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Inspiration & Technical Guide

This competition requires entrants create surreal images in the style of master surrealist Jacek Yerka.

Jacek Yerka’s web site is here
His works are available to browse in his galleries here

How to render images in the style of Jacek Yerka.
We want entrants to focus on recreating their surreal fantasies and not spending a lot of time discovering the technical details of how to render images with the look of Jacek. So we have prepared some notes on one method for recreating Jacek’s distinctive look.

The colour gamut Jacek uses is one of the first things that distinguish his work. The colours are soft without saturated extremes. A good way to extract colours is to make a montage of an artist’s images and then convert the montage image to an indexed colour image with exact colours. You can then use the colour table created to replicate the colour gamut the artist uses.

Here is a colour table created from Jacek’s images. Import this image and use it to colour pick in your preferred software.

Jacek’s paintings owe a lot of their distinctive look to the simple shading style he creates by hand. In 3D rendering terms this rendered look can be characterized as a diffuse shader with no specular highlights plus some ambient occlusion.

For the creation of foliage and fields of grasses attention must be paid to show each element in a simple graphic style, layering from the back forward and avoiding any intersections. Just as Jacek does, you need to place these elements by hand rather than scattering them by some random process.

Lighting is subtle and soft with no cast shadows. You can use 100% diffuse shaders with one weak (a high ambient level) directional light. It is even better to use no lights and flat shaders (100% self luminant) that vary the tone based on the angle to the camera and light direction. A simple falloff (Fresnel) shader, or combination of falloff shaders is all that you need. You need one falloff based on the camera angle (getting darker at lower angles) multiplied by a second falloff in a particular direction if you want to indicate a directional light.

Ambient Occlusion
At all times you should use ambient occlusion. This will give you 80% of the lighting and soft shadows that Jacek paints.

The following sequence of renders shows one approach for creating a wall of foliage in the Jacek style.

*This is not a tutorial and detail of the shaders is not shown. The idea is to help you save time recreating the essential technical aspects of the Jacek look. It’s up to your skill beyond that.

1. Start with simple shapes and cluster them so they present well. Here this cluster of 5 identical leaves is rendered without any lights. The shader is 100% self illuminant with ambient occlusion and a falloff to darken the colour as the angle to the camera varies from perpendicular. This simple shading technique gives an illustrated look like you see in Jacek Yerka’s paintings.

2. Hand placement of a layer of leaves does not take long. Make sure not to have any overlaps or too obvious regularities. There is a second layer of leaves in this image to add a little depth, however the ambient occlusion makes this unnecessary much of the time.

3. Here the addition of a single directional light has livened the image up but has also destroyed some of the uniform illustrated look that is a characteristic of Jacek Yerka’s paintings. In most cases you should not use any lights and just rely on the ambient occlusion. If you do add a light then it should not cast shadows and its influence should be subtle.

4. If you examine Jacek Yerkas paintings you will see a phenomenal level of detail. Here is the same wall of leaves with a simple pen sketch outline of veins in the leaves enhancing the illustrated look.

Here is a representative sampling of Jecek’s images that you can find on his web site:

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