Sarah-Jane Moldenhauer 3D Science Fiction Art #44

Danger at sunset

I am studying a Bachelor’s of Art Degree at Northumbria University in Mass Communication and Advertising as someone close to her 40’s. Wanting to undertake a degree this late in life came about after working in several jobs that taught me more about administration and communication and at one point, even first line tech support, for a massive online game based in the U.S. All these roles I worked at, was in the UK primarily. Being married twice in my life also meant that I decided to do everything backwards. Marriage first, then education later in life.

Through my early twenties, I have had fantastic experiences where I organised two mini music festivals in the rock/punk and metal scene which gave me a lot of experience in working with bands, understanding music equipment needed for these events, marketing and advertising of these events (even created my own posters and websites for them), which led me to create my own band part-time. I love music, and even currently, I create odd pieces of music when I have time. Through all those experiences, I still felt a bit hollow. A part was missing somehow. That creative spark.

The reason became more abundantly clear later in life, when I played a browser-based game and started designing banners for characters in the game. I was commissioned to create a few clan logos, and along with other creative enterprises and my freelance endeavours between 2008 and 2012, I slowly experimented more and more with Adobe Photoshop purchased second-hand from a charity shop. Back then, with limited funds, I purchased my first Wacom Volito 2 tablet which I used from 2007 up until June, 2018. I absolutely adored using it. I only decided to change to a pro tablet once I started my Foundation Degree year in Digital Design, Advertising and Graphic Design.

Looking back at some of my earlier banner designs, it was ‘cringe-worthy,’ however every piece I created and designed was a new way for me to experiment with colour, design and typography. In this time (2008-2012), I also participated in over 40 freelance projects which took up a lot of my free time, but it paid the basic bills, which was needed at the time. Once I worked in a few different jobs, I realised the person I once was and the person I am now, has changed over time. Those changes were welcome, as I started exploring my creativity and art in a new direction that I never thought would be possible…


The change to 3D was a gradual process, but really only took off in 2016 when I first tried using Unity3D for a brief spell. A few years before this (2010), I tried a piece of software, but it was complicated and I lacked any funds which meant I had no way to ‘pay’ to undertake tutorials. Thus, I waited, carried on with what I could do and waited for technology to catch up for a user like myself who didn’t have much in life. Unity3D, Blender, Reallusion’s Character Creator and other software these days like Poser, are excellent tools to consider when you start to create 3D characters. If you consider one of these, I would highly suggest you check them out.

In that time where I was waiting for technology to catch up, I enjoyed playing games like Rohan Online: Bloodfeud, Black Hawk Down: Team Sabre, Combat Arms, Guild Wars, Morrowind, MXM, Sanctum 2, and numerous others (30+), but it will take too long to mention them all here.

The benefit from playing games is being exposed to fantasy and sci-fi/realistic outfits and how models look. I learned so much from participating in numerous games in ‘Alpha’ or ‘Beta’ versions which led me to understand game design in general. I am not an expert, but having played a ton of games meant I became interested in character design, game level design and card games. Here I played one or two card games like Magic the Gathering, etc. However, what caught my attention were the illustrations mostly and the way the characters looked. They completely fascinated me. Which is why these days I concentrate more on characters than environment design.

In my mind, I could see the outfits I would like my own characters to have one day, but do not have the 3D modelling skills to make it a reality. Well, not at first in any case. I started exploring the idea of creating 3D characters through a variety of programs and was looking for ease -of-use and something a beginner like myself could pick up. What I found is a way of using 3D assets and creating 3D characters, where I can bring them to life in an interesting way. There are limitations though as I am not a 3D modeller, but find the way I create my art pieces are unique to me and managed to teach myself the basics of these software applications. I have tried following tutorials at times, but find that my pieces don’t come out the way I want them to look. Instead, I tend to default to my own knowledge and experience gained within Photoshop and other software applications I have picked up over time.

Moving on from 2016 into 2019, I entered an art contest where I won second place, and it was here that I was given a whole host of 3D programs and art applications worth over $1600 that really made me delve into 3D art more. I still enjoy paint overs at times, and sometimes, I prefer to leave my pieces as 2D or 3D digital art pieces. The best part of using software like Keyshot and 3D-Coat, is texturing. I have created some whacky 3D art pieces when I first started and just painted in textures with a soft brush or added textures I found online. Just abstract objects. Nothing glamorous. Yet, I can still remember the excitement I felt when I realised that now I could put together a ‘blob’ of something and make it look colourful.

[Image 1 above – My first ‘blob of something’ after I won the contest with all the software applications.]

These days, I focus on character concepts within an environment, and while I love well-crafted environments, I am limited to 3D assets I own or can create/alter myself. I have a portfolio on Artstation and find that through me interacting with other artists and seeing what they create, that I have inspired myself several times to ‘do better.’ I find that music inspires me to create some of my best pieces. When I design sci-fi characters, I usually listen to cyberpunk, darksynth, cyber electro and synthwave music. There are a few artists that are excellent inspiration points like Celldweller, Scandroid and Raizer. When I focus on fantasy pieces, I usually listen to Two Steps From Hell and various game music albums as they are the best sources of inspiration for a certain mood or feel.

In the end, I feel that life has a lot to offer to anyone if they are willing to be patient and experiment. If you don’t have funds to make your dreams come true, always search for alternative ways to bring your ideas and creations to life.

Powered By The Sun

Powered by The Sun:

The idea behind this piece was to fuse a human female and machine parts together. I have seen several anime series in my life, which included Blue Gender, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Mobile Suit Gundam, God Eater, Heroic Age and GantZ, where the idea of a suit used externally, or fused with the body in some form or way, is not unheard of. The hair here is what I would expect to see a character have in an anime series and was the main reason why I portrayed the character in this way.

Ghost War- Drawn

Ghost War:

The rubble and background were inspired by Ghost in the Shell series: SAC_2045 which is currently on Netflix. Ghost in the Shell, second gig, I watched before 2009, and absolutely loved the entire setting and universe that Motoko Kusanagi comes from. While, this character isn’t Motoko Kusanagi, I wanted to create a character that could be from the same universe, but felt that the character needed to look more realistic 3D, as opposed to anime-inspired. Which brings me to the next piece with the same character:

Cyber Ghost

Cyber Ghost:

This art piece is a mix of 3D and 2D elements. I wanted a simple background to showcase her, and felt that 2D elements that looked 3D would fit in nicely with her 3D look. Here I was focusing on the way her outfit looked, her pose and the way the shadows was showing on the character within the scene. I tried rendering this character in about 8 different versions, until I was happy with the final outcome. Inspiration came from the Ghost in the Shell series which left me a bit nostalgic from watching 2nd Gig ages ago.

Danger at Sunset

Danger at Sunset:

Before I worked in 3D, I used to do a lot of composite art pieces where I used a range of 3D and real backgrounds together where I used Matte Painting techniques to create fantasy/ sci-fi backgrounds. This art piece was inspired by one of my earlier composite digital art pieces where I purchased a stock background render, and added in the 3D mech and soldier from a more top-down view. The issue I had back then was the mech looked amazing, however the soldier didn’t exactly fit as the perspective from the top-down view was completely wrong. I tried to make it fit and for all purposes, at first glance, it looks amazing. However, on inspection I noticed the issue every time, which made me realise I needed to create my own 3D scene with everything the way I want it to look. This time I approached the digital art piece from the side and wanted to show a bit of an alien environment and buildings/piping in the distance. When a person thinks about mechs or cyber tech, you always think of steam/air pipes and vents. Half Life (as a game), is a prime example of this. Once I had all the elements, I finished the piece with a custom sky background and added in some ‘HD fog.’ What is an image without the usual HD fog? Except in this case, it was more like poisonous gasses. It is an alien planet after all.

Here, the soldier is merely waiting. In my mind I imagined it was sunset, and that some very nasty creatures would emerge once it gets dark. Right now, he is relaxing, and waiting…until he has to act.

Inspiration while completing this piece came from listening to RAIZER and Celldweller.

Foreign Investigation

Foreign Investigation:

The idea behind this digital art piece was to create a male character. I tend to create female characters more in my digital art pieces as opposed to male, and wanted to really try and do a simple piece where I can experiment with a 3D in the foreground and 3D background. As I progress with 3D characters, I find that light and shadow play a huge role in the realism of a scene. The other biggest problem I have at times is trying to showcase the outfits the characters are wearing. Which means that whenever I try to showcase a character, the issue I face is posing them in a way that is interesting or dynamic. A few of my characters are in kneeling poses, as I can usually showcase all the details on the outfit in an interesting way. The issue I had with this piece was with the background and figured out after doing this piece, that adding in more depth of field would have helped. Before this, I wasn’t as familiar with the term since as a photographer, I never allowed my background to be super blurry. When I realised it was a common tactic employed within illustration, I realised that there would be instances where I use it, and instances where I don’t.

Cyberpunk Future

Cyberpunk Future:

For this piece, I entered the Kitbash3D contest where I could get a few 3D buildings from the Cyberpunk Mini kit to use in my final digital art piece. While I used 3D, I felt that in this instance that I should focus on showing the buildings and background in a more ‘comic-book-styled way.’ The biggest challenge for me in this piece was texturing the buildings in Keyshot 8, the placement of the sun and shadows on the buildings, and tying the 3D foreground together with the 3D background. With the character hair, I simply drew that in on the female in Photoshop, and added the accessories in Photoshop. The ‘Welcome’ letters on the building was done in Photoshop as well. Everything else in the scene is 3D.

Word of advice to any digital artist of going into 3D: Do it while you can. There are lucrative opportunities in terms of jobs available out there, and if you are like me and don’t want to make a career out of your art, you can still use your ideas to create amazing digital art pieces to sell in your spare time. You can sell your art at gaming/anime conventions, or through your own website. Alternatively, there are freelance websites where you can pitch for work selling your services. There is always opportunity…you just need to look and take advantage of it.

Location: United Kingdom (North Tyneside).

Media used: Keyshot 8; Character Creator (Reallusion); Adobe Photoshop; 3D-Coat; Rebelle version 3 and 4; 3DS Max; Unity3D; Affinity Designer, Daz3D, and Project Dogwaffle Artist 12. Each project has its own specifications or requirements and some projects may use only 3 software titles, whilst others may use up to 5 software titles to complete the final design.

20 thoughts on “Sarah-Jane Moldenhauer 3D Science Fiction Art #44

  1. Wow, these are all amazing pieces! You are very talented. And sometimes, it’s better to start things when you’re older!

  2. Woah! I love the Sci-Fi genre movies, books, video games. On one of my favorites is the Mass Effect franchise. This art is incredible!! I could totally see these characters in games.

  3. She has a lot a of talent! I love all her pieces, my favorite is “powered by the sun” I am in love

  4. I love everything about this and your story. It’s really inspiring to see how your passion & drive has evolved. Your creativity is amazing. Well done!

  5. She is extremely talented! Kudos to her for pursuing her passions and interests at any point in life, not worrying about the timelines of society!

  6. I love Sci Fi things whether in books or movies and these images are really beautiful and so realistic.

  7. Futuristic and beautiful art and thanks a lot for sharing that. I don’t mind one of these masterpieces hanging on the wall of my living room – Ha Ha – Knycx Journeying

  8. I love your journey and how you ended up in your creative role! From pursuing a degree later in life to teaching yourself Photoshop! Very inspirational!

  9. Every one of these images is so cool, but I love how you can see the progression. They definitely get more polished as the artist keeps getting better and better.

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