Hi! My name is Alice Jaunet, and I’m a junior character artist based in Paris, France. I’ve been interested in art and storytelling from a young age, so knew early on that I wanted to work in the animation or video game industry. I started learning 3D as a self-taught when I was in high school, but I only started doing 3D seriously when I joined Supinfocom, a French animation school specialized in CGI.
My first year at Supinfocom was a bit frustrating. Even though I loved the medium, I just couldn’t find a way to translate my drawing style into 3D. I was in a weird spot where I was experimenting with a lot of tools but was never entirely satisfied with the final result.
Through the Internet, I discovered several 3D artists and fell in love with their work – especially Heather Penn and Rebecca Cordingley, who both motivated me to try my hand at lowpoly. I immediately loved it. I had finally found a form of 3D I with which I was truly comfortable. At this time I was also very insecure about my drawing abilities (I still am to some extent), so I felt like stylized lowpoly helped me bypass some of my artistic shortcomings and it was very liberating.
My artistic process remains more or less the same whether I work in lowpoly or highpoly. When I get an idea for a piece, I start gathering references to create a kind of moodboard. It’s hard for me to pinpoint my biggest inspirations because my scope of influences is quite broad and my references change a lot depending on what I’m working on, but I generally take a lot of inspiration from historical fashion and illustrators such as Vanessa Gillings or Heikkala.
After that I make a few rough sketches and dirty 2D concepts to help me get the “feel” of the final 3D piece. When I work on my personal projects I usually don’t polish these concepts too much because it’s just a preliminary phase and I often end up deviating from it anyways. It’s still very important because it gives me a guideline for the 3D process. It also helps me to chose the colors pattern that I’ll use during the texturing phase.
When the post-production is done I can start working in 3D.
Ironically enough, what I love about lowpoly is its limitations, and how you have to work around it to make your models look appealing. The lack of topology means you have to make the silhouette/shapes of your character as clear as possible, which can be a challenge during the modeling. It taught me that simplicity can be good, and nowadays I try to reuse this principle outside of my lowpoly work.
For my hand painted textures I use a painting software called Mari. I always treat my textures the way I would treat a 2D illustration, with the same consideration for colors, lighting etc. The only difference is that I paint on a 3D model instead of a flat canvas. I like staying relatively simple but I also try to use textures to suggest details that I didn’t model in 3D, so in a way these two steps complement each other.
For my lowpoly projects my shading/lighting process is overly simple. What I’m going for is a shadeless render, which means that the materials emit their own light and won’t be affected by any lights in your scene, giving them this “flat” look. To achieve this effect in Maya, I usually plug my texture maps in the Incandescence slot f a basic lambert shader (or alternatively, I plug them in the Emission channel of an aiStandardSurface if I’m using Arnold). Shadeless render also means that you have to paint the lighting and shadows directly into your textures, since the shader won’t react to light.
After all my assets are modeled and textured, I can start assembling all the elements of the final piece and posing my characters. I always model my characters in A-Pose, then I rig them using an auto-rig. When I feel extra lazy I pose the character by just moving the vertexes around, but I generally avoid doing it because it makes tweaking the pose much harder.
Once again the most important thing to me is visual clarity, so I will often take liberties from my original 2D concepts to make the 3D model look more dynamic. Protip: I sometimes give the entire piece a black shader just to see if it works in terms of silhouette and shape dynamics. I keep tweaking the pose and composition of the scene until it looks good from all angles.
I’ve had a lot of problem with self-confidence and finding my own style. During my first years in art school, I was shamed for having an anime-inspired art style, which completely destroyed my confidence as an artist. I think taking a step back from drawing and working with 3D helped me put things into perspective. It was also the time that I started posting my work on Sketchfab, and the positive reactions I received here allowed me to build back my confidence and finally move forward.
After my graduation from Supinfocom, in June of 2018, I faced a lot of self-doubt. I ended up getting stuck in an unfulfilling job and I was looking for new professional opportunities. This period of my life was quite stressful: it made me question my own art, my future and where I wanted to take my career. Self-reflection can be hard but in the end, I tried taking something positive out of this.
Venturing outside of your comfort zone is always scary – especially when you spent years trying to build this comfort zone – but I hate the idea of becoming a one trick pony and 3D offers too many possibilities just to get stuck in one style. I think most people follow me for my lowpoly art but now I’m trying to branch out a little bit. I want to do more Zbrush sculpts, learn new skills and explore a less cutesy of my art, all without losing sight of myself. In the end, I feel like artistic progression is always a balancing act.
In the future, I’d also like to develop longer, more complex and narrative-driven projects. I’ve always loved telling stories, and it’s a side of my creativity I feel like I haven’t explored enough.
My experience on Sketchfab
Finally, I’d like to say that Sketchfab really is an awesome tool. I’ve been on this website for several years now and I can’t recommend it enough to my fellow 3D artists. I learned so much just by looking into other people models and seeing all of the beautiful art here boosts my motivation to work on my own projects. The staff is also very supportive of the artists on their platform, which is really great! I want to thank them for giving me the opportunity to write this article, especially Jasmin who first approached me with the idea.