Sakari Tiikkaja, The Finnishing Touch

Sakari Tiikkaja

Sakari Tiikkaja

Sakari Tiikkaja works in Haemeenlinna, Finland. He has more than 10 years of experience in advertising and graphic design. After working in Helsinki based advertising agencies he now runs his own business in Haemeenlinna doing illustration and design work for such clients as Nokia, Grand Casino Helsinki and Karisto publishers.

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How did you get started in the graphics industry? Did you start as a traditional illustrator?

Sakari TiikkajaI managed to get into an art school emphasizing graphic design and advertising in Helsinki. That pretty soon led to a steady job in an agency. I had some experience in computers (my dad’s Macintosh Plus). Back then the computers were just being introduced in the design workflow so even today I first take out a pencil and a piece of paper to sketch the ideas at hand. I have always loved drawing so the natural way of doing things is the traditional way. Although I have to admit that there is a noticeable degradation in drawing skills due to using computer for basically everything else but sketching.

What made you pick up Strata 3D? Was there a specific problem/need that caused you to seek out a 3D application?

The reason was MYST. I was fascinated by the scenery of the game and I had to find out how they were made. I’m not sure but I think the first version of Strata I ever laid my hands on was 2.5.3. The first image I did was a little metallic robot holding a simple flower in a field of fog.

How has your workflow changed since learning Strata 3D?

Sakari TiikkajaThe impact was tremendous. Some things that used to take quite a long time digitally airbrushing in Photoshop, I was able to accomplish in a few minutes. And since then Strata has been an essential part of my design toolset. The ease of use and the fact that it works so well with Photoshop are the things that benefit me the most.

What’s a typical day for you? What other software do you use on a regular basis?

I think there is no typical day… but most of them start the same. I brew some coffee and go through mail and emails. That would be 8 am. The phone starts to ring usually around 9 and I go through the day’s stuff with the clients. After that the rest of the day I spend sketching, drawing, designing doing a layout, illustrating, modeling, texturing, photographing, directing a photo shoot… pretty much the usual designer’s stuff.

I use a wide range of software: Photoshop, Painter, Freehand, Illustrator, Strata, Cinema 4D, Silo, Wings, Zbrush, whatever is needed to get the job done.

How did you learn 3D and would you recommend your method to new users?

Sakari TiikkajaI am self taught in 3D. I have read a lot of literature about 3D and done a lot of tutorials. I especially recommend Jeremy Birn’s “Digital lighting and rendering” and all of Chris Tyler’s tutorials. Back then when I started learning 3D there wasn’t much material about the subject but today it is a whole different story. There seems to be a wealth of literature pretty much on every 3D software available. Also the Facebook user group is probably the best user forum there is for getting constructive feedback and help in 3D problems.

Has the introduction of 3D into your workflow caused you to branch out and explore opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise?

Most definitely! It opened whole new worlds of ideas for me.

Do you try to fit your personal style into your Strata work, or do you find the technology dictating your style?

Sakari TiikkajaI try to go after a certain illustrative feel. I’m not that much into photorealistic images, although I love the photorealistic lighting I can achieve using panoramic HDRI images. But I like to overdo the lighting a bit and simplify the amount of light in renderings in order to get the “sweetened” look in the images. Also I am amazed every time someone comes up with an original way of using 3D. Like what Dale Schultz is doing. I like the sculpted approach he takes. Or John Byrne’s Line drawing technique, from which I got the idea to try to emulate a scratchboard style images. I try not to let the technology dictate what I am doing.

For your illustration work, do you normally get material to work from, or just a brief on the type of illustration required?

I usually just get a short brief that describes the essentials of the illustration. If I feel I need more to work with I usually ask for a synopsis or a manuscript of a book if it is available at the time the work is commissioned. With magazine illustrations I usually get the whole copy to read through. But I like to get the bare essentials first, preferably told by the author in person.

Any advice for new users? Where to start, what to avoid, creative advice?

Sakari TiikkajaI strongly recommend to get the basics together first. Colors, composition, modeling basics, lighting, texturing… There is enough to explore for the rest of your life in 3D. Also keep your eyes open. It’s amazing what we don’t see even if we are looking hard.

Thanks for your time, Sakari. We look forward to seeing more of your work!

The pleasure was all mine.