Retail Madness

General / 19 June 2021

I decided after getting vaccinated that it was time to get out, meet new people, get some exercise, see some new sh*t, and pay some bills, and so I got a part time job working as a store associate at one of the locations of a *large off-brand retailer*. 

This isn't entirely true, of course. Actually, I got rejected by all of the office administration jobs I applied to, but it's just as well. I don't think they would've provided the flexibility I needed.

My new position is the first proper retail job experience I've had. In the past, I've worked in food service and as a cashier at a pharmacy, but that's not the same. Once, I came close to getting a job at a *large natural beauty make-up and skincare retailer* because I enjoyed their products (skincare, not make-up), but the interviewer saw my hesitation when she mentioned I was required to wear a minimum of five pieces of make-up for work.

Hold on. "Five pieces of make-up?"

"Yes. It can be anything - brows, eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow, foundation, blush, bronzer, lipstick or lipgloss... It has be at least five pieces."

I thought about having to buy make-up and spend at least 30 to 45 (unpaid) minutes putting it on every time I had to go to work. On an $11/hour pre-tax wage (it was a time before minimum was increased to $14.25) and an average drugstore make-up price of about $12 per piece of make-up, that meant you spent the first 2-5 days of your wages just paying for the make-up you'd need to not get fired.

This was for a retail position in Toronto, where the average rent price was about $1,400/month for a one-bedroom and a ride on the bus or subway was $3.20 each way. To barely survive, you would've had to work this retail job 40 hours a week every week. It's enough to make anyone feel hopeless about their situation.

My current job is less than a 10 minute drive away, and I only work part-time. I am not required to wear make-up. With the reopening at 15% capacity, it has been an insane two weeks. I got scheduled extra shifts just because we had unprecedented levels of marking down. It seemed like 90% of the merchandise has gone to clearance. To mark down, you scan every single item in every department, one department at a time. My shifts have been mostly from 7:30am - 3pm and I work every minute of it except for the government mandated break. I love being busy because it makes the time pass faster, and I feel a sense of accomplishment after everything's been scanned and organized.

After you've spent almost a year sitting all day long behind a computer monitor, you begin to remember you have muscles because they ache. I haven't felt this way since my last effort at exercise, in particular, squats, lunges, dead lifts, and shoulder presses. 

Lastly, meeting new people. From my observations, my co-workers are 95% superwomen. I've never seen ladies (many of them with smaller frames than me) move so fast and lift so much over a sustained period of time. Using box cutters, they rip open cardboard boxes with German-level efficiency, and stock shelves up and down with the speed of a Horace Slughorn spell, the one where he puts his room back together with the sweep of his wand (from Harry Potter). At the front, they process check-outs and returns and remove sensors and bag merch super fast while also chitchatting cheerfully with customers.

There was a time when I was new to Canada and could barely get a retail job. Even after finishing my Bachelors and having worked throughout college and starting my own business, I couldn't get an interview for a retail job. I got my break finally working at a bubble tea shop. I am not sure what they look for in a resume to consider you for a position in this line of work. However, these days I suspect that there's a lot of hiring going on for jobs where you're required to be physically there.

The truth is that working on my portfolio all day long sometimes made me feel a bit sad. Sometimes, I felt like I'd never actually find work in the industry no matter what I put out. I deal with this sense of lack of control by widening my horizons and forcing myself to think of other things. On top of needing to bolster my finances, I knew I needed to fill those moments by getting really busy with something not art or 3d related. 

 I think I'm where I need to be right now.

Block Out of Victorian Bedroom

Work In Progress / 03 June 2021

I'm in Substance Designer hell at the moment trying to make a particular type of walnut veneer for the antique side table. I'll blog about that later once I've made more progress. For now, I thought I'd fire up UE and block out the Victorian room I'm trying to populate with these assets.

A couple of accessories that aren't in the screenshot are sabres and swords mounted above the fireplace and maybe a teacup and saucer on top of the side table. I would also love to model some stationery and doodads for the writing desk.

Layout-wise, the room is pretty simple. There is only one path which goes from door to the writing desk to the fireplace area in a basic U-shape. There's an empty corner on the side of the bed next to the fireplace. I'm not sure yet what to place there. Suggestions?

Here are some possible scene shots for my final renders...

I'm not sure how long a scene like this is supposed to take me to model and texture from scratch. So far, I've been making each prop like it's a hero asset because my teacher told me that portfolio-wise, it's better to have fewer high quality assets than many so-so ones, so it's taking me quite a while per asset. 

I'm thinking of completing the room one section at a time, so I think I'll be doing them in sets:

  • Side Table, Lamp, Jewelry Box
  • Trim-mapped Modular Walls, Floors, Ceilings, Wall with Window (stained glass paneling), and Wall with door
  • Fireplace, Armchair (x2 duplicated), Swords
  • Side chair, Writing desk
  • Chest, Secretaire Bookcase
  • Console, plus maybe a matching decorative mirror to go on the wall on top of it
  • Chandelier, Door to the room, Balcony entrance, Balcony
  • Plants (various vases and foliage)  

Meanwhile, I'm gonna break up the 3d work with some 2d stuff. In the summer, I enjoy outdoor painting, so maybe I'll do a blog entry that's just sketches and paintings.


Olivia blogs every Thursday here on Artstation.

Follow Olivia also on instagram at @oliviaongai

See you next week!!!! <3


Making Of / 27 May 2021

Here's a brief blog about my process for the gold pattern textures on my Victorian Letter Box.

My reference for the letter box shows it was made of oak wood (below). I only had this one shot to work with, but from this view we can see that there are two slots on the top with trefoil ends. There are circular panels on the front side with pierced designs and, based on the description of the box, the back is the same.

I do appreciate its elegance in its simplicity. The craftsmanship on it is incredible, and I suppose I could've done a lot texturing-wise with just showing the wear on this antique piece.

However, given my plan for the small scene comprising of a wooden side table and a wooden lamp next to a wooden bed in front of wood-paneled walls, I wanted to have a little bit of fun with the box and have it stand out a bit more. What I wanted in the scene was more metallic accents, and so I've decided to do gold foil all over the box. I wanted the pattern to be as elaborate as possible, so I also looked up antique books on Pinterest.

My favourite areas in art museums are the decorative arts galleries. I'm drawn to how pattern and decoration is applied to even the smallest of objects. I searched up "box" at The Met, and it turned up over 10,000 results. There were boxes from many cultures constructed and decorated in unique and exquisite ways. Truly inspiring!

I am aware that I could've just lifted a copyright-free pattern over the internet or made some alpha motifs and stamped them all over. For this particular project, though, I decided to just a design the pattern because I believed that doing so would make the pattern more cohesive and would match the shapes of the box better. It would've been such a shame to work so hard on making the different cut-outs on the wood only to have patterns that fail to enhance or emphasize them. I think I just wanted a custom pattern that would actually serve to improve the piece rather than just a random extra thing to tack on that may potentially make the box look worse. As an added bonus, I thought that the decoration would enable me to further the storytelling elements of the box through design.

I love looking at patterns, but I must admit that designing one has always been daunting to me. There are too many possibilities. Thankfully, the letterbox is decidedly Gothic in design. I started with sketching over the UV on the top part of the box. I personally found that in designing patterns, it helps to have a few motifs that you can connect, repeat, and adapt into other recognizable forms. This isn't a rule in patternmaking or anything. It was just something I learned that will probably help me speed up the creation of future patterns as the need arises.

My main motifs were:

  • Leaf shapes
  • Diamonds
  • Clubs
  • Border lines with small dots
  • Border lines with dashed vertical lines
  • Double-stroked and single-stroked lines
  • Latin text (all verses are about love)

The main structure of the design is a cross (because Gothic) that runs through the center. I've made the corners into rounded shapes pointing inwards because I saw this box and I thought the concept of the bracing was really unique.

The designs were finalized in vector using Adobe Illustrator, exported as PNG's, and used as texture masks in Substance Painter. Because I was using the UV to layout my designs, they were applied properly. Below are some progress shots.


 Olivia blogs every Thursday here on Artstation.

Follow Olivia also on instagram at @oliviaongai

See you next week!!!! <3

Low Poly and UV's - Side Table Legs

General / 20 May 2021

I thought I'd share the happy process of making low poly's and UV's with you. <3 It's really fun, if you enjoy pain like I do.

There's nothing new to learn here, just plain old whatever you learned in 3d school. Today we're doing the legs of my side table. 


  • Put on a calming soundtrack that you can loop 50 times without getting sick of it. I prefer this over multi-tasking with youtube tutorials or even music with lyrics... don't wanna distract myself with my tear-jerker sing-along of "Landslide".
  • I make a copy of my midpoly as my backup. Not doing so may later result in a desire to flip a table.
  • I take another copy of my midpoly and subdivide to make the high poly. I put that that into a layer in Layer Editor and hide it away. I find that having my highpoly in my layers helps me toggle the visibility and bring up the wireframes very quickly.
  • Then, I take yet another copy of my midpoly for my low poly and delete three other legs and keep just one because the thought of UV'ing three other legs crushes my spirit.

Low Poly rough list of steps I do. 

  1. Delete faces where necessary. In my case, the faces that intersect the tabletop and the cross stretcher.
  2. Delete edges where necessary. Edge loops or too many edges on the sides of cylinders, or edges that could make your tris into quads, like in the caps of cylinders.
  3. Check size and corners of low poly against high poly (using both shaded and wireframe views) and resize as necessary.  
  4. Soften all edges.
  5. Tie up edges where a cylinder meets a cube (target weld the verts - if you have a graphics tablet, use the pen to drag the verts, saves your wrist). If the edge is properly tied up,  where an edge is a "triangle", you might be able to delete an entire edge loop by double clicking the edge.
  6. Check again to see if there are any more edges I can delete. I promise myself a chicken nugget for every polygon I can cut. 
  7. Harden edges where necessary.


Hot tip: If there's a lag when moving the UV shells around the UV editor in Maya like it's choking, I find that deleting history on the geo clears this up.

My preferences  for this unwrap:

  1. Cylinder caps and other "cap-like" surfaces: Planar
  2. Cylinder sides: Cylindrical projection
  3. Cube: Automatic
  4. Ensure seams are in an inconspicuous area and that seams are cut where there are hard edges
  5. Unfold and straighten as necessary
  6. Set to correct texel density
  7. Preliminarily arrange UV shells


  • Mirror the table legs so they can share UV's.
  • Once I'm done UV'ing the rest of the table, I'll assign materials.
  • I'll then finalize the arrangement of the UV shells, including moving shared UV's one grid over
  • If I'm feeling spicy, I will move shared UV's back to 0-1 and place them uniquely so they can have individualized textures especially if they can be seen in the same view. I do this in order of what would look most obviously repeating.
  • Test bake and tweak as necessary until you get to about low poly version 21 which is the perfect version ready to texture.
  • Buy a whole cheesecake for myself.

Test bake and red steel test material in Substance Painter


 Olivia blogs every Thursday here on Artstation.

Follow Olivia also on instagram at @oliviaongai.

See you next week!!!! <3

Balusters and Dang Normal Maps

Making Of / 13 May 2021

I'm on my third piece of furniture modelling. There was the four poster bed, the lamp, and now I'm working on a cute little William III side table.

Since I've been focusing on antiques, I'm getting a fair amount of baluster modeling practice. A baluster is a decorative post that is ubiquitous in furniture.

I originally tried baking a 16-sided cylinder, with the results looking meh for portfolio purposes where I have to be able to zoom in a bit on my props. My dubiousness at the 16-side bake had me going back and adding in-between edges to make the cylinder look smoother, which was a royal pain because it involved having to separate and re-merge the geometry, re-tie up the edges, and repeat other steps. 

Although the cylinder was much smoother at 32 sides, I noticed something quite strange with the normal maps on the 32-sided cylinder. 

The 16-side bake produced even normals, whereas the 32-side bake normals had weird striped wavy pattern to them. The below image illustrates this. It might be hard to see with the RGB version, so I made grayscaled duplicates and pumped up the contrast.

Applying just the normals in Marmoset and viewing from the side angle rather than the top-down angle, you can see that the 16-side cylinder has smoother normals whereas the 32-side cylinder has a weird wavy pattern to it.

I came across this PDF by Leonardo Iezzi called "No More Wrong Normal Maps", and he has a very interesting section on Cylinders. He mentions the difference in bakes between two high poly cylinder scenarios. One high poly had fewer sides but had smoother normal bakes on the sides of the cylinders and not great bakes on the caps. The other high poly had more sides with better bakes on the caps but with wavy normals on the sides.

Although the PDF talks about weird normals caused by the high poly, I'm finding that mine is caused by the number of sides on the cylinder in my low poly. Basically, in my case, I had two low poly scenarios instead of two high poly scenarios. It could be a software thing because I use Maya hee Maya hoo.

I think having the additional sides looks more attractive just for the sake of my portfolio, though. I wanted the flexibility of being to take a top-down angle view without my cylinder looking faceted.

So I checked the wonky-normal 32-sided version against four different smart materials in Substance Painter (3 wood + 1 marble). Because Substance Painter lies to me all the time, I used Marmoset for these renders, and they look okay. The wavy normals do not seem to affect the lighting significantly. 

If worse comes to worst and it looks very distracting in engine, I'll just fix the normals in Substance Painter. So, I'll have to wait and see until I do my final UE renders to figure out which version looks best but so far this has been an interesting learning experience.

Special thanks to Leo for sharing the Normals PDF with me - the PDF has some really cool information about other ways to achieve good normals, and I'm sure I'll be referring to it quite often.

Do you have any insight into what the deal is with cylinders and normals? Do you think this has to do with me adding sides AFTER the fact? Comment down below if you do. <3


 Olivia blogs every Thursday here on Artstation.

Follow Olivia also on instagram at @oliviaongai.

See you next week!!!! <3

That Spirally Lamp Thing

Making Of / 06 May 2021

It's lamp modelling day! 

This interesting George III Style lamp has what's called a spirally-fluted baluster. I didn't know that spirally was a legit word, but it's in the Oxford dictionary SO.

This is the spirally part, and it's going to f*ck me up. 

So, I start by separating out the spirally piece, extruding, and adjusting the edges so it tapers to the bottom.

Then, I go through the Screwdriver Handle Method (TM), which is basically when I learned to model a screwdriver handle by deleting one section of an arc, working on that section, and then duplicate-transforming it back into a rounded shape.

After some finagling of bevels, merging vertices (COOL TIP: you can't go to 0.0001's in the merge vertices short menu, but if you click the small side square to pull up the big menu, Maya will let you put in 4 decimals), and fixing a few other technical issues, I got a working base baluster. I then used a nonlinear Twist deformer to make it spirally. As it should be.

Something like this....

Wow you're probably not even gonna notice it when you enter the room. GG.

In keeping with the Screwdriver Handle Method (TM), I make a test bake and throw in the Steel Painted Chipped Dirty smart material in Substance Painter to check my UV's and the baked mesh maps. It all seems to be in order. Now all that's left to do is texture. 

I probably won't publish the final model here on Artstation until after I've completed the period side table and the ornate trinket box that go with this prop. 

But please comment down below if you think I should just make a separate project with renders for this lamp?

(HOT TIP: I've made a quick render using Substance Painter's built in iRay. If you just need a quick good quality render for social media posts and don't feel the need to prove your mettle in UE or Marmoset, rather than setting up a whole situation in those programs, this is a great built-in option... I feel like the above shot is decent enough and way better than screengrabbing like what I was doing previously).


Olivia blogs every Thursday here on Artstation. 

Follow Olivia also on instagram at @oliviaongai.

See you next week!!!! <3

Blog every Thursday!!

Making Of / 29 April 2021

Hi everyone!!

I'll be publishing a blog every Thursday, so if you are interested in the ramblings of a sometimes-not-completely-sober 3d artist/whatever artist, please follow me here and cheers!

I've officially completed the 3d Game Art and Animation program at Seneca College. WOOT! It was a very challenging 8-month Graduate course in which I learned SO MUCH! Needless to say, it's very important that I tipsy-blog about this momentous occasion with some work I'll never actually put in my portfolio page. 

If you are questioning whether I'm really actually tipsy, please trust me. I'm seeing double whilst I type this out. I'm still a really good speller despite this - please don't take it against me.

Anyway, here is one piece you'll not see on my main page. This is my character project for my Zbrush class.

I had to learn how to model the torso, head, hands, and feet separately, and then attach them!!! WHAT!!! This is insane. Good thing I made all the body parts a fairly consistent proportion.

(for the hands, I looked at Sailormoon henshin/transformation hands because, c'mon... they're the definitive study in GORGEOUS hand anatomy)

This is great, because I really felt like I was learning the foundation of how to make a character from scratch, with good topology. Hell yeah.

My character was based off of Suu, from Clover, which is by a beloved manga artist group called CLAMP.

This is what the character looks like in the manga:

The hair took me a while. I focused on the hair because I thought, if nothing else, God, at least let me get Suu's hair right. It's so expressive and kawaii. As many know, when it comes to anime characters, sometimes the hair is what distinguishes one character from the others (ahem). A


POSING. Zsphere rigs are great, but I had to exclude many of her hard-surface accessories, which the zphere rig was severely deforming. So I had to "redo" many of her accessories, in the end. This was a serious time-drain, which I hope to figure out a way to more efficiently address in the future.

Here are some of my semi-final renders. I say semi-final, because I only went as far as polypaint and I didn't have enough time to fully realize the pose. I definitely could've taken the texturing further in Substance Painter and also made the pose more expressive. 

One thing that was deliberate, though, was the acknowledgment that I didn't want to take the realism that much further, in that - I didn't want to make the skin look that much more realistic. I didn't want realistic wrinkles, freckles, or other usual realistic blemishes. I wanted to retain a doll-like, anime-like appearance to her character. 

Suu is arguably not completely human. She is powerful beyond imagining. And she was borne of manga-art convention. Therefore, I wanted to preserve some of that.

Here are some if the renders I eventually made. 

Final thoughts:

I was trying to recreate a hard-core anime character into 3d. Clover is a pretty serious-toned, romantic masterpiece. I felt more comfortable realizing Suu into a more semi-realistic character rather than keeping her as a traditional 3d-scultped "anime character". This version of Suu is a teeanager-woman - my interpretation of the character.

I had some limitations in posing her using the Zphere-rigs, because they were a bit of a struggle to work with. This pose is supposed to show, through body language, an imploring. In the manga, Suu wants Kazuhiko, the male protagonist, to take her to a special place. This pose harkens to that moment in the manga when Suu reaches out to take Kasuhiko's hand the first time they meet.

I wish I could've modeled this scene. :-) Perhaps I might, in the future. 


 Olivia blogs every Thursday here on Artstation.

Follow Olivia also on instagram at @oliviaongai.

See you next week!!!! <3

Beveling Woes

Making Of / 22 April 2021

When I first started sub-d modeling, bevels baffled me. In particular, I was confused about translating bevels from high poly to low poly. They're everywhere, though, so I thought I'd pick a piece of furniture with a crap ton of bevels for practice purposes.

This bed has... a lot of bevels.


Here's the modeling bit for the top part of the bed. The one with all the panels set on a larger piece with lots of frames.

The high poly, which has all the control edges for the frames. In translating them to low poly, they have to be consolidated.

Target welding the points to the middle edge. I used my pen tablet for this. It was easier and faster to move the vertices around with my pen than with my mouse.

I ended up with something like this. 

With all soft edges in Maya, the lighting was weird so, I had to harden the edges on the transitions.

Left panel is hardened edges, whereas right panel is soft edges.

Without the wireframe, to see the lighting better.

After I've hardened the edges, it looks about right. The next step will be to UV this and then mirror+merge it twice to complete the rest of the top board (since this is only a quarter of it.)

And now to do the rest of the bed. <3

For more art stuff and 3d trials and tribulations, follow me on instagram at @oliviaongai (

I'll be blogging here every week, too!! <3