Art Spotlight: Auto Rickshaw Balloon

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Who am I?

Hey there! My name is Martin Jencka. I’m a 3D artist near the end of my final semester of university, preparing for my graduation next month. Currently I’m finalizing my capstone project, though I’ve luckily had the opportunity to develop some portfolio pieces on the side while I finish up my schooling.

I attend the Creative Media Institute at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico and my goal upon graduation is to find work creating 3D vehicle and set design.

Here’s my Artstation portfolio!

Concept Design and Iteration

I work part-time as a TA for some of the lower level courses at my university, and part of my responsibilities is replacing some of the older assignment assets for those courses.

The instructor I work under tasked me with producing a vehicle that would replace a texturing assignment for a course, and we worked out some concepts but eventually landed on some form of flying auto rickshaw. We tossed ideas around, and I quickly sketched some shapes and concepts for how the flight worked, iterating on designs that I liked.

The designs were rough, but from them I knew that the almost haphazard nature of an ordinary object that seemingly has been hastily made into a plane, or attached to a balloon, or a rocket ship, really interested me.

Eventually I settled on the balloon, with its large bulbous shape complementing the stumpy nature of the rickshaw. From my experience living in New Mexico and witnessing the famous Balloon Fiesta every year, the choice seemed like a no-brainer. Additionally, since this would be an assignment for students to texture, the balloon acts as an open canvas on which they can do lots of design work.

(Photo courtesy of Eric Ward)

We also decided on having wings with propellers since we wanted to give the sense that the driver would be in some form of control of the rickshaw while in the air, and we liked the shapes that the wings would bring.

Modeling

I began, as I do on many projects, by blocking out the shapes within Maya. Keeping reference open at all times, I knew from some of the sketches we had done that we wanted to keep the basic form of the rickshaw, but squash the vehicle lengthwise to some degree.

It didn’t take too long to get most of model to where I wanted it to be, though some parts such as the wings went through numerous iterations in order to get the shapes to a good level.

I had to make sure to create beveled edges so that when the mesh is smoothed when students render it, the mesh doesn’t distort.

After the model was finished, I took some time to UV the model within Maya, taking advantage of the new 3D seam tool implemented in Maya 2018.

Texturing

Now that the model was where I wanted it to be, it was technically ready for the students in that class to use it in their assignment…but I wanted to take it a step further! I figured that making an example of how you could approach the assignment would be a good idea, so I took the model into Substance Painter and began the process of texturing it.

I grabbed some reference, and began to work. I decided I wanted this vehicle to be a little more high-class in material; this approach offered some humor because of the juxtaposition of the almost haphazard design of the vehicle clashing with this upper class somewhat kitschy detailing I envisioned. Using some smart materials I had made previously, and some that I was throwing together while I worked on this, I began to work on the model.

I specifically enjoyed working on the detailing the most. It’s sort of this middle ground between Arabesque and Celtic with an emphasis on spiral designs.

I added detail, grime and scratches, paneling, and more, and tweaked the model until, eventually, I was happy with the product!

Bringing it into Sketchfab

One of the reasons why I love Sketchfab is that it makes it so incredibly easy to set things up and get them looking the way I want. Directly from Substance I used the ‘Export to Sketchfab’ option which automatically packages everything that Sketchfab needs and uploads it to the service for tweaking.

Once the model was uploaded I made sure all the materials were set up the way I wanted, tweaking a few things here and there and importing any other texture maps I wanted. Sketchfab does a good job making sure that the right texture maps go to the right places in the right materials, so it didn’t take long.

Once I was happy with each material, I adjusted lighting information, going through each of the HDRI’s that Sketchfab provides, and playing with the lights until I was happy with how everything looked.

To finalize the piece I adjusted some of the post processing effects, mainly adding some SSAO, a small amount of sharpening, and a low level of bloom.

Having Sketchfab available to show this off, not only to the students that will be using it as an example but on my portfolio and to strangers browsing through looking for interesting things is great, made better by the simplicity and quality of the service. I’ve been using Sketchfab since I was in high school, and it only seems to get more powerful and streamlined with each year!

The Finished Piece

Overall I’m pleased with how the model turned out, and I’ve learnt a lot in the process!

Contacting Me

If you have any questions, or you’d like to contact me for any other reason, feel free get in touch!

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About the author

Martin Jencka

3D Vehicle / Environment Artist


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