Have you checked out our new newsletter, The Index? Every two weeks, we break down a rising style, trend or technology in the world of creative work, sharing five artists at the cutting edge of the movement. Plus, every two months, we invite one industry tastemaker to share their pick of creatives to commission and follow – all completely free. Make sure you never miss a single one below!
In comparison to other mediums, 3D is still a discipline in its infancy. You may have also heard that it’s undergoing a boom, driven by the accelerating power of GPUs (graphic processing units) and its growing accessibility – self-taught 3D designers are now well in the majority, according to our recent 3D Skills Report with Adobe. This combination of newness and popularity is creating a more self-referential medium, meaning that once a trend is established, it really gets going.
For example, you’ve likely seen some variation on one of these visuals in 3D before – a selection of obscure floating objects, like a piece of plastic interwound with mountaineering rope. Or a glassy, desert-like environment resembling a home from Selling Sunset, if it was listed on Tatooine. Another huge theme in the world of 3D is that a lot of the work is bizarre.
Dalmatians shaped like tables, bright pink figures riding horses with furry udders, dystopian Sims-like characters; you name it and a 3D artist has probably made it come to life. Search the 3D tag on It’s Nice That and you’ll find a range of projects featuring surreal imagery and mismatched textures. Brands are picking up on the style too, evidenced in the recent “parallel universe” ads for Sprite with Wieden+Kennedy São Paulo and Yonk.
Of course, creative work made in 3D shouldn’t be innately different from that made in 2D – both are just tools for the artists who use them. One possible explanation, however, for this explosion of expression is that 3D work feels weirder.
Let’s take this work by digital artist Damo as an example; it depicts a person eating macaroni with a friendly fork. On its own, this isn’t the strangest scene imaginable. It is the squishy, clay-like textures of the face that create the visceral, surreal effect here. Perhaps one of the reasons 3D has become a haven for zany creations is because it makes the impossible feel more real. As the VR sculpting and 3D animation studio Yonk puts it: “3D is all about expression as it taps into real-life experiences. You can play around with virtual clay using techniques that mimic real-world sculpting but with the added thrill of creating the impossible by defying gravity or generating alien textures. That’s why we believe 3D design is becoming so popular among creatives – it’s incredibly versatile!”
It’s also important to note that the left-field work we’re seeing in 3D is also a way for artists to transcend stifling restrictions in the real world and create a space of inclusivity instead. The digital artist Bora sums it up best: “In the parallel digital realms, we’re able to transcend norms and stigmas.”
While there are an incredible range of artists using 3D to create eccentric, wonderful work today, we’ve collated just a few which help to showcase the breadth of work in the space.
Nicoleta Mureș: In This Dark Time (Copyright © Nicoleta Mureș, 2022)
Bora: They Whistle The New Moon (Copyright © Bora)
Joanne Joo: Train of Thoughts (Copyright © Joanne Joo, 2023)
Damo: Clock (Copyright © Damo)
Yonk: Sunflower (Copyright © Yonk)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.