Hi! I’m Zoe Roellin, an illustrator from Switzerland interested in comics, animation, interactive stories, and games—storytelling across all different kinds of media, basically.
About three years ago, I got to be part of a workshop on VR art and found myself utterly fascinated by the possibilities that VR drawing tools like Tilt Brush and Quill offered. I hadn’t really worked in 3D before, and being able to translate my approach to hand-drawn illustration into 3D, having my drawings exist in a virtual space and being able to walk around in them, felt amazing—and still does to this day.
Since then, I’ve continued to work with VR. I got to realise some interesting projects, ranging from 360° comics to illustrated VR shorts. I also do livedrawing sessions, when the opportunity arises. This summer, I got my degree and somehow managed to afford my own Oculus Rift S, so nowadays, I’m spending a lot of time exploring Oculus Quill. One thing I’m currently working on is a series of practice drawings based on some of my favourite stories across different media, which led me to the creation of this piece.
The webcomic Tiger, Tiger by Petra Nordlund tells the story of young noblewoman Ludovica, who ends up assuming her brother’s identity and stealing his ship in order to realise her dream of studying sea sponges. It’s a delightful seafaring adventure with an endearing cast and I’m continuously blown away by how good the art is (and how frequent the updates). Simply put, it’s brought me a lot of joy, so I’ve been wanting to draw some sort of tribute for awhile.
It just so happened that my idea for that tribute—a two-sided picture showing Ludovica both before and after she sets out on her journey—seemed perfectly suited for a 3D piece. 3D would allow me to afford both sides of the drawing ample space and detail. It would let the viewer interact with it, reveal the flipside themselves and discover tiny details like the sea sponge clutched in Ludo’s hand.
I usually like doing all the rough sketching and general brainstorming that precede a 3D piece on paper, but in this case, I already had a fairly clear idea of what I wanted the drawing to look like and was able to use pages of the comic for reference. My main concern now was getting a feeling for the scale and composition of my drawing, so I drew a quick and messy sketch directly in Quill. I didn’t bother getting too detailed—Quill gives you plenty of room to adjust and bend things after you’ve drawn them.
I really wanted the two sides of the drawing to flow into each other, tying them together and leading the eye from one to the other. I arranged everything in a vaguely spherical shape, making the model compact and easy to rotate without elements of it leaving the screen.
When drawing/modeling complex shapes in 3D, I’ve learned to work from the bottom up, starting with the rough, basic shapes and slowly layering on more detail—a pretty standard approach to modeling, I’m sure, but when I first started out, I felt tempted to start by drawing the lineart, then filling in the colors underneath, much like I’d approach a 2D drawing, which made it a lot harder to get the proportions right. When creating those basic shapes, Daniel Peixe’s tutorial on creating smooth shapes in Quill has been a big help. Spheres like the base for Ludovica’s head are actually made up of many individual brushstrokes, duplicated and rotated around a central axis. This allows for smoother deforming and coloring in Quill.
Since I’d set out to create a very detailed piece with a lot of repeating elements, I also made generous use of the duplicate function, adjusting and bending each duplicated shape with the move tool to fit the composition.
Details, Color, and Light
Next, I started layering on the details, which was the most time-consuming part of the process. I wanted to combine the flatly colored shapes with light, flowing lines to make use of Quill’s strengths and go for an illustration-like aesthetic. I also really liked the idea of a limited color palette, having the warm, dusty beige shift to a brilliant white that merges with the background, alluding to the wide-open sea and bright horizons Ludovica is drawn to.
Quill doesn’t have lighting options, so all the light is hand-drawn. I lightened or darkened existing shapes using the color modification tool to apply soft beige and white on overlay or multiply mode and also drew in some additional highlights with short, round strokes.
If you want to know what all of this looks like in action, here’s a video of me drawing and adding some of the corals to the backside of the piece:
Finally, I exported the drawing and uploaded it. Sketchfab works great with Quill, letting you easily import your drawing—including animations, which I haven’t used in this piece but experimented with in some other Quill drawings. I also made some contrast and saturation adjustments after uploading and added a bloom effect, which I’d been planning to do for a while.
Another thing I’ve recently started doing: taking short videos of my models for social media using my phone and the Sketchfab app on my iPad. I think seeing how I interact with the drawing on a touchscreen gives the viewers a better feeling for the model and hopefully makes them want to give it a whirl themselves. It also makes for a neat little moment of surprise when a seemingly 2D piece turns out to be 3D.
That’s it! Thank you very much for reading this, and thanks to the Sketchfab team for letting me write about my process. I hope it has been interesting and I’m always happy to answer further questions. If you’d like to keep up with my work, you can follow me on Twitter or Instagram. For my next Quill piece, I want to delve further into animation, specifically character animation. I also want to see if I can translate a small 360° comic and upload it here.