Image Courtesy of Steve Talkowski.

Get to know the artists | Steve Talkowski and Adrian Wise

By - - 3ds Max , Arnold , Flame , Maya , MotionBuilder , Mudbox , Shotgun
8 mins
Last modification: 24 Feb, 2021

Welcome back!

Can you guess what this week's blog is about? If you guessed an interview with Steve Talkowski and Adrian Wise, the artists who modelled the props featured in Mkali's Mission, then you're right (or maybe you're just good at reading titles)! We are so lucky to have these two crazy-talented artists on the team, and I'm excited for you to learn more about them. Let's get into it!

Joining us for the first time?
We’re producing an epic 3D sequence called Mkali’s Mission using each of the tools in the Media & Entertainment Collection and sharing the whole journey right here on AREA. Take a look back at earlier blog posts in this series to learn more.

Steve Talkowski

Steve was responsible for modeling Mkali's gadgets, including her crossbow. His extensive 3D experience shined through when he delivered the uber-detailed models.


Tell us about yourself.  
I have been working in the field of 3D computer graphics for over 30 years. I studied figure drawing and painting in art school, while also seeking out various computer systems on campus, and shooting frame-by-frame animation with an old Super 8 camera.

I landed my first gig as a 3D artist at Rhonda Graphics in Phoenix for 7 years, then as a senior animator at Blue Sky Studios for 7 years, followed by stints as an animation director at Hornet Inc. and Guava NYC.

Becoming disillusioned from the daily grind, I switched to freelancing in 2008. This provided me with the time and opportunity to create, produce, self-finance, and release my first designer art toy, Sketchbot, in 2010. I currently reside in Los Angeles with my wife and daughter, continuing as a freelance art and animation director, 3D modeler and animator, while further working on the development of my original robot IP.


Artwork by Steve Talkowski, courtesy of Substance by Adobe.


Image courtesy of Steve Talkowski.


What drove you to become a 3D artist? 
I’ve always been intrigued by computers. It seemed a natural progression to find ways to add technology to my artist tool palette. Wanting to further explore the human figure in motion was the driving force in pursuing animation and 3d computer graphics. My love of model-kit building was a natural progression to 3d modeling, being able to control every aspect of the process.

Tell us about your work on Mkali’s Mission.
The modeling approach for Mkali’s weapons was pretty straightforward to how I typically model similar assets, so no hurdles there. I’ve been using Maya since version 1.0. It ticks all the boxes for my modeling and animation needs and is one of the few pieces of software that I use on a daily basis. Plus, I’m ultra-comfortable using it. Utilizing Maya’s excellent UV layout tools also helped greatly.


Image courtesy of Steve Talkowski.


Image courtesy of Steve Talkowski.


Do you have any tips for people looking to start their own company? Has the pandemic affected the way you work?
I’m just a one-man shop but have worked hard on building the Sketchbot brand. Passion and perseverance are key. As a freelancer who already worked primarily from home, the pandemic didn’t affect me that much. Keeping to a daily routine helped me cope the best.

What is the weirdest thing you’ve modeled?
Hmm, perhaps a sculpture of female legs crossed with a handgun for a graffiti artist. It turned out wicked cool though.


Image courtesy of Steve Talkowski.


Adrian Wise

Adrian was responsible for modeling and texturing the snowmobile. He used his product design and 3D modeling experience to bring Mkali's wicked cool ride to life. 


Tell us about yourself.  How did you get started in 3D?
Based in Norwich, Norfolk in the East of England, I had a small studio creating 3D content for stock and asset stores for over 15 years.  I’m originally from Manchester where I studied Product Design in university in 1993.  Back then, 2D CAD was established but the idea of 3D CAD was new.

AutoCAD11 had introduced basic 3D modelling, but a new application called 3D Studio Max (Release3) pre-Windows 95 which ran in DOS was introduced to me and blew my mind! I immediately taught myself how to use the software as no one in university had any experience with it. Back then, YouTube didn’t exist, so you simply had to figure things out for yourself. 

By the time 3D Studio Max V1 had released, I was teaching 3D modelling in university before I’d even graduated. I stayed in teaching for several years, lecturing in product design and CAD, while also freelancing as an industrial designer.

Why do you use 3ds Max?
In 2009, I relocated to Norfolk and transitioned from Industrial & Product Design to creating content for Media & Entertainment industries. Instead of working on a product from concept to engineering to production for six months to a year, I was now creating virtual products for visualization in hours or days.  As a one-man operation, 3ds Max was the ideal solution as it allowed me to do just about anything out-of-the-box.


Image courtesy of Adrian Wise.


What was your process for breaking down the concept art of the snowmobile featured in Mkali’s Mission?
When Ken sent me the snowmobile concept art, my engineering background immediately went to see how I could make it work. Snowmobiles articulate in particular ways for suspension and steering, so I had to break down the concept into sections when thinking about the hinge and movement. I also had to add certain components to the model for steering to work properly. 

Much of my day-to-day work is modelling and rigging machines, so my approach was based on which parts would need to remain static and which parts would be dynamic. Looking at the storyboard, I noticed that there were close and distant shots of the snowmobile, so I elected to create the model with a subdivision workflow. This enabled me to create high-res models for the close-up shots and low-res models for distant shots. 

Another consideration when building the snowmobile was the character design. When I started modelling the snowmobile, I only had the concept art to reference. Ken set up frequent Zoom meetings with the team to discuss design decisions regarding the mechanics of the snowmobile and character design. After blocking in the rough shape of the snowmobile from the concept art, I built a quick character rig to drop on the snowmobile and sent it to Jacques in Australia who was modelling Mkali. This allowed us to quickly make design decisions about size and scale. The last thing we wanted was for Mkali to be unable to reach the handlebars, or for the seat to be too wide for her to sit on.


Image courtesy of Adrian Wise.


Image courtesy of Adrian Wise.


How has the pandemic affected the way you work?
Working remotely isn’t new to me and neither is working with clients overseas in different time zones. The global pandemic and lockdown have actually given the rest of the world a glimpse into what my everyday life is like - working from home, working remotely, skype calls with clients, and file sharing in the cloud. 

This is how I have worked for the past ten years - I work, I have a question, I fire it off and wait for a response. Sometimes I’ll get a response later that day, but usually when I’m just about to finish the day! Similarly, I could start my day off with a request in my inbox and would have the day to get it done before sending it off. By the time I’ve sent it off, it could be the next day for the client who is halfway around the world.  Though I have to say working with experienced 3D professionals remotely is a lot more fun than clients who ask my favorite question... “can you just”.  


Image courtesy of Adrian Wise.


What is the weirdest thing you had to model?
I have a love of robots and for years it seems that all I did was design robots. A few years back, I had a client with a tool hire business who found one of my robot characters on a stock site and commissioned me to create his company’s brand mascot.

He told me I already had most tool models he needed, so for the next couple of weeks, emails went back and forth over the character design of the mascot. We got it signed off and I asked him for a list of tools he wanted his robot to be using. My library contained all the common things everybody has in their garage, but tool hire companies tend to hire out big industrial machines that most people don’t own. So, there I was modelling and rigging industrial pressure washers, floor sanders, nail guns, rotavators, and laminate floor cutters! I didn’t know there was such a thing, though I have to say the most obscure thing was a puddle pump!


Image courtesy of Adrian Wise.


Image courtesy of Adrian Wise.


Anything else you want to share?
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Ken and the whole team for a really fun project. I look forward to seeing the final video and the awesome assets all come together.


See Steve and Adrian's work on Mkali's Mission. 

Want to see more of Mkali's Mission? Visit our virtual animation studio to discover the different stages of the process and to get a glimpse at some real 3D eye candy.


Posted By
Published In
  • 3ds Max
  • Arnold
  • Flame
  • Maya
  • MotionBuilder
  • Mudbox
  • Shotgun
  • Film & VFX
  • Games
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