3D Artist of the Month January 2018: Alexandr Melentev

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018 by Julian Karsunky

We are happy to announce that 2018 sees the continuation of our 3D Artist of the Month competition. Alexandr Melentev kicks off the new year with a bang, as he leads us into a magical realm of winter fairy tales and diesel fueled machinery. His airborne ‘Hunter’s Village’ offers a fascinating glimpse into the artist’s ongoing effort of creating an original fantasy world based on Russian folklore. Rich in purposeful detail, the image exhibits a unique visual style dubbed “wooden punk” by Alexandr.

Join us as we journey deeper into a world suspended in perpetual flight and talk flying trees, world building and wooden architecture.

'Hunter’s Village', additional angle.

Hi Alexandr! To start things off, please introduce yourself to our readers!

Hello everybody! My name is Alexandr Melentiev, I'm 35 years old and I'm from Russia. I’m an artist-designer by education, having graduated from art school in the city of Ivanovo, Russia. Nowadays I mostly work as a CGI freelancer, doing everything from interior design, concept art, illustration, art direction, 3D modeling to VFX and animation.

Can you tell us more about your background in CGI?

I’ve been involved in CGI for about 15 years. Back then, it wasn’t part of my official training, so I’m entirely self-taught. With limited resources available, I was pretty terrible when first starting out. To get better, I spent 16 hours at the computer every day, just familiarizing myself with different programs. Once I had regular access to the internet at my job at the time, all of a sudden learning became so much easier.

Judging by your portfolio, you seem to have firmly settled into a destinct aesthetic. How did you develop your visual style of today?

I initially wanted all of my designs to look hyperrealistic. I really liked high-poly modeling and very detailed objects. Curiously enough, I then moved into the complete opposite direction and got really into low-poly modeling and drawing textures. Eventually I struck a balance by combining different techniques to achieve the best possible results, such as matte painting and 3D modeling.

Subjectwise, I really enjoy drawing environments, cities and nature – the bigger the scale, the better. I’ve always been fond of fantasy literature and fairy tales, so the gradual shift towards that aesthetic came naturally.

Alexandr describes his visual style as “ethno wooden steampunk” or “wooden punk” for short.

Speaking of, let’s talk about ‘Hunter’s Village’ in more detail. How did you come up with the initial idea for this particular setting?

Allow me to give a bit of background first: It all started with my resentment for the severe lack of creativity I saw everywhere around me. Contemporary Russian culture was obsessively copying ideas, instead of drawing from the rich pool of our own cultural heritage. To remedy this perceived neglect, I decided to come up with an original fantasy world based on Russian folklore and architecture, heavily based on wooden buildings. Since the overall visual design is loosely inspired by steampunk, I refer to it as “wooden punk”. Wood has a long history in Russia as a construction material and wooden buildings come in all shapes and forms.

With ‘Hunter’s Village’, I wanted to make a flying village where people can travel around and hunt. At first, I wanted to make it an autumn scene, but as it was winter outside, I quickly changed my mind and covered everything in snow. The falling snow and moody lighting also added nicely to the fairy-tale atmosphere I was going for.

As ‘Hunter’s Village’ is part of a larger world, can you elaborate how you approached the overall visual design, especially in terms of world building?

The idea of a world suspended in flight originially started with trees filled with a gas lighter than air. I developed the whole concept around this principle. I planned the village with 15 buildings total, not all of which ended up within the frame. As in any village, ordinary houses were needed, as well as a temple as a place of gathering, mills and various other structures.

To accommodate for flight, I came up with the idea of interconnecting logs to add further stability. I wanted the villagers to grow their own food, so I tied these floating islands and rocks covered with soil to the houses. Since I wanted more dynamic elements in the scene, I designed small aircrafts as another mode of transportation. The people travelling in these wicker basket gliders are flying merchants.

Overall, I really enjoy the entire process of creative invention. Designing cities, machinery and such is just so fun. I could talk about it for days!

‘Hunter's Village’, building models. The rocks tied to the houses are used for agriculture and are covered in fertile soil.

What software did you use for ‘Hunter’s Village’?

I created the image exclusively in 3ds Max, the only additional scripts that I used were Ivy Generator and MultiScatter. I rendered in V-Rray and used AfterEffects for compositing.

From start to finish, the project took me two months to complete. It was a lot of work, around two to three hours a day. Composition posed the biggest challenge: my first attempt was not successful, so I added the sky and changed things around until I was satisfied.

Have you used RebusFarm before? If so, please tell us about your experience with our render service.

I’ve used it quite a lot, actually. I rendered numerous shots with RebusFarm, both for commerical as well as personal projects. In all my time using the service; I almost never experienced problems – and if I did encounter difficulties, the support staff always helped out fast and efficiently.

‘Hunter’s Village’ is made up of various unique and highly detailed buildings.

What’s next for you? Are there any present or upcoming projects you’d like to mention?

I'm currently focusing on concept art and illustrations. Right now, I’m working on an interesting Chinese film - it will be very cool, but unfortunately I can’t disclose further details at the moment.

In closing, is there anything else you want to say?

I’d like to say thank you to all the artists who share their knowledge, creativity and experience with others. I myself benefitted greatly from this and am now making an effort to give back by doing the same! I’m very glad that there are so many great and talented people in the CGI community who are always willing to help. I wish everybody tons of ideas for 2018!

Thank you so much for taking the time and all the best in the future!

Keep up with Alexandr Melentev here:

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