Shir Pakman sculpts 3D characters inspired by the brushstrokes of classical art

Using a mix of software and techniques, the Tel Aviv-based illustrator merges traditional art with a more modern aesthetic.

1 June 2022

Stumbling across the work of Shir Pakman is like following a rainbow and actually finding a pot of gold at the end. Across her masterfully created 3D illustration and animation, she’s established a distinct and consistent style – one that’s hyperreal and drenched in unusual character development.

Based in Tel Aviv, Shir has gained a wealth of experience in the field, from majoring in Screen Based Arts at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem to premiering her graduating film at multiple international festivals. She continued to work in the world of advertising as a 3D designer, mostly for high-tech companies, before venturing out as a freelancer – spurred on by the opportunity to work on a short animated film named Black Side by Uri Lotan. To this day, her roster of clients include Google, Microsoft, Wix, The New Yorker and Meta, while she currently holds a post with Gunner Animation working as 3D illustrator and animator.

Shir’s main source of inspiration has, a little surprisingly, risen mostly from classical art. With an aesthetic that’s undeniably modern, there are some moments where you get a more traditional feel – the body postures, portrait framing and blooming garden environments, namely. This interest in classicism derives from the fact she studied history of art and painting in the past. Oh, and she also worked as a private painting tutor. “From Dutch art to German and Scandinavian,” she tells It’s Nice That, “it’s all in my pool of references.” Her most inspiring, though, is the work of Lucian Freud who made her “fall in love” with art and portraiture. Then, once the ideas have been sparked, Shir will take to the sketching process before finding a composition. Autodesk Maya is her 3D program of choice, which helps her model her artworks as close to the sketch as possible. Next, she adds texture and lighting in C4D Octane, then renders the final image and touches up in Photoshop “to give it a bit more character”, she adds. All of which can take between a few days to two weeks.


Copyright © Shir Pakman, 2022

A recent example of Shir’s classical-meets-new-age output can be seen Portrait of a Man Resting. “In this image,” she explains, “I wanted to focus on textures. Doing just that, the artwork – featuring a man laying back in the nude, glasses resting on his chest while the sun slowly disappears – has combined the painterly texture of a brush stroke with the free-flowing movement of an oil painting. I modelled the character in 3D and then painted the UV (surface of the model) with hand-painted brushstrokes to get as close as I could to the brushstrokes of a real painting,” she says. “Then, I implemented this texture back to the 3D program for a more cohesive look.” To emphasise the magical realism, Shir then went over the borders of the model with brushstrokes to blur any sharpness.

Shir’s portfolio is the type that you can see working in all sorts of situations, from an editorial commission, a branded campaign to a personal piece hung up on a gallery or in a home. We’re excited to see where Shir takes her practice next, but for now, she gives us a clue that she hopes to bring her artwork to a more “professional world”. Leaving us with an inspiring point to consider, she concludes: “You can be an artist even if you don’t live off your art. I don’t wish to tell anyone else’s story or to educate or voice my opinion on things. But to show what I feel, and if it touches others, it makes me happy.”


Shir Pakman: Portrait of a Man Resting (Copyright © Shir Pakman, 2022)


Shir Pakman: Earrings (Copyright © Shir Pakman, 2022)


Shir Pakman: Flower (Copyright © Shir Pakman, 2022)


Shir Pakman: Gently Peel the Skin (Copyright © Shir Pakman, 2022)


Shir Pakman: The Attack (Copyright © Shir Pakman, 2022)


Shir Pakman: Red Hat Big Nose (Copyright © Shir Pakman, 2022)


Shir Pakman: Venus with Apple (Copyright © Shir Pakman, 2022)


Shir Pakman: Hundred Miles an Hour Just Before Bedtime (Copyright © Shir Pakman, 2022)

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Shir Pakman: Woman (Copyright © Shir Pakman, 2022)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima. 

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