossible in traditional programs. I feel a big urge to help drive this tech forward, and to see how it can help me get the images in my head out there faster and in a more rewarding way than the workflows of yesterday. 

"It's also very inspiring to be part of the early days of the community that is starting to form around VR art. There's an atmosphere of friendly competition, where we all help push each other forward artistically."

Do you think VR art applications are a good starting point for aspiring artists? What can be learned in these applications that would be useful to their development as an artist?

Sculpting in VR feels a lot more intuitive and “hands on” than traditional 3D programs. Our hands are extremely complex and are capable of very intricate movements which are used a lot more when sculpting in 3 dimensions in VR. Also, seeing your model in “real” 3D, gives a much better understanding of space. I think that's very useful for anyone getting into 3D. When sculpting anatomy for example, being able to easily turn your model with one hand,while sculpting with the other, gives a great sense of how muscles form around the body.

Model made by Martin Nebelong in MasterpieceVR using a combination of Voxels and polygons. Model was exported to Marmoset toolbag.

"Coming from a background in illustration, sculpting in VR is the closest I've felt to sketching and painting."

Are there any aspects of VR art that you think are limiting? Do you think you will always use the traditional methods in your art creation, or do you think there's a possibility that you will work entirely in VR at some point?

At the moment, one of the weaknesses of all the VR sculpting tools I’ve tried, is precision. Being able to draw lines constrained to for example horizontal or vertical planes, is quite difficult. That’s my biggest concern with VR modelling at the moment, and it’s something I’m sure will get taken care of in the near future. Once that happens, I can do most of my modelling in VR. For textures and finish I don’t see myself doing this in VR any time soon, as my Wacom tablet is an important part of any 2D work that I do, due to the precision and sensitivity of the tool.

What do you like most about MasterpieceVR?

I love the combination of Voxel and polygon tools. This makes so much sense, as both technologies has strengths and weaknesses. The polygon tools are great for adding detail to your Voxel layers, for example for grass on a field, wires on a ship or details in a face.

I really like the ability to copy parts of, or your whole sculpt, including color. Once you’ve done that, you can duplicate the copied data as many times as you like. Imagine sculpting a cliff, adding color, copying it and sculpting a whole mountain using that copy.

I have big expectations for the development of MasterpieceVR and other VR sculpting tools.

The tree and ship, modeled and exported from MasterpieceVR, were used as the base for this Photoshop illustration made by Martin Nebelong

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