3D Look Dev with Cornelius Dammrich

by Brandon Pham
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“So if I work on a texture and it takes me two weeks, one day I feel good about it and another day I feel bad about it. All this is reflected through that texture. If I put it in there, if I make graffiti, for example, and sit on it for days. At the end of day four, I can get really annoyed by it becoming the same process over again and again.”

-Cornelius Dammrich (3D Artist)

Introduction to Cornelius Dammrich

“My name is Cornelius and I’m from Cologne, Germany. I was born in Berlin, in East Germany. I’ve been doing 3D for close to 16 years now and that’s what I do all day long, pretty much. Even when I’m not in lockdown mode. I do it for a living. I work at a small company that’s called Elastique in Cologne and they make visuals for car shows and interactive applications for VR, AR, and stuff like that.”

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Freelance Life and How things have Changed

“I actually rarely do clients. Two years ago, I thought about it, and was a freelancer for like five or six years at that point and I wanted a change. Because it was stressful and you have all these uncertainties in your life about when the next client comes in and stuff like that. So I thought I’ll find a regular day job and do freelancing half of the time and the rest I can spend on my personal artwork. That has worked best for me. I’ve been doing a nine to five job three times a week and have been able to focus on my passion projects and not necessarily spend it on client jobs.”

Portfolio Review

“The body of my work, it’s not much, actually. If you look at this one for example this is from 2011. That’s nine years ago and I haven’t done much since then there’s only maybe 12 big pieces or 13. There’s some unreleased stuff still in the works but that’s one of the things that might be a little bit special about me. I take a lot of time to work on a single project so it can be from a few weeks up to several months to finish an image. For example this one only took me, I think, four weeks and then we have like the more elaborate stuff, like this one, that took me two two and a half months. This kitchen here was seven months in total. So I like to spend a lot of time on a single image and I rarely do animations, most of the time. I just do still images and try to perfect them to a degree that most people wouldn’t reach. I don’t know if many people could reach that level of detail. If they would even take the time. Because in the industry it’s always about being fast and people push out work so rapidly that in my free time I like to break these rules and try to find my own way to express myself. Like taking the time and going over each detail as long as I want. That’s really fun for me. I think that’s the reason why i do 3D.”

Time Blocking for Personal Projects or Art is Never Done?

“I got advice from a good friend of mine, Ash Thorp, and he said he always had a road map. He sets a date so he knows when he has to finish the project. I never do that for any of my personal projects. I usually just start with an idea in my head or an idea of a technique I want to try out and brainstorm the steps in between I have to take to go to the finished product. This process can take up from like only a few hours up to months at a time. I know I have to block out the scene first, then I have to get into rough lighting, then I have to model everything and shade it. Then I have to render it, and I have to do the post work. So that’s my usual road map. I have never set a fixed time. What i do sometimes is I don’t like working during the hot summer, so i arrange things so I can avoid big projects during the summer. Because everything gets so hot and I don’t have an AC here in my apartment, which is pretty normal in Germany. So things get pretty toasty in my room with all my computers so I try to avoid that. That’s the only type of planning I have, and it’s mostly being practical and comfortable.”

 

Pre Production Process

“Because I rarely do personal projects, I have a lot of time to think about one image and I have a pinterest account where i collect stuff from online blogs. There’s one called Otaku Gangster and it’s basically a tumblr with images of random stuff. Buildings, guns, cars, stuff from anime, everything. I collect everything through that blog. I also have a collection of blogs that I browse through on a daily basis and save everything I like in pinterest. At some points, like once a year, or maybe twice a year, or even three times a year I go through that collection and try to make up an idea for an actual project. I combine several of these images into a mood board and from there I just start thinking about them. At some point in time, if they have grown to a level that to a worthy image, in my head, I start building a scene around that idea. That’s exactly how it went down with the astronaut scene, 6088ad. In that alley with the orange and blue buildings I just blocked it out. I  can’t draw or anything, so I’m not a concept artist, I just use 3D primitives and place them around and play with super simple lights. It’s super fast and it’s all placeholder. After the blocking out phase I make a composition of light and shapes and colors and try to figure out what works for me and that’s how I begin each project.”

 

Really suck at Drawing but Great at 3D Art

“I really really suck at drawing but yeah i have so many friends that are in the concept art industry who work for Marvel and are really really great painters. Great at drawing, and I suck so bad at it. Every three years I have this thing that I’m gonna try again yeah and i buy an IPad for like thousand bucks and say it to myself oh no i’m gonna learn it but just realize that I’m really bad at it.”

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Creating a Story Behind an Image

“There is a backstory and my projects are all connected. Every image I do, or at least some of them, are connected to each other. But it’s not a strict story. You could tell someone there’s like hints and parts of it that are connected and can form a story from it. It’s connected to the process I used to do these images. Because it takes such a long time and my life changes over time. My thoughts change. My mood changed. All that is reflected in the image. So if I work on a texture and it takes me two weeks, one day I feel good about it and another day I feel bad about it. All this is reflected through that texture. If I put it in there, if I make graffiti, for example, and sit on it for days. At the end of day four,  I can get really annoyed by it becoming the same process over again and again. I write, “oh god, this is so annoying! Fuck this! I hate this.” Then it’s part of the texture. It can be the mood swings from my real life that annoys me, or that I can’t find the time to to work on the image and that frustrates me as well.”

Or it can be story elements for the astronaut with the receiver of the phone in his hand and the phone receiver is a part of three images now and has a special meaning. I would need to write it up and make like a storyline from it. I would have  ideas like that, but I’m not a good writer, unfortunately. I can’t draw and I can’t write. I can only make 3d images yeah so if there’s a writer reading who wants to help me with that please reach out.

Growing from Past Work

“I did three years ago or four years ago, and it’s not on a technical level, I would look back and it’s just not good enough, for some reason. I’m super critical when I watch my own projects and look at them and I would see mistakes that nobody else sees. When you look at Blitz for example, you see the whole image and I see imperfection because of reason X. I’m not able to see my image and enjoy it with everyone else. Maybe because I made it so that can be hard. But i think with time that will change too. It’s a sign that you grow as an artist so I think that pushes you to new heights, where you think “I can improve it now.” Because you see the mistakes you made as you are your own biggest critic. I think that can be unhealthy and healthy at the same time on artistic levels at least definitely.

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Cornelius Dammrich 

Twitter | Instagram | Gumroad | Website | Artstation


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