Interview conducted by Mira Karouta
We had the pleasure of talking to Aender Lara about presenting tasty breakfast scenes in Toolbag 3. Aender discusses the importance of visual aesthetics and gives some insight on how he modeled, animated and set up the shaders for his breakfast scene.
Who is Aender Lara and what does he do?
I am a 3D Artist, solo Game Developer, and digital nomad and I can cook excellent vegan pancakes.
In the last 10 years, I have worked as a graphic, web, social networks and UX/UI designer. 3D art and games are my passion and I really love to create and constantly learn about them.
What’s your ideal breakfast spread?
Dear lord! Pancakes, toast, jam, cheese, butter and fruit all over the table with a spectacular latte.
Waffles or pancakes?
Waffles have too many corners. But I really think the holes are great at preserving the integrity of the toppings. But for now, I prefer pancakes.
What came first, the chicken or the scrambled egg?
I’m pretty sure it was the pan.
Does hot sauce belong on breakfast food?
It’s not my thing but I cannot judge anyone’s breakfast preference. Maybe somewhere an excellent breakfast with hot sauce is waiting to be tasted.
When we were working on the baker we thought about using bacon for the icon and introducing bacon-themed puns into our marketing material. In the end, we went with bread. How does this make you feel on an emotional level?
You can ask my girlfriend (awesome human companion, fantastic children book illustrator and master pie maker) about my reaction. I cried next to her the first time I saw it. It was the perfect pun, and I love puns and baking real bread. So it was just a beautiful, emotional and personal experience for me.
What was your inspiration behind creating this tasty work of art?
It began with the intention of creating a really fluffy, bouncy pancake. Things expanded after that, like “maybe toppings” and next came the plate because it was needed. And before I realized it, I had a table. Thank God I stopped. I almost created a room and kitchen for it.
Could you give us a brief breakdown of your favorite asset on the table?
I think it is the Italian coffee maker (Moka Pot). It was the last object I created. I really wanted it there because I have a similar one that actually travelled with me through 6 countries during 2 years as a digital nomad and survived every breakfast.
During the process, I decided that I wanted to use as few materials as possible to have better control of the scene given the number of assets, for that I decided that I would create a single material for multiple objects that possibly had a close relationship, this would make the task of editing textures simple and would reduce the amount of shaders in scene to 5 for 21 objects.
How did you make the pancakes look so fluffy?
Scale and love. Actually, it’s a little hard get a perfect combination. But I also took inspiration from the pancakes created with rice cookers. I did not taste one yet, but they look really spongy and soft, nobody can hate that shape.
How did you animate the breakfast beauties?
This is the only complex animation I’ve created so far. Usually, I just create turntable animations or small camera movements to show my art, but I decided to go further with this one.
I know some of the tools for 3D animation in Maya and learned a few tricks in the last few years. But I like to think my actual principles for animating the pancakes came from working with motion graphics in After Effects (yes, the fancy 2D transition application for infographic videos). A couple of years ago, I had a lot of jobs for this line of work and I learned the basics from Youtube. Now, I use the same principles in Maya. After all, the tools are almost the same.
Featured art by Jama Jurabaev
Basically, every object has a fluffy reaction no matter if it looks like glass, metal or wood. Also, I had a vision of classic toon characters serving the table.
Could you tell us a bit about your honey shader?
The honey shader looked great and the process for creating it was the result of something I learned a couple of years ago.The honey is composed of a refraction shader applied to the glass jar and the mesh for the honey liquid doesn’t have the exact shape of the container. For best results, the liquid must be a little bigger than the inside of the container.
Presentation seems to be one of your strongest suits. What advice do you have to other artists on creating robust presentation?
It’s necessary to study how to constantly improve your portfolio and find a perfect social network strategy for your work, just like you do with your art every day. This will be the cover of your book, so makes sure it is impressive.
A really good way to improve your portfolio is to look at other artists. But above all, watch how they manage their social networks and how they communicate with their audience. Think of what artist you want to be and project yourself there.
Also, I love doing unconventional presentations for my art. I look at photographers, 2D artists, food porn presentation and how others sell their work and maybe I can create something cool from that. I recently launched a reel, which is something that is apparently really unconventional for a modeler who does not make animations. There are people who say don’t waste your time with that. Instead, I asked my brother for a song (which I love) and based my decisions for the presentation around it. I spent a month collecting all the sequences and re-rendering everything to work with it. It was amazing and people really loved it. So never stop trying to present your work in unconventional ways. If you do it well, it will delight anyone.
These days, I’m leaning a lot from talks by Seth Godin and Simon Sinek. Perhaps a friend tried showing you these talks in the last 10 years but you never found them relevant. Well, this year I realized that even though they don’t talk specifically about video games, they do talk about how to sell a product and how to understand the market. If we extrapolate that knowledge, our art will reach more people.
In a nutshell, create awesome art and impressive presentations. Maybe with an unconventional twist. These days, I cannot upload anything without showing a turntable gif. It’s amazing. It’s just a looped image that it doesn’t need a play button and it shows every side of my 3D work on any device really quickly. If you’re looking to promote your work on social networks, I think Instagram and Twitter are really essential today.
You seem to excel with visual aesthetics, do you have any for creating appealing presentations?
Learning photography skills is essential for understanding overall composition. Because I’ve never worked with food, I studied how professionals do it. For this piece in particular, I studied a lot of compositions of real breakfast on Pinterest and Instagram. Everybody loves those photographs, they are too gorgeous to be real. And with that, I’ll try to create the same feeling. This is also one of the reasons why I created the table; to help the composition. I saw some pictures with an overhead perspective and decided I wanted the same for my pancakes. It was at that point that I started working on all the tableware.
Besides putting together the best three dimensional breakfast the internet has seen, what else do you like to create?
Indie games. I really love creating my own games. For my 3D modeling, I like creating good ideas, my small obsessions or make great pictures. I don’t think I have a decided theme. Sometimes I create regular objects, regular objects with rockets (I love flying things), food or weird tech. But maybe tomorrow I’ll start working on characters because I found an idea I like. I never know what comes next.
We’ve noticed you’re living the dream and created a pancake game entitled “Pancake Tuesday”. What’s the objective of this delicious looking game?
The goal was to celebrate Pancake Day every day of the year.
It was born as an 8 hour game dev project to celebrate Pancake Day 2018, the idea expanded and is now a little project I update every month with new items and more fun ideas.
Also it fulfilled a dream I had 5 years ago when I decided to start creating video games that will be on the App Store. I’m really proud of that and I’ll be working everyday to create the best yummy experiences.
You seem to be very generous with sharing your knowledge. Where can we learn more about your process?
I’ll be using Patreon as a hub for my art, blog and dev blog. You don’t really need to support me to receive awesome things like scene models and timelapse videos of my process. You can read about my work and ask me anything by following my Patreon account, subscribing to my newsletter or following me on my social network pages. I really like sharing my work so everybody can learn and grow.