Category: Practice 2 Media

Practice 2 Media: Learning Outcomes

The briefs throughout this module have provided me the opportunity to push myself to produce my best work to date, and have been happy with the outcomes. This is not so much what I have learnt specifically studying the module, it’s more what I have learnt in the time period between January – April.

Time management – the first of my learning outcomes is maintaining the consistency of a disciplined schedule. As you may know from one of my earlier posts, I keep an Instagram account where I share a daily image of the work I have done that day. I’ve maintained a streak of this, and achieved the 365 day year milestone a few weeks ago. Managing this alongside my freelance career in graphic design and active lifestyle has been challenging, but rewarding.

Keeping Active – Although not an obvious learning outcome, the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle was highlighted to me back in January when I injured my back and was unable to exercise for 3 weeks. Without keeping active I felt a real struggle to sit down and work for 12hrs straight. Unfortunately this is not a healthy profession, and it is a widely accepted fact that sitting too much is bad for your health.

Importance of networking – I’ve maintained an active sketchbook thread and accounts on both Polycount3DHit, TwitterFacebook, and the aforementioned Instagram. I have also been attending social networking events, such as the London Polycount meetup and most recently the Industry Workshop Demo Day. Meeting new people and discussing artwork outside of an online forum is a valuable experience.

Exterior influences – artists’ 2D Techniques

Scott Robertson – draw-through method and line weight techniques

Although I have before cited his draw-through method as an influence, I especially pushed the technique’s complexity in the live brief project, as showcased here on my Artstation. Every single prop in that room was drawn inside it’s own cube which was plotted into perspective and subdivided down manually in 2D following the perspective grid which was extrapolated from intersecting parallel lines from the 3D blockout.

Environments & Utilizing 3D in my workflow

I was well aware that the live project had a tight timeline and was keen to involve more 3D work in my pipeline. From an efficiency point of view it just made sense to build up a base model and trace over the block-out, and the learnings from this will fully be taken advantage of in my Final Major Project.

The line art stage of the project was a good opportunity to showcase my strength with relying purely on line. Scott often discusses the importance of dynamic line art, and the main take home of his work expressing such strength with only line can be boiled down to a few observations that I’ve made. Firstly is the variety of line weights. Big details, such as the main silhouette of each prop within that environment, has the strongest line which separates it as an individual element apart from it’s surroundings. Overlapping forms must also have a bold line to maintain readability and distance separation. Smaller and ‘high frequency’ detail that tend to be less important have the lightest lines to avoid confusing the eye too much. I feel I handled this well.

These techniques are widely utilised within the industry as a clear and concise way of communicating a visual idea once past the initial thumbnail stages. It’s showcased in much concept art, including the FZD school Design Blog.

Concept Design for Virtual Reality

The Cyberpunk Room project was designed with VR in mind (although it’s not something I’m interested in seeing being developed by a studio without appropriate compensation). I spent a lot of time considering designing for VR, including adopting a cel-shaded and less gpu intensive art style to optimise performance. Creating a relative sense of scale is something that I embraced, and designed a lot of ‘familiar’ props to really place any viewer into the environment. I realise that as the industry moves forward, there will come the demand for more and more VR focussed projects, and as such I have been keeping an eye on the work of concept artists at the forefront of that niche in the industry.

Jama Jurabaev is one of those artists, and has a fantastic technique for design for VR, including a very efficient way of creating panoramic sketches within 3D-Coat. At the ‘IW_Demo Day’ (15/04/2017) I watched a live demo of the teachings in his tutorials on the subject, which were hugely interesting. Had I known about this before then I would have utilised this method to design the environment for the brief, but going forwards I’m happy to know about it.

Creatures & 3D Techniques

I’ve been experimenting a lot more with 3D outside of any officially assessed projects as a way to improve my sculpting and design. The work of Andrew Baker, as well as Peter Konig, and Kurt Papstein are all big influences on this, and their methods of ZBrush sculpting, followed by photo-texturing and paint over in 2D are aspects that I am bringing more and more into my work and look forward to fully utilising in the upcoming FMP.

My initial reluctance to rely too heavily on 3D was down to a weakness in the medium, but challenging myself to do much more creature sculpts has really caused my confidence to increase.

Where to go from here – critiques on my own work and an outlook at the industry

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to have a portfolio review from one of my favourite artists, Noah Bradley at the IW_Demo day. He remarked on the strength of my sketches, but weakness of painting. I’ve received similar feedback from Frank Victoria, although he was not quite as forceful in his insistence that I divorce myself from my beloved linework. As such, I’ve taken a 30 day hiatus from drawing, and instead will be painting in my daily images. Identifying a weakness and working on it is crucial for artistic development.

Industry Workshop Demo Day & Self Reflection

I was at the IW_Demo_Day yesterday and watched a variety of artists doing live demos showcasing their workflows. Needless to say it was inspiring to see the best at their craft, and helped ‘de-mystify’ a lot of their processes.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to have a portfolio review from one of my favourite artists, Noah Bradley at the IW_Demo day. He remarked on the strength of my sketches, but weakness of painting. I’ve received similar feedback from Frank Victoria, although he was not quite as forceful in his insistence that I divorce myself from my beloved linework. As such, I’ve taken a 30 day hiatus from drawing, and instead will be painting in my daily images. Identifying a weakness and working on it is crucial for artistic development.

Here is day 1, and the rest will be on my Instagram as the challenge progresses

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Artist Profile – Ted Beargeon

I’ve been blown away by the amazing concepts of Ted Beargeon, and in particular his approach to the presentation of these designs. As just one good example on his ArtStation profile, his Warhammer 40k Orcs…

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He uses symmetry to a strong degree in his work, which makes his iterative process easier. This is something that I have been taking into my own practice with my work as well, I just need to keep practicing my painting skills to reach a higher level of rendering:

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Artist Profile – Pascal Blanché

Pascal Blanché is a Senior Art Director at Ubisoft Montreal, his personal 3D work is pretty striking for its rich vibrancy of colours and materials.

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In a lot of his work he discusses experimentations with shaders and has a lot of very dynamic usage of colour. In a 2015 interview with 3Dtotal magazine he discusses his process, which is a combination of kitbashing, sculpting and playing with shaders.

I decided to have a quick go at something similar, and kitbashed together a fox skull (from public domain 3D scan data), as well as some ‘splash’ brushes from BadKing and started pushing shapes around in ZBrush. I then imported to Keyshot and played around with material settings.

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Although not as bold as Pascal in terms of vibrancy of colour choices, this was my first time playing outside of default materials within keyshot and tinkering with settings, and I feel that I can afford to be more experimental in the future.

Toothless the Vampire

So, following on from a fairly successful run of 3D character sketches (successful in the sense that I’m now far more comfortable jumping straight into 3D and pulling and pushing a sphere into something visually interesting, I decided to spend a few days on one creature and get a design together.

For the Final Major Project I’ll be once again working alongside Lee (characters) and Joe (environments), and we have a big scope planned. A lot of it will involve creatures, so this is the first sculpt of one of them that I’d like to appear in the game.

At the beginning of this I was shown the work of Jelmer Boskma, a fantastic Vancouver-based creature designer, whose aesthetic definitely helped shape the character

Base sculpt:

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Refining shapes (the name ‘Toothless’ is now a lie as it has two teeth):

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Refining ear shape:

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Torso & test rendering in Keyshot with skin shader materials and default HDRI

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Posed model rendered out. Taking a note from my earlier observations in artists work (Tom Rhodes) that posed characters make for more visual interest:

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Views – screenshots in ZBrush:

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Model turnaround:

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This is still a work in progress, and I will be revisiting the project and pushing it further as the FMP progresses, but for now I feel that I have a solid base to begin with.

Kitbashing & Creating IMM Brushes

Observing the work of other concept artists and designers who work just in 3D, such as the masterful Vitaly Bulgarov, it’s evident to me that they’ve generated a lot of speed from the ‘kitbashing’ technique, whereby they use pre-modelled assets in a new and interesting way as part of their designs to create something new. It’s not a technique that’s unique to  digital 3D modelling – famously it was used in the original Star Wars films to create a lot of detail on their ships.

Vitaly is renowned for this, but he spends a lot of time actually making the assets himself. Although this technique is primarily suited to hard-surface designs, I wondered if I could take the theory and apply it to organic forms, and in doing so utilise a ‘kitbash’ method to creature design.

So I made some IMM curve brush tentacles following this tutorial

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Applying them to a model…

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And another set based on Starfish Tentacles

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I hope that investing the time into creating these assets will pay dividends in future projects.

Creature Sculpts – 3D Challenge

Never be comfortable!

The importance of challenging myself to pursue new methods of working always has yielded results, however small. With some self reflection, I realised that although I had an understanding of 3D with the Red chases Blue project and Carnivorous Fungal Colony previous projects, these had outcomes that were in 3D after a lot of 2D development and sketch work towards them.

I wanted to change this and do more 3D ‘sketching’, so I’ve set about doing creature sketches (as it’s what I’m naturally drawn to).

These were sketched out in ZBrush and then rendered in Keyshot using basic default materials and HDRI spheres (the intent of the project is just to focus on modelling, so default materials are just fine to showcase the work).

Concepting in 3D is not a new prospect to me, but the thought of doing it straight away and replacing a sketch stage is fairly alien and takes me outside of my comfort zone. However, it does provide the benefit of creating much more intricate designs straight off the bat, and causes me to design and think in a way that would be slightly different to when I concept sketch straight in 2D.

I came across this idea from a fantastic tutorial by Henning Sanden and Morten Jæger on creature design, where they discuss a process of starting a design in 3D, then refining the silhouette and shapes in 2D with an iterative paintover, and then taking the design back into Zbrush to finish it up.