Vertex Program Student Experience – Ilenia Di Maria

Today we introduce you to Game Art Program graduate, Ilenia Di Maria. In this blog post, Ilenia shares her Vertex Program student experience. She also shares the process of creating her term III project, Lost in the Jungle.


My name is Ilenia Di Maria, and I am a passionate 3D artist and architect from Italy. I am currently living in Switzerland.

Throughout my career as a 3D Artist, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with various companies. Including Oko Film Productions in Basel, where I collaborated in the production ‘Lili’ film, and Blindflug Studios in Zurich, where I supported the development of a documentary film.

Beyond the Game Artist Program at Vertex School, where I delved into advanced 3D art techniques, I hold a degree in Architecture from the University of Palermo and a master’s in architectural visualization from Butic the New School in Madrid. The combination of my education and experience has allowed me to have a good understanding of space and perspective when developing environments in 3D.

Joining Vertex

Before joining Vertex School, my 3D experience primarily came from what I learned during my master’s in architectural visualization. That training provided me with a solid understanding of 3D modeling, texturing, and composition using 3ds Max and V-ray. This was the training where I planted the seed for 3D, and where my passion for the field truly took root.

I discovered Vertex School through research and networking in the 3D art community. Looking forward to advancing my skills in the field, I actively searched for reputable institutions offering training programs for aspiring artists, in the field of 3D environment. Vertex School caught my attention as a potential match for my goals, especially with the Game Artist Program. 

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What Skills Did You Want to Level Up During the Game Art Program?

I chose to enroll at Vertex School because it offered comprehensive training in key areas of 3D art that I aimed to master:

  • Digital sculpting: Using tools like ZBrush for organic modeling and detailed sculptures.
  • Digital painting and textures: Improving skills in texture creation using Substance Painter and Designer.
  • Advanced 3D modeling techniques: Get a deeper understanding of complex 3D model workflows.
  • Lighting and rendering: Learning advanced techniques for enhanced visual effects and realistic lighting.

All centered on the use of Unreal Engine which was the main software I was keen to learn for creating interactive environments.

With positive recommendations from other professionals and alumni, I grew confident in the school’s reputation and quality of education. The program’s coverage of topics I wanted to learn, along with its relatively short duration (9 months), made it an ideal choice for the next step in my educational journey.

Ilenia Di Maria - Vertex Program Student Experience

Term III Project – Lost in the Jungle

Before deciding what to do for my term III project, I knew I wanted to create an organic environment, something that was totally different compared to my previous works, which had an architectural focus.

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A Night View of Ilenia’s Term III Project

After doing a lot of research, while watching the movie ‘Lost City,’  I bumped into a scene that really caught my attention. It showed a cave in the middle of a huge jungle, with these amazing waterfalls in the background. That scene gave me the perfect idea for my project.

ilenia di maria resume

Creating this project was a challenging but rewarding journey, and I am very proud of the final result. The process involved pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, experimenting with new techniques, and overcoming obstacles along the way. While there were many moments of uncertainty and doubt, I am pleasantly surprised by the outcome. As well as by how well it turned out to bring my vision to life, creating something that exceeded my expectations.

Professional Mentorship

During this project, my mentors Stefan Oprisan and Salvador Sánchez played a crucial role in guiding me through various challenges and providing valuable feedback to help me refine my work. One piece of advice from my mentor that proved to be particularly helpful was to focus on storytelling and creating a cohesive narrative within my scene. This guidance encouraged me to pay attention to the details and consider every aspect of the environment, ensuring that each element had a purpose in conveying a story to the viewer. 

Their support and expertise were instrumental in pushing me to achieve my artistic vision and produce a final result that I am very proud of.

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The Most & Least Challenging Parts of the Project

The journey was not without its challenges, both in terms of technical execution and artistic vision. Sculpting the temple, determining suitable texturing techniques, and positioning the mountain and waterfalls in the background were particularly demanding tasks. Additionally, optimizing performance without sacrificing image quality required careful balancing and iterative adjustments. Moreover, achieving the right lighting setup proved to be a significant aspect of the project.

On the other hand, the least demanding tasks for me were conceptualizing the overall theme and narrative. Drawing inspiration from the captivating cave scene in the movie ‘Lost City’ provided a solid foundation for the project, and I was able to leverage this inspiration to guide the development of the scene and storyline. Once the concept was established, the next steps of execution followed more smoothly.

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The Vertex School Experience

My experience at Vertex School has been very enriching. The program offered a strong education in 3D art, covering many topics and techniques required in the industry. Learning from industry professionals as mentors was a highlight, as they provided invaluable insights and guidance. Besides, the program’s emphasis on pushing boundaries challenged me to grow as an artist. 

By joining Vertex School, I was able to refine my skills under the guidance of experienced industry professionals. This ultimately enabled me to take my career to the next level in the world of 3D art and visualization.

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Student Links

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Recommended next read: Getting a Career as a Game Artist