I almost never sketch on paper anymore.
I’m making the vast majority of my
designs choices in Cinema 4D
Leon Tukker is a twenty-five year old freelance artist from the Netherlands. He is currently working from the city of Utrecht, and has recently finished concepting for Starfinder by Paizo Publishing. Alongside that, Tukker is working on a new installment in the System Shock franchise. Together with OtherSide Entertainment, and Warren Spector—a renowned American video-game designer—they’re sure to make a standout title for us in the near future. Of course, those are some of the more recent clients. Tukker has worked with Paramount Pictures, and the more local KeokeN Interactive, in the past.
- Leon Tukker Interview - Opening (EN) - RVG
Tukker’s personal style is what makes him stand out from the crowd. The overflowing sense of otherworldliness combined with a unique science fiction-esque shape language developed in Cinema 4D might be too much for a potential client to pass up. And they’re right, this style is different to the usual Sci-Fi artwork you’d find on websites like ArtStation. We wanted to know how he comes up with all of these odd shapes, and he said that you should just study “everything with an alien look you can find on our planet.” It’s interesting to note that the workflow Cinema 4D allows for isn’t used in the typical concept artist’s workflow. Tukker said that “The techniques and workflows for motion graphics allow you to come up with complex and interesting shapes very quickly. The Cloner lets you copy a model around in countless interesting ways. I would only have to make one simple model to create an entire 3D scene with it.” So it seems that this software is detrimental to his success, too.
Lastly, you might be surprised, but if you search for “Leon Tukker” on the Internet, you’ll realize that he was actually the second best high jumper in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, he was forced to change careers at age nineteen due to the injuries that built up over the years. Still, we’re happy to see that Leon was able to find a new path to follow, and we hope you enjoy reading our exclusive interview with him!
What sparked your interest in digital art?
When I was seventeen, I went to a commercial design school. However, I didn’t really like it, the people were kind of horrible, and the teachers weren’t great to work with. Also, the subjects weren’t that inspiring in my opinion. A classmate however, showed me a piece of software called Cinema 4D. He used it to create abstract art. I quickly found that you could model all kinds of things with it. So I started playing around with cinema 4D and went to art school after dropping out of that other course. That’s when I started developing a deeper love for digital art. As a kid, I used to play with Lego a lot, so I think that this has also helped me since you could easily compare it to a 3D modeling program.
Practicing art wasn’t forced at all, after all, I was unaware of any art related industry at that moment.
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Caption: This is the first project for the Beyond Human – Environment Design challenge on ArtStation. I wanted to go for a hyper-modern look, referencing architects like Santiago Calatrava and Zaha Hadid.
The polar ice caps melt, causing the sea level to rise drastically. Mankind has to find a new way to survive. So we build giant, self-sustaining, floating islands, created to be as green, pleasant and safe as possible. Honestly, I had a lot of fun with this one! It was very challenging because of the complex shapes.
The geometry was created using a combination of X-Particles and more conventional 3D modeling tools.
Tell me what it was like when you finally realized that there was in fact a whole industry doing what you love.
Honestly, it was kinda crazy! I figured there were a lot of people who were doing this when I first started posting, but that’s about it. I was more than amazed by all of the artworks online. I still didn’t feel forced to learn about art fundamentals, and I never followed a specific path. And I’m very happy I was able to do that. It allowed me to develop my own style and subject.
When I came to realize that you could actually make a living with it, I felt really great. I was lucky that I didn’t have to do jobs that had nothing to do with art whilst practicing – I had some leftover money from my restaurant job I had when I was around sixteen.
So you’ve actually got a personal style that isn’t that rooted in the entertainment industry. What kind of adjustments did you have to make? I can imagine that you had to merge it with a good amount of commonly used techniques before you could fit it in with existing art directions.
Absolutely! Because I was just having fun with creating new things, my lack of fundamentals started to show. Of course, you need your fundamentals to create believable concept art, so I had to get through a couple of courses to get into the industry, and to make my artworks a little bit better. I did Environment Design 1 and 2 back when it was taught by James Paick.
Fortunately, the combination between 3D and 2D is a commonly used workflow for environment design. So I was able to continue doing that!
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Caption: My second painting for the Beyond Human – Environment Design challenge. This one is completely different to the first one I made.
The story is also rather different. When a small ice age begins, our world’s mega-cities are instantly destroyed by the harsh weather and rampaging looters. The government chooses to send out giant arks to find survivors who’re still struggling in the ruins of the mega-cities. This particular one was successful, and quickly became overcrowded. The survivors built small shacks in and around the vehicle, living off of it like parasites.
There are a lot of online courses like the ones you’ve taken. Should beginners be taking them?
They are only worth it if you’re willing to work for it. Courses like these are quite expensive. But they are very much worth it. They’re there to help you push yourself as opposed to trying to learn everything all by yourself. I think that being able to learn alongside other people that share your dream is a great experience. Also, with the second environment design course I took, I was in class with Eddie Bennun – the AD at Ubisoft Sofia. My classmate was an industry professional with years of experience! Isn’t that amazing?
Tell us a little bit about the commercial work you do. Are you working on any notable projects right now?
I just finished working on Starfinder, a new RPG by Paizo. I was asked to do a few environments for them. I’m also working on the new System Shock with OtherSide Entertainment and Warren Spector. Unfortunately, I can’t really elaborate on some of these jobs yet.
Caption: Faith – Shiyan District
Are there any dangers that aspiring artists should be aware of before accepting their first paid gig?
Yes! Always make sure you’ve come to some kind of a fair arrangement first. Maybe send your client a contract requiring them to fulfill the payment in time, but that’s just a simple example. Even after two years of experience, I still get scammed by clients from time to time if I get too careless!
I worked for an aspiring writer with a very interesting idea for a book-cover. He was kind of a hassle to work with and pressed me to finish the art quickly. But when I delivered the image in time, he told me he didn’t need the cover anymore, and that his bank advised him against paying me for the work I had done. Luckily, I didn’t send him the hi-res version, so I am still able to sell it to someone else. But I felt a bit sad after the whole ordeal!
In this day and age, most artists are influenced by movies, games and other media products. How do you think that’s affected art as a whole?
Of course, I am inspired by them as well! I think that it’s normal for creative people to inspire other creative people. But it’s also important to look outside of the industry for new ideas. Our earth offers so many interesting elements. Take a moment to look at some coral reefs if you’re looking for a good example. Or look at satellite images of our earth!
I myself spend a lot of time studying microscopic textures of anything. Everything with an alien look you can find on our planet. Honestly, I am always on the lookout for interesting shapes.
Caption: I made this for the X Prize competition. I used X-Particles for the geometry again, it’s a fun way to work in 3D.
Forest Village – 3D model set-up
You use Cinema 4D in your workflow, but it’s primarily for motion graphic designers. Does it do anything that makes it advantageous to use for concept art?
In my opinion, it does. The techniques and workflows for motion graphics allow you to come up with complex and interesting shapes very quickly. The Cloner lets you copy a model around in countless interesting ways. I would only have to make one simple model to create an entire 3D scene with it. Those techniques let me work in a very experimental way. I can spend my time looking for nice compositions and shapes to use in my illustrations. I almost never sketch on paper anymore. I’m making the vast majority of my designs choices in Cinema 4D instead.
You’ve also got the the X-Particles plugin – this was originally a particle simulator, but it can be used to create procedural structures and buildings as well as complex animations. Next, OctaneRender is a powerful GPU-based tool that allows me to instantly see the results of my 3D modeling because of the live feedback I’m getting.
Do you believe that working on personal artworks in one’s spare time is important?
Certainly. Competing in competitions and working on projects together with friends is also great! When it comes to contests, it’s like, apart from all of the amazing prizes, it’s amazing to work towards a specific goal together. The competitions on ArtStation are one of the best ways to get a ton of new contacts and exposure.
What’s your favorite movie and why?
Guardians of the Galaxy is my favorite movie, but it’s not really because of the story. It’s more to do with its lighthearted tone and insane visuals that are oh-so cleverly combined with the nostalgic music. It has everything that I would want in a movie, and I’m able to watch it over and over again because of that. It kinds of fits in with all of my personal interests. I’m kind of a hyperactive, loose cannon myself, so maybe I can identify myself with that band of misfits. Who knows?
What’s next for Leon Tukker?
I feel that I kind of live in the moment. I’m not aiming for any particular company at the moment. So I am just trying to improve and look for any work that comes to me!
I’d love to get a bit better at least before the end of the year! I am doing another CGMA course at the moment. It’s in motion graphics this time around! I really want to try and animate my work because that would really add that extra layer of awesomeness to it.
By Vox Groovy staff writer;
All images used with permission by the artist
© Leon Tukker or respective copyright holders
Reading by Ryan Pratt
Article in Slovak language;