How do you begin your characters? Do you research an idea and develop the concept, sketch ideas, or just jump right in?
(Laughs) I don't think I've ever created a character the same way twice! I start each project differently. You can simply draw your ideas in a sketchbook or makes doodles in ZBrush and draw variants on top in Photoshop. It's fun and helps a lot during the modeling and sculpting process.
Collecting reference images is also helpful because you will never be able come up with certain forms and details on your own that you'll find in photographs. Most importantly, you need to prepare yourself before you start working out your model.
There are some workflows that I personally find useful and work best for me. For example, starting work on a low res model to define the initial shapes is a good method. Gesture and proportions are the first thing you read from a character and they need to be in harmony. From there you slowly build up form as you come closer to your character.
The character workflow can be quite different per client. It's a good thing to be familiar with different approaches/techniques. For personal projects I like to start a character using a low res base mesh and block in the major shapes. Then I would add clothes and accessories.
For one job a client asked me to design a character and a creature. This time I started working in ZBrush straight away. I grabbed a DynaMesh sphere and finished the sculptures with PolyPainting. Later I was asked to make an animation-ready mesh from the design. Again, in ZBrush I used the Topology brush
to remesh the designs, and projected the sculpt details and PolyPaint back onto the new mesh.
It seems like your career as a freelance character artist is taking off. What advice would you give to people considering making the jump into freelancing?
Well, I've just started really, but I was lucky that right from the beginning a few studios showed interest in my work. The first few months I worked on characters, totally different to those in Killzone
, which was nice and I had a very pleasant collaboration with my client. Though the workflow I am used to can be difficult sometimes, especially when you don't have access to the tools and game engine you normally work with to polish your characters and textures.
Although I have worked on games for so many years, I would love to expand my knowledge and experience into film/cinematic, and also create physical models of collectible figures.
One misconception I often hear is that people think freelancers earn a lot. What is important to understand is that to freelance you have to make the initial investment in a workstation, software licenses, maintenance and a back-up system.
A large sum also goes to taxes, insurance and social securities. Then finally, you need to maintain your own administration and try to land on interesting gigs. If this all sounds fine by you, go for it.
Remember that most games or movie projects will be released a year or maybe two years later, so the professional work on your website is always old. It's important to invest some time working on your personal projects too. It's fun; you can try out new techniques and model whatever you like without restrictions.
You've recently moved into working on collectible figures and toys, and are working on a super-exciting secret project with us at 3DTotal and LayerPaint as we speak. How does this differ from normal character design? Also, where do you see this element of the industry going? There seem to be infinite possibilities with 3D printing for collectibles and game pieces!
Personally I love to create expressive figure sculptures that tell a story, like the drawing of Norman Rockwell. It's something I would be very interested in doing more off; I mean, your digital sculptures becoming physical models that people buy to place it on a shelf or their desk - how cool is that?
Since the start of my freelance career, I've worked on a few exciting projects - the most recent ones have to remain undisclosed at the moment - and one of them is indeed the 'secret' 3dtotal project. I also got a 3D print request for a private collection.
At the moment I'm working on characters and creatures for a CG film. This started as a design job in ZBrush first, but I ended up making a production-ready model, which I also enjoy doing. I would love to do this for blockbuster productions too; hopefully the opportunity will come once more people get familiar with my work. I believe a lot of success is down to luck, simply because there are so many amazing artists out there who are probably daydreaming about the same opportunities.
I'm not sure if I can give you an educated answer on how much working on collectible figures differs from designing characters for other disciplines. How I see it now, there is not much difference during the sculpting phase except for 3D printing. Here you have to make sure your models are watertight and whenever you need to make assembling pieces, you want to try and make a natural seam, so when you put your kit together it looks like a solid piece.
The sculpture would be the template for many things; from here you can create your production mesh, generate detail maps, export it for rapid prototyping or make a render and continue designing your ideas on top in Photoshop.
I understand there's much more to say about how one design differs from the other, depending on the medium or discipline and I definitely don't want to make it sound easy. Hopefully I will learn much more about the details in the near future.
Thanks for your time Rudy - we're all looking forward to seeing your next creations!
Thank you very much for this interview and the opportunity to collaborate on the secret project. It was truly a fun project to work on.
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Learn more about how Rudy creates his distinctive characters, by checking out his great project overview