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Hugo Guerra captured the grace and beauty of Natalie Portman's Oscar-winning performance in his latest piece.


Nina was the final exercise in my ZBrush Foundation class at Odd School, Portugal. For this exercise we were given the assignment of reproducing a full character illustration with ZBrush of a movie or game character. I wanted to pick a graceful female figure and to that end, the character Nina from Black Swan seemed like a great choice.


For this image, I picked a pose you can't really see during the movie but that is pretty common in ballet. I used a cosplay picture I found on the internet and sketched over it a bit over to understand the gesture of the ballerina. Since the body types of the cosplayer and Natalie Portman in the movie were very different, that was about all I could use that image for. The lack of reference material definitely caused the biggest challenges in this image.

As usual, I started with ZSpheres and tried to keep the sculpt symmetrical for as long as possible. I always try to get the shape right with the least number of polygons possible.

Based on the previous lazy gesture study, I started working on the main volumes and overall direction of the muscles. The arms and hands provided the biggest challenge, being stretched back and relaxed in a graceful pose at the same time. Understanding the flow of the body is vital, especially in such an image where the pose is so important.

Her body proved to be a challenge too, thanks to her very slender, yet muscular build. Finding the right balance was really hard, but probably the most rewarding challenge in the whole process.

I mostly used the Clay, Clay Buildup, Damian Standard and Pinch brushes for the organic forms.

Achieving a graceful, ballerina-like pose was challenging, but rewarding

Since the character is really young and the image was planned to be 2k pixels tall maximum, I didn't waste much time on small details such as wrinkles and pores. I just added a little noise to slightly break up the uniformity of the skin.

A young, small character doesn't require as much skin detail as a larger, older one

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