Meet our AREA July 2020 Artist of the Month, Michael Khoo! We've been low-key obsessed with Michael's post-apocalyptic-meets-cyberpunk design visualizations for as long as we can remember. Check out his interview below to get to know him and his work a little better.
Hey everyone. My name is Michael Khoo and I'm a 3D Visualizer in an architecture studio based in Melbourne called Cera Stribley.
Rendering is both my day job and something that I love doing as a hobby. During my free time, I work on personal pieces that are often Sci-Fi themed.
How did you get started in the 3D industry?
I was mesmerized by action-themed comics and Sci-Fi movies from a young age, and I would spend my free time sketching my favorite characters. Even though I'm not great at sketching, I'm pretty sure that things started from there.
After high school, I took up Architecture Design studies in uni, as a result of endless career pathway counselling sessions with my parents. Design studies wasn't my first choice but it was definitely better than some other options on the table.
Ever since then, 3D and CAD softwares became my bread and butter.
What was your first job in the world of 3D?
Upon completing my uni studies, I was referred to Plus Architecture in Melbourne to be their in-house Visualizer. I started as a Graduate Architect and eventually transitioned to an Architectural Visualizer, as I was still unsure about the industry.
My ex-boss, Ian, was very kind and supportive through my role tansition. Funny enough, my indecisiveness only lasted for about a month before I decided to become a full-fledged 3D Visualizer.
What inspires your work?
I'm a huge fan of Sci-Fi which definitely inspired me during my studies.
I also find myself paying homage to post-apocalyptic/cyberpunk genres (like Tron and Bladerunner) in the color palettes of my work.
What do you love about your job?
I love the ability to give life and character to a design. It's very satisfying to see people's excited expressions and to receive compliments whenever I do a great job. I guess this applies to every job, but because Arch Viz artists often have a quick turnaround for projects, it feels like the reactions and compliments keep flocking in (so long as you’re consistently good).
What's your least favorite part about your job?
I don't like detail modelling and UV Mapping texturing. My job hardly involves these processes, but they get on my nerves whenever I have to do them.
Who inspires your work?
There are a couple of Arch Viz studios that I look up to daily, as a source of inspiration (such as MIR and Beautyandthebit), but Pedro Fernandes from Arqui9 Visualization has to be the one that drives me the most.
Pedro's ability to turn almost any building into an atmospheric art masterpiece is jaw-droppingly amazing and his YouTube tutorials are so insightful and inspiring that I find myself rewatching them from time to time to refuel my inspiration.
What project have you worked on that you are most proud of?
To be honest, it changes throughout the years. But if I have to pick one, (or two), I'd have to say it's the piece for the HP Mars Render Competition back in 2018 entitled "Reminiscence - A Martian's Goodnight". It was the piece that got me featured a couple of times in various platforms and I'm quite happy with the outcome despite only being shortlisted as a finalist for the competition.
The other one would be an image that I've worked on recently for Fabio Palvelli's Weekly Render Challenge called "Aquarius". I was extremely satisfied with the outcome of the project and I came in 6th for that week's challenge.
How do you incorporate 3D software in your daily workflow?
3ds Max has been my daily software for the past few years to set up a scene for rendering. There, I experiment with the modeling, texturing, lighting and camera setup. Once I'm satisfied with the result, I then render the composed view with V-Ray.
Finally, I'll do some post-production in Photoshop to complete the piece.
What is the most valuable advice you've received in your career?
I continue to push myself everyday with the following words of wisdom looping in my mind constantly. The last two might feel as if they are contradicting each other, but if an artist can manage both well, the sky's the limit.
I'm also giving them a shoutout because their words have been spiritually guiding me throughout my journey in Arch Viz.
"Fake it 'till you make it." - Ian (PlusArchitecture)
"Keep learning, never settle and never feel too comfortable." - Fooch (UnsignedStudios)
"Do it in post." - Pedro (Arqui9)
"Everything is better in 3D" - Dom (CeraStribley)
"Fake it 'till you make it"
What projects are you working on next?
Back in the office, there are a couple of designed buildings awaiting me to cook them up. On the personal side, I'm working on an environment art piece for a game art competition entry.
Want to see more from Michael?