Check out Chris Walker's (aka DrZenith) strong female characters from his self-titled "Bloodsport Beatdown” series inspired by 80s gaming, and find out more about his workflow...
3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
My name is DrZenith, (real name Chris Walker) and I've had an interest in character design and art ever since I was young. As a child I spent a lot of my time drawing Sonic the Hedgehog, Garfield, the Mask, Looney Tunes, and many more on page after page of paper. I discovered 3D when I was about 15 years old. I got a copy of a 3D application called TrueSpace on a CD-ROM on the front of a magazine and from my first torus and cylinder based space ship I was addicted! I quickly moved on to 3ds Max 3, and used this as my main software for many years until learning ZBrush. I'm located in my home town of Sheffield, in the north of England.
3dt: Tell us about your art: Your style, themes, genre, and some of the favorite projects you have worked on.
A big part of my life has always been gaming, and this has definitely played a role in the type of work I produce. Some of my favorite games are from the 90s including Sonic
, and the Streets of Rage
series still have a direct influence on me. There are specific female characters from my childhood that still inspire me such as Jessica Rabbit, Lola Bunny, and Blaze Fielding. I always liked the stronger, more confident attitudes of these female characters as opposed to a helpless Princess archetype and I think this comes through in the characters I make.
My style is generally bright and colorful - as I'm red-green colorblind I struggle with more refined and subtle color palettes. The characters I make are always heavily stylized and I put a particular emphasis on shape and dynamic forms. As I'm not an animator, I try and create believable poses and expressions as I believe that you can still tell a story with a single image. I find it really rewarding to design and finish my own characters, and posing the character plays a big part in my workflow.
My favorite projects have been my recent "Bloodsport Beatdown” girls. The idea behind this was to create a fictional beat ‘em up game, similar to Street Fighter
, and use it as a way to make a unified cast of bold and strong female characters. These have been so much fun to work on and I've learned a lot about pose and expression along the way.
3dt: Can you describe your typical workflow, and the software/hardware you normally use when creating your artwork?
My workflow has changed a lot since learning ZBrush. Before that I would model everything in 3ds Max, rig it and pose it, and I think looking back the more technical parts of the process would block me from making what I really wanted to make. Often spending countless hours wrestling with some technical rigging problem or hair system.
On my newer characters I use ZBrush almost exclusively. I put much more emphasis on the poses using transpose master, or even sculpting straight from a posed base mesh. My textures have also been vastly simplified in my recent work, as I believe my characters don't really gain anything from high detailed textures.
I like to render in KeyShot or V-Ray in 3ds Max. I love the instant feedback of KeyShot, and as I have a preference for high poly work with mostly polypainted maps, it is perfect for me.
I use a very humble self-built gaming PC with a single monitor. Inside is an ageing Intel i5 3570k, 32gb ram, and a Geforce gtx 1070. My Wacom of choice is a medium sized Intuos.
3dt: What inspires you
I'm inspired a lot by the world around me, people I see, characters in games or films, and of course seeing other artist's work online. I'm constantly motivated by what other people produce, and I find it genuinely inspiring to spend hours looking at everyone else's work online.
I've also been very inspired by music recently, for example when I was working on my Captain America model, for a period of about 3 or 4 weeks I listened exclusively to the soundtracks from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of particular use were 1 hour loops on YouTube of the Winter Soldier and Civil War themes, I also re-watched the Captain America trilogy again. I found that doing this really helped immerse me in the character, and inspired me to try and channel some of the energy and scale of the franchise in to my work.
3dt: How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?
I try and keep my portfolio up to date by being inspired to create new work. It's fun for me to just do 3D. In my free time I love working on characters in ZBrush, and these often make it in to my portfolio, if I'm happy with the quality.
Posting work in progress and unfinished images on social media is also a great way to get feedback on what you're working on. This can help motivate you to finish projects that you're struggling with.
3dt: Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?
Some of my favorite artists can be found on my bookshelf. Frank Frazetta of course is a big influence for most people who like science fiction and fantasy art. The amazing Sparth and his inspirational Structura series of books inspire me to think about how important shape is in art.
Stanley Lau is someone who I've followed for years, and I love not only his art, but his entire outlook on the art community and attitudes towards motivation and doing what you love, and not what others think you should do.
Ash Thorp is another person who I find particularly inspirational. His attitude towards art and passion for his own work, his dedication to learning constantly even at his level are great and motivate me to keep going and trying to get better.
I also follow literally thousands of artists online. I take so much from other people's work, and think that so many people have great things to add to the community.
3dt: What can we expect to see from you next?
I intend on continuing to develop my style, and learning more, trying to get better as a designer. I really want to push my models further and keep trying to produce characters and poses that people can relate to in some way.
I also want to expand my online presence further, making other types of content available like tutorials and resources through services like Gumroad.
DrZenith on ArtStation
Follow him on Instagram
Grab a copy of Beginner's Guide to ZBrush