Most of the time when creating a new illustration, I have no idea what direction to take. Initially, this scene consisted of a close-up of plastic ducks in a bathtub, sucked into a maelstrom. Sadly the exercise soon proved difficult and almost impossible due to a lack of hardware performance, but the idea of creating a bit of an extravagant scene with my little ducks was still in my mind. So I headed towards something bigger and wider, where I could use closeness and detail on the one hand, and depth on the other. What is more extensive for my ducks than the ocean!
From there I thought through the staging, the atmosphere, the frames and I reached this idea.
What does it means? This is probably the question I get asked the most. There is no rational explanation; I think it's a matter of interpretation. Before, I used to say that there are pictures that tell a story and pictures that have no purpose, other than being pleasing to the eye. My point now is that there is a bit of both in every picture.
Often in my 3D designs, the modeling is quite simple and basic; however I do not skimp on the reference images, in order to remain consistent. I used a hemisphere for the environment and a plan for the water. For the icebergs and ducks, it was purely box modeling. So, with edit poly, I moved the vertices and added segments (Fig 01 - 02). As I said, it was very basic!
Still, note that I used the Paint Deformation tool for the main iceberg, to add more detail where I considered it to be important. This tool is a good alternative to the 3ds Max Noise Modifier tool, because it makes it easier to add depth and relief in a less random way. Be careful not to abuse it though, at the risk of littering the model. You'd be better off using an Edit Poly modifier and adding TurboSmooth to add vertices, rather than working at the "base" of the model.
Finally I used the wonderful MultiPainter tool. The Scatter Object is the duck model converted to a VRayProxy and the surfaces are the water, of course, and the main iceberg (Fig.03).