Max Guther on his Ones to Watch portraits inspired by oil paintings

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If you’ve been on It’s Nice That this week, then you’ll have seen that we’ve just launched our Ones to Watch 2020, a selection of 13 creatives and collectives who we predict have landmark years ahead of them. You’ll also have seen our visual identity for this initiative, featuring hyper-realistic 3D illustrated portraits of each individual creative, produced by the German illustrator Max Guther.

We’ve written about Max quite a few times before over the years (he was also a One to Watch himself a few years back) and his work has mostly in the past consisted of human characters positioned in really beautifully constructed and detailed 3D environments. “I’m used to working in the isometric perspective with the focus on both interior and exterior design and larger zoom proximity, with a lot of small details of everyday life, several things to discover and more environmental stuff,” he explains.

His characters, he goes on, are also normally “more stereotyped figures”, not “real personalities” (this project from a couple of years ago is a good example of how he normally works with more archetypal human characters). So, in quite a few ways, this Ones to Watch project was a fresh departure for Max. “I was really curious about this brief being so different to most of my others,” he says. “Illustrating real people in such a closeup is something I never did before.”

Max and our creative team decided to take the brief in a new direction, too. In the past, our Ones to Watch identities have featured 2D illustrated portraits of each creative, with the creative facing the viewer. This year, our team set Max the starting point of thinking about oil paintings ranging from the Italian Renaissance to the Baroque. It was a brief he immediately responded to. “Rich and vibrant colours, a strong contrast between light and shadow, as well as a set-up where the portrayed person was shown in side-profile, evoked a certain majestic and sublime aura around the portrayed person,” says Max. “The aim was to evoke a similar feeling when portraying this year’s Ones to Watch.”

The final outcome certainly gives this year’s cohort this level of almost godliness. But how did he go about creating these portraits? “I usually work with 3D and edit my illustrations in Photoshop later,” he says. “For this series of illustrations, I transformed the according details of every person by layering the portrait side-shot behind my 3d basic model to have an overview about individual characteristics.” One of the biggest challenges was capturing the “minute details and perfection of someone’s eye shape, haircut or cloth structure”, he says. To help with this, Max asked for profile photographs of each creative. That “helped a lot to get every detail”, he says, because “the camera doesn’t lie.”

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