The Star Wars The Force Awakens juggernaut has been unleashed, and I’ve been on the hunt for Star Wars–related images. Some of the best have been conjured by Joel Erikkinen; his beautifully rendered images are full of whimsy and packed with details. CGSociety recently had a chat with this incredibly talented SW fan.

Stormtrooper Father and Son v.2.0

Please describe what you do.
I currently work at Meditech Communications as their Art/Animation Director. I animate, light, texture, model and composite surgical procedures for patient or surgeon education, as well as marketing. I also make sure that the other animations that go out the door are the best we can put out. Though I can create an animation from start to finish, I really enjoy lighting, texturing, and concept work. 

The Dark Side of Father's Day (view 1)

What are some of the projects you have worked on / clients or studios you've worked with?
At Meditech we work for some of the large medical device companies: Boston Scientific, St. Jude, Medtronic, Abbott Laboratories. 

A Stormtrooper Portrait

Big fan of Star Wars? :) What is your earliest memory of being a fan of Star Wars?
I remember in the 80s being in elementary school and playing with all of our Star Wars action figures.  Putting them in and out of our C-3PO carrying case. Making Tatooine landscapes in the sand.  Pretending our room was Endor and capturing Stormtroopers in the nets of the Ewok village. We watched the movies constantly and pretended to be the characters all the time.

The Light Side of Fathers Day (view 3)

What’s the most important tool you use?
Thirst for knowledge. I am a firm believer in always learning and pushing myself. I've had no formal education in animation.  My passion for animation pushed me to teach myself Maya. With online tutorials I learned the software and got a job as an animator within 6 months.  I learn new things every day. Our software and industry changes so rapidly we have to have that drive to learn or we will just stagnate.

Daily Life of a Stormtrooper 03

Whose work (both past and present) do you really admire and why?
Tim Burton - more past than present, but his aesthetic is still something I will always admire. I read his autobiography in college and felt like I was highlighting every other sentence. His work can be creepy and funny. Gross yet playful.  Scary but witty. 

What do you like to do away from the computer?
I hang out with my wife and kids. I enjoy drawing quite a bit.  I have a series of "UnFables" that I started. I have gone through Aesop's Fables one by one and recreated them with a twist. For example, what if the goose that laid the golden egg turned the tables on the greedy couple... it may look something like this. I also play soccer and watch lots of Premier League games and Bayern Munich.

Can you tell us a little about the above image – These ARE the droids I'm looking for? 
This is a re-render of the first render in a series on The Daily Life of a Stormtrooper.  I thought the idea was funny so I kinda just threw it together.

These ARE the Droids You Are Looking For... wireframe

I revisited the original render to up the res add a few more details like the death star globe.  It was made in Maya and rendered using mental ray.  It's a fully animatable scene with rigged characters.   I have many more in my portfolio but I am pretty stoked about how the most recent in the series turned out : 

Questions of Rug and Duty

There are lots of little "Easter eggs" in the latest one.  I wanted to add more little details to keep the viewer engaged and coming back.  I also rendered it a large res to be printed on a 36x20in canvas.

I think it was pretty funny and a bit dark.

Spoil Boy

Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting, that you can tell us about?
I am currently working on my short film called "Spoil Boy".  It is a story about a spoiled kid who is always trying to gain friends by flaunting new toys.  It never works. Then one day he happens upon a baby gorilla, which had fallen from a zoo truck.  After an abusive training regime the gorilla is ready to present.  Spoil boy finally gets the adoration he "deserves". But that all comes at a cost ;) The story is dark, funny, and a bit gruesome. It checks all my boxes.

Do you have some WIPs we can share?
The gorilla in abused form from Spoil Boy is getting closer to completion. I'd like to change it over to Vray as it is mental ray currently. I also want to play with the look a bit to maybe add a hand made quality:

Gorilla from "Spoil Boy"

Below is a test render of Spoil Boy's room. It is filled with tons of 80s toys and mad detail. His parents spoil him so much they jut add on to his room to accommodate his belongings (many of which are still new in the box).

Thanks Joel! Check out more of his work in his CGPortfolio

Joel Erikkinen