CGI Painting Showcase #1: Just a living room…

How can we use CG software to showcase paintings?

This article is also available on Medium.

Earlier this week, I talked about a project the abstract painter Cali Rezo collaborated on to show her latest series of paintings, “Nid/Nest”. Together, we made a 1′ video that gives you a tour of a virtual exhibition and allows you to discover a unique (fictitious) scenography that showcases the 7 (real!) paintings in this series.

To continue in this art/CGI vibe, we’ve decided to use CG software once again – this time, we wanted to work on still images and focus more on creating an environment as lifelike as possible. And thanks to 3D software like Blender, we can actually invent places out of thin air and have them come to life! This is a real benefit for Cali as, sometimes, she doesn’t have the possibility to take a picture of her paintings in situation, or the painting is just too large to fit in her studio.

This first painting showcase takes place in a simple zen-inspired living room; Cali’s painting is a 130 cm x 130 cm piece that she made at the beginning of 2021: “T-001-21”.

About this realization…

For the ones who are curious about what’s going on under the hood, here is a bit of technical details 🙂

Note: this part is for people already familiar with CG renders and in particular with rendering.

I made this image using Blender, once again – and of course, I switched to the physically-based Cycles render engine! By taking some CC0 3D resources from Blendswap and some PBR textures from ambientcg.com, we could make really photorealistic objects.

To design the room and find an ambiance we liked, Cali and I first browsed Instagram and looked at hundreds of architectural designs. This way, we had some CG or real picture references to draw inspiration from.

Adding props in your scene is what makes it believable – but as we wanted a calm and somewhat minimalist space, we had to carefully choose which furniture to add. Cali and I looked for various models that would make a consistent set of furnishings and, together, we designed the room and placed the props. By the way, a quick tip: if you can, try and tinker with your stuff so it looks a bit worn, or eroded, or simply messy, like in this picture where we intentionally added some disturbances at the edge of the rug:

After populating the scene, we worked for a while on lighting because, as Andrew (from Blender Guru) recalls in this amazing tutorial on photorealism, lighting is about the most important part in lifelike CG rendering! By mixing an HDRI map and a sunlight through the window, we managed to get this soft but still soothing ambient light. In particular, the discreet band of lights in the ceiling that lights the top of the curtains is a subtle but nice detail.

The final touches are post-processing steps: by having a bit of depth of field on the camera, you increase the immersion in the scene and you better control where the eyes of the viewer focus – in our case, we wanted to make the painting the point of attention. Similarly, the little vignetting on the image helps with the general composition of the image.

Conclusion

This new project is yet another opportunity to mix art and science, which I just love! I’m really fond of browsing endless libraries of assets or making my own, thinking about interior design and searching for the most beautiful light possible…

I hope you like this first painting showcase image – if you do, feel free to leave a comment and follow me or Cali on Instagram to be informed as soon as we publish a new one 😉

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