A Workflow Interview With Steve Teeps

2019 has been a very busy year for everyone in virtual reality content creation. As more artists are using MasterpieceVR to speed up their workflow and to improve quality, we have been interviewing artists MPVR with other programs.

Today, we are very excited to sit down with Los Angeles based artist Steve Teeps.

Steve Teeple (better known as Teeps) is a multidisciplinary artist and problem solver who dreams of vast 3D worlds. He is fueled by a love for all things comics, games, movies, and pop culture. He specializes in 3D Concept Art, Digital Sculpting, Character/Creature Design, Concert Visuals, and Virtual Reality Experiences for the entertainment industry.

Steve just completed a beautiful piece, called Oracle. We explored his workflow that uses MasterpieceVR for the character and environmental creations and Cinema 4D for the polish.

Steve Teeps, “Oracle”, 2019

“VR has completely changed how I work as an artist.”

Hi Steve, thank you for taking the time today. I am really excited to hear more about this latest piece you created in MasterpieceVR (MPVR). But first, How did you get into VR?

Hey thanks for having me! I think to some extent I have always been into spatial art and design. I have a background in designing 3D animations for stage visuals. I often focus on unique setups using things like projection mapping and transparent screens to create a sense of depth.

Around 2015, when I was still living in Oakland, CA, I crossed paths with Isaac Cohen (aka Cabibbo). He knew me from my visual work, and we ended up hanging out a lot in our free time. At the time, Isaac was working at Leap Motion, and had very early access to dev hardware builds and prototypes. I had tried a number of simple demos, but I became converted when he first had me put on an Oculus DK1 with a Leap attached to the front with one of my digitals sculpts loaded in Unity. It blew me away!

What happened Next?

I was starting to learn about the possibility of drawing, painting, and sculpting in VR It honestly made me feel like a kid discovering art again! it was hard to explain… but, at the time there wasn’t even teleport or scaling available. So, I remember trying to create these creatures by standing on chairs or on Isaac’s bed (sometimes) to try and paint their tops or backsides.

Those sound like early days.

Yea, but I was creating! Fast forward more than 3 years later, and here we are in a time with some incredibly advanced virtual creative tools.  MasterpieceVR has completely changed how I work as an artist.

As a multidisciplinary artist, what would you say is your main industry?

I recently relocated from Oakland to Los Angeles, California. I work full time as a freelance 3D concept designer, digital sculptor, and VR artist for the entertainment industry. I am originally from Milwaukee, WI, but moved to California shortly after graduating from university.

What did you study?

Interdisciplinary arts and technology. Basically, my background in school covered everything from creative coding to graphic design, and film. My electives were always pretty open. I would try and take any courses on 3D, motion graphics, traditional 2D animation, and other new media studies. Before going freelance full time, I was the senior creative producer at the popular San Francisco clothing company Betabrand.

What you are up to these days?

I regularly test early VR hardware and software to try and push the boundaries of digital art by utilizing these new tools in a professional workflow, while working to help improve these apps for other creatives. I freelance frequently as a 3D concept artist with companies like The WaveVR to help build the future of immersive concerts, design characters and creatures for various projects, and work on software training for Cinema 4D, as well as technical demos at conferences like Siggraph, Adobe Max, and CTN. Recently, I was lucky enough to be included in the first ever gallery show focussed on VR/AR created artworks in Pasadena. That exhibition was co-curated by Britt Salvesen, from the LACMA. It was an incredible experience.

“It was after using MasterpieceVR that I started looking at VR as a real part of my workflow”

Tell us about, “Oracle” the latest piece you have created using MasterpieceVR, what is going on here visually?

I have always been really inspired by 60s and 70s science fiction book covers. I’m interested in the way they fuse bright colours and surreal imagery. So, for this piece, I tried to channel a bit of that vibe into the work. Stylistically, I wanted to fuse my personal sort of cell shading/comic rendering along with some hand painted embellishments of a 3D render.

What are some of the ideas behind “Oracle”?

Conceptually, Oracle was an idea I had of adventurers discovering this cave on a distant planet. They stumble upon an oracle-like being. This mysterious character sits atop a gigantic floating biomechanical creature. It is telepathically controlled by the host pilot. It is almost as if both are living parts of each other. While there is a sometimes menacing look to my work, I always imagine these beings as mysterious and mythical... not so much evil or terrifying.

You used Cinema 4D and MasterpieceVR together in making Oracle. How did you weave both programs into the mix? Can you maybe tell us a little bit about your creative process?  

I started everything in Masterpiece VR doing quick sculpts and kitbashing using the latest REMIX update that allows importing of meshes. Since I put everything into Cinema 4D later to assemble, I often am not thinking about specific placement or worrying about what will go where.  Instead, I like to create a large collection of objects that I can pull from later on.

Environmental Test Sculptures

So MasterpieceVR helps you work quicker?

Yes, this often means I open up a new scene in MPVR where I create an asset, save it out, and move on to another till I have a decent amount to work with. For this project, I probably made 6-7 other models that didn’t even get used in the final piece, but it was so quick to kitbash them together that I just found it a natural part of the process.

Can you tell us more about your process?

Once I have these pieces, I generally export from MasterpieceVR to Zbrush to do some light clean up, detailing, and decimating before importing them all to Cinema 4D. Here, I play by moving things around, duplicating, arranging, and trying to find my composition. I tend to reuse a lot of  MPVR 3D models in different ways to create a final piece.

Early tests of Oracle

Can you give us some examples of how you reuse MPVR assets?

Well, I took some of the tentacles from the creature and used them as an environmental asset. I also duplicated them on the giant itself to emphasize the scale. All of this was not in the original sculpt. You could say recycling and reusing assets I create in MPVR is a big part of my creative workflow. The speed at which I can create quickly with MPVR allows more opportunities to build out libraries of pieces I can use later on. I really love this.  

When did you start using MPVR in your daily workflow?

I started dabbling with MasterpieceVR in the early days as it's a mixture of tools and collaborative features were really setting it apart from other apps and were catching my attention. I didn't start really diving the sustainable Future Contest was in full swing. I decided to really give the hard surface sculpting a try.

What are some of the features that you gravitate towards?

I loved the fantastic grid and angle snap tools. I was getting more detailed. I was able to create quickly and export in MPVR, unlike other apps that are a bit trickier. I was getting results when rendering without too much external clean up... I really enjoyed this fact. It was after using MasterpieceVR that I started looking at VR as a real part of my workflow. I realized I could create something starting in entirely in MPVR, where these unique assortments of tools allowed me to create things that would have been nearly impossible in other 3D apps.

“Basically, anything that allows for fast and fun shapes and form generations is a win in my book. MasterpieceVR has it.”

How has MPVR helped you realize goals?

I now start most if not all my professional and personal projects in VR. With regards to MPVR, it allows a lot of ways to explore and be very gestural which is really missing from a lot of other apps I use in my workflow. This can help to be less concerned with technical processes or clean meshes. Just get the ideas or shapes out quickly that you can then explore later on. There are always ways to clean things up or iterate on later. The ability to stand up in your studio and make things life-size, and movable, as if you were a sculptor or mural painter is an unparalleled feeling.

What is the most exciting part of using MasterpieceVR in your daily workflow?

I really like how it has such a great range of tools. Now, I have the ability to import my 3D mesh libraries to kitbash and play with ideas really quickly. I also always have the option to convert those meshes to clay and start sculpting at any point. The addition of ribbon and painterly like strokes combined with the sculpting and stamp tools allow for a really wide range of shapes and ideas to play with. I also find the grid, mirroring, and snapping tools help generate some complex hard surface details that I tend to struggle within other apps. Basically, anything that allows for fast and fun shapes and form generations is a win in my book. MasterpieceVR has it.

What is your favourite thing to create in MPVR?

I primarily love to create characters and creatures, but the nice thing is that MPVR allows me to explore a bit out of my comfort zone too. I often find myself creating a lot more environments or larger scenes because the ability to scale everything down and hand place meshes or models in a diorama is so much faster than the traditional way. Also, having the option at any moment to grow the scene to being and getting a first-person perspective in something you are building is really a wild and awesome feeling.  

Where do you think VR is headed?

This is a tricky topic because the landscape seems to shift a lot. I think right now in the short term we are going to see a lot of advancements with the hardware trying to remove that tethered to a PC barrier to allow for more mass adoption. In the long term, at least from the creative side of things, I believe we will start seeing some big advancements in these creation tools that will parallel industry standard desktop applications. We already are seeing art directors and industry artists using VR tools on designing major movies and AAA games. it's only a matter of time before we start to see more and more headsets in studios and agencies.

What does 2019 have in store for you?

Recently I have been leaning more into my design background and focus on character designs, concept art, and sculpting of models/assets for developers to implement into game engines for a number of VR/AR projects. Other than that, I am also starting work on a few tutorial series’ aimed at helping 3D artists start to use VR in their workflow. I am experimenting with 3D printing my work- one-off collectibles. Now that I am based in LA I would love to eventually pursue more work on games, tv, and eventually film to get outside of my comfort zone a bit. Dive into worlds that have been inspiring me for so many years.

I am still sitting on a number of projects I haven't been able to share, but excited to show them eventually and work more with like-minded artists. I had a bit of a transition moving to a new city last year, but 2019 has me fired up and more inspired than ever so I am looking forward to where it takes me.

What are 5 unrelated VR things you are into these days

I tend to surround myself a lot in the world of comics, video games, movies, and collectibles.

For games, I do not get as much time as I’d wish...I often am found lately casually bouncing between Overwatch, Destiny, Heroes of the Storm, and getting through my backlog of PS4 titles like Horizon Zero dawn, re-playing Dark Souls 3/Bloodborne, and the new God of War.

For Comics, I am all over the place reading a lot of standard superhero fare from Marvel and DC, but am also a huge fan of the Vertigo DC imprint with famous series like Transmetropolitan, Y: The Last Man, and Preacher.

Outside of my love for all things pop culture, I have quite an interest in personal development and health, cycling and exercise. I love reading books and podcasts on these sorts of things. I also occasionally DJ, meaning I have an extensive vinyl collection.

In the end, I realize I am just curious and inspired by so many things. I try and channel that into something productive and grow from that.

Thank you, Steve!