Ever since I can remember I've had a knack for drawing caricatures. They haven't always been great, but over the years I've managed to hone my skills a bit better and draw some pretty amusing stuff, mainly for friends and relatives, and these days it's my passion. With 2D or 3D at my fingertips I'm really up for creating any type of character!
This particular piece of work came about because I worked on ITV's CG series, Headcases, as one of the character modellers (building and correcting up to 30 out of 64 characters), and I was asked by the nice people at Simplymaya.com to create this model of the hot tempered chef, Gordon Ramsay, as a character/caricature video tutorial, explaining the process of working on an actual production, such as the Headcases series.
References & Sketches
For the Headcases show we actually had a character designer so I didn't have to worry about references or drawing my own concepts, as it was all done for me, but if I'm working on my own – and before the initial stages of modelling begin – I generally like to seek out some decent reference material (reference is absolutely vital to good modelling, I can't stress this enough) and then have a play with some sketch ideas until I'm happy with what I'm looking at (Fig.01). I then like to seek an outside opinion or two before I commence any further. If the audience can see who the caricature is in one go, then you know it's a winner, otherwise it's back to the drawing board! But if you are in a production then it needs to be signed off by an appropriate supervisor, or even the director himself.
The Modelling Begins
So after finalising the sketches it's time to get them loaded into Maya via the camera image planes (Fig.02). For this particular tutorial I began with the simple task of modelling the clothing first, so it served as a warm-up before moving into the more difficult areas, like modelling the face and its features. Usually on a character I begin with the head so as to get a better idea of proportions, but this is a caricature or cartoon character so I was able to bend the rules a little.
With the blocking of the clothes finalised, I added more geometry to start rounding the forms out into something more recognisable (Fig.03). I've always been a fan of subdivisions, but since the introduction of polysmooth (keyboard 3) I tend to use this option more as it's just easier to jump from a faceted mesh to a smooth one, without the fuss of looking for a shelf command or going to the convert menu set.
Though the aim here is to create a cartoon character, it still needs to ‘sell' itself to the audience, and an area that sometimes gets overlooked on some models is the thickness of certain objects. Our character is wearing clothing made of cloth and not paper, so a degree of thickness is required to make it more believable. I also cut in detail where seams would be.
Ya Gotta Have Sole!
The character needed some shoes, so where better than to start than a poly cube? Again it was a case of extruding the faces and shaping it into a cartoony-looking shoe (Fig.04). These were then finalised by adding eyelets created from a couple of torus' that were cut in half and positioned; the laces were created from a cut NURBS torus and shaped to fit.
You Need Hands!
More extruding of faces was done to rough out the arms (Fig.05). At this stage I chose to add a little forearm twist (45 degrees) to help aid the joint twist when the character is rigged. It can save a rigger a lot of pain too when painting the weights for this area. I added another 45 degree twist to the wrist area to bring that back into a horizontal position, ready to extrude out the hand. After adding two more edge loops to the arm the palm was then created and shaped after two more extrudes. The forefinger and thumb were the only two digits to be made here; the other fingers followed after the UVs had been created.
I try not to get bogged down with repetitive processes – especially UVs. So from the front of the palm it was 4 extrudes outwards to create the finger. The thumb was created by selecting one lower and one side poly of the palm and extruded in the same manner as the finger. The forearm then had extra geometry cut into it and shaped to resemble the tendons and muscles, leaving geometry ready for the other fingers.