For this new interview, let’s discover Christian Behrendt, 3D Artist.
Christian comes also from Germany, and has a diversified book of great images. You’ll read in the following interview that he is not only mastering the 3D pipeline, but he is also a very patient and meticulous guy, who can creates amazing and powerful illustration like this Rubikon image. Not so many people can sat for months on one project, and that was one of my main question : how to stay focus and motivated. Let’s learn more from him!
Hi Christian ! Can you describe yourself for the readers ?
Sure. I’m a 27 years old freelance digital artist based in Cologne, Germany. I got into the whole 3D thing about 13 years ago due to modding for games, but quickly switched over to using 3D as a standalone tool. I’ve been working professionally in the industry since 2010, doing a lot of architecture and advertising jobs and I’m currently looking to redirect myself more towards to the entertainment industry.
I had the chance to discover your last work, thanks to Cornelius Dammrich. Are you part of a digital community in Germany ? Do you have other friends which are also 3D artists ?
Yes I try to participate in communities on a regular basis. There is a C4D forum I started visiting when I began with C4D in the first place, but also a few Discord servers, though it’s mostly a relatively loose affair. Apart from that I try to engage in communities tied to specific renderengines. Basically whatever software I’m using at the moment is also part of my “community routine” – I think engaging in communities is a very rewarding activity – you get to know a lot of talented people and learn from them, and in turn you are able to help others out.
Through work I also got the opportunity to get to know a lot of people over the years personally, of which some have become good friends.
Cornelius for example I met, when he was looking for a permanent position a few years back and I invited him for an interview with the company I was working for back then. Since then I’m lucky to call him a very good friend of mine – because unbelievably he is an even better person than an artist 😉
I’ve seen many great renderings in your past works, with a wide diversity of topics and technics. You seem to have strong skills with product still-images and arch visualisations. What do you like the most ? And globally, what aspects do you like the most in 3D ?
Yes my portfolio is kind of a mixed bag right now, which can be a problem I guess, but it also accurately reflects my interests, which are very broad.
Generally I strive for a high degree of realism in everything I do. When I started out with 3D I was fascinated by the first freely available unbiased render engines and how much more realism you could get out of them compared to other engines at the time. Though my artistic skills at that point were very far off from producing any high quality artwork, I made it my point to learn as much as I could about the tools at my disposal. That way I kind of stumbled into ArchViz, as I often tried reproducing architectural photography. That’s why my portfolio is kind of slanted in that direction and also how I got my first permanent position as an artist which put even more emphasis on that direction.
But those arch & product renders mostly reflect my technical interest in 3D.
Actually I’m much more interested in storytelling and „fantastical“ possibilities that 3D has to offer which isn’t really reflected in my portfolio yet, which is something I’m determined to rectify in the future.
Can you talk about the softwares and render engines you are using and why ?
My main piece of software is Cinema 4D. Everything else revolves around that. I guess I chose C4D back then, because there is a big german community compared to other packages. Also I’d definitely say that it’s easier to learn than most other big packages available, since it’s structure and scene organisation is much more apparent and easier to grasp if you are completely new to the field.
Currently I’m trying learn Houdini on the side since I feel it would be a good addition to my arsenal, because it’s so different in it’s approach but therefore excels in a lot of things which C4D just can’t handle very well or at all.
In terms of render engines I’m very flexible. I used a lot of different ones and I will definitely do that in the future also, since every engine has it’s own strong suits and drawbacks. Also I’m really just quite nerdy in that aspect. I like learning a new engine, I think it’s a lot of fun and always a very rewarding feeling once you start to produce nice renders with it 🙂
Right now I’m using Arnold a lot, before that it was Octane & Corona, before that V-Ray, before that Indigo, and so on…
Next on my list are Mantra & Redshift 😉
” I’m kind of afraid to share
my personal views/emotions/stories with other people “
Let’s talk about your last big fat work Rubikon ! 🙂 It’s a very well executed artwork, very different from your last works, where you show a strange and dark look-alike asian city. Can you talk about your idea behind it ?
Yes it’s very different from the stuff I have done before. Like I said before my portfolio mainly consists of a lot of technical pieces, because that’s just the way it evolved over time, but it was (and still is) bugging me a lot, since I really have a lot more love for conceptual, fantastical, illustrative, storytelling imagery – with this piece I wanted to reflect that. Due to the fact I did a lot of technical stuff, I mostly got/get hired for technical stuff, which is making the slant in my portfolio even heavier. I wanted to break that cycle and show myself & others – hey, it’s not just pretty houses and products.
At some point in the future I’d also like to do more commercial work in this area, so I wanted this work to say „I can do more than ArchViz“. 😉
Now more specific for what’s going on with the work itself. I think part of the reason why my portfolio shows a lot of technical stuff is also, that I’m kind of afraid to share my personal views/emotions/stories with other people, although I’d like to do that more. This isn’t only true for my work but also for my personal life in general, which is partly responsible for the fact that I’ve been dealing with depression for many years now. It took a lot of time to realize and come to terms with that, but I finally started therapy last year in May, and around the same time I started working on Rubikon.
It kind of reflects my state of mind at the time, so strange and dark is a way to describe it. I don’t like to give a step-by-step rundown of all the decisions that went into it, why it put this here, and that there – a lot of that stuff happens unconsciously and by trying out a lot of stuff, and sometimes just to support the composition, mood and visual aesthetic.
In the end the most important thing for me was to convey a certain mood and atmosphere, and I guess the small background story can help a bit putting this into context.
” After posting the image on Reddit(…)
500.000 people actually looked at it “
Did you have already feedback from the digital community ? Are you motivated for another one ?
Compared to the other works I’ve done I really got a lot of feedback – and this is actually very motivating. I never experienced that in this way before. Lots of people started writing me, saying they are really inspired by it, wishing me all the best etc. – this is very humbling. Also after posting the image on Reddit it went to the frontpage and in just 2 days over 500.000 people actually looked at my image. When I looked at my homepage statistics I couldn’t quite believe that, and it is still pretty much unbelievable for me.
In regards to future artworks – yeah, there will definitely be something. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean that all my future artworks will be in the same vein as Rubikon. I don’t like to tie myself down to a specific style or topic and also like to try out new stuff.
I’ve also had a lot of work over the last few months which was pretty stressing, so right now I’m enjoying a little timeout. Also as said earlier I’d like to learn some new software/techniques for a new piece, so that will also take some time – so there is no specific timeframe or anything yet.
Can you explain to us what were the techninal main steps to achieve this project ?
From a technical standpoint there actually weren’t that much difficulties. One of the first things I took care of was modelling the building blocks as presets and scatter them along the walls, because this had the most influence one everything else that followed. After that it was pretty much just building up model and texture detail for a lot of time, while making sure to keep everything clean & organized in the scene, because Viewport speed and RAM usage can take quite a hit when dealing with scenes like this. So I needed to make sure all textures are set to correct input format for saving VRAM and organize the rest of the scene on layers, so I could quickly switch things on/off on the fly for better viewport performance and faster testrenders.
After building up most of the detail I proceeded to the final lighting stage, which was actually the trickiest part, since I had a specific look for the fog/haze in mind, but it was quite cumbersome to achieve that, because atmospheric effects always tend to behave somewhat erratic and depend on a lot of different things. Sometimes you want to change a thing here and in turn have to adapt 10 other little things 🙂
But all in all things worked out just fine, and there weren’t any major technical difficulties I had to overcome.
” It’s important to have other people look at your work,
because after a certain time
you don’t know what’s what any more “
11 months is a very long time to achieve this one. How did you keep motivated to stay focus on this ?
Well the timeframe might be a bit confusing, because out of those 11 months, 9 months I did absolutely no work on the image at all. So the 11 months are more a testament to the fact, that it IS really hard to keep up constant motivation for that long.
What helped with finishing it though is, that there really is a story in this picture which at some point I just had to get off my chest. As I said earlier there were also some „logical“ motivations behind it, but at the end of the day finishing it was really just of very high personal importance to me.
I have a lot of pieces stowed away on my harddrive that are basically 70% finished, but will probably forever stay on my personal „pile of shame“, because for those pieces this personal motivation is somewhat missing, or they just have been abandoned for too long.
Having that on the back of my mind, it was really important for me to prove to myself that I can actually finish this piece, even if it took such a long time. It also meant dealing with some issues/anxieties I had built up, which made it actually really difficult for me to share this image. I think it sat 99% finished on my harddrive for about 2 months, at which point I started pixel-pushing, micro-managing and overthinking a lot of stuff, just because that meant I could further delay releasing it.
Not only at that point, but all through the process, friends I showed my progress were immensely important with help, keeping me on track and give me a slight push now and then. Also it’s just so important to have other people look at your work, because after a certain time you just don’t know what’s what any more.
I’ve interviewed Cornelius Dämmrich some months ago. He also took many months to achieve some personal projects. It’s funny because we’re seeing nowadays many artists who do ‘daily works’. They love to post new stuff every day, playing with the possibilities offered by their software. You and Cornelius take the other road : one big single creation for several months. I can understand it also, because you may have a daily job, and you may also love detailing your artwork. But can you tell us why you choosed that path ? Could you do daily works ? What do you think about that trend ? And most of all : after so many months, were you afraid to fail this image ?
Well yeah, the trend of the Dailies is definitely something that became really big over the last years. I don’t really have black/white view on that topic.
I think Dailies can be a great thing – when you are a learning a new software and explore tools, when you try to form somewhat of a creative routine, forcing yourself to sit down and do something, when you are exploring styles or ideas, or want to reverse-engineer something – that’s great. I’ve actually done a few of my pieces in just a few hours also and it can be very rewarding, and a lot of times it’s also good to not overthink things too much.
Setting yourself up with a fixed amount of time for a project is helpful from time to time, it forces you to act quickly and teaches you to just let go of an image and move on, which I’m sure most creatives can attest to – it’s a very hard thing to do.
On the other hand of course I could probably do without some of those chrome spheres in World Machine terrain with flow maps, you know? 😉 But I try not to be too judgemental about those projects and just let everybody do their thing. Because I’m also well aware of the fact that probably nobody needs another „Blade Runner / Ghost in the Shell inspired, dark, moody, asian neon lights image“ 😉
For me personally doing dailies on a schedule or something like that is really nothing I’d ever consider. If I have an idea that fits such a timeframe I’d definitely go for it, but it’s not really a factor I take into account at all. The image itself counts for me, not how long it takes to make. I love artworks that people like Cornelius produce – but I’ve also absolutely fallen in love with speed paintings that probably didn’t take more than 60 mins.
In regards to your last question – yeah I was afraid of failing – but not in terms of not being able to finish it technically. Due to the content and personal nature of the project I was more afraid of sabotaging myself up to the point of not sharing this image and leaving it unfinished on my harddrive like the other projects I mentioned before.
Did you have upcoming projects ? Any new works ?
Yes, I have some ideas which I’m exploring at the moment, but there is no way of telling yet where this might lead to in the end. Also I want to try out some new pieces of software and new techniques, so I have to see how that works out. I think before there will be something bigger like Rubikon there might be some smaller pieces first where I test stuff out, but it’s all really subject to change as of yet, other than the fact that I probably always will be working on something. 🙂
Where does your inspiration comes from ?
Well for this project there obviously were some things like Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell which overshadow most other stuff in terms of inspiration. But also the work of Fan Ho played a big role and the demolished Kowloon Walled City as a setting itself is pure inspiration. I watched a lot of documentaries and bought a great photobook about it, which helped a bunch. I also read up on a lot of things like chinese characters, the history of neon-signs in Hong-Kong, some more obscure stuff like building codes for the construction of bamboo scaffolding, and much more. I really like to get lost in a rabbit hole like that and learn about lots of different things.
Apart from that I’m really all for building up a huge pile of reference images for each project, both for more technical aspects and for artistic reference, moodboards etc.
And in general I just take in a lot of stuff on a daily basis on different platforms & social networks. You never know what you will stumble upon.
Thanks for your time Christian and this great interview ! 🙂
And as always, if you are a digital artist with cool content, and want to discuss about it, please send me an email (top right icon)