The main inspiration behind "Play" was our living room wallpaper. I have a very similar bear sitting on top of a CD rack in front of the wallpaper, so I thought it would be just a fun little project to model it and play with hair and fur. I also wanted to see how far I could push an image on my own, without a retouching team. I've lost count of the product renderings I've made with a simple white background, so "Play" was a great opportunity to create something quite the opposite. Compositing and post processing are a big part of creating this image, but we'll get to that later.
I had a very clear idea in my head about the atmosphere and mood I wanted to convey to the viewer. I, along with many others, have noticed that if you don't have a clear picture of what you're going to make you can easily waste hours and get nowhere. As this wasn't the case for this piece, the initial modeling, hair setup and textures were done pretty fast. I have to say that at this point I had no idea what I was going to put on the foreground so it was all about the bear at first.
Modeling and texturing was extremely quick. As the scene is simple, only planar mapping was used. The exception to this was the ladybug toy, which I unwrapped and used a VRay blend material with a scratch mask to get a worn effect, along with VrayHDRI on the material's environment slot (Fig.01). I won't go into texturing the objects too much because it really was very basic.
The wallpaper was a photo taken in our living room and just planar mapped onto a plane. I used a sweep modifier to create the skirting board and the floor was a simple plane with a slight VrayDisplacement to make it look more convincing.
The bear model itself was low-res and consisted of parts because I knew you wouldn't be able to see the mesh underneath the fur so there was no point in wasting polygons there. I should probably mention that all the wood textures were from Mayang (Fig.02).
The lighting was also very simple. I used one target spot with VRay shadows and GI turned on and an environment value of 0,3. To bring some variation to the scene and the lighting I added a blurred stripe mask to the Projector Map slot to simulate light coming through blinds. I later rendered it as a separate pass to gain control over the strength of the effect and was quite pleased to see it really added a nice touch to the overall mood (Fig.03).
At this early stage I usually bring a rough render to Photoshop to check out if the composition is working and to see where to place other elements so there is balance. I had decided to include another element with the bear to have some sort of interaction, but hadn't yet decided what it would be (Fig.04). A second opinion can sometimes come in handy so while pondering on this I asked a friend for critique on the composition etc. and we got thinking about the image as a whole. My friend suggested something red as a contrast to the blueish-cyan color and I thought of a wooden ladybug that the bear had played with and which had broken, giving the bear a reason to be sitting there still, maybe even being a bit disappointed.