Designer spotlight: Durk van der Meer – from architecture to VR concept art

A chat with Durk van der Meer, freelance digital artist based in Groningen, Netherlands, about his journey from architectural visualization to concept art and the tools he uses everyday. Durk’s toolkit includes Gravity Sketch, Unity3d, Photoshop, and Substance Painter.

Oluwaseyi Sosanya
Designer spotlight: Durk van der Meer – from architecture to VR concept art
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What I enjoy most about working at Gravity Sketch is the opportunity to meet great artists and designers to learn more about their workflow and getting a peek into their digital toolbox. With an industrial design background I have little knowledge of the concept art world so it was great to chat with Durk van der Meer, a freelance digital artist based in Groningen, Netherlands, about his workflow and how he came from architectural visualization to concept art.

During our chat I also learned a lot about Substance Painter and how useful it is for texturing 3D models and creating efficient designs for use in VR experiences. What was very obvious from my chat with Durk was that Substance probably shouldn’t be considered as a 3D rendering tool, but rather a creative tool akin to Photoshop, as you are still designing gesturally once you are in Substance rather than simply picking colors and dragging them to the geometry. I made a goal to learn this tool through Durk’s YouTube tutorials to see how it can best fit into my own design process. Durk talks about this in the short video below. You can watch the full video of our chat at the bottom of this post.

 
 

I am particularly interested in artists’ and designers’ backgrounds and how they came to the profession. This is mainly because I have made the transition from carpenter to mechanical engineer to industrial designer and now to CEO. In these stories there is always a unique opportunity that arises or a game changing technology that opens the way for the transition to happen; and of course there is pure hard work.

In Durk’s case, his transition came post art school, where he learned painting. Durk first got into 3D through architectural visualization, but at that point was only helping to visualize other’s designs. He really wanted to build his own designs so he got into game engines, first Unreal then Unity, then started building virtual worlds. The transition towards VR was through a job he was asked to do where he used Google Blocks to fill the brief. After this experience he was sold on VR as a creation tool and dove in deeper.

One of Durk's virtual worlds created in Gravity Sketch, painted and rendered in Substance.

He consistently runs personal projects and experiments where he pushes himself to take on more challenging designs he wouldn’t be able to achieve without the use of VR. What VR has allowed him to do is bring a more human and organic feel to his work. The gestural input translated directly into 3D content opens the door to a whole new style and helps artists transition their 2D crafted style seamlessly into 3D. With traditional tools, using a keyboard and mouse to achieve such organic forms has been a great challenge and is left to only those who have full mastery over their CAD software tools. Adopting VR has allowed Durk to explore a new style or a new 3D style which was challenging for him to capture using traditional screen based methods. Durk highlighted some of the benefits being the ability to better understand scale and also the ability to remain more focused when working in VR. He has created some great virtual environments for VR experiences, including the warehouse environment in Gravity Sketch.

Durk’s Moebius vehicle experiment, modeled in Gravity Sketch, materials and render in Substance Painter. Left hand image shows the original artwork by Jean Giraud.
Garden made for VRChat using Gravity Sketch, Substance Painter, and Unity.

In the video below, Durk walks us through his full design process:

If you want to learn more, do check out Durk’s YouTube channel and Twitter page, where he has captured his process and documented it thoroughly.

Two of Durk’s creations (Maranga and Shelter In Place) have also just been selected for Raindance Immersive – Durk used Gravity Sketch within his workflow for creating both of these beautiful environments!

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