Props & Environment Art - Nick Panichelli
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Props & Environment Art - Nick Panichelli

by NPanichelli on 2 Jun 2021 for Rookie Awards 2021

This is a collection of my works created over the past year. Inside, you will find a variety of environment and prop art that I have lovingly crafted to represent my best work yet. From antique violin-snipers to sci-fi mechs, I have included a variety of works to show off my growing versatility in the world of games.

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A Distant Symphony

This first piece is one of my favorites I've had the opportunity to work on this year. The only instructions for this were that we needed to create a gun with a blade and that it needed to be an antique of some kind. As I was brainstorming ideas for what I wanted to do, I stumbled across an image of a readymade sculpture by the artist Maskull Lasserre. The work was simple, a violin with a sniper scope affixed to it. However, as I saw this, I wondered what this work would look like if it were fully realized as a combined object, functional as both a violin and as a gun. So I got to work and ended up with this final result.

As for my process, I learned a lot about different tools and techniques in ZBrush that help with creating complex shapes easily. Additionally, I learned a lot about how much work and detail goes into the production of firearms. Working on this has definitely inspired me to try my had at more weapon design in the future.

If I were to continue working on this piece, I'd like to add some more attachments such as an extendable tripod at the front as well as a strap for easy carrying. However, I'm still very pleased with how far it has come since the beginning stages where it was only a loosely thrown together idea inspired by a random photo I had seen while scrolling through social media.

The Blue Chaise

The Blue Chaise was my first prop created in ZBrush after originally taking a character sculpting course to learn the program. Additionally, it is the first piece I've created that features such ornate detail. When tasked with this project, we were all asked to simply sculpt a piece of ornate furniture with an element that did not belong. As a fan of the extravagant, I've always loved how expensive a chaise lounge has felt; it's such a beautiful, and often times asymmetrical type of furniture. This asymmetricity was actually one of the reasons I chose to sculpt a chaise in the first place. I wanted to challenge myself throughout the production in order to force myself to grow more intimate with ZBrush. 

As for the process, I studied a lot of ornate furniture in different styles until I found the one I liked most. This featured elements that I wanted to include in order to challenge my creativity such as: a chesterfield patterned back cushion, an asymmetrical design, and very ornate swirling details. I also included a small playing card stuck under the cushion for my element that did not belong.

I really love how the chair ended up, but there's always room for improvements. I personally would love to make this piece game-ready as, before working on the chaise, I had not used ZBrush in quite some time and needed to keep its poly-count in the realm of concept art in order to finish.

Army Mech

My third sculpt is my first, true, hard surface work in ZBrush. The class was asked to create a mech, and we could basically create anything we wanted as long as it fell under this umbrella term. For my mech I wanted to work with four legs instead of two. I've always loved these types of mechs as they feel more sturdy and powerful, like a tank but with more freedom of movement.

My process for Army Mech was a bit different than the others as I primarily used ZModeler to craft all the intricate panels and mechanical parts. I also found that I really love using ZModeler through this process, and I've used it constantly since. Additionally, I did a lot of work in Substance Painter in order to get the exact look that I wanted for the mech, all the way down to the decals on the legs and wings that give it a story.

I am very pleased with this sculpt as hard surface has always been my favorite area when it comes to modeling. I would like to possibly see if I could learn some simple animation one day in order to make it come to life. I also think it would be cool to see just how much more mechanical details I could get into the work without increasing the poly count too much.

The Wine Cellar

The Wine Cellar is an environment that I've really enjoyed working on as it has been a long time coming. I first began by blocking the space out with primary forms in Maya. Then I went on to create a modular kit that I would use to build the room inside of Unreal. Throughout this process I took classes that dealt with lighting and materials, so in order to spruce the space up I created my own mosaic in Substance Designer and relit the scene to be a bit moodier.


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