Interview Series 2012 – 3D Artist and Illustrator Mark Gmehling

by Sean | January 16, 2012

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Mark Gmehling might just be an artist to expect to see in the history books in the near, yet seemingly distant, future. A jack-of-all-trades, Mark is one of the few who can make the claim that he is a master of each skill as well – though he’d be too humble to say such a thing. Whether fans are marveling at his surreal graffiti, admiring his simple (and often humorous) marketing campaigns, or envying his myriad of sculptures, no one can deny: Mark is a force to be reckoned with.

Artist Portrait:
Mural Painting Video:


Where do you come up with your creative ideas? Are they client driven or purely ideas from your creative side? Take us on a journey through your creative process.

The client always has something to communicate but in 99% of the jobs, I’m asked to interpret the message in my own, personal style. It is fun on the one hand, but even more demanding on the other because I need to deal with some ethical “don’ts” that I do not have to take into consideration in my personal work. My personal work is driven by my perception of daily life. I like to illustrate things I notice in the triviality and absurdity of human life. Mostly, I focus on talking about human attitudes and behaviors.

What areas of CG work do your commercial projects tend to include?

I specialize in character design. It always starts with a briefing, then I research, develop a concept, and scribble in a few different directions I see working and then send to the client. The client then chooses their favorite direction and I develop a final concept sketch or animatic for final production approval. I work with Adobe CS5 suite and Maxon Cinema 4d mostly on a Wacom tablet.

What 3D software do you regularly apply in your projects and to what effect?

I’ve been working with c4d for about 10 years nows and I have no regrets. I was lucky enough to grow with the application. 3D is not just delivering special “effects”. 3D applications give you the possibilities to create a universe, because its looks can be sketchy, cartoony, or photorealistic.

Many artists start off in 2D and as they advance their career they move to 3D. How did you make the transition to 3D from 2D – or have you always been using 3D?

No, I have a quite classical background. I switched from skateboarding to graffiti, then studied art (painting with oils and charcoal), then worked as a musician a few years, moved on to study graphic design, and then discovered the computer as the most efficient tool to bring my ideas to life. The fascination of combining pictures and sound brought me to animation where 3D applications are something you cannot miss. Soon, I noticed the possibilities and was obsessed with creating with the 3D application tool.

Can you tell me about your interest in graffiti art and street art? How do these influence your 3D illustrations?

I think the spirit of street art is entertaining and has a storytelling appeal. It is a visual alternative to the visual noise we are surrounded by in public spaces. Street artist meet the challenge to arrest attention in an overstimulated environment. Inventing new styles and visuals and discovering new channels to communicate is a basic part of the game. It makes people chuckle or think or it just entertains, but in the end, it is always straight and easy to understand communication. My illustrations carry something of this spirit.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in 3D arts but cannot afford the software or schooling?

Nowadays it is not that hard to dive into 3D. The internet offers nearly unlimited training resources. I learned 3D by myself too, but a bit obsession is needed. It is a complex topic that is more than just knowing how to push some points along the z-axis. As soon as you are capable of modeling, you’ll recognize that proper lighting is another complex topic for itself.

What key skills do you believe an artist needs to succeed as a modeler or 3D illustrator in the industry?

I see a lot of stuff that is technical on very high level, but often it lacks in terms of aesthetics, storytelling, or artistic skills. Good modelers and 3D artists are always very good artists drawers or painters that just pushed their limits further.

As an artist, you have defiantly defined your own personal style. Can you tell our readers how you did so? When was that “ah ha” moment?

One of the main a-ha moments was when I stopped re-engineering the works I admired, and stopped sitting in front of the monitor saving “test” files.

It started when I really started facing the basics and thinking about what I wanted to say. When I stopped questioning my personal stuff and stopped comparing it with the genius artwork I found on the internet, I found my style. You need to decide to accept and believe in your “genius”. It sounds weird, but it really helps. This kind of self-conception is needed to stay focused while avoiding getting confused every few days.

Do you have any final advice for our readers?

Believe in your very own instincts, work hard, and develop your personal universe of aesthetics. You’re the only one that your work needs to bear up against (which is is hard enough if you’re a perfectionist).

Maybe we’ll meet at Pictoplasma Berlin in April 2012! I’ll have an exhibition there and will do a lecture about contemporary character design. Follow this link for more information, cheers!

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