Art Spotlight: Mother Holle

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Hi everyone, I’m Nathalie! I am a 3D artist living in Hamburg, Germany who’s been working in the games industry for 4 years now.

During my studies in 3D Design I learned about animation, VR and photorealistic renderings, but it’s always been games that I enjoyed working on the most since games are my childhood passion! I started as an environment artist for mobile games, but I’ve been enjoying working on characters as well lately.

The Concept:

I have known the Concept Artist Laumii for a couple of years now and I just love her style and the character and atmosphere she adds to her work.

I immediately fell in love with her Visual Development Artwork for the German fairytale ‘Mother Holle’, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Mother Holle (in German, ‘Frau Holle’ or maybe better known in English, Mother Hulda) is an old lady who, whenever she shakes her feather-filled pillows to make her bed, causes snow to fall down on earth. She lives in a small house and offers a girl, who ran away from home, a place to stay if the girl will help her with her housework. The girl agrees to take the job with Mother Holle, and makes sure to always shake the pillows until the feathers fly away like snowflakes.

Laumii provided a whole environmental overview for that fairytale, I chose to create a small diorama around Mother Holle.

Since it is my first bigger artwork I wanted to upload on Sketchfab, it was important for me to investigate the technical possibilities here. Having a character which is placed in a piece of environment sealed the deal for me. A big plus was the ability to create a fairytale-like atmosphere that I wanted to recreate from the concept as well.


I started to block out Mother Holle’s facial shapes in 3ds Max and I often used tools like the ‘FreeFormDeformation’ (FFD 4x4x4) to modify the proportions and overall looks.

After getting the general silhouette, I adjusted the positions of the eyes and mouth and put the loops on her face in a presentable shape.

For her strands of hair and bow I simply created splines which I deformed using the FFD modifier again.

I also modelled the legs and feet, since her skirt would not cover them 100% and because I was not sure in which pose I wanted to present the character. Later, I chose a rather neutral pose, and the little posing that I did started by just tilting the head a bit. Then, I deformed the skirt with, you guessed it, the FFD modifier and also turned her upper body to get rid of the stiff T-pose.

I used the same FFD tool for other pieces in the environment, because it provides you a quick and easy way of altering proportions and making them look more interesting. The tool is also useful in creating different variations for gameprops or like in my case, the bunch of pillows that lie around in Mother Holles house:

I also used it for the piece of cloth in front of the window; it was a very quick and easy solution without simulating cloth or using a sculpting tool. I just stacked some editable poly and FFD modifiers until I got a shape that looked interesting. Here is a small breakdown:

This is how the final model of the diorama looks:


For the hand-painted texture, I started with simple colour blockings in 3D Coat and rendered Ambient Occlusion Maps in 3ds Max. This way I could again check proportions and play around with the placement of objects one last time, before finalizing the textures.

I chose to stick to the Concept and did not go for many details, to keep an overall cartoony look. Here is a small breakdown of Mother Holle’s texture workflow from 3D Coat:

Then, I recreated the wallpaper and ornaments and Laumii provided me with the detailed picture of the stained glass window in Mother Holle’s room. On the right is the texture of the rest of the diorama. I baked in soft shadows from all the objects on the floor as well:

Here is an overview of the textured diorama:

And of course a final turnaround of the textured Mother Holle:

And, last but not least, I especially liked working on the doves! So I created a couple of funny looking versions of them, inspired by Laumii’s sketches:

Final Render in Sketchfab:

After uploading, my work benefited from the great post-production effects from Sketchfab: For example, the ‘bloom’ and ‘grain’ effect let me create a dreamy, fairytale-like atmosphere for my diorama. Same goes with the ‘depth of field’ settings, because I of course wanted to have Mother Holle be the main focus of my scene.

Another important part of that atmosphere is the godray, coming from the big window. I created a mesh shaped like a tunnel and used a simple alpha transparency map. The rest I adjusted in the Sketchfab material editor itself.

I am very happy how the whole scene worked out in the end:

If you are interested, you can also check out my Artstation and my other work at Sketchfab.

Thank you for your time, I hope you enjoyed this! 🙂

And of course also a big thank you to Sketchfab, for letting me contribute to the great Art Spotlight!

About the author


3D Artist, loves playing and creating games and is a huge fan of dogs


  • Gleb says:

    Interesting spotlight, i think i will use FFD now)

  • Katrin says:

    Hi Nathalie,
    Totally a different question 😉 I really love your image of Mother Hulda. I am writing about children and the image of three images turning around would be a great fit, with what I am writing. But…of course the big question is am I allowed to copy?
    Kindest regards from Katrín

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