Rookie Awards 2024 - Open for Entries!
A passion for environments

A passion for environments

Naja Jelec
by NajaJelec on 13 May 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

Roughly one year ago I started learning 3D and imediately fell in love with the process of creating beautiful environments. The final goal of becoming an environment artist became clear very soon. So here I present the projects of my first demo reel.

23 1516 4
Round of applause for our sponsors

Hello everyone! My name is Naja Jelec and I´m currently a student at PIXL VISN media arts academy. In this entry I would like to showcase three projects of my first student demo reel. I hope you enjoy it.

Cabin in the sky

The given theme for my first demo project was "fantasyhouse". Since it was my first bigger projec I wanted to tackle I made sure to pick something that woulch challenge me to learn new tools and techniques on the way.  I really enjoyed learnig different softwares like speedtree and zBrush to achieve a organic look or working with xGen to add final touches.  

In this slide you can see my full process from modeling up tho the final compositing. My main focus was getting all the main shapes and the overall feeling right. Translating a painterly 2D concept into a highly detailed 3D scene and still staying as close to the main idea turned out to be the most challenging part. 

But I had a lot of fun with this project and learned a lot about a good workflow and the importance of planning. Having a clear plan, good reference and getting as much feedback as possible really helped to take this project to the final stage. 

Fallen Titan

My second project was focused on learnig organic modeling with ZBrush. I had seen the concept a while ago and immediately felt  inspired to recreate it in 3D. It was the perfect opportunity to test my limits on organic modeling and texturing. I also used the opportunity to learn terrain creation with Houdini. Since there where a lot of challenges involved to begin with, I made sure to properly pepare and plan the project.

I created a schedule with milestones to prevent myself from losing track of the important tasks and always focused on one thing at a time. So, whenever I learned someting new I tried to put it in to practice. This way I was able to learn new skills and showcase them in a new project.

The challenge in this one was to create a fantasy scene that still made sense and looked believable. I wanted to take the more cartoony 2D concept into a more realistic 3D environment. And again, I had to rely on proper research and collection of reference. When might this take pace? Where? What is the climate like? What types of plants are common in this area? But most importantly: What is the story I want to tell?

Answering these questions in the fist place made the entire workflow easier down the road and also helped to add the final details, that really made this project come together. Especially in texturing I tried to implement a lot of storytelling. Adding small scratches, moss, stains and imperfections to tell a story in only one rendered image.

Finally I made sure to set the correct tone and overall mood with lighting and compositing.

This project did not only teach me a lot of software skills, but also increased my knowledge of visual storytelling and the importance of fundamental design priciples like balance, contrast and proportion.

Industrial style Interior

My third projet was a shading and LookDev focused project, where I really wanted to take my time and learn about the process of proper lighting and shader optimization to achieve a specific look. Even thought I understood the main principles of shading and pbr, I learned that only subtle tweaks and details can make the most impactful difference.

I was always inspired by architectual visualization projects, where you had to look twice to tell if it is a image of a real place or a render of a 3D scene. So I decided to challenge myself in a new way. The scene was set up with a mix of self modeled and downloaded assets. First I made sure to get a scene that was layed out in a interesting way and had a overall good balance in terms of composition. 

The next challenge was to texture the scene. I did not just want to make something that looked as realistic as possible, but also set a specific mood. I was going for a open, warm and inviting look. I didn´t want it to look to placed and sterile, but rather lived and casual. Aspects I never thought about before where now brought to my attention and I enjoyed setting the tone of a scene with the use of textures and shaders.

The biggest challenge for me was making it look like a place that is properly filled and lived in. I struggeled a lot in the beginning with too much empty, to clean looking spaces. And again, taking a look at reference and comparing it to reality made the process a lot more easy.

This project taught me a lot about the LookDev and rendering parts of the process. It deepenned my understanding of pbr texturing and helped me to finally take a deeper look into Vray and it various lighting and texturing options. Now I am inspired to take what I learned and implement it into a new project.

Thanks a lot for you attention and interest. I would really love to hear your feedback. So feel free to leave a comment or reach out to me. I really hope you enjoyed it. Have a nice day!

E-Mail: [email protected]

LinkedIn: Naja Jelec


All projects where modeled in Maya, textured in substance painter, rendered with Vray and finally composited in Nuke. Additional Softwares I used where: ZBrush, Houdini, Mari and Speedtree.

All the Projects where based of real world reference or 2d concepts by other artists.

Fantasyhouse:  "山顶魔法屋" by Qiang Zhou

Fallen Titan:       "Fallen Titan" by Joshua Eiten, Foliage was downloaded from Quixel Megascans

Interior:                The project was created with a mix of selfmodeled and downloaded assets. The downloaded ones where from Poliigon and Chaos Cosmos. The Project was based on a architectual conceptt by Binyan Studio.

Comments (4)