For our first official Creator Spotlight, we sat down with 3D artist William Willoughby III, whose surreal futurism balances grave visions of the future with playful irreverence.
MP: Can you tell me about your background as an artist?
W3: I am a natural-born artist. I started drawing when I was about four years old. My art teacher back in elementary school gave us an assignment to draw something considered loud. Something about that type of creativity — to be able to just let my mind run — got me hooked on art. Ever since that day, I’ve been sketching, drawing, painting, sculpting, [making] music. I just started creating. And it’s been a journey. And lately, I’ve just been hooked on the 3D world.
MP: What is your creative relationship with C4D? I find that in the digital art age, things like C4D, Photoshop, or Unreal Engine can substitute for physical art terms that tie very closely to artistic identity, like “I am an oil painter” or “I am a sculptor who works with marble.” Do you consider yourself “a C4D artist?”
W3: There is a kind of grudge or controversy over, you know, between C4D artists versus Blender artists versus Maya artists. But all of this software is the same. It comes down to your workflow preferences. But C4D artists tend to have a certain aesthetic that just comes along with how the software works and the workflows we use. C4D is my favorite because it was such an intuitive jump over from Photoshop. I didn’t have to learn much — I could just start creating.
MP: If you could teach the world about one tiny corner of the totality of your artistic influences, what would you turn them on to?
W3: To be honest, my most significant influence is Salvador Dali. Dali’s work showed me that I didn’t have to create things I see with my eyes. I can let my mind explore and create things ordinary people wouldn’t recognize. I’m fascinated by weirdness. And Dali brings that out in me. I just don’t like doing the same old stuff.
MP: What is surrealism to you?
W3: It’s being able to bend reality, to take something normal and warp it to let the mind open up different doors. I believe that you can eventually create everything you can see inside your head in the real world.
MP: Can you tell me how you think from one piece to the next? Do you revisit characters, or are your astronauts and skeletons more akin to models on which to hang your creative vision?
W3: I do dailies., and it’s difficult creating a new piece every day. I’m in my second year going on my third. I get burned out quite often. I find that having models, like my astronauts or my skulls, helps me to create in such a short timeframe. And it pushes me. It’s like, “Alright, I’ve already done this with the skull. What else can I do with this?”
I’m always looking for where else I can take these objects and models and push them. I’ve always been into space, so that’s where the astronaut guy comes in. I’ve always been deep into humans as an organic species, which is why I love working with skulls. And I like to blend nature with these other things because it helps my mind breathe. But it’s so difficult. Even today, I have no idea what I will make until I dive into the software and start getting some inspiration.
MP: Is that how it normally works?
W3: Unless I’m working on one of my series, I’m lost in space until I start thinking, “Alright, what haven’t I done yet? What can I do? I haven’t worked with an astronaut in a while — let’s throw an astronaut in there. Or I haven’t done a nature scene in a while… You know, I just go with the flow.
MP: What does that process look like when you say, for example, today’s an astronaut day?
W3: I just start playing around with the lighting. I try to capture an emotion or a feeling that I want to portray. Once I understand my lighting setup and how I will showcase certain details, I start diving into colors and composition, setting the golden ratio. I use a couple of grids to help me place things. I just let my mind do what it wants. By the end of it, within two hours, it looks completely different from what I started.
It comes down to the emotion I want to portray and what I’m feeling at that time. So sometimes I’m angry, sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m sad. I put that emotion into my work. You can see it when I’m pissed off or when I’m having a good day.
MP: How do you think about your audience’s viewing experience? What’s the ideal way to view your work?
W3: I don’t know. I don’t think about that much. I want to get into animation. I want people to see more than just the lighting that I show. I want to start manipulating lights and movement. I want to start showcasing certain aspects of the software that I haven’t really pushed yet. Eventually, I want my work to be on large-scale canvases with slow-motion animation, so they just get lost. Something they can just stare at, something that seamlessly loops. And they can let go of everything, all the stress in their head, and just get caught up in the colors and the lights. Just let their mind be free for a little bit.
MP: Like ambient music for your eyes?
MP: I’m excited to see that.
W3: It’s difficult because I need a machine to handle it. That’s where my main bottleneck is. I’ve spent close to $10,000 on my current setup, and, to be honest, I still don’t have quite enough power to push out what I’m truly trying to do.
MP: Who inspires you in this space?
W3: Marterium. He was one of the first artists I studied because he also does a lot of color theory. I’ve been studying color theory for almost ten years. When I started on Instagram two years ago, I only had 300 followers. And he had about 30,000 followers. Now I have 37,000 followers in two years and he’s still sitting at 30,000 followers. And I don’t understand why this artist has not reached a million followers yet.
There’s also one more that I would like to shout out: GSD Studio. This guy is phenomenal. I watched him grow from a couple of hundred followers to 40,000 followers in a year. He’s a fantastic artist. He’s someone I follow heavy when I want cyberpunk vibes going.
And 25m42. I did a collab with him. He deserves a lot of love. This is an artist who should be getting tons more love. He’s a big inspiration for me. I’ve collected a few of his pieces that were eventually stolen from me, but you should check out his stuff.
MP: What’s your advice to artists just now entering the space?
W3: We’re all humans. I feel like we all just need to give out a helping hand every once in a while. You have no idea what other people are going through at any given time. Commenting on other artists’ pages is something I still like to do. I still like to shout out to others trying to grow in this space. I just try to show love. I feel like you put in what you want to get out of this world. You know what I mean?