Cecile Decourt, better known as Cake One, has been creating 3D products and promotional artwork since the very dawn of Daz 3D. She lives on the Atlantic coast of France with her spouse and two children and creates incredible artwork full-time. To celebrate her 20th Anniversary with Daz 3D, we wanted to highlight her journey as a Published Artist over the last two decades.
To mark the occasion, Cake One has released a special 20th Anniversary Bundle, featuring items for her beloved Click N’ Render collection.
Hi Cecile, thanks for taking the time to chat with us.
First of all, I want to thank you for having me here. A lot of people know my artwork and see it regularly on the Daz 3D website or social media, but don’t know who made it, so thank you very much for the spotlight.
Of course — we’re in love with your artwork! Can you share how you first got started with Daz 3D?
I learned about Daz 3D when it was not even called Daz 3D.
Let’s go back in time for a minute: we are at the very end of the last century and there is a small community of users who make images with this new program called Poser. It’s the first of its kind and it allows you to manipulate some kind of 3D wooden mannequin.
Soon, the mannequin finds companions in (very basic) male and female characters. We make images but also tutorials, freebies, etc. It’s not really business-oriented at the time. Then people started to make products and sell them. I had a lot of freebies there, as well as free tutorials, and decided to make my own character and sell it as well.
At this time, there was this new company called Zygote who was starting to make more realistic characters, props, and animals for the program. We were working with the shipped figure of the program, a super basic male and female, and Zygote arrived with 2 amazing characters: Michael and Victoria that were already next level. I immediately started working on their character who was much more elevated and one of their guys reached out to me and asked me if I would like to be brokered at their store. I happily agreed. It was in 2001. That product was a character for the original Zygote/Daz figure: Victoria. It is still sitting in the Daz store.
Going forward to 2014/2015, I was just a PA (Published Artist) and my promo art was being noticed by the Daz team who asked me if I would be interested in doing some promo art for them. It started with a couple of outfits, some hair, etc, and now, I work on it full-time, focusing mainly on the original characters and other things as well.
That’s quite the storied history, thanks for sharing. How did you pick your artist name, Cake One?
Again, a last-century story: the internet is just starting. I’m a teenager and I’m watching the whole world connect with dial-up modems and when you go online, you need a nickname. My name is Cecile and my little brother used to say it as if the C was hard so he would nickname me “Kekile” which is already quite close to “cake.” At the time, my perfume was the Calvin Klein CK1 fragrance. Mix the 2 and you have Cake One. And for the record, I don’t eat cake much and I hate baking because I lack the needed patience and discipline.
Haha, fair! Baking is a difficult art form all its own. Speaking of art, how did you first get into design, art, and 3D modeling?
As a kid, I wanted to be a princess. To be specific, I was drawing princess gowns all day long. I have always loved drawing but the truth is, I’m not that good at it. My father has always told me I was better at enhancing things than creating them from scratch and I think he was right. But let’s learn anyway, right? I went to an art school in Paris for 3 years after my diploma. I learned painting, drawing, sculpting but what I really loved was typography, photography, composition, art history, marketing, and advertising. I’m lucky to be able to use all of that in my artwork and the ability to enhance already existing products is useful in my products.
What inspires you when creating a product or promo artwork?
I usually create a product when I need it. I’m an avid Daz Studio user. Creating artwork makes me use it almost 24/7, but even before I started doing artwork for the store, I was already a user who could become frustrated because I needed things that didn’t exist. So, most of my products come from a user (me) need with the idea that if I need it, somebody else probably needs it too.
10 years ago, when characters were not as evolved in terms of expressions, I needed realistic smiles. So I made like dozens of them, for male and female. And I sold them and realized I was not the only one needing them. I needed diversity so I made an “ethnic” morph package. I needed some easy light setup that would not use too much GPU or CPU to render. I needed poses. I needed underwear, etc. If what I needed didn’t exist and if I could make it, I made it.
Very resourceful, and we know the community appreciates it. How would you describe your art style?
Don’t laugh but I’m inspired by a mix of the Italian and Dutch masters and big SFX movies and video games. El Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci or Vermeer, for instance, had a unique way of using the light as a brush that would reveal the painting and give it depth and life. They also use the framing very intelligently to tell a story. Then you add modern imagery like Star Wars, Marvel movies, or more recently Dune with its interesting minimalist and futuristic aesthetics. Recently, the Cyberpunk video game was really exciting, as a great game to play and as inspiring imagery.
To answer your question, I would say my style is “straight to the goal.” I love portraits and close-ups because you go straight to the point. I have a lot of admiration for several of my fellow “coworkers” who always have a lot of details in their images and a lot of things happening but this is not something I would do easily. I can when I need to but I am more comfortable when focusing on one thing and one thing only so the thing I’m focusing on just pops and nothing else in the image is here to steal their thunder.
That’s a great approach. What does your artistic process look like?
When I do artwork for my own products, I usually start it by accident when the product is not finished yet. I’m creating it, testing it with different characters, different lighting, poses, camera, whatever, and at some point during the testing process, I just stop and go, “wow, this looks good !” So I save it for later when promo time arrives.
When I have to do artwork for the Daz store, my goal is to showcase the product in the best possible way without cheating. Except for quick color/light enhancement on photoshop, I never use postwork. I hate it. Probably because I’m a bit lazy and don’t want to spend an hour on photoshop to enhance something but mostly because as a user and a customer myself, I don’t want to be cheated when I buy something. If the product looks good in the promos, I expect it to look as good in my content library, without me having to postwork it later. I think the key factor in doing product-oriented artwork is to never forget you’re not doing art for fun or to express yourself and do what you please. You have a purpose, to showcase a product the best possible way, and everything you do, every other product you decide to use, every decision has to be in that single goal.
Your style and approach are very focused, kudos. What’s the most difficult aspect of designing a product?
The lack of specific skills and the lack of time to acquire them. I would love to be able to model because I need 3D shoes and jewelry and basic underwear/bathing suits. I have so many ideas of the kind of products I would like to use but I barely have enough time to sleep so learning new skills is really hard at the moment. I would love to be able to make hair too. There are so many hairstyles I would love to use.
I made one dForce hair set based on a style I really wanted and it sold pretty well, but all the later ones I tried to make didn’t achieve the exact design I was looking for or the level of quality I wanted, so I dropped them.
And which product or promo artwork did you have the most fun creating?
Recently, I have been doing almost all the Daz Original characters artwork and each new character is different. They all have a story, a theme, and some of them are more challenging to handle than others. Before I start working, I have a stylesheet that explains the context and the inspiration for the character/theme but I really know what it’s about when I load the character for the first time. And sometimes, you load it and you just go “WOW.” You zoom in, there are so many details in the textures, the shaders are just perfect, the shape is amazing and at this point, you know you’re gonna have a good time. But at the same time, it’s a lot of pressure because the character is so phenomenal, you can’t afford to not show it at its best.
One of my favorites in the past year is definitely Millawa. I remember just loading her and whatever camera angle I used, whatever pose, whatever makeup, it looked incredible. Give her some mecha wings and she’s beyond perfection. I have to say the quality has improved so much in the last decade it’s really impressive. For the Male, Torment was her equivalent. I just went “Wow.” Those 2 characters are often used in my images because I believe they are near perfection but I have to admit, it’s an arbitrary selection.
Those are great characters, and that promo artwork is spectacular! How would you say your work has changed over the years?
I try to push myself to create images that make me go “Wow.” To paraphrase RuPaul, “If you don’t impress yourself, how in the hell are you gonna impress somebody else?”
Sometimes you make images you’re super happy about and proud and you leave it here and look at it even a week later and all you see is the flaws. I try to focus, see the flaws immediately and fix them so I can wait several years and look back and still like that image. What I love is looking at one of my images later, and loving it as much as if it was made by somebody else.
Awesome. How do you know when a product or artwork is finished?
That’s difficult. Some products I was so inspired and so full of energy, it was a matter of days to pack it up, promos included. Some others, I spent weeks or even months, always tweaking, always second-guessing, never 100% happy about it, might it be on the product itself or the promos.
For the Daz Artwork, it’s the same but we need to add the time factor. If a character is scheduled to be released at a defined date let’s say in 10 days, I can’t afford to spend 3 weeks refining my artwork and second-guessing myself. I know the artwork is finished when everything seems well balanced. I can spend like an hour moving something back and forth or the camera angle by 1% here 0.5% there again and again because it doesn’t seem balanced. It feels OFF somehow. When it finally feels good, when everything is at the right place, then it’s over.
What challenges have you overcome as you’ve developed as an artist?
I have always felt inspiration and creativity are like a faucet you can’t really control. Sometimes it flows abundantly and that is the perfect time for creation. When that happens, I will milk it as much as I can. I won’t sleep, I will just take advantage of that flow. Products and artwork are made in the blink of an eye, without any obstacle. Some other times, no matter what you try, that damn faucet is empty and you can spend hours, days stuck in an image that just doesn’t look right. This is impossible to control and hard to handle.
Well, here’s to hoping inspiration continues to flow! What should we expect from you in the future?
I would love to say a retreat on a beach with some nice cocktails but I don’t believe that’s what’s gonna happen. I will continue to make images and try to find enough time to make quality products. There are still so many things I need but I don’t find the time or have the skills to make them.
Ah, cocktails on the beach sound perfect right about now. In the meantime, let’s wrap up with a few bonus questions. What do you like to do when you’re not making artwork?
I’ll be honest, I love to rest. Not really the body, but mostly the mind. Having good times and laughs with the family is fun. I also watch a lot of movies, a lot of tv series, I play video games when I’m not too tired of seeing 3D characters and when I feel down, I go to the little beach 5 minutes from home and just contemplate the ocean. It helps me put things in perspective.
Lovely. What advice would you give your younger self?
Buy Apple shares and Bitcoin. More seriously, I would tell myself to learn new skills as soon as you have the opportunity.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid, after my “princess” phase, I wanted to study the oceans and find new species hidden in the deep. After high school, I wanted to go to college and study Psychopathology because I have always been fascinated by the human mind and what makes people do what they do.
Ooh, interesting. What are some other fun facts the Daz community would be surprised to learn about you?
I can move my nostrils at will and I whistle all the time.
Whistle while you work? Haha. Do you have a spirit animal?
The cat, definitely. Sleep, eat, play, be hugged, and pet until you’re fed up so you just scratch. Yeah, I would love that. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, that’s what I want to be if I’m born again.
Nice! If you could choose one superpower, what would it be and why?
Without a second of hesitation, I would want teleportation. I have been missing time and mostly money to travel and discover new countries, new people, new cultures, new art for years now so I would definitely enjoy the ability to go everywhere/anytime I can in a heartbeat.
Great choice. Where can people find more of your artwork?
I don’t really use the Daz Gallery because all my work is already featured on the store itself, but you can find me on Artstation and check out my most recent work on Instagram. I also have a couple of time-lapses showing how I do my renders on my YouTube channel.
Fantastic, thank you so much for your interview and all of the wonderful artwork!
Thank you so much for having me and letting people know a bit better the person behind the images and products. I can’t tell you how happy I am about this 20-year journey with Daz 3D and do hope the 20 will be even more exciting.
Don’t miss Cake One’s 20th Anniversary Bundle in the Daz store, and spend some time exploring Cecile’s complete collection of products on the Cake One vendor page. And next time you see a new Daz Original release come through, remember, there’s a good chance she’s the one who created the promo artwork!
Check out other artist interviews, guides, and more on our blog.