Hi there! My name is Leti M. Vila. I’m a 3D character artist from a sunny town near Barcelona, Spain. I love to create stylized art and give a soul to fantastic creatures.
Artistic background: Slowly approaching 3D art
My journey to 3D art and becoming a 3D character artist might be considered a little curious: I did not get in touch with 3D until I was 23 years old, and my way of finding out that I wanted to be a 3D character artists may seem like a long story. I was a very creative child for as long as I can remember. I learned to draw by watching anime series and Disney movies, always trying to recreate what I saw. I loved the designs and colors from animated movies and how stories could be conveyed simply by drawing. Whenever I had time, I drew all kinds of characters, humans or mythological figures. I was also fascinated by how we could create the illusion of movement with a bunch of static drawings. To me, it was like magic.
When I was 18 years old, there was no other artistic career that wasn’t Fine Arts, so the logical step was to follow that.
And that’s when everything became twisted.
On the one hand, my career in Barcelona is very focused on contemporary art, leaving aside the technique. I think it’s important to know the rules and procedures to be able to play with them and break them if you want to; you cannot start to create from nothing.
On the other hand, I knew people who drew a lot better than me. During my career, I had a huge crisis and I did not know what would become of my future. I tried a bit of everything: I studied analog photography, design, art, anthropology, sculpture… But inside me, I knew I needed to create characters, show how they are and share their stories. I attended a few animation classes in 2D and Flash (yes, it was the big time of Flash). This opened the doors of digital animation to me. When I finished Fine Arts, I knew I wanted to study animation more deeply, so the next step was to study for a master’s degree. My country was in a huge financial crisis at the time. I had to think about my future and where I would have more job opportunities. The video game industry was booming and even though as a teenager I left video games behind because they were “not for girls”, I remembered very well playing on the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 every afternoon. I remember very clearly playing The Ocarina of Time and loving how a few polygons can tell such a great story. Thinking about becoming a part of such an awesome industry filled me with imagination and hope.
I studied for a master’s degree in video games and learned a lot. I did a ZBrush course, and within a year I had found my first job in the industry!
Finding My Style, Getting to Know Me
During the masters and later courses, I had more of a realistic approach to 3D art. When studying 3D, I think it’s usually targeted at acquiring a high level of skills necessary to enter the video game industry, more precisely for AAA. Those are hyper-realistic, implement the latest techniques, and always try to achieve maximum realism in light, textures, materials, etc.
Therefore, I learned ZBrush and later PBR, trying to reach the industry level and enter big companies. I fell in love with both procedures, and I’m very comfortable with ZBrush.
But I also believed that 3D is not just a way to mimic reality, but instead that it has a huge potential to express other more pictorial styles, where one can truly give creativity free rein and get out of what is naturally correct and realistic. I love watching how increasingly there are video games that return to a more expressive style, or they directly ride between 2D and 3D.
So, while my full-time work uses a realistic style, in my free time I seek to give a soul to characters that I had seen the concept of, and fell in love with almost instantly. I try to recreate them by maintaining their essence but also providing the opportunity to see them in 3D.
As soon as I started the first model “Druid Deer” and started to get into the world of hand-painting, I fell in love with the workflow. I was more and more interested in the technique and this feeling deepened with the next models. In my last model, “Musketeer Cat”, I added ZBrush to the workflow, which allowed me to combine my experience with ZBrush and 3D-Coat, allowing me to have the best of both worlds.
In my path as a 3D artist, I discovered that it gives me a lot more creative pleasure to create characters that are expressive with the most minimal forms and and without the need to fill everything with detail. I love to create a powerful but simple character that has everything it needs to have a soul, nothing more and nothing less.
Challenges and goals
During my masters studies, in the later courses, as well as in my first years as a 3D artist, I have been mostly surrounded by men. This, combined with the impostor’s syndrome and thinking that my only goal could be becoming a 3D artist in AAA studios, meant that I had to reject styles that could be considered “feminine”. These were seen as inferior and connected to a lighter workload, due to being low-poly and handpainted. However, a couple of years ago I started to have more contacts with feminist circles, especially with artists from my local area and, thanks to Twitter, from the rest of the world. This opened my eyes and made me see that I was very wrong: handpainting is neither “easy” nor “feminine”. There must are no styles assigned to the genre, nor is any style less valid than another. And most importantly: I can devote myself to what makes me happy. I don’t have to prove that I am like everyone else, but that our value is what makes us unique.
I’ve also been able to grow a lot thanks to knowing a lot of artists from all over the world. It encourages me a lot to see how other artists work. It allows me to try new procedures and styles. And whenever the impostor syndrome attacks, it’s so good to have contact with artists whom I admire, who can tell me that my work is valid, important and good.
Thanks to feeling supported and at the same time having great artists as a reference, I discovered my love for creating characters with expressive styles and vivid colors. Each day, I love hand-painting and low-poly modeling a little bit more. Technically, I love it because it all depends on you. I mean, you cannot play with shaders, you cannot play with lights. You are alone and only have a few polygons in your hands, where each vertex counts, a flat texture, where each pixel counts. The light, the color, everything is in your hands. I think that this makes it wonderful.
I think I have been a member of Sketchfab since the beginning, and although I cannot upload models too often, I am a great admirer of it. I have been able to use Sketchfab not only to show my work but also to learn from others: there is nothing better than being able to see how a model is made, see how a character’s wireframe is structured, inspect the textures, and above all, be able to support and follow other artists.
Although many of us who use Sketchfab are artists, being able to inspect the models allows us to move from the moment of “WOW this is magic” to “now I understand how this is done. I will use it to learn and apply it to my future models.” And that is incredible. Also, being able to support and learn from each other is one of the main features of the artistic community on the Internet, which is one of the reasons I am very grateful to be a part of it.
And last but not least, I would like to thank Jasmin, Abby, and Mieke for inviting me to be a part of Women on Sketchfab. One of the things that motivates me to keep going is to feel part of a community, to see that I am not alone. I can only feel honored and grateful to be a part of Women on Sketchfab with such great artists. I hope that what I have explained can help other artists to find their way and encourage them in times of uncertainty.