Google AR and VR

Tilt Brush Artist in Residence: Meet Steve Teeple

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Tilt Brush lets you paint in 3D space with with virtual reality. In January, we launched the Artist in Residence (AiR) program to showcase what’s possible when creative artists experiment with this new medium. The resulting works of art have been incredible, and you can check some of them out right in the Tilt Brush app itself.

This post is the first in a series about these artists that will go a little deeper into their process. We’ll feature a different artist in each one and explore their creative influences, their experience using Tilt Brush, and any tips they have for aspiring VR artists. To kick things off, we caught up with Steve Teeple, aka Teeps.

Google: Could you walk us through your creative process in Tilt Brush? How did you get comfortable using it?

Steve Teeple: I was lucky enough to have early access to Tilt Brush, so I’m comfortable with it and it’s my go-to tool for many different things. I work primarily as a digital sculptor and concept artist, so I tend to approach the app as a way to quickly sketch out characters and creatures that I normally wouldn’t be able to draw on a traditional 3D setup.

I like to build up my strokes in the app as if they were clay tubes or paper mache, which feels fairly natural and somewhat like an extension of other 3D apps I already use. In Tilt Brush, I enjoy changing the background to a solid color and pulling the thing I’m designing to eye level so I can just focus on creating with no distractions, and see how things look in life size. As someone who designs characters and creatures, I can say it’s a truly special feeling to be able to stare one down at eye level while you’re working.

Forest Spirit

How is Tilt Brush different from working in other mediums? Is the openness ever daunting?

At my home office, I’ve set up my [HTC] Vive to be separate from my main desk to allow for more room to spread out and work. While it's not the biggest area, when I put on the headset I feel like I am entering my "other" office. The openness of it all is somewhat daunting when starting out, but once you start painting it begins to feel like the only limitation is what your brain can think up (and how far you want to teleport). I mean it when I say Tilt Brush is truly unlike any other creative experience I’ve worked with. 

We loved the Multiverse Guardian. What was your inspiration for that and some of your other VR creations?

I’ve always dreamed of giving up the technical 3D work I do in order to just be a digital illustrator, so those artists inspire me the most. The biggest overarching influences will always be the greats, such as Moebius, Katsuhiro Otomo, Mike Mignola, Ian Mcque, Killian Eng, and many more.

For the Multiverse Guardian piece, Peter Mohrbacher's "Angelarium" series was my biggest inspiration, especially the way he mixes these fantastical and surreal characters with mythologies. I think a lot about the concept of the multiverse, or simultaneous worlds existing parallel to our own. This was an idea I was exploring: that there’s a gatekeeper or guard who watches over these worlds in a limbo state between them.

I enjoyed creating this piece, and it was an opportunity to learn about exporting models out of Tilt Brush. It was the first time I took something from VR through the rest of my regular workflow.

What lessons have you learned from creating in Tilt Brush that you would share with other creators?

The biggest thing was getting used to not just creating in 2D. It’s a simple concept, but it's hard to break out of this mindset once you start designing in virtual reality. Being able to move around and look above and below something impacts the creative process. I encourage people to let go of any current artistic habits and try to form new ones inside this tool. For example, before working with the Vive and Tilt Brush, I struggled with creating full environments. I’ve found that once I can walk around a piece and let go of my normal creative barriers, I have a lot of fun designing them.

With Tilt Brush, we’re all on the same playing field. No one has truly these tools mastered yet, so it keeps you open to new techniques and progression as an artist.

Were there any funny moments or cool things that happened while using Tilt Brush?

Some of my funniest moments came before teleport existed, and before scale and rotation were introduced. When I was first making stuff with Tilt Brush, I was over at my friend Isaac's place painting a large creature to experiment with scale. It was so large that the scene was hitting the boundaries of the work area, so I was standing on chairs and running into his walls trying to add details to it.

Before scaling was introduced, I ran into another problem. I’m very tall, and I live on the bottom floor of a house that has low ceilings. I was designing lots of character sketches, and I would start at the highest point I could with the head. But when it came time to make the legs, I would always run out of room. I now have dozens of sketches of characters with short, stumpy legs. I tried to work it into their designs, but I always thought it would be funny if people really knew why that was.

All to say, teleport and scale and rotation were game changers for me. I can’t wait for more workflow improvements to the app like these. Each one has completely shifted how I approach problem solving in the app, and that is very exciting to me.

Teeps is a digital artist currently residing in the city of Oakland, CA, where he dreams of vast 3D worlds and mind bending creatures. Check out more of his work on his website.