The idea that spawned the spaceship was the product
of an online conversation with a fellow artist. I love spaceships
and a crashed saucer amongst my forest of amber seemed just right.
Unfortunately my excitement with the concept and an overestimation
of the role it was going to play in the composition meant I wasted
a lot of time working on it. Once the spaceship provided an initial
distraction, I forgot about everything else and just enjoyed inventing
parts and details for it. I became so caught-up in designing the
ship that even after the design was complete and actual modeling
had started, it came as a slap when someone asked how big it would
appear in the scene. At this point discussion was sparked on this
question. Some people suggested it be bigger than it
appears on the final and
some wanted it to stay as is. I realized I had to stop
and consider how important it was to the scene. Ultimately I decided
that I would follow the placement test I’d done earlier, where
the ship was very small.
Lighting in this scene was something I set up without much thought, because the image is gloomy with fog in the background. To achieve a diffused look such as you would see during rainy weather, I used Mental Ray GI. I used the Final Gathering feature to simulate this by simply adding a half sphere over the whole geometry and applying an almost totally incandescent light-colored shader to it.
Due to the struggle my computer was having with the scene, I couldn't render the whole image at once. My textures were too big and I had far too many polygons in certain areas. I had originally planned to use displacement mapping on the ground to achieve a more realistic look, but I was unable to do so, not even using a bump map. I ended up completing the scene by cutting up pieces of rendered elements and compositing it all in Photoshop, stitching up sides, blending details, and making ends meet.
I created some post production elements as I was
modeling and setting up the scene. This is something I always do
so I can get an idea of where the image is going, and also to avoid
becoming bored with the production. I painted details such as the
ropes, twigs, stones,
bumps, and highlights directly onto the
rendered image. Even if I had I been able to model it all in time,
I wouldn’t have been able to render it at the required resolution.
Overall, I feel that the image needed more details. However, I’m
satisfied with the end result, since I had no chance to overdo
I came to Canada in from Poland in 1987, aged 12.
I was interested in art and fantasy. I played a little Dungeons
and Dragons, and studied the work of my favorite artists like Adrian
Smith and Z. Beksinski. On graduating from high school I went on
to study computer animation and post production at The Academy
of Design in Toronto, where my wife and I now live. I got my break
as a matte painter in 2000 and moved to Montreal working at Big
Bang Animation (a really cool studio), where I started mixing with
artists of similar interests. Today I'm a matte painter working
as a freelancer for companies around the Toronto area. I'm always
looking for new and exciting projects to work on. Besides my passion
for matte painting I love to design everything from buildings,
props, spaceships, and cars, to creatures, costumes and characters
for film/television. Although I have not been involved in games
production as yet, I hope to do so in the future.
A contest like the Alienware challenge enables artists to learn from each other and improve their art. Thanks to all the artists for their time spent explaining and teaching others.
Marcin Nikiforuk’s challenger gallery
Amber Forest by Macrin Nikiforuk
The Alienware Challenge 2004
Detailed concept sketch showing placement for spaceship
Words and images by Marcin Nikiforuk