Art Spotlight: The Lake of True Desires!

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Hello, I am Omar Faruq Tawsif from Bangladesh. I am hoping to complete my graduation in Mechanical Engineering in the future. This field is something that goes well with my personality. Beyond machinery and mechanisms, I have also been interested in so many random things since my childhood. Due to this somewhat whimsical personality of mine, the world of 3D artwork easily caught my attention several years ago. I have been trying to learn “the way of 3d” on my own since then.

There have been some big gaps in my 3D work because in the beginning I was very young and wasn’t sure how to proceed with this new-found thing called Blender. I guess language was one of the barriers. But later on I returned again thanks to the resourcefulness of YouTube. But I was never patient enough to follow along with tutorials and always tried to do my own projects using my understanding of the tutorials. I also studied documentation from Blender manuals and read breakdowns of great artists from 80 Level or other places. That is how my understanding of 3D grew. I am always happy as long as I can depict what I want in 3D or any other media. And that is what happened with this particular artwork, too. I wanted to depict a scene of childish innocence and hopefully got there eventually. But even before that, my main theme was “explorability” and not only for the center of attention—little Lily—but also for the viewers.

I wanted to make full use of Sketchfab and give viewers something that they would like to explore in 3D, just like the main character of the story.

Inspiration and idea generation

This project was very special to me. Because of this project I made a comeback to the world of 3D after several months! I had been trying to learn a bit of digital painting so this specific challenge provided a unique challenge to me: how well could I transfer my thought process for 2D hand-painting into 3D?

In any serious project, my first step is always exploring ideas in my mind and going through concept arts of different artists and styles. I write down every simple thought that sparks in my mind. Maybe using a journal for this sole purpose wouldn’t be a bad idea! I was imagining what makes a kid excited while roaming around on their own. I came across several ideas like helping a bird by retrieving her fallen egg from the ground, playing with balloons, or maybe launching paper boats in a small pond? My initial character was based on Jake Perkers little bot and I made a draft in 2D like this:

lake of true desires concept

It couldn’t be more rough than this, but this image played its role as groundwork and helped me to keep focusing on a final goal. Later I changed the character and developed the scene’s story into a more interesting tale of a kid who saw her inner desire of becoming a deer fairy in a mysterious lake. This idea randomly popped into my head while going through different artworks—in one of them I saw a kid with antlers.

For the style, I wanted to achieve a sort of watercolor effect since I was awed and inspired by Kim Min Ji’s children’s book illustrations. But I had to give up halfway through after realizing that I would need to use more resources to get a decent result; at the time, I was limited to a 50 MB maximum file size as a free basic Sketchfab user. Here is the final result. Can you relate it to my initial concept?


Since environment was a major part of this artwork, I started by first creating a mood in Blender. I wanted to create a soft-looking scene in bright daylight. The funny thing is that the first step in creating this 3D environment was taken in 2D painting software. In fact, most of the environmental assets were painted in Clip Studio beforehand in micro level. Later, I combined them or used them in a particle system to create elements for my 3D scene.

Shape language

After analyzing the artworks of different children’s book artists, I discovered that shape language is really important in visual development—especially in children’s book illustrations. You can look up your favorite children’s book illustrations and will notice they are full of friendly-looking shapes! Nothing too pointy. Here is a useful link if you want to read more into this topic.

And I recommend checking out Kim Minji’s illustration as well. Their work inspired me the most with the degree of simplicity in shapes and readability of those artworks. Such a treat for kids who love books!

So I tried to utilize this concept for the  first time. From the shape of petals and trees to the main character, I tried to consistently use friendly shapes. Of course, it is not like I didn’t use other shapes when necessary. And I can’t say I am completely happy with my first try. But here are some of my attempts with shapes:

lake of true desires friendly shapes

Making friendly shapes doesn’t mean only being restricted to circles or ovals! Trying to break down complex shapes into super simple shapes can provide such a result. While designing an illustration for kids, I find it ideal to keep things so simple that they will spark imagination. If we dive into too many details here and there we are literally force-feeding the audience with information instead of giving them the freedom of imagination. Kim Min Ji is such a master artist in the world of children’s book illustration. I even tried to bring some water color feel to some parts of my work because the simplicity of Kim Min Ji’s watercolor artworks enchanted me so much!

Modeling and texturing

Throughout this project, I simultaneously modeled and textured the scene. I began by creating foliage for my scene. At first, I painted some single leaves or petals in my painting software. I was able to save some texture space by combining those single units into bigger assets. I think the scene has around 3-4 textures in total. So, with a keen eye you can probably detect some repetition. But since it is an artwork of a small-scale environment, it didn’t look too boring with this minor amount of repetition. Later these single units of leaves or petals were cut out from the image and given some geometry to deform them. A few loop cuts are enough to provide supporting geometry. And yes! Those flowers are suffering from “same petals syndrome”! Hopefully nobody noticed. Here comes another personal opinion of mine: no need to go overboard with background details like these. We better treat side characters like the side characters they are! (No disrespect to side characters, though. I am one of them myself!) Preserve the limelight for our main focus, which was little Lily in this case. So this main focus of “a surprised girl” received most of my hard work. Sorry, you have probably noticed how much I am talking about compositional things. Actually, throughout this project I have realized how the fundamentals of 2D painting can be used similarly for 3D artwork. Understanding of color theory, color temperature, values, and composition—all these fundamentals have their use in 3D works as well, especially in hand-painted environments. Since 2D art fundamentals were very relevant for this contest of hand-painted illustration, I thought it would be good to emphasize these things.

This little girl was born from a single sphere. A sphere for her head, some cylinders for hands, and super simple hand shapes. Because of the “clever” apparel choice, I got away without making any legs or lower body parts! My lazy nature resurfaced from time to time during this project. But I did work hard on her hair! Although most of the texturing of Lily was done in Blender, I used Clip Studio from time to time to render more details. To add more highlights on her hair I used “add” mode in the blending option.

lake of true desires texture

Only the fish and Lily were made through the usual method of modeling first and then texturing.  The koi fish were modeled very simplistically as well. For the fins and semi-transparent tail, I edited the opacity in 2D painting software after texturing it inside Blender.

lake of true desires fish texture

The rest of the assets were made from recombinations of images that I exported as planes in Blender. Here is a simple life cycle of such assets. Images as planes (alpha turned on) > adding loop-cuts > duplication > randomizing rotations to bring an organic feel.

Scene Setup

After I was done with making the environmental assets, all that was left was for me to set them in my composition. At first glance it looks like a geometrical mess!

lake of true desires geometry

But rest assured! These messes are sorted in collections. So it is not difficult at all to troubleshoot future problems.

I started by creating the lake. While making the lake I used a simple semi-transparent material for the water texture that I had painted earlier. I also used the same texture to serve as the lake’s bottom. I just transformed the image plane to a bowl-like shape. In that way, I could increase the transparency of the water while retaining the color of the water. Now I could see through to the fishes or grasses under the water, which created a nice water-like illusion. Here is a cross section of the lake setup.

lake of true desires gif

The ground was done by tiling a ground alpha texture several times in different shapes and rotations. I also deformed them in the edit tab with proportion turned on. Also, I placed my elements in the scene in such a way that I could get several compositions from this single 3D scene. This top view is an example. The central focus is Lily in her desired fairy-form. All those streamlined koi fishes are constructing leading lines toward her. Also the horns are glowing and they are brighter than the rest of the scene. So, naturally, it draws our attention there as well. These tiny things can help us to create focus in our scene. And the rule of thirds always works for my taste, too.

The grasses and random flowery dots were placed using a particle system. I intentionally let those flowers float over the ground like color splatters.

To create the reflections, I just duplicated and mirrored the meshes. I got this idea from fellow Sketchfab users.

The sky and atmospheric effect in the forest were done with a few more semi-transparent watercolor washes that I had prepared in Clip Studio. By the way, I find the default Clip Studio brushes more than enough most of the time. There are default realistic watercolor brushes, too, which I used a lot for this project.

Exporting to Sketchfab and finalizing the scene

I exported my scene directly from Blender with the help of Sketchfab’s Blender plugin. It automatically exports your models along with textures and saves you some troubles.

Optimizing the scene was the last important step. Since I was “vertex happy”, I ended up with too much geometry. It is a bad thing for the Sketchfab viewer since it might cause a lot of lag. So I dug around to learn how to get a smoother result. Luckily, I learned about shadeless mode in Sketchfab. It reduced the huge workload of rendering the scene. I had already faked necessary light and shadow areas, so extra lighting was unnecessary.

sketchfab 3d editor settings

My favorite part of Sketchfab is the dithered mode of transparency. This is resource-friendly and creates a canvas-like texture in meshes. It helped me greatly to create a painterly feel. Pretty much every material had it turned on to at least 95% opacity.

sketchfab 3d editor opacity

Another satisfying thing in Sketchfab is the additive opacity mode in the materials tab. I used this feature for god rays so that they would glow up even more when we look from an angle where they overlap each other. Really cool!

Last but not the least, the annotation feature in Sketchfab probably helped me most to drive the audience through the short story. They serve as landmarks. Viewers just need to click on those numbers and the viewer will show them a frame predefined by the uploader.

That’s it! Thank you so much for staying with me till the end. This storybook contest is something I am going to cherish all my life. I wish I could thank everyone who cheered for me personally! And of course my heartiest thanks to team Sketchfab and XP-Pen. I have one word for the pen display (XP pen Artist 22) they sent me as the reward for first place: marvelous! After using it myself, I realized why this device is adored by illustrators. Unlike usual pen tablets I didn’t need to spend weeks to get used to it. I was ready for another journey in my art life as soon as I plugged it into my PC. And, most importantly, it evoked the feeling of painting directly like a traditional artist to some extent!

Good bye! It was fun talking about myself and my work with you. May our paths cross again.

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About the author

Omar Faruq Tawsif

An adventurous artist trying out various kinds of arts and crafts and often forgets that he is supposed to become an engineer someday.

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