3DValley Featured 3D Artist of September 2006 – Steven Stahlberg. Steven is famous among the web because of his beautiful and realistic female 3D characters. He has won dozen awards with his work including the title Maya Master. He has been featured in and on the covers of many books including d’artiste Character Modeling, Expose and Digital Beauties and he was the first artist in the world to have a virtual character sponsored by a major modeling agency (Elite, 1999). Currently he works as a freelance artist and gives workshops for CGsociety.org. Please read our interview with Steven below to get to know a bit more about him and his art.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit about yourself: Who are you and what do you do in your daily life?
Steven: I’m both Australian and Swedish – I’ve lived there, and in Hong Kong , Texas and now Malaysia . I’m married with 2 boys; right now I freelance from home. I create characters for game companies, do some teaching, and I’m forum leader at CGTalk.com.
Christa: Do you have traditional art experience?
Steven: Yes, 3 years art school and about 10 years as a freelancing illustrator.
Christa: Which software packages do you use for your artwork?
Steven: I use Maya and Photoshop.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit of the way you work on your art?
Steven: I sketch a lot on paper, some of these I scan, and again some of these I paint in Photoshop. Sometimes I leave it at that, sometimes I mix in some 3D or do the whole thing all 3D.
Christa: What and/or who inspires you?
Christa: Do you have a favorite piece of your own artwork and if so, why?
Steven: ‘One Last Time’, I suppose. I don’t know, I just think I struck it lucky with that one 🙂
|One last time|
Christa: What is your goal as an artist?
Steven: To strike it lucky again 🙂 In the long term? The impossible dream; work on my own movie. Or, if I lower my sights, maybe on my own graphic novel.
Christa: Besides 3D Valley, which other CG sites do you visit regularly?
Steven: CGTalk (CGSociety.org), member since 2000 and mod since 2004 🙂 I’ve published books with them, and held 3 online workshops there (soon 4). It’s like a second home.
Christa: Do you have any tips for the artists who admire your work?
Steven: Well it depends, if they’re beginners. Beginners usually ask me if they need to be able to draw, and I answer not necessarily, but you do need to be a good artist, and the best, easiest, cheapest and most efficient way to become that is to practice drawing. If you can’t practice drawing, practice some kind of art related activity, such as painting, sculpting, or photography. Learning the software is not hard, compared to learning how to become an artist. So for the long-term, focus on the art not the tech.
Christa: How many years are you working in the art/ CG industry?
Steven: About 12 now.
Christa: Which area of your work do you enjoy the most?
Steven: Modeling and painting because these are the purest form of creation to me where I get closest in touch with the right side of my brain, as some people would put it 🙂 Rigging? I hate it with a passion. Dynamics? More math crap. MEL? ARRGH! 😀 Rendering? Can be fun sometimes, but usually an exercise in patience and frustration.
Christa: Which projects have you worked on?
Steven: The most high profile ones I can think of are: Dear Anne, a 3D movie about Anne Frank, Heavy Rain, upcoming PS3 game by Quantic Dreams, NFSU Need for Speed, Disney’s Rapunzel (which has sadly been canceled).
Christa: Which was your favorite project and why?
Steven: I think it’s Heavy Rain, that game shows so much potential it’s just insane. But working with the legendary Glen Keane at Disney was probably the high-point of my career.
Christa: Your female characters are very realistic. What for references do you use for your female models?
Steven: Thanks. I’ve found this to be the best place: http://www.3d.sk and the related site Female Anatomy for the artist (and Male Anatomy too).
Christa: Can you give us some tips on how to create realistic skin?
Steven: Nowadays it’s much easier, if you use Maya, Max or XSI just use the Misss_fast_skin shader for Mental Ray. Brasil and Vray have similar shaders too. Forums abound with info on how to use them.
Christa: You where the first artist in the world that had a virtual character sponsored by Elite (a modeling agency). I read that you are still working on virtual characters/ actors. Is this true and if so can you tell us bit more about it?
Steven: Sure – I’ve simply continued to polish the same model for years. Slowly but surely I’m improving it. The latest version would be Fifi in ‘Fifi and the mummy’, not a great example though (her face looks much better in other renders).
|Fifi and the mummy|
Christa: Besides a great 3D artist you are also a very talented 2D artist. Do you think you are a better skilled 3D artist because you are also a trained 2D artist?
Steven: I think so, it’s all about creating images isn’t it? All the same at the core. A 3D artist needs to know all the same things a 2D artist does except perhaps how to recycle his turpentine, and correct mistakes without Undo 🙂
Christa: Can you tell us a bit about Android Blues and The virtual Studio project?
Steven: The company is closed since about a year. Not much to say about it really, except we had 3 bad years, finally crushed by a client that ended up in jail for fraud, and now things are much better.
Christa: You worked in Europe, US, and Asia. Do you think there is a difference in the CG industry for example between Asia and the US ?
Steven: I never worked in the CG industry in Europe, and only at one game company in the US , and one other company in Asia (the rest was freelancing and non-CG related). So I’m not the best to judge the differences. But some things are obvious of course, such as the industry being so much bigger and more mature (but also more competitive) in the US compared to most other places.
|Android Blues||Phone girl|
Christa: Can you tell us a bit about the workshop you give at CGSociety.org. Do you like to teach and how is the workshop set up?
Steven: I love to teach, although since the course is 7 weeks (turns into more like 8 weeks or more for me), it gets a bit intense and heavy towards the end. It’s the reason why I don’t do these end-to-end, I need to do something else for a while in between. The setup: at the beginning of each week I present an html document to the class, in our own secret subforum. It’s an article, many pages long, with images and text, describing some aspect of creating a character. Concept, Anatomy, Topology, Shading etc. Not really a step by step tutorial, more a listing of knowledge that one should keep in mind while working. Then the students start work on the assignments, and continuously post their work, and I continuously correct it with my magic red pencil 🙂 Since the students are in different timezones, it’s work around the clock for me. You can find more details on CGSociety.org (mine is not the only course offered).
Christa: When you are not working or creating something what do you do?
Steven: I love eating exotic well-prepared food, and watching great movies, both preferably with my family.
Christa: Thanks for the interview Steven! And much luck with your career.