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concept art » Yekaterina Satanina
Feb 152015

Having given it a bit more thought and time, here’s what I actually plan to accomplish this semester.

My design challenge is to create a procedurally modeled and shaded landscape with several different effect simulations. It will be a mountain scene: terrain, snow, rocks, and evergreen trees. There will be a bonfire with smoke rising into the sky, and snow – all of this affected by gusts of wind.

To break that down, there will be elements of:

Procedural modeling: terrain, rocks;

Procedural set dressing: trees, rocks;

Shading: snow, ground; and

Effects: fire, smoke, wind, snow.

All of this will be done in Houdini, which I will learn in the process. In other words, by the end of the semester I would like to be proficient in Houdini modeling, shading, and several different types of effects – in the form of a presentable (hopefully) project. We’ll see how far I can get! Here are some composition ideas I’m playing around with:



The fire in the second concept piece will definitely make its way into the final project. Ideally I would have multiple shots, but I’ll focus on just making one good 10-30 second shot.

Right now we are beginning week 4 out of 15 in our spring semester, and here is my plan of attack for the next three-something months:

Week 4: tutorials (modeling, particle effects), testing

Week 5: modeling the terrain (background), tutorials on shading

Week 6: modeling the terrain (background and foreground), tutorials on lighting

Week 7: modeling and set dressing the rocks and trees

Week 8: modeling and set dressing some more, tutorials on effects

Week 9: shading (terrain)

Week 10: shading (snow)

Week 11: lighting, effects (fire, smoke)

Week 12: effects (fire, smoke, snow, wind) <- in that order of priorities

Week 13: finish effects, render, composit

Week 14: render, composit

Week 15: (buffer week) render, composit

So uh… I start tomorrow.

Mar 272014

I don’t think I remembered to eat dinner today, I was too excited about lights and colors and more lights. I’m working on a lighting project for my class, and it is turning into a modeling/texturing/lighting experiment.

The hard lines of the environment model are intentional. Different lights in the scene affect different geometry groups and sometimes individual meshes. The final scene will be a combination of multiple passes and render layers, but today I was working on the toon shader/outline layer. It has the bright, flat colors that I wanted, harsh shadows, and prominent outlines.

Original concept art:


Finished model:


Toon shader and outline layer rendered with Maya software:


Of course, I would love to achieve the “brush stroke” look of the original painting, and, more importantly, the splattered shadows. I plan on using flat image planes with a painted texture and alpha for the trees in the background.

Other than that, I’m fairly happy with how my colors are turning out, especially considering I’m not picking them directly from the concept painting.

Mar 162014

Ever heard of Eyvind Earle?

I haven’t, either, until my mom showed me some amazing artwork in a style I never previously knew existed – magic realism. It was primarily a literary style, but evolved to encompass art, too. The art movement began in the first two decades of the 20th century. It is all about putting magical elements amidst an otherwise ordinary surrounding. The film The Green Mile, and basically anything by Hayao Miyazaki, are good examples of magic realism in film.

Back to Eyvind. He was an American illustrator and author, best known for his painted backgrounds and concept art for mid-century Disney films. He worked on Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, and Sleeping Beauty.

I looked at his art and thought that the “magic” part of magic realism is well-earned here. His brave use of color and strong shapes is phenomenal, and the freedom he took with composition and stretching reality is admirable.

However, Earle worked in a variety of styles and media, going from watercolors, to oils, to drawings, to scratchboard, to serigraphs (silk screen printing).

Earle was a prolific artist. The amount of work he produced over his lifetime is staggering. He worked almost until his death in 2000, holding exhibitions as late as 1998. I wasn’t able to find an exact number of his works, but I’m sure it is a large number.

This is the kind of art that makes me want to explore 3D further. This is another challenge – another new 2D discovery that has yet to be replicated in 3D. Or maybe it has. I don’t know, but I would love to figure out how to do it.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to buy me this book, please feel free!

Mar 092014

To me, this is exciting. After years of being on Team Impressionism, I think I may have found a new favorite.

Fauvism. Or rather, the modern renditions of it.

Originally, it only lasted about a decade, started by Matisse and Derain. But man, people made it into an amazing thing! The concept is simple – use bright colors where they’re least expected. At least, that’s how I see it.

And maybe that’s not fauvism, but I’ll call it that for now. I’ve been working on concepts for a stylized 3D environment, and I’ll try to go in this direction with it.


Or this:


Trees and bright colors, all the things that make me happy.

Oct 272013

Never mind guys, there won’t be any film this semester. There will only be paintings.


All I can think of is how this miserable, strange, charming quiet place looks like in late autumn.

Oct 032013

I’m modeling my set. It’s fun. Modeling is fun. Here, look!


I plan on making everything slightly crooked and stylized. So far, the table, bed, stool, and the small items aren’t contorted, but oh, they will be!



As usual, I got carried away with lights. 2:30am, I’m thinking of quickly getting out a couple of screenshots of my progress.. and end up messing with lights. Looks awful for now, but I promise everyone that I will make it all pretty eventually.

Also, it’s about time I added some inspiration images here. This is the look and feel that I am going for with this set:





The paintings especially give me a good idea of how I want to paint my textures. Unwrapping will be a pain, but I can’t wait!


Sep 302013

The windows roll down at the border, we are barely keeping ourselves from singing out, “Oh, Canada!” The border patrol officer asks what we are studying, and the entire car explodes: “ANIMATION!”

Oh, Canada.

Last weekend, two dozen RITchies and I ventured to Ontario for the Ottawa International Animation Festival. My first film festival. It was an amazing experience in a gorgeous city. We saw Disney’s innovative new short, “Get a Horse!”, a beautiful Brazilian feature, “The Boy and the World,” many awesome shorts, multiple presentations by filmmakers and recruiters. I got to meet JG Quintel (the youngest and coolest professional there), the creator of the Regular Show, and Adam Elliot, a brilliant stop motion animator from Australia. At one of the after parties, my fellow RIT 3D-ers and I cornered Saschka Unseld, a Pixar layout artist and director of “The Blue Umbrella,” and spent a good chunk of the night barraging him with our excited questions.

Oh, and we now know our way around Ottawa.

And for today, real rough one-hour sketch of the city view. I feel so right in cities. This one felt especially akin.


Yes, we had poutine. And yes, we met Canadians. To my surprise and amusement, turns out that Canadians rank each other on “how Canadian” they are. So self-aware.

Sep 232013

Somewhere, I have a film that I should be working on.

After Ottawa, all I want to do is make movies. However, there’s such a thing as two part time jobs, five classes, extracurricular responsibilities, and all the associated work. Oh, and cooking food should squeeze in somewhere there, too.

I am trying to convey some fairly thought-provoking ideas with my film. All that death, dealing with death, resisting change, accepting differences – it is a lot to say with just a handful of mute, faceless objects (namely, Petal and the Dusties). I realize that I am putting a lot of faith in acting, staging, and editing, since I don’t have any dialogue or big movements to rely on. Consequentially, I decided it would be a good idea to help myself in another way. The film’s color, warmth, saturation, light (and lighting) could do a lot to help emphasize my ideas. So I sat down last week to draw up a color chart:


Actually, this is just an excuse to pick up my tablet and paint some more.

No, not really. I meant everything I said earlier. But the painting part was a big plus, yes. A big plus.

These are the major beats of the film, following the general plan from above:


And, of course, here is the completed color script. I am fairly satisfied with the progression of color and light.COLORscript_wide

I just hope that I can achieve all this in 3D.

Something will come out at the end of the semester. Something definitely will. I just hope… that it will be good.

Sep 152013

Time for a throwback.

2011, August, Moscow. Walking many miles from the Red Square all the way to the Triumphal Arch along the Kutuzovsky Prospekt (avenue), the sun is setting, the breeze is warm. Cars rush by, city lights are just beginning to spark up. The water of the Moscow river reflects the clouds as the ferries go back and forth.


Photoshop, over a combination of two overlapping photographs. Approximately 2.5-3 hours.

Sep 132013

A slight digression about me. I tend to do better under stress than in normal conditions. A deep water fish, if you will – this amount of pressure is the comfort zone; anything less, and I explode. I keep myself busy every minute of every day and I thoroughly enjoy it. I don’t leave myself time for anything other than work, and I deal with stress, well, by staying too busy to feel it or to think about it.

Does that seem a bit.. counterproductive? Ineffective? To a sensible person, I mean?

I should reconsider the amount of sense my head actually holds.

So last night, coming home after a full day, got off the bus and walked the several yards to my apartment – and saw the sunset. And decided that, more than anything else, I wish I could leave everything and go watch the sunset. But I can’t. Whatever is left of sense in my head tells me that I must attend to important things.



I did stay up until the usual late hours writing a paper due at 9am. I did not regret any decisions.