Hi, I’m Zoe Roellin, a freelance illustrator/animator who creates hand-drawn 3D art in VR.
In my first year, I was studying Illustration Fiction in Lucerne, a program focused primarily on visual storytelling using traditional 2D tools, when I happened to sign up for a VR art workshop hosted by a local comic festival. My fascination with the medium was immediate. There was that thrill of excitement most people experience upon being in VR for the first time, but beyond that, thinking about all the possibilities (and challenges) storytelling in VR could offer was what really drew me in.
I suspect there’s also one other big reason why I felt so comfortable creating in 3D: my mother. She’s always held a deep love for video games, and the countless hours I spent watching her play Final Fantasy, Anno, or even constructing amazing hairstyles and clothes in Second Life, definitely shaped my interest in games and my understanding of 3D spaces.
After that workshop four years ago, I initially started working with Tilt Brush but ended up switching to Oculus Quill, the main draw being the extra level of precision it offered, though its animation features would become the reason I stayed.
I’ve found that while 3D or VR art wasn’t something covered in my studies, many of the design and storytelling principles I immersed myself in during my time studying illustration still feed into my work. I really appreciate being able to create solid concept sketches for my pieces, tap into my knowledge of visual storytelling, or experiment with translating different 2D styles into VR. I love giving my models a hand-drawn feel, using flowing strokes and working with limited color palettes, or taking a peek into my sketchbooks to find new inspiration.
By now, I’ve gotten to work on a number of delightful freelance projects, ranging from assets for games to VR animation shorts. While there’s still a lot left to learn and discover, it really does feel like I’ve found a space for myself, along with an amazing and very helpful community of fellow VR artists.
Shapes in Quill are often created out of many individual brush strokes, and without the use of textures, light and shadows have to be drawn in separately, so models get pretty heavy. The Quill Theater, which I use for sharing most of my works, has strict triangle and draw call/layer limitations to make sure everything runs well on the Oculus Quest, so optimizing models is a crucial step.
Especially for longer story experiences, figuring out how to keep everything within the Theater limits quickly turns into a complex puzzle of weighing different brush choices and animation techniques. It’s something I’ve come to enjoy quite a bit, though, and I realize how valuable the experience I’ve gained over the last few years is when I find myself in the middle of jotting down calculations to estimate how many minutes of frame-by-frame animation I can get away with in an animation short.
One of my older pieces, Ludovica, was created at a time when I was still blissfully unaware of optimization concerns and amounts to a staggering 2.1M triangles. Nowadays, I keep most of my character models around 100k, going as low as 40k triangles for a full character with quite a bit of detail still. It’s not low-poly by any means, but you’ll have to take my word on it being pretty great by Quill standards.
Sketchfab has always played an important part in sharing my work with the world. I’m using Sketchfab embeds in my portfolio to show off my 3D pieces; I often take videos of myself spinning around my Sketchfab models for Twitter and Instagram. It’s a great way to share content with clients.
I’ve recently done a series of character busts for someone’s tabletop party and was amazed by all the comments and inquiries I got on Twitter. I’ve been tackling a few more character commissions over the last weeks, and Sketchfab plays a crucial part in sharing these commissions with my clients who don’t necessarily have any 3D experience or programs installed to view the 3D model of their commission.