Molly specializes in designing adorable 3D characters in niche environments to present artwork that brings joy!
Seattle, WA, USA
Molly creates dioramas that depict cute animals or mystical creatures interacting with their surroundings. Her portfolio of work can be recognized under the name 'Polys by Molly'!
How did you learn digital 3D art techniques?
Mainly self-taught, but it would not have been possible without the abundance of online tutorials, forums, and resources. The amount of information that's free to consume when you want to learn a skill like 3D is incredible. For example, Pixel Fondue/Nate Vaughn's videos do a great job breaking down even the most complicated Modo processes in an efficient and fun manner.
What is a 'poly', and how did you come up with the name 'Polys by Molly'?
When I started posting, I knew I wanted a name that would clearly articulate who I was and what I did, yet is playful. So I began toying with rhymes and alliterations based on my name and vocabulary associated with 3D. All 3D models are made up of polygons, or polys for short. Add that to my first name, and voila! Brief fulfilled. :)
Do you aim to express anything through your artwork?
I think I always aim to create joyful work. So even when I'm working with melancholy or dark topics, I like to spin them in a cheerful and humorous way. That way, I can make someone's day a little bit brighter, even if it's just for a moment.
When did you begin creating 3D designs?
I've been creating 3D illustrations for just over a year now. In general, I never considered myself an artist. I typically used design and art as a means to an end. For instance, when I started coding games, I learned how to create pixel art for my sprites because I thought it would be "easier." Eventually, I loved making the visual identity for my games more than the overall structure, and pixels turned into voxels, and voxels turned into 3D, and that's where we are now.
*A sprite is a computer graphic element that can depict a two-dimensional image or animated image. A pixel is derived from the words 'picture' and 'element'. It represents the smallest illuminated area on a screen that can show light and colour properties. A voxel is a 3D unit made from a combination of pixels.
Do you like to design anything in particular? If so, why?
Character-centred works are by far my favourite. While I love developing a complete environment, I feel the magic happens when I start with creating the who that would live in this new world. It also gives viewers a portal to empathize with the piece because something is inherently alive within the work, and you're catching a glimpse into their everyday.
What challenges have you encountered when creating a 3D illustration?
No question, imposter syndrome. I don't come from a traditional design background. I didn't draw growing up, and my "day job" is far removed from any artistic practice. So the idea of putting my work out in the world for people to view and comment on was vulnerable and painful. I was sure everyone would immediately rip me apart and hate everything I created. I felt like until my work was perfect, it wasn't allowed to exist. Just saying it out loud sounds ridiculous, but it feels true when you're alone with self-doubt. I want to say it goes away, but that's not true either. I've developed mental tools that help mitigate those feelings, but it still creeps up from time to time.
Is there anything that helps you come up with new ideas?
Lots and lots of ongoing mood boards. Even when I don't have a piece in mind, I'll save images I find online or take during my outings to look at later when I feel creatively stuck—everything from photography to graphic design to 2D illustrations. I'm never sure what will spark a new idea, so I grab it all just in case.
Do you have any advice or tips for someone looking to learn 3D illustration?
Practice and refine. I know it's not groundbreaking advice, but there's a reason. I can't think of a single skill that you master after going to one class or watching one tutorial. It comes down to how much and how often you work on a craft, then as you get more comfortable, push yourself to learn something more advanced and repeat. It sounds monotonous, but if you focus on creating things you love as opposed to someone else, you won't mind it.
Do you believe you have a style? If yes, how would you describe it?
One of the main reasons I love 3D is that it allows you to easily mix stylistic artwork with real-world limitations. While I don't have a style per se, I am heavily inspired by the touchable, cinematic look of stop-motion animation. Cartoon-style characters are often textured with cloth materials and shiny black painted eyes to allow maximum reflections. The environment uses wood grains, plastics, and wax, all materials used in actual dioramas.
When creating a diorama, how do you idealize the scene to place the character in, and what helps you decide which surrounding objects to include?
When creating a diorama, I like to start with the character first. This process makes it much easier to develop a narrative and, in turn, drives the items used in the scene. I don't like to add things that don't make sense, even if they look good. It's not a hard and fast rule, but I think it helps it feel more authentic.
Have you ever thought of adding motion to your characters to create a 3D animated movie, for example?
Absolutely! It's definitely on my list of goals for next year.
In the future, what do you envision for your artistic career? Do you have any goals or milestones you are aiming for?
Ideally, I would be a full-time concept artist for games, animation, and toys. However, I realize that isn't a typical "job," so I've been working to create products based on my art to showcase what's possible and help push my dream forward.
Girl With Bubblegum
How can people best support your artistic practice?
For now, I'm just thrilled people want to follow my journey and enjoy seeing what new work I've produced. I hope in time to create products (books, movies, and games) that people will want, but that's an upcoming chapter. :)
Through creating art, what have you learned about yourself?
Art has been highly therapeutic for me - not just because it's an outlet to express emotion but also because the process reflects how I see myself and what I value. Battling self-doubt and self-worth is complex, and I think it's only exacerbated when creating something open for public commentary. Before making art, I let those fears stop me from putting myself out there and pursuing my dreams. But by creating art daily, I face those internal voices and work to prove them wrong.