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Mini interview with Raul Tavares

By 3dtotal staff

Web: www.artstation.com/artist/art (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 13th June 2014

Freelance character and creature designer, Raul Tavares, discusses his work, life and influences, and reveals how his award-winning Chubby image came to life


Raul Tavares was the May gallery winner in the fantasy category with his chubby dragon design. So far, he has accumulated over 100 votes and 6,000 views and earned 5 stars. You can view a turntable here. We caught up with him to discuss his work.

3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?

Raul Tavares: Sunny days, good coffee, a slice of cheesecake and a hard working day of concept design...that's how everyday life should be.

On a more serious note, my name is Raul Tavares, I’m living in Portugal and I’m currently working as a freelance concept designer with a strong tendency for character and creature art. My main areas are design, modeling, sculpting, texturing and to some degree shading. I work mainly with ZBrush and Photoshop for concepting and Maya (with mental ray) as my lighting studio, for final presentations. But I like the process of discovering, exploring and adapting to new tools. This industry doesn’t cope with falling behind, so I try my best to be up-to-date.

I design in 2D as well as 3D, all depending on what makes sense for the project. More often than not it's a combination of both, hand-in-hand, to complete the project. ZBrush is my tool of election as I like to be artistically free of technical limitations for as long as possible to quickly generate ideas and produce digital maquettes. In a nutshell: think story and design first!

3dt:Tell us about your image Chubby the Unlikely Hero. Was it a challenge to create? What inspired it?

RT: I started Chubby as a personal project having in mind its full development into a game character for Dota 2. I love playing online games like Dota 2 and League of Legends, though I lack the time nowadays. So I thought, while playing Dota 2, why not make a courier for the game? I would love to see something stylized yet realistic; cute yet cunning with a bit of a cat personality, carry my items around in the game!

Chubby here was quite the challenge to create because it basically combines 2 worlds that are, at least for me, hard to blend together: realism and stylized.


I love cartoon and stylized characters but I also love realism and concept work. Now how could I bring both worlds together in a single character?

Drawing inspiration from real life (reptiles and amphibious creatures) and fantasy (both in my head and that of other great artists, books and films) I went on ahead and accepted my own challenge to create something completely different from what I’ve done before! The result was this cute little brat that I fell in love with.

3dt: Talk about the software you used to create Chubby the Unlikely Hero. Is this the same software you generally use?

RT: Like I said, I tend to use everything I have available to explore, develop and finish a piece of artwork. It’s 2D and 3D not 2D or 3D. More and more, those 2 are starting to get closer and closer to each other and, by the end of the day, what really matters is the finished piece. For Chubby I used pencil and paper to explore silhouettes, Photoshop to refine things, ZBrush for the sculpting and texturing and Maya (mental ray) for the completion of the piece (rendering).


I do, however, sometimes tend to just open up ZBrush and start sketching either randomly or with a set idea in mind. I find this process very fluid, dynamic and relaxing.

Now, the most important thing is to have fun! I can’t stress this enough! If you don’t enjoy the process, just do it the way it makes you feel comfortable. This is the great thing about ZBrush â€" it's artistic freedom. There are so many different ways of doing the same thing inside the software that no specific way is the right way. It’s just like cooking, there might be a recipe, but there are always new and different ways to get the same result.

3dt: Tell us the story behind your artwork: What brought you into the digital art world and what software do you use?

RT: I’ve always loved videogames and film. I grew up having as a best friend Final Fantasy VII (still my favorite game in the whole world!) and as the years passed by that passion became love and an insatiable desire to see my creations come to life.

As I aged and went through the different stages of life we all go through â€" Elementary School, High School and University â€" I became more and more aware of what I wanted to do. I started off studying electronics and ended up self-studying art after a degree in Marketing â€" yeah, go figure right?!

Now, after a long fight with the UI, ZBrush was an eye opener and a window into another dimension altogether! The possibility of not having to worry about technical limitations and being free to focus on the artistic side as much as possible (with things like DynaMesh) was a true blessing. Open the software, pick up a DynaMesh sphere and start sketching, as simple as that. Whole characters come to life with a single piece of 'clay' â€" what’s better than that?


Now that I’ve discovered my love and passion and a software that allows all my creativity to flow, with the only limitation the speed at which my hands can reproduce what my brain is telling them, heck, I’ll never go back!

3dt: How did you learn to paint digitally?

RT: Like many artists the process of self-discovery is a hard one. I’ve been a self-taught artist since the start. I don’t have that path of an early bloomer and memory of holding a pencil when I was 5-years-old… No, I started late. But I started knowing I wanted this so badly that I would quit my daily job and start teaching myself the best way possible.

It was through the invaluable feedback I got from people online, friends and all sorts of tutorials I could get my hands on, that I progressively started to get better and better. It’s mileage and it has to be one day at a time, one step at a time. Good art doesn’t come over night, neither does the technical part. Your brain is a muscle, just like your hands, so it needs you to train it and give it time to mature and sink in the knowledge you seek.

So don’t waste time, practice, practice, practice!


3dt: How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?

RT: When it comes to portfolio I actually have 2 different sets: one is for long projects, the other is for works in progress or almost-finished ones. This is to say that I have, at least, 40 project folders of work in progress and that’s all due to the fact that I’m an extremely perfectionist kind of person.

Now, to keep it up to date I try to sculpt and paint, at least, 30 minutes each day, as loosely as possible â€" rough sketches one would say. The important part of this is that you are not pressuring yourself to do anything other than practice. You’re not thinking: “I have to create a character desperately for my portfolio”. You’re simply sketching. Letting your imagination run free like this sometimes allows for happy accidents that lead into a discovery â€" a new character or creature or environment.

If and when that happy accident happens, then is the time to dig deeper and do research. Collect reference, make additional sketches, and so on. Never neglect the importance of references. Everything we create needs to be, even if just slightly, associated or grounded in reality. We can distort it, but it’s still grounded in reality. So try your best to always go for those references.


Now, art is never finished. Try to post your work constantly on places like Lunchcrunch on Facebook, ZBrushcentral, CGSociety and so on. To get feedback is the best thing one can have in today’s digital community. It’s through that same feedback that one grows and learns. There’s a great community of artists out there that love to share their thoughts and experience with you, so don’t be shy!

3dt: Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?

RT: Oh boy! This is a never ending list, this one is! I feel inspired by so many artists that it really is impossible to name them all. Never the less I do have a couple that influence me more in a more direct way. I’ll try to explain why.

Just like with the creation of Chubby, I feel attracted to both the worlds of stylized/cartoon design and also realism/concept design. So, in that sense, artists like Cory Loftis, Stephen Silver, Nico Marlett, Brett Bean, Danny Williams, Michael Defeo, Alessandro Baldasseroni, just to name a few, influence me to walk the path of stylizing my creations. On the other hand, artists like Andrew Baker, Ben Mauro, Justin Goby Fields, Aaron Sims, again, just to name a few, influence me to take the path of taking less time in my creations and also accomplish a certain level of realism.

So I try my best to develop work that blends both worlds (though sometimes it just doesn’t happen).


3dt: What software would you like to learn in the future to expand your portfolio and skillset, and why?

RT: I’ve been having my eye on MARI and Marvelous Designer for quite some time now. I think both show a lot of promise when it comes to integrating them into my workflow and skillset. MARI, for its wonderful and powerful texturing capability; Marvelous Designer for speeding up my workflow. While texturing seems so realistic and easily done with MARI (from artwork I’ve seen from people like Justin Holt), clothing and costume design seems effortless when done with Marvelous Designer. Those 2 are on my to-do list in the very near future!

3dt: How do you like to unwind after a hard day's (or night's) work?

RT: This is an easy one! A friendly chat, a great dinner and the perfect glass of red wine â€" those are my relaxing times. Fortunately, Portugal is a country of good food and good weather, 2 qualities I enjoy when in need of relaxing. So, whenever I need to take some time off to relax I just go out for a nice meal, enjoying the company of friends, good food and good weather. It can’t get any better than that.


3dt: If you could choose any superhero power, what would you take, and why?

RT: Now that art has allowed me to free my mind to fly away to whichever worlds I imagine, I’m only missing my body’s ability to do the same… so, my superhero power would be to fly! But, on the other hand, art and being able to create worlds from my mind is the most rewarding feeling, as good as flying!

Related links

Check our Raul's personal site
Raul's Chubby image is popular in our gallery
Submit your own work here
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