I made this image for a 3D challenge about freedom. My first ideas were way too ambitious for the time I can currently spend on my personal projects and much more serious, full of contemporary meaning. But after some thought I decided to go with a lighter and funnier approach.
Even though my drawing skills are limited, sketching is still a crucial part of the process. When sketching a concept it's really important to have in mind that you're just drawing for yourself and that the sketches aren't supposed to be a final result. Rather a first step towards that end (Fig.01 - 02).
I really like using ZSpheres. It allows you to quickly test your character's proportions and generate a base mesh.
For this character I tried a new approach to the thumbnail, which gave me a very nice result. I didn't extrude all the fingers from the same ZSphere. Instead, I placed another one on the wrist area and, following a more anatomically correct approach, I appended the thumb to this ZSphere (Fig.03).
It's not unusual for me to go into 3ds Max and do some simple topology corrections to the adaptive skin that ZBrush generates. In the following image you can see the adaptive skin already corrected (Fig.04).
For the shell I used what I usually refer to as a box sphere. It's basically a cube with uniform square quads topology, spherified. It really gives you a lot of freedom to sculpt and a more even topology then the classic sphere.
From that basic shape, and with the use of some references, it was easy to get the initial shape of what would be a single object with both back and belly sides of the shell (Fig.05).
As for my sculpting techniques, I believe they're pretty straightforward. I don't usually jump into a high poly model. I like to gradually advance towards the detail, taking advantage of different levels of geometry.
My most common tools are Move Topological and Move Elastic, Clay and Clay Buildup, Trim Dynamic and MPolish, as well as the Standard brush.
With the concept well defined and the proportions established, the sculpting of the character becomes really fast. It took around two hours to get the complete model (Fig.06).