The original intention of this project was as an entry for CGSociety's 'Strange Behavior' Challenge. I also hadn't created a personal image in a long time, due to being heavily involved in getting a studio started, and I felt like it was time for me to really go for something crazy - and this challenge fit that mould nicely!
The brief of the challenge was to create something that depicted "strange behaviour", and I figured that a big, crumbly rock with arms trying to sculpt itself into a sphere would be pretty strange! I wanted the action to appear to make sense when the viewer first looks at it, but then after second thoughts they would realise that Mr. Rock would never be able to achieve such spherical perfection (Fig.01).
It's just not physically possible for him to do! This is how I got the name for the image, "Pursuit of Perfection" (Fig.02).
I also thought it would be fun to make him into an artist of sorts, complete with a beret, a measuring pencil, and a sphere as his subject on a satin pillow and wooden stool. I wanted to experiment with techniques in ZBrush to create the rocky textures that would contrast with the smoother worked-over parts of Mr. Rock. It needed to have that transition from completely rough to nice and smooth. You know, to show that he was kind of getting somewhere with his efforts. Plus I needed to figure out a way to get all the arms doing something individually, in a way that made sense.
Of course, my original aspiration was to do my best to win the challenge, but there were so many great artists contributing that, at times, I felt like Mr. Rock himself! I encountered a lot of those wonderful "learning moments", where you have to scrap a large amount of your work in order to finish the project. There was only so much my computer could handle and so I ended up having to scrap some good, hard work. Of course, ZBrush handled these details fine, but I ran into problems in 3ds Max later on. I'll get into this more later. I also originally wanted to make him animatable in 3ds Max so that I could do a funny short movie with him as my animation entry. Unfortunately, work projects took hold of my time and I had to massively reduce the scope. But nonetheless, by the grace of God, all of this crazy sculpting paid off when I won the 'Best Texturing' category for the challenge, which was one of those mini-awards they handed out for achievements in certain areas of the production of an entry. I took great honour in this as I truly slaved away at making this character (Fig.03)!
So for the creation of this character, I needed to think of a concept. I had the idea in mind but needed to spit it out onto paper (Fig.04).
As I was drawing it, I realised that I was getting myself into a heap of trouble with all of the rock, stone, and cracked surfaces. But I knew ZBrush could handle the job! So once I got the concept figured out, I went into 3ds Max to get Mr. Rock formed out and to get somewhat of a shape that had a decent amount of polys and edgeloops in the right spots, as well as cutting in where the smooth sections would go.
I needed to keep a lot of elements separate so I could manage to get the displacement and texturing at a high enough resolution later on. So he got split into his face, arms, a smooth belly area, and then the rest of his body, to glue it all together. Once I figured out how tall and wide I wanted him, and had everything pretty much at a good low-res level, I took it over into ZBrush. This was where a huge majority of my work was done. When I work, I do things in big layers that start on a broad level, and then layer by layer get hacked and tweaked away into the final piece (Fig.05). I've learned the hard way in getting too detailed early on in the process. If you do this, you just end up with something that looks like it got pieced together like a Frankenstein project or something!