Previous to the creation of this image I did a number of renders for a gallery exhibition (Adaption Series). For this series I produced thirteen inkjet prints in total and introduced a low-poly, realistic, astronaut character with no textures whatsoever. This was a starting point for making a completely different image. I obviously wanted to do something new with a character/role I liked, so I reused two elements: a helmet and a backpack and started to model around them (Fig.01 - 02).
This new image was supposed to be the complete opposite of the series I've mentioned; a cartoon image relying on a comical idea with minimal scenography, and something I could produce in two-three days time. The helmet was slightly remodeled by further reducing the polycount. After that I modeled the body with no reference drawings. I knew what I wanted - short legs, long arms and a stronger upper body - so I had no need for a detailed sketch. Also I knew that the astronaut's face wouldn't be visible behind the glass of the helmet so I skipped modeling any unnecessary details (Fig.03 - 04).
Idea Behind the Image
I took a well known phrase - "All roads lead to Rome" - and placed it into a context where it was unlikely to work. For this I modeled one comet with a road across its surface, roadside signs pointing towards Rome and an astronaut strolling across the galaxy.
It was a simple idea and so I wanted to make a fairly simple scene that I could texture, rig and render quickly. Therefore the focus was never on high-end realistic production possibilities, but on a stylized image that could deliver the punch-line in one fast look-over. Inspiration behind the style can be found when browsing through vast quantities of gaming images on sites like 3DTotal, Game Artisans, CG Society etc. I won't be mentioning individual influences because there are so many exceptional artists; one just has to continue clicking.
Modeling (Comet Example)
After the astronaut I started to model the comet and the "Rome" sign. All the objects are low poly quad models that were detailed with textures and additional sculpting in ZBrush. Before sculpting, the comet was previously modeled in 3ds Max (Fig.05), textured in UV Layout and imported as an .obj file into ZBrush.
Mostly Clay and Mallet Fast brushes were used when sculpting (Fig.06). Exported maps included Tangent Normal map, Cavity map and Displacement map. All textures were finished in Photoshop and later placed upon the Oren-Nayar-Blinn shader (Fig.07 - 08).