Friday, May 1st, 2020 by Julian Karsunky
Have you ever had somebody tell you to “release the kraken”? All innuendo aside, in these trying times we are in dire need of hope and uplifting words, which is why we are particularly grateful to Santiago Vilaseca, our May 2020 3D Artist of the Month. The co-founder of KRAKEN, a Paris-based archviz and graphic art studio, has a strong artistic drive, resulting in a surprisingly diverse portfolio.
Eager to share his creative vision, Santiago talks about the importance of personal projects, balancing the surreal and the real, and the crisis as a chance.
An early sketch of Santiago Vilaseca’s ‘Casa TRI’, the lakeside cabin depicted in this article’s header above.
Hi Santiago, thanks for joining us! To start things off, please introduce yourself to our readers!
Hi everybody! My name is Santiago Vilaseca, I’m a 35-year-old 3D artist from Buenos Aires, Argentina, currently living in France together with my wife and business partner Sélène.
Do you recall when and how you first consciously encountered CGI?
Well, I have been drawing for as long as I can remember, that was my first creative outlet to let my imagination run wild and flourish freely. Then, I discovered video games, and a new world opened up for me. This is the precise moment when I unknowingly started my journey towards CGI: I began buying drawing software and books on the topic. It was frustrating at first, because back then we didn’t have all the tutorials and online resources available now. Still, I guess I was dedicated enough to follow through, and I knew that I needed to learn these computer tools in order to explore my creativity.
When and why did you then decide to pursuit a professional career as a 3D artist?
Honestly, I never really thought about it. I simply let myself be carried away by what I enjoy doing. With hindsight, it totally makes sense that I ended up exactly where I am, but I never planned for it.
What training or education do you have?
I went to a Multimedia Arts School in Buenos Aires, where I learned the basics. From there, I’m mostly self-taught: practicing on my own, experimenting with different techniques and going through the usual trial and error, which is an integral part of the process.
After moving to France, I took the opportunity to enroll for an advanced class at SoA Academy, which I highly recommend. It was very important for me to finally meet and speak directly with tutors, and have instant feedback from other professionals. The greatest challenge for 3D artists today is keeping up with an industry moving ever faster without suffering from information overload.
‘Casa TRI’, design study. A humble abode at heights to observe and reflect.
Please tell us more about your studio KRAKEN, starting with the meaning behind the name!
Originally, the kraken is a legendary sea monster, a giant octopus that attacks the ships of any mortal foolish enough to wander into its domain.
As I said before, I like to let my imagination run wild and immerse myself in worlds of fantasy, old myths and science fiction. One of my favorite fantasy movies is ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and I always loved the quote “release the kraken”. My personal interpretation is to fully unleash our own potential, do away with any limitations, step out of our comfort zone, and overcome all obstacles. This was the time when I realized that I didn’t want to work for someone else anymore, and I needed to release my own kraken!
When and under what circumstances was the studio established?
It all started in 2013 when I moved to Paris with my wife Sélène. We got married and founded KRAKEN, two brilliant decisions :)
What services do you provide?
At KRAKEN, we provide architectural visualization services – from still images to 3D animations – mostly for architects and real estate developers worldwide. We work on all kinds of projects and at all scales: what matters to us is the original artwork that we can reveal in each of them. This is our mission.
Can you tell us about your partner and co-founder Sélène? Between the two of you, how do you divide administrative and management work?
Sélène is a French architect, and the reason why I moved to France. Together, we share KRAKEN and two kids, which keeps us plenty busy!
We are a great team and complement each other well: Sélène is in constant communication with our clients, manages the team and takes care of administrative work, while I’m more focused on the production, and how to translate architectural projects into a strong emotive visual narrative.
What are your general responsibilities and daily tasks as art director?
As art director, my main responsibility is to make sure that we never compromise quality, in any project, for any client. To achieve that goal, I must continue to learn every day, experiment with new paths and expand my boundaries. To me, this is the best way to keep our work fresh and interesting.
Although an obvious work-in-progress, this 3D view of the ‘Casa TRI’ already conveys much of the moody atmosphere of the finished piece.
Is there a specific design philosophy or architectural school of thought KRAKEN adheres to?
Our guiding philosophy is realism, at least at first sight. We believe that strong visuals are surreal ideas realized in a realistic way, with a touch of magic. Since our eye is definitely attracted to what we perceive as real, for us it’s the best way to convey our message. The scenery is free to be unreal, otherworldly or just unusual, but its artistic representation always stays under "real world" constraints.
What inspires you as a 3D artist?
I draw inspiration from all things around me, in my daily life as well as in my travels. Music is another invaluable source of inspiration for me, another way to express myself, my emotions, helping me to look at the world from a different perspective.
What does your usual workflow look like when working with a client?
Most clients approach us with their own story already in mind and just want us to realize that vision. All of our work aims at helping them to choose what they want to say, to step back from their project and focus on what’s important, and to trust us to communicate it properly. We are keen to continuously strengthen the bond of trust with our clients, because it’s the only way we can both achieve a satisfactory result.
Before ‘Casa TRI’, there was the ‘Lake House’. The positive feedback encouraged Santiago to further explore this motif.
Generally speaking, what is your main goal when doing architectural visualization scenes? What is your personal standard as a studio?
Our main goal is to deliver a visual that fulfills our client’s expectations as much as ours, a virtuous cycle for prosperity and happiness.
How are you holding up in these trying times? Has the current crisis impeded your work?
I’m trying to take this quarantine time as an opportunity to step back and think about the work we have done so far, and the paths we have taken. In our profession, we rarely have time to do so. We’re too often under heavy time pressure with overlapping projects, so it feels good to slow down and take a breath. These days offer the opportunity to take time to work on personal projects without a schedule or expectations, to daydream, and to freewheel.
To you personally, what are the biggest benefits and disadvantages of running your own studio compared to traditional forms of employment?
In our field, having my own studio was necessary to assert my artistic vision. I feel it was the only way I could fully express myself, professionally speaking. The freedom to manage my time as I want is also one of the best parts of this venture. Playing guitar between two renderings is priceless!
Considering the experience and knowledge you have gathered over the years, what advice would you give to aspiring business owners?
To persevere, challenge yourself and keep making headway, in whatever is going on in the market. A case in point is this terrible outbreak that we’re living through, forcing us to change and rethink the world around us. It’s the biggest challenge we’ll all have to face. Scary but exciting and full of hope as well!
All entries in Santiago’s cabin series so far at a glance. Knowing about the circumstances behind these creations, there surely is a story to uncover!
Let’s talk about your work in more detail, starting with your submission to our campaign, the ‘Casa TRI’. How would you describe the original idea behind this project?
‘Casa TRI’ is actually part of recent series of personal projects, depicting cabins in different surroundings. I always loved the idea of building my own cabin in the wild, as an escape from the hustle and bustle of our lives. I started with the ‘Lake House’, which was so well received by our community I felt encouraged to continue along this path.
‘Casa TRI’ came next, just as the quarantine began, so it’s a reflection of my hopes and fears in these uncertain times. This is but a small house, no more than I would actually need, at heights to carefully observe our planet, surrounded by troubled waters – everything seems strangely quiet and invites introspection.
How long did it take you to complete the project?
The image itself took me only a couple hours, but the idea went through my mind for days until I felt ready to give it shape. This kind of production process is quite straightforward since I’m only following my own vision.
From what I understand, the ‘Casa TRI’ is a personal project of yours. Can you explain the importance of projects such as this?
I think that what I experiment with in my personal projects directly feeds into my professional work and ensures the sort of constant renewal that is absolutely essential to KRAKEN’s development.
I really need these creative moments that keep me learning about composition, light, framing, and also, about myself. As a matter of fact, when I don’t find time for personal creations, it adversely affects my work.
From time to time, you just have to release the kraken! Santiago Vilaseca, ‘Witch Ceremony’.
Besides conventional archviz scenes, your portfolio also contains more fantastic motifs, such as ‘Zombies’ and a ‘Witch Ceremony’. There is an obvious contrast between these darker subjects and the clean-cut presentation of a commissioned scene. Do these personal projects serve as some sort of creative counterbalance to your professional work?
When I am overloaded with work for weeks and weeks, I’m looking to disconnect from architecture and I like to immerse myself in parallel worlds, creating surreal scenes such as ‘Zombies’ or ‘Witch Ceremony’. Indeed, there is a stark contrast between these darker subjects and commissioned scenes, but I believe that they feed one another to maintain some sort of balance. I like to explore a distinct color palette and to play with lighting effects in these personal creations. This adds an extra dimension to my everyday practice.
As an experienced art director and 3D artist, what tips or insights can you share with our readers?
First, I would recommend that you develop strong skills, stimulate your sight with photography, sharpen your eye with drawing or any form of art. Then, learn about other 3D artists, and always confront your work with others in a continuous improvement approach. We have so much to learn from each other!
This is why I’m grateful for the support that RebusFarm gives to our community, with this challenge, providing visibility to young artists and a unique opportunity to share our work with people from all over the world. I’m truly honored to have been selected as 3D Artist of the Month and to be able to open myself to other professionals about my vision and artwork.
The pleasure is all ours! Speaking of, have you used RebusFarm before? If so, please tell us about your overall experience. Is there anything you especially like about our service?
I must confess that I have not yet had a chance to use RebusFarm but I plan to soon. We certainly look forward to it!
In closing, is there anything else you want to say? Any present or upcoming projects you’d like to mention?
Thank you so much for reading! I want to wish the best of luck to all the amazing artists submitting their work for next month’s challenge! I can’t wait to discover the upcoming selection!
Everybody, stay positive, we’re all in the same boat and we’ll row together.
Well said! Santiago, thank you so much for taking the time and all the best in the future!
Keep up with Santiago Vilaseca and KRAKEN Studio here:
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