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Joyce Jiao | Emancipated Fantasia: A Collective Curation of 3D Environment Art

Joyce Jiao | Emancipated Fantasia: A Collective Curation of 3D Environment Art

Joyce(Jiao) Jiao
by joycejiao on 30 May 2023 for Rookie Awards 2023

In Gnomon I developed a strong passion for creating environment art for games. It has become an indispensable hobby in my daily life. Coming from a fine art background, it has been an amazing 2-year journey for me to gain the capability of realizing imagination into 3D from "0" to "1".

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Hello World,

This Joyce and my 3D creation collective small dreamland.

In order to give a brief introduction of myself, I would like to begin this entry post with my brand new Demo Reel of the 2023 Spring.

During my student time, one of the major themes I'd love to bring into my works is "dream of gold". Intentionally or subconsciously, most of the lighting and look development in my environment works are often been given comments such as "surreal" or "dreamlike".

Assuredly, I always try to bring a certain sense of ghostly and celestial air into my artworks, to discuss the relationship between players/audiences and environments.

In order to further clarify myself, the first project I'd love to present to you is:

Flooded Library, Midsummer Day

"Flooded Library, Midsummer Day" is a fast-pacing 6-week-long project finished under the guidance of my first and only game environment art teacher: Jon Arellano. Which was also my last school project during my time at Gnomon.

The main goal of this project is to achieve a sense of springtime inside an interior space by filling the environment with foliage and waterbody. Yet, the water lily flowers are meant to be the flower of summer since they only bloom during the summer days, hence the subject was changed from "springtime" to "summer day". Therefore, the title: Midsummer Day.

(Original Concept by Tarmo Juhola:

Lighting Breakdown:

Progress Breakdown:

In this project, I made a last-minute decision and chose to recreate this interior environment into something different to differentiate it from the vibe of the original project. By bringing my own interpretation of the theme "post-apocalypse", I made a bald decision and combined the abandoned architecture with impressionism by filling the interior with green and water lilies, which is a common subject often used in impressionism art.

Holding a personal belief that no matter how a place is forgotten by the world, memories and hopes are always secretly preserved somewhere.

And as environment artists, we tell stories from the details of the objects themselves. Therefore, I deiced to add a weeping angel statue to replace the character in the original concept and let the environment subjects tell their own stories

Render Channels:

Assets Breakdown:

Technical Breakdowns-Watershader:

(Looking at this now there are a lot of issues with the material itself. But it was fun to dive into the power of math nodes and to figure out doing complex material shader by myself)


After finishing up the flooded Library project. I decided to further delve into the nature and visual narrative of the environment art itself.

I've set a goal for myself and decided to finish at least one project that fits the theme of each season this year. And Summer had come early on my list then Spring definitely won't be left behind.

Thus, here is the 2nd project to showcase:

Spring Breeze Inside the Celtic Ruins

"Spring Breeze Inside the Celtic Ruins" is a seasonal-themed short-term project based on Jordan Albro's beautiful project:

At the very first glance, the interesting overall shape language of the concept itself and the dark magenta-ish colored leaves from the fantasy tree immediately reminded me of my hometown's city flower: Bougainvillea, which is also quite common urban vegetation here in Los Angeles.

With such vivid color inside an idea of the Celtic ruins would undoubtedly be able to create a unique spring day scene, which was also the reason why I would like to recreate this concept into a 3D environment. I also tried my best to bring some personal interpretations into this environment piece. It was super fun to dive into Speed Tree and some Niagara FX by myself this time.

Render Breakdowns:

Assets Breakdown:

Progress Breakdown:


Bronson's Whiskey Distillery

This project is the very first project that I made myself ensure able to finish the entire pipeline and maintain both quality and efficiency within a limited duration of 6 weeks.

I'm very glad able to find this retro-style concept by Samuel Brito. As I personally always have a soft spot for vintage and Noir and hardboiled style relevant art. I'm glad to say that I've finally created one myself.

This one is definitely one of those projects that allow you to play with mood, set-dressing, look development, textures, and all that details accomplishing a work of environment art.

The progress on designing the shots and the lighting was super fun. I tried my best to bring that sense of "noir" into this scene and applied set-dressing/world-building skills to reflect the trace of life of the unknown owner of this environment. I also put some personal interpretation and set up the cellar's location in Chicago during the Prohibition era for the fact I stayed there for a quite while before coming to Gnomon.

Render Breakdowns:

Assets Breakdown:

(below is one of my favorite props in this project)

Progress Breakdown:



A recreation based on Gabriel Björk Stiernström's elegant concept "Cartographer":

Steampunk is another genre I personally really adore. In this piece, I concentrated on setting up the golden hour lighting in order to build the overall sentimental atmosphere. It was also my first complete project created in Unreal Engine 5

The industrial structure of this room is challenging but also fun to build, which I personally believe it's also the most fascinating part of this concept. Besides that, I also brought some personal interpretation and added more elements to this elegant Victorian room.

(special thank for my friend Phung Tran who helped me create the fx on the globe)

Lighting Iterations:

Render Breakdown:

Assets Breakdown:

(Multi-Channel Light Projector Unreal Blueprint)


Se Son Rose Fioriranno

The last project I would like present had won 2 internationals recognition already this year.

(concept credit: Christopher Hill)

"Se son rose, fioriranno", "If they are roses, they will bloom" It's a beautiful quote I accidentally read a long time ago. And I found it perfectly fits the scenario when I decided to frame a broken fantasy sword.

This piece was my very first ever completed project during my time in Gnomon. It was first modeled and sculpted as a hero game asset in my Prop and Weapon for Games class. And then further developed as a Vray render in the Look Dev class.

All the assets are modeled from scratch and textured/blended in Substance Painter using Megascans.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read through my scribbles.

I hope my journey of 3D art can bring some joy to you.

Below are links to my ArtStation and LinkedIn:

                                                                        Not Fin. but Cont.

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