Starting a career in games.
For almost everyone in the art and VFX industries there comes a time when you have to make a choice. Do you stay in the real world, embrace the nine to five lifestyle and forget your dreams? Or do you take a chance on a career which could make you happy and fulfilled?
For Danish artist Emilie Stabell a career in art seems to be taking shape – but she has a backup plan in case it goes wrong. “I did the rational thing and went to high school so I’d have something to fall back on in case this whole art thing didn’t work out,” she says. “After three long and boring years studying international economics, I finally graduated and I was free to pursue my dream.”
Emilie got straight into Denmark’s prestigious Animation Workshop thanks to an impressive portfolio she built up through her high school art classes. As part of her course she’s currently on an internship at Media Molecule, the innovative British games studio behind charming DIY platformer Little Big Planet.
It’s a perfect workplace for the game-obsessed Emilie. She cites Floriane Marchix ("Rayman"), CreatureBox and Kent Melton ("The Lion King," "The Incredibles") as key influences on her colorful and chunky style. “Games like 'Ori and The Blind Forest,' 'Rayman,' 'Monument Valley,' and 'Okami' are all high up on my list,” she adds.
Emilie’s art perfectly reflects her love of games. "Guam Bay - Chamorra Village" feels like it could be taken directly from a cute platform or adventure game, complete with a feisty heroine, a cheeky robot sidekick, and a backdrop which promises tantalising adventures. For Emilie, it was a chance to create a more personal piece.
“It might not be the most beautiful or technical thing I’ve created, but it is a good reminder that I’m doing this for the sake of my own happiness and no one else's,” she says. “It’s come to have a little bit of a special meaning to me in that sense.”
Following "Guam Bay," Emilie created "Rajak - The Big Furry Creature." This gentle giant wouldn’t be out of place in a Miyazaki film, where he could fight off enemies and deliver big clumsy hugs in equal measure. For Emilie it marked her first collaboration, too - it was based on a design by Brandon Tyler Cebenka.
“It was the first time I chose not to use one of my own concepts, which I found very liberating and time saving,” Emilie says. “At the same time, translating another artist’s thoughts into 3D without having the initial ideas and sketches associated with the concept proved to be a fun challenge.”
Rajak’s fur proved to be a challenge for Emilie, especially given the tight deadline she was working too. “I made it using Peregrine Yeti,” she explains. “All the fur was made procedurally, so I didn’t go in and define the direction, length or clumping. Instead, it was all defined by nodes. This meant that I had to do a bit more post work in PhotoShop than normal, but I’m pleased with the result.”
Emilie’s workflow consists of concept work and textures in Photoshop, Zbrush for base meshes, modeling and UV in Maya, and rendering in V-Ray.
The thing I like about V-Ray is that it makes it easy and fast to get a good looking result. I’ve found that the amount of time I spent on fiddling around with settings and adjusting my lights has decreased drastically.
Emilie’s graduation from The Animation Workshop early next year will coincide with the release of "The Shepherd," a short film she created with a team of nine artists at the school. It tells the story of a secretive shepherd joined by a young girl on the run.
“She decides to stick around and makes it her mission to unravel the conundrum,” Emilie Explains. “The film will take you on an exciting and surprising journey through the universe we've created.”
Emilie’s exciting and surprising journey has just begun, too, with Media Molecule taking her on permanently next year. “I had a lot of doubts about entering this industry due to the harsh competition and massive talent out there,” she says. “But once you get to experience the fulfilment of doing what you love for a living, there’s really no going back.”