Artist Focus - Oleksiy Golovchenko

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June 8th, 2022

Oleksiy Golovchenko is no stranger to the VFX industry. After working for various high-profile studios, including DNEG, MPC and Morpheus Studios, Oleksiy originally picked Clarisse up after being introduced to it on the job. Now, Clarisse has become a staple in his personal workflow. Join us as we learn more about Oleksiy’s outstanding personal work, how he made his break in the industry, his favorite Clarisse features, and why he chooses Clarisse for his projects time and time again. 

NEO VANCOUVER - Oleksiy Golovchenko

RYE - Oleksiy Golovchenko

Temples of the Dark Sun: Sanctuary

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

Can you tell us a bit more about your background in VFX?

Hi! First of all, I want to thank you for the opportunity to share my experience with Clarisse and some of my workflows. I am a big fan of the software!

I’m a self taught artist and unfortunately (or fortunately?!) I don’t have any traditional academic education. I started doing matte painting and graphic design for television in 2007, after switching from web-design where my main focus was on promotional site backgrounds and photo collages.

I was always inspired by landscape painters like Ivan Shishkin, and after discovering the matte painting forum around 2005, I decided to pursue a career as a Matte Painter. In 2012, I got my first big international matte painting gig on “Expendables 2” in Sofia, Bulgaria and later that year I joined the Digital Matte Painting team at MPC Vancouver. After that, I got a position at Double Negative in the newly opened facility in Vancouver, where over time I moved into the Digital Matte Painting/Environment Lead role and later became an Environment Generalist supervisor for DNEG TV. Recently, I switched my career path and joined Ubisoft Toronto as a Concept Artist.

How would  you describe the type of work you do?

While working in VFX, my main focus was on matte painting and, later, environment work for film and TV. In my spare time, I was always either testing new techniques for the current and future shows or just trying to improve my overall illustration workflow. Things like May Sketch a Day helped a lot to boost my creativity and speed. Or I would just simply unwind creating quick landscape studies. I was always a big fan of the LOTR type of establishing shots and fantasy settings in general, and it’s still my main area of interest - mountains and epic skies. 

RUST IN PEACE- Oleksiy Golovchenko

TEMPLE OF THE DARK SUN: CITADEL - Oleksiy Golovchenko

How were you first introduced to Clarisse?

I think the very first time I ever heard about Clarisse was around 2012 (if I’m not mistaken) in an article about this new software for matte painters. Later on, in 2015, I started learning Clarisse at DNEG as it is a part of the Digital Matte Painting/Environment pipeline and the main tool for rendering.  Since then it has become my weapon of choice and main tool for any environment and rendering freelance or personal work. 

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

The best way to describe Clarisse is as a great tool for rapid prototyping. You can create a very complex scene in a matter of hours using existing elements/kitbashes, or days if you are doing it from scratch. I don’t think there is a tool on the market right now where you will be able to produce first passes and procedural variations with the same speed and quality.

OUTPOST - Oleksiy Golovchenko

How did you find the learning curve of Clarisse after integrating it into your workflow?

One of the best parts about Clarisse is the learning curve. I was very resistant to the overall environment workflow in Maya after switching from Cinema 4D, but working in Clarisse gave me a lot of confidence and helped me to switch to the environment side of the job. Every other software I’ve tried before felt like I was compromising constantly for no good reason. In general, seeing people picking it up in a matter of days and producing great looking scenes makes me think that Clarisse is the best tool for people with 2D backgrounds. You need to get your head around a couple of main principles, and after that it’s just more practice and you are up and running in no time.

What resources did you use to help you learn Clarisse?

Back in 2015, my main source of learning Clarisse was the Isotropix YouTube Channel and production scenes from the shows at DNEG, where I learned some production specific workflows from the senior artists. To this day, the Isotropix YouTube Channel is one of the best places to start learning Clarisse, and then the Discord community will help you to improve even more.

PORTAL - Oleksiy Golovchenko

Now let’s talk about some of your projects. Created to be the cover image for Matte Paint’s “NZ Alps” photo pack, ‘The Portal’ is one of your most popular projects on Artstation. And we can see why! What was your inspiration behind creating this scene? 

The main purpose of this image was to show the scope of possibilities that could be created using the elements from MattePaint photopack. But as always in my personal work, I prefered to add a bit of CG on top of a good photo base. Being a big fan of adventure movies like Indiana Jones, King Kong and so on, I always try to bring a fantasy looking location to the somewhat grounded look and feel, but try to keep the interest in focus so the viewer can come up with the story on their own, if that makes sense.

PORTAL - Oleksiy Golovchenko

Can you take us through your workflow for creating this scene? 

The overall workflow was pretty straightforward. Because the main idea of the image is the Digital Matte Painting approach, I wanted to have a bit of CG to create a main story element. I used an asset from Kitbash3D’s “Ancient Temples” pack, brought it into Clarisse, did a quick procedural lookdev and lighting setup and had a couple of passes within a relatively short period of time. The entire image was created in one day, in 6 or 7 hours, and thanks to procedural workflows in Clarisse, I had a good amount of time to focus more on blending CG and photo elements in Photoshop. 

What made you choose Clarisse for work on this project? 

One of the main selling points for me always was the amount of preparation you need to go through before rendering the elements. I can start working right away on small or medium scenes in Clarisse, with no headaches with propper UV’s or polycount. Especially while scattering. It’s amazing how memory efficient you can be creating large scale environments at home. I just import elements and materials from my library or from Megascans and go from there. I can quickly change or propagate my look onto other elements in a matter of minutes. Another big thing is, because everything is referenced, you can have multiple scene variations without storing gigs of data, almost instant autosave, and the ability to troubleshoot the script in the notepad.

TECH MECHANIKA - SECTOR 4 - Oleksiy Golovchenko

The moody, industrial style and amount of architectural details that are incorporated into ‘TECH MECHANIKA - Sector 4’ are incredible. What was your inspiration for creating this scene? 

This image was produced as a promo piece for Morphous Studios, which I was a part of at that time. I also wanted to expand my portfolio outside fantasy style work. The look of the image was inspired by Blade Runner's Las Vegas location. I didn’t have a concrete idea when I started this piece, so it went through some changes over the course of making it.

What Clarisse features did you find most helpful while working on this scene?

Certainly scattering played a big role in the overall look of the foreground and midground elements, as well as combining scene elements and reusing them for the background. This is another thing I love about Clarisse - it’s ability to reuse the same elements, but have variations almost “for free”. Scatter, combine, rotate, repeat. Or even scatter on top of the scatter, again and again! 

AN EPIC JOURNEY 3 - Oleksiy Golovchenko

‘An Epic Journey’ is your most recent series of work, divided into three parts. Is there a story behind this sequence of epic environment images? 

This series was created to showcase the idea that by having the same render elements as a starting point, you can “go” anywhere and create completely different mood images following the same “prompt”. Additionally, it served the purpose of being the cover image for the MattePaint challenge. So, that’s why there is a lot of space in the sky in the middle reserved for text. 

You credit Jacod Scheidt for the creation of the character used in this series, why is the character an important part of the story? 

I think that the characters are always crucial to storytelling and help to determine the style and feel of the piece. For instance, in this case, I went with a fantasy theme because of this character, but if you switch it to a character in a space suit, you will have a sci-fi setting immediately. Additionally, I think it’s good practice to credit authors of the elements that were used in the piece, because without it, the image would be completely different. Not to mention the time you need to spend on doing that part of the work yourself.

Did Clarisse play the same role in the creation of each installment?

In this series, Clarisse played a similar role as in the “Portal” piece. It provided me with a solid starting point of elements and I was able to build on top of it quickly and efficiently. I knew I would do almost 90% overpaint in the end, so I didn’t go far with the complexity of the scene or lookdev or lighting. I rendered 3 lighting scenarios for the later use and had to adjust the renders maybe one or twice afterwards to fit closer to the photo elements I was using to finish the pieces.

AN EPIC JOURNEY 2 - Oleksiy Golovchenko

Do you have a personal favorite ‘Epic Journey’ scene? 

My favorites are the first and the third one. I think it has something to do with the color scheme in them, as well as compositional arrangements of the elements. It has a lot of open feel in it. The second image feels a bit too closed and contained in a way.

AN EPIC JOURNEY 1 - Oleksiy Golovchenko

What other softwares do you use in the majority of your personal projects? How do you feel Clarisse integrates with them? 

For set dressing, lighting, shading and rendering, I use Clarisse 100%. Outside of that, I use Blender for modeling or geometry editing, GAEA for terrain generation, Substance player to export maps and Photoshop to put everything together. So far, it works great and thanks to CSK, it’s very easy to incorporate into any workflow.

After using Clarisse in your workflow for the past few years, how do you feel the software has evolved over time?

I personally think Clarisse is one of the few examples where evolution happens organically and for a reason. I know the team prefers to keep the quality high, even if it means to push back the release a bit. But in general, if you compare the changes within 10 years, it’s amazing to see how far they have come and how much more versatile and comfortable the software is in 2022.

BONE COLLECTORS - Oleksiy Golovchenko

Do you have a favorite feature or workflow in Clarisse? 

My favorite part is vegetation and rock scattering in any project! It’s crazy how easy it is to create a forest or field or desert compared to the “standard” workflows. Oh, and snapping scene elements holding “S” while set dressing is probably the main thing I want to see in every software from now on!

THE PASSAGE - Oleksiy Golovchenko

What project is up next that we should keep an eye out for?

At the moment, I’m getting out of my comfort zone with environments and stepping into character story telling with the help of Character Creator and Marvelous Designer. That is my main focus for the next couple of months. Thank you for the questions! 

Thank you again Oleksiy! It’s been a pleasure to get the details on your stunning creations in Clarisse. We can’t wait to see what will be up next.

Keep your eyes open for Oleksiy’s upcoming work and let him know how much of a fan you are: ArtStation, LinkedInInstagram