A Method to Work with 3D
I try to avoid orthogonal views as much as I can and model everything in perspective. The main reason is because it increases your sense of depth in 3D. It helps you to do better digital sculptures later on.
I used the image information that I had from my 360 degree concept. When you have information about all of the views, like a blueprint, it's ideal, but I was able to produce this character with only a ¾ view concept. I actually prefer doing this as it forces me to have a better understanding of the drawing and how it's constructed (Fig.03).
Modeling for Animation
I love digital sculpts, but the main reason I use poly modeling a lot is because I like to prepare characters for animation and do things with them later. So my character was modeled with the box modeling technique and the edge extrusion/connection technique. I used the powerful Blender tools for modeling and UV mapping, which are incredibly great. From my point of view Blender has amazing tools for modeling and it's as good as any commercial program.
There are some tools that work differently in other software, like the knife. For example, by default in Blender you press Enter to finish a cut and then you automatically exit the tool. So you have to activate it again before you continue doing other cuts. In 3ds Max you can use the right mouse button to finish a cut, but you don't exit the tool until you press the button twice (Fig.04).
Illumination, Shaders and Render
When I finish any model, the next step is to do the UVs when I'm going to use it for mapping some textures. At this point you can rig your character to give it a pose, or you can do it later, after the next step. Sometimes before I start rigging and posing I like to test the light and the mood of the scene. I like to choose materials and colors in this stage of the process.
I like render engines that let the artist "paint with light". Some of them give you radiosity and bounced light with color blending for free, but it's nice to have control over all these things. I used Blender Render again, which can use good shaders and hair to achieve what you want. You don't have color blending so I placed the lights where I found that they were going to give me control of the main light and the bounced light (Fig.05).
It's always nice if your render engine has good solutions to solve complex shaders, or if you can create them without too much pain. Blender Render can use good materials with the power of a node editor. There's no specific shader for skin like in mental ray or V-Ray, but you can trick it. I mixed three nodes of materials so I had three different layers in the skin. The textures were also painted inside the Blender 3D viewport and UV editor. I started with a base skin pattern and a baked AO map over it (Fig.06).