While one sculpts in VR, the other curates via a TV: Meet the new 3D studio, Yonk
Niels van der Donk and Victoria Young together make Yonk, an exciting new studio based in The Hague producing 3D imagery and animation using Oculus Rift.
Based in The Hague, Yonk is a new studio putting out work unlike anything else we’ve really seen before. Broadly best described as a 3D and animation studio, Yonk is the brainchild of Niels van der Donk and Victoria Louise Young who met in a VJ class while studying at KABK (Victoria was on exchange from Central Saint Martins at the time), and which now produces expressive, at times downright weird, imagery, all on an Oculus Rift.
With a name that takes inspiration “from celebrity super-couples such as Kimye and Brangelina,” Niels and Victoria decided to form Yonk after “realising we still had enough hours in the day to work at our full-time jobs AND fulfil our creative needs by producing our own work,” Niels tells us. Victoria had been working in cafe and got “sick of moping around waiting for someone to ‘discover’ me whilst making no work”. When Niels saw the 3D animation she was producing in her spare time, he “got jealous, so also wanted to give it a go. When we were both competent with our 3D abilities we invested into a PC and later on the Oculus Rifts, to enhance our workflow and expand our tools.” And the rest is history.
We asked the pair to describe how they see their unusual practice sitting within the creative landscape. “At first sight,” Victoria begins, “Yonk is a 3D animation and image studio, but I like to think Yonk doesn’t just sit into that set creative practice, it is very much an expression of myself and Niels as people. Whatever is new, fun and exciting we want to be associated with. At this moment in time, it is using Oculus Medium to create our work but we are working many self-initiated projects that use different mediums and practices. We want Yonk to be as intuitive and spontaneous as we are.”
It’s an approach which was directly affected by their education at the Royal Academy of Art, a university which encourages a multidisciplinary and explorative approach to making in all its students. “At the Royal Academy of Art, I had the opportunity to try everything from creative coding to performance art. I think it would be a shame to put all of our attention in one practice now. Outside of 3D-sculpting, we both have a larger skill set – I’ve been working in the graphic design field for a while now and have been producing music since I was 12. We would like to see if we can merge all these different practises together to create a broad and more expansive portfolio.” In turn, they’re currently looking at how they could use game engine software and body tracking as tools for animation.
While Yonk produces work through myriad techniques, there’s no doubting it has a distinctive look across its portfolio. VR sculpting is a method which allows Niels and Victoria to work quickly and intuitively, resulting in “almost childlike sculptures”; an aesthetic at odds with the often slick and polished veneer produced by 3D rendering software. Niels talks us through their process for producing sculptures: “It always starts from the simplest sketch on a piece of paper whilst sitting on the train or a little chit chat between us at a bar. Then we take a picture of the sketch made and place the image in a VR space for reference. Then I or Vikki starts sculpting in VR, whilst the other observes and curates via the TV screen. After we export a 3D file of the sculpt, we put it in Blender, materialise it, create lighting etc and render it out. We both like to experiment making different textures using Blender’s material node system, usually, we aim for a high detail within these textures to juxtapose the sketched-out nature of the objects.”
Recently, this has seen the pair creating a series of characters for DEMO Festival which were wedged into the screens they inhabited; a series interpreting the work of illustrator Sander Ettema, taking his 2D images and making them 3D characters; and an untitled series turning their favourite news stories into images. “The process is a true collaboration, we both come from different creative backgrounds which complement each other very naturally,” Victoria concludes. As a studio with such an open-minded and excitable approach to creativity, and as one which utilises technology in such an unexpected way, Yonk is definitely a studio to keep an eye on.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.