August 1st, 2022

Artist Focus: Jacek Irzykowski

Jacek Irzykowski has had an impressive career spanning architectural visualization and visual effects. Learn more about his transition to VFX, his journey with Clarisse, and why the software has become an important asset in his workflow. Let’s take a look at how Jacek uses Clarisse to create his stunning personal projects.

JACEK IRZYKOWSKI - Playing With Mando’s Toys

JACEK IRZYKOWSKI - The Cave

JACEK IRZYKOWSKI - The Cave 

JACEK IRZYKOWSKI - Cosmos: Possible Worlds, Mars Canyon and Mohenjo-daro

Fin Design, Final Composition. Layout & Conceptual Imagery by Jacek Irzykowski. VFX Supervision by Robert Grbevski. 

Hi Jacek! Thank you for sharing your experience with Clarisse and talking us through its place in the workflow of your many breathtaking projects. Let’s get started. 

Can you tell us a bit about your background in VFX, and where you're currently working?

I have been interested in art since my childhood. I started exploring different techniques during my art classes in primary school and began to notice that I had been doing pretty good compared with other students. This gave me some confidence and I started investing more time into drawing and painting. Eventually, this led me to studying architecture where I further developed my artistic and design skills. This is also when I discovered Photoshop and 3D Studio Max which allowed me to get into 3D visualizations. This is how I started creating CG images and discovered I was doing it quite well - which enabled me to secure a job doing 3D architectural visualizations. During that time I started to be very interested in matte painting and the work of Dylan Cole. I realized this is what I really wanted to do! 

While improving on matte painting and concept design, I also did some art direction and creative direction for a studio in China. Following that, I landed my first job in VFX in Iloura, here in Australia. I then worked in studios like Method Studios, Fin Design and Animal Logic. Currently, I work at Industrial Light and Magic Sydney, as Senior Environment Artist (known as a Generalist at Industrial Light & Magic) and Concept Artist. 

How were you first introduced to Clarisse?

I was first introduced to Clarisse by a colleague in Method Studios who was a CG Supervisor, and had previously worked at DNEG where they had integrated Clarisse into their workflow already. That would have been around 2015. 

I was also lucky to have a great lead at Method who helped me a lot to learn the software at the start and show me the power of Clarisse. Big kudos to him! 

JACEK IRZYKOWSKI - Outlaw King, Matte Paintings and Concepts

Method Studios VFX Supervision by Dan Bathell

What inspired you to give Clarisse a try before incorporating it into your workflow?

At that time, the main obstacle we often faced was the inability to render and preview large scenes, especially of landscapes, where millions of elements would need to be placed in the environments. Clarisse gave us the creative freedom to do this using its powerful scattering system in a reasonably easy to use package. At the time, demos of the use of Clarisse on Star Wars films seriously excited us! 

How would you describe Clarisse to someone who hasn’t used it?

A package that allows you to load in a ridiculous amount of assets and render them, plus manage them easily with a pleasant user experience.

How did you find the learning curve of Clarisse after you started using the software?

I am more artistic than a technically-oriented person, yet I was able to get Clarisse going pretty fast, especially thanks to the current access to a vast amount of great tutorials. Clarisse does get more advanced and complex if you like to go deeper into it. But to just start creating doesn't take that long.

What resources did you use to help you learn Clarisse?

I used the official Clarisse tutorials which are excellent! 

JACEK IRZYKOWSKI - Adventure Calling

Your ‘Adventure Calling’ series includes a number of beautiful photo-real environments. What was your inspiration behind creating these images? You also used Clarisse for layout in both projects. Why Clarisse? What stood out about the software in this step of your workflow?

I love adventure films, games and books. The thought of hidden ruins in the jungle or desert has always appealed to me. I am interested in history and archaeology so recreating those images really made me happy! I’m a big fan of the Indiana Jones series, as well as Uncharted games. So, I tried to create something based on those franchises.

I used Clarisse because of the ease of using large vegetation scatters with billions of polygons in 3D scenes. The nice flexibility of exporting custom AOV's also allowed me to control the creative process when compositing the images in Nuke. 

What assets did you use for these projects? And how did you find look development in Clarisse? 

For those particular projects, I used assets from bigmediumsmall.com as well as vegetation from Speedtree, with some additional trees from Evermotion. Look development in Clarisse is nicely integrated and gives the user a lot to work with. The procedural approach also presents a great variety of available options. I like that I can quickly preview my scene using full raytracing while working creatively on materials within the environment as well as the layout.

JACEK IRZYKOWSKI - Adventure Calling Part 2

You go on to applaud the ‘power of Clarisse’ in your work, with 7.8 trillion primitives included in this piece. What aspects of Clarisse do you find most powerful?

The scattering system is by far the most impressive thing about Clarisse once you start to use it. It allows you to render huge scenes very quickly. 

The two installments of this series display quite different settings. How did you approach the two different lighting scenarios, with your second piece looking much more dramatic than the first. Did Clarisse facilitate that exploration? 

Yes definitely. Using an environment light and different HDR maps gives a fast overview of the various available moods of the scene. For this project, I already knew what I wanted to achieve initially and used photo references to match the feeling I was after. This is one of the most important things when working in the VFX industry - always have a photo reference!

JACEK IRZYKOWSKI - The Cave

The character in this piece stands out to us amongst the scenery. What is the inspiration behind this traveler?

Well, the character was a part of the asset package, but having one in the scene always helps with establishing the scale of the environment. I did think about those Indina Jones movies when creating these images, so certainly some inspiration there.

What was your process behind the lighting in this piece? It's gorgeous with the shaft of light creating a huge god ray. A lot of your images are very dramatic, with lots of contrast. Can you talk about how you achieve these results? 

Yes. I wanted to have a thick atmosphere in the cave with that god ray emphasizing it.

I did take advantage of the volume in Clarisse and ability to generate the god ray using it. I like to study the work of great cinematographers and try to implement the inspiration I get from this into my images. 

JACEK IRZYKOWSKI - Cosmos: Possible Worlds, Mars Canyon Concept

Fin Design:  VFX Supervision Robert Grbevski

This scene is from your work on the ‘Cosmos: Possible Worlds’ television show. How did Clarisse help you and the team, finalize large scale environment shots like this? 

For this project, we had a bunch of assets created by the modeling team and my task was to create some concepts of the Mohenjo-daro city. Once again, I took advantage of Clarisse’s wonderful scattering system to establish the look. With Mars images I rendered a base in Clarisse and painted it over in Photoshop. 

The landscape you’ve created is epic. The clear skies, rocky canyons and flowing waters are incredibly lifelike. The details are flawlessly executed. Can you break down your workflow throughout this project?

This was more of a matte painting exercise. These days, matte painting is not as frequently used as in the past, as integration within the pipelines and other departments can be difficult at times. Here I combined and tweaked the number of high resolution images into a conceptual image which helped other team members to establish the canyon look in full CG. 

JACEK IRZYKOWSKI - Cosmos: Possible Worlds, Mars Canyon and Mohenjo-Daro

What challenges did you face in incorporating so many different natural landscapes into this piece? Especially with elements such as the waterfalls, something that is always a challenge?

The correct exposure of all elements against each other was very important, so once again analyzing photo references and looking at a lot of examples proved to be very valuable.

What other softwares do you use in the majority of your personal and professional projects? 

When I create personal work, I also like to use Blender. Recently, I started getting into Unreal Engine. Hopefully I can develop my workflow around it more as the industry seems to be going towards real-time these days. For painting, I am still using Photoshop and sometimes Procreate. At work, I normally use Maya, Mari, Speedtree, Houdini, Nuke, and Reality Capture. 

JACEK IRZYKOWSKI - The Cave

Do you have any particular features that you would like to see implemented in Clarisse in the future?

I think developing more USD support could allow Clarisse to compete better with Houdini and Solaris. I would also love to see improvements in the rendering, especially the elimination of noise.

What project, personal or professional, is up next that we should keep an eye out for?

Personally, I would like to create more conceptual and photo real images, maybe touching on different genres like cyberpunk or sci-fi. 

What advice can you give to aspiring VFX artists who want to take their personal and professional work to the next level?

I think starting from the core skills is essential. This includes learning drawing, painting, studying and practicing photography, and understanding narrative elements of imagery. Analyzing image composition supported by examples by classical artists as well as incorporating established aesthetics standards like golden ratio or rule of thirds in your work. I’m still learning all the time myself, and I think we should never stop. One thing Industrial Light & Magic helped me to understand is how important it is having a solid photographic reference when creating CG images. This would be my number one piece of advice, always have a photo reference and a clear idea what you want to achieve. Another thing that I found helped me a lot over the years was investing time into creating personal work, where you have full control over the creative process. Support it with passion, hard work, sleepless nights and a lot of stress, and the success is yours!

Thank you Jacek!

Check Out Jacek’s Work: ArtStation, Instagram, LinkedIn, IMDb, Website