The Rotor Blog

Meet the Rotor Team: Dervla Hillan

Check out our content creator Dervla Hillan and find out all about her artistic process for developing new video collections and editing styles.

Meet Dervla Hillan; The Artist Behind the Digital Art

How did your art journey begin?

Art has been a passion of mine from a very young age and at this point in my life the title of ‘digital artist’ is a defining part of my identity. Growing up, I was captivated by film, games and animation, particularly the inner workings of how they were made. I would watch director commentaries and “making of” documentaries over and over again to better understand the different creation processes. When I went on to study Animation at university, I gained a greater insight into building worlds, storytelling, technical animation and filmmaking which just fuelled my passion further.

Tell me about your artistic style.

Trying to blend in with other artists or cashing in on a trend has never been my approach. Instead, I work to express my individuality through my own personal and recognizable style. I take influence from artists, musicians, filmmakers and other digital artists who have done the same. I believe that the art and digital landscapes will evolve rapidly over the next ten years so it’s a really exciting time to embark on a career in this field. My attitude has always been that in order to improve your craft, you should recognise that there’s always more to learn. With new techniques on the way, this is the perfect time for me to learn, experiment and create new art and interactive experiences. I find that my projects never quite meet the initial vision, mostly due to my own high standards, however, my enjoyment comes from the process and experience of creating rather the final result.

What are your artistic influences?

As a visual learner, inspiration tends to come from anything I see. I’m a visual hoarder, curating massive mood boards and visual libraries for myself to refer to as I’m creating. This allows me to pull different ideas and elements together and recreate it through my own personal ‘lens’, developing something brand new in the process. The artists that inspire me the most are those who are entirely and confidently individual, unafraid to express themselves. This attitude always shines through in an artists’ work, and it constantly inspires me to emulate it in my own creations.

What materials, mediums and equipment do you use when creating?

I use a Huion Kamvas 22” drawing tablet with a very high pen sensitivity which allows me to draw and sculpt digitally, without exerting too much pressure on my hand. For software, Adobe Photoshop is my go-to for drawing and layout design and After Effects and Premiere Pro for video editing. Occasionally I’ll use Illustrator for graphic design. In terms of 3D software, I use zBrush for digital sculpting, Substance Painter for painting textures, Marvellous Designer on occasion for cloth simulation, and Autodesk Maya for modelling, retopology and UV mapping, lookdev, layout, lighting and rendering. At the minute, I’m working to add Unreal Engine 4 to my skill set so I can delve further into game design in the future.

What are your go-to Techniques?

At the start of a project, I draw out loose concepts and plans traditionally using a mechanical pencil and sketchbook and write a lot of ideas down on paper. Past the ideation stage, my work is completely digital so I draw using a Huion Kamvas 22” drawing tablet and Photoshop. For my 3D work, I love to sculpt digitally with my tablet using zBrush, and hand paint my textures with Substance Painter. I really enjoy the technical side of processing models in zBrush and Maya once they are sculpted. This involves defining the model topology and UV mapping, building shadders, lighting and rendering. In a quest to expand my skill set, I’ve been delving into rigging, character animation and game design. Next on my list is Python, so I can look into building my own plug-in scripts for Maya and refine my process that much more.

What are some recent projects you’ve been working on?

I recently designed our Florals collection, which was directly inspired by Jonathan Zawada’s work for the music album Skin by Flume. Zawada created a range of brightly coloured animated flowers with abstract elements, shot against neon backgrounds. His work has a soft and dreamy quality that reflects the tone of the album so I wanted to emulate a similar mood in our Florals collection. Just as Zawada uses a variety of flowers, plants and lights as his imagery, I choose to explore three different flowers within the Florals collection; a Moth Orchid, a Foxglove and a Chrysanthemum. Mixing these images with different colour schemes and varying backgrounds resulted in visually compelling clips for our Florals collection.

Outside of Rotor, I just worked on Trophy Run which was a freelance music video project created for Belfast based electronic musician Son Zept (Liam McCarten). The aesthetic of this video and the smiley face ‘character’ were directly inspired by the design of old 90’s rave posters. We wanted to imagine these posters had come to life in a 3D world. The final music video did the Trophy Run track justice thanks to the different editing techniques and repetitive imagery used, which worked to throw the viewer off guard.

Want to see more of Dervla’s work? Follow Dervla on her website, Instagram and Facebook.