I've always found myself favouring the works of Brom, Giger, and most especially Cam De Leon. Cam's works (www.happypencil.com
) never fail to amaze and inspire me. Not only do they show a wonderful angle on character design, but always evoke a series of competing emotions. I can remember when I decided to do this piece ... It was a slow day at work and I was looking through my stock pile of inspirational images. I have been collecting images from all over the internet for a while now – photos, concepts, and models, all from great artists all over the world. As I passed by Cam's section, I stopped on one image in particular, ‘Fishboys' (Fig.00). It was always one of my favourites. It's a peculiar piece about three mysterious figures gathered in the rays of an overhead light. I constantly wondered, what were they thinking? Where were they going? Were they floating or flying? What does the light mean? As I began to look into the details, I realised that this could be such a cool piece in 3D ... so I got started.
Fig. 00 - 'Fishboys' © Cam de Leon, www.happypencil.com
The image simply consists of three similar figures, so I created a basic mesh for all three in the approximate proportions using 3ds Max. After importing the mesh into ZBrush, I separated it into my favourite Polygroups (Fig.01). I find that doing this step first can save a lot of time and hassle throughout the span of the project. For instance, when the arm is separated from the body at the shoulder, no matter how tightly the arm is posed, you can always quickly mask off one from the other. Once the Polygroups were setup, I roughly posed a mesh for each of the three characters. Now, instead of working on each figure as a separate tool, I appended all three as SubTools in the same tool. This allowed me to refine their pose and placement by being able to directly compare them as a whole to the original piece. This wasn't a project about each figure's details, but more a study of them as a whole and how they interacted with each other. This meant it was much more important to get the base of the group, as a whole, ready before moving on to the sculpting.
Before I began the actual sculpting portion, I took a minute to sit down and lay out a plan. This may seem kind of silly for such simple characters, but it actually cut my time to a third of what it would have taken. First of all, I decided to start with the top-most character. Due to the fact his pose was so much more neutral than the others this made the details more likely to work with the other poses.
For the actual sculpting, I started with the mesh divided twice. This gave me just enough mesh to start working in the shape without me getting too deep into the details too early. I mostly used the Inflat and Standard brushes for the first pass, bulging out the shapes and main muscle forms. Then the largest part of the sculpting was done using the Clay brush. I really like the way it builds up in a type of layering fashion and I defiantly recommend you trying it with different focal shift settings – I prefer to use it set to a really negative value. Once the shape was really well defined, the final details were worked out using Fatmiri's Standard 2 brush (www.fatmiri.com/gpage4.html
) to carve out creases and wrinkles; and the Clay Tubes brush to give the muscle fibre texture to the skin (Fig.02).
After the original base meshes were posed, I exported each of them out at their lowest subdivision. Once I finished the first figure, I was able to go back down to the lowest subdivision and import one of the other posed meshes. Because they were all started from the same base mesh and had the same number of verts; I could import the posed mesh and simply step back up to higher resolution while keeping all the details. Each pose was unique and required a little more finessing to get all the details to flow and work correctly. Needless to say, this saved me a ton of time.