Kotov Roman is an artist whose work speaks for itself. Which is lucky, as Roman himself keeps his cards close to his chest. A mysterious artist, who plays with light and texture, its hard not to be intrigued by this talented freelancer.  Roman has pulled on his experience in architecture and design to establish an artistic style that both comforts and excites. A relative newcomer to Berlin, the Russian born artist lives with his wife, and two cats. He graciously allowed EXIT to garner a greater insight into his process, and learn more about his art.

Interview by Aoife Brady


Hey Kotov, how are you doing today?

I'm quite good, actually. I've recently started taking walks with my wife, and there's finally some sun in Berlin.


Did you always want to work as a 3D artist and art director, or is it something you fell into?

 I never envisioned myself becoming a 3D artist until one day, I decided to drop everything and download Cinema 4D. Before that, I was on the path to becoming an architect and nearly got into university with that goal in mind.

However, a couple of months before enrolling, I discovered a university that teaches animation and cartoon creation. I was somewhat bored with the static work we did in architecture and decided to pursue the cartoon uni instead.

Interestingly, even after getting in, I spent 4-5 years making music for commercials.


From looking at your projects, both on your website and your Instagram feed, you have curated a very polished and cohesive style. Did your work always look like this, or has your style changed since you began 3D art?

Initially, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do in the 3D field. I spent a lot of time looking at the work of big studios, hoping to figure out their techniques. My first year switching to 3D involved working as a motion designer in an SMM company, mostly using After Effects, but I then applied for a position at an architecture company.

Spending the next half-year on architectural visualizations was my first experience earning money with 3D. Over time, my style evolved from enjoying low-poly, cartoonish things to focusing on minimalistic, strict architectural forms, mostly in black and white. Now, I'm trying to find a balance between the two, incorporating playful elements into strict environments.


I noticed you use both Unreal Engine and Houdini in your work. Does the software you use have an effect on the art you make? Do you find any differences in the end results?

Actually, I've never used anything besides Houdini for an extended period. I started with Cinema 4D, spent a few weeks learning the basics, then switched to Maya for architectural visualization.

I've always had issues with 3DS Max's UI, whereas Maya's hotkeys and gestures felt more intuitive. Once I discovered Houdini, I knew it was the perfect fit for me. It significantly streamlined my workflow, especially for adding particle simulations or pyro and other effects. I learned Unreal Engine (UE) for fun and used it exclusively for rendering my second demo reel, which provided a new perspective on my work.

For example, I had to find workarounds for the limited volumetric support in UE, like using a cloud texture on a plane and copying it around the scene for a fast-rendering illusion of complexity. I made several scenes specifically to learn how to work with volume in Unreal and have been using some of those skills ever since, even in Houdini.


You have a background in architectural visualizations, graphic design, and 2D motion design. Which, if any of these, has the most impact on your artistic process now?

Definitely architecture. I've never been passionate about graphic design, despite studying it for six years at university. It just didn't click for me.

My biggest challenge with 2D animation is that most of the work has to be done by hand, which I don't enjoy as much as setting up simulations in Houdini to see where they take me.

Architecture has honed my eye for detail, leading me to prefer clean, museum-like spaces that are challenging to perfect because every imperfection stands out.


You have worked on some pretty impressive projects, like the Google Pixel 6 Launch Campaign, and Electric Zoo Festival. I am interested to hear how you decide which opportunities to turn down, and which ones to take on?

I review the briefing to see what the client expects from the project and select opportunities that align with the personal brand I'm building and the type of work I enjoy.

For instance, I recently worked with Berlin studio Bus.group, and during a two-week exploration phase, I had a great time, since it's my favorite part of a project.

On the other hand, I turn down inquiries about integrating 3D into live footage since it's not my area of expertise.


Your work 'Afternoon', from your website was for a spatial installation in a high end restaurant. After a long day of working at your computer, what is your favorite restaurant in Berlin to go to?

Whenever my wife and I move to a new city, one of our first adventures is finding our go-to restaurant—a cozy spot where we can relax and enjoy good food from time to time. Our criteria are simple: it should be nearby and have friendly staff. Not too long after we moved here, we discovered a place just across the street that quickly became our favorite.

Unfortunately, five months later, they relocated to a different part of the city. So, now we found a new favourite restaurant called Midtown Grill Berlin.


In your personal project 'Solid' you describe the subjects of the piece as being in a 'metamorphic dance, choreographed by light'. What part does light, and by extension, shadow, play in your work?

 Light is arguably the most important aspect of 3D art. Even the most fantastic model and texture can fall flat with poor lighting, while simple white boxes can stand out with the right lighting.

I usually spend about 70% of my time on a scene just perfecting the lighting and camera angle. Once I started focusing on these elements, I noticed a significant jump in the quality of my work.


A lot of your art focuses on the interplay between the manmade and the organic. I would say it is increasingly hard to separate the two. Do you think that interweaving of the artificial and natural is good or bad for us as humans?

The blending of the manmade and the organic is inevitable, and I don't believe in labeling it as good or bad since those are human constructs. Like any other living creature, we modify our surroundings to make our lives easier. I'm fascinated by how these two aspects can work together without one overpowering the other.


You have previously done visual research on new ways to convey computer processes. What is, in your opinion, the hardest thing for an artist to capture in their work?

For me, capturing emotions is the most challenging aspect. I'm always fascinated by how certain pieces of media can evoke strong feelings, standing out amidst the background noise of everyday content.


Finally, do you have a goal for yourself for this year? What would you like to work on or achieve artistically?

As I'm new to the freelance field, my goal is to work with a wider variety of brands and studios, improving the recognizability of my brand and making more contacts.

Artistically, I aim to move beyond abstraction and explore designs that could exist in real life, creating something tangible that people would want to touch.