Character artist Dmitrij Leppée talks philosophically about his ambitions and inspirations, while sharing his latest work, including the 2nd-placed gallery
entry Javier Bardem...
3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
Coming from traditional drawing and graphics background as well as classical animation, I discovered my interest in 3D (ZBrush
in particular) some 6 years ago which I pursued on my own. I am currently working for Vida Systems Inc
., a medical visualization company, but never abandoning my love for portraying people, by transferring it to a new medium.
So far I have been lucky to have worked on projects of all kinds; models for print, animation, commercials, movies and games, and my skills and interests include concept art, 3D modeling, texturing, directing, animation and editing – to name a few. When I asked my boss what to write for my position in the medical viz company, since it wasn't discussed before, he suggested 'Anatomy overlord.' So that's a new one – ha.
Danny Trejo, a speed sculpt from a sphere, 3 and a ½ hours. 2011
3dt: Tell us the story behind your recent gallery entry: What inspired you to create it?
As always, faces and people with character inspire me most, so Javier wasn't an exception. He has very unique features, especially from the side; he looks as though he is missing a part of his forehead. Of course the movie No Country for Old Men and his role in it as well.
Discworld characters, an ongoing project. 2010-2015
3dt: Did you face any difficulties when creating this image, and how did you overcome them?
Luckily no, but sometimes I struggle with faces. I usually have a hunch what I will struggle with before I start on them, and I am pretty good at guessing, as in most instances it turns out to be the case once I get on with it – less character, less wrinkles and less gesture in the face (read younger faces), I know I'll struggle since I can't implement my fast approach as easily to hit the features defined by ageing.
I overcome those by being persistent. Very seldom it doesn't work – I have only one case of it not working so far, a portrait of Peter Lorre; he just has too much character I suppose and doesn't want me to capture his soul in a single image.
Leonard Cohen, a speed sculpt from a sphere, 4-5 hours. 2015
3dt: What software did you use and do you have any tips for using this software, or any other software that you use to create your art in general?
I use ZBrush and KeyShot
. My tip is rather to be yourself and, by investigating, pick what you feel is the right thing for you to do. More so if you are still young and have financial support from your parents. Don't do what other people do, but always do your own thing. I understand that's hard since the world constantly influences us with its easily digestible superficial matter, for example its questionable beauty standards, empty stories and so on; and on top of it all, large amounts of our audience compare our work exactly to that standard.
But if you use up the time given to you to develop what is inside you and unique to you alone, there's a chance that later in life you'll get paid for doing just that, the thing you love the way you love it, and in the process convert the audience to appreciate more and more depth. Before jumping to work, I feel it's best to think of the motive, and I can tell you that the worst motive you can muster is comparison, working on becoming better than someone else, or topping their art. You will always stay in the shadow of that to which you compare, and your art won't be a product of what's inside you if you don't take a chance and invest time to observe yourself.
Discworld's Librarian. 2015
3dt: Would you consider yourself to have a particular signature style, or techniques that you use often?
I consider my approach impressionistic, without spending time on minute details and endless tweaking. My technique complements it in that I don't use a base mesh, but start from a dynamesh sphere each time, hence I am free to go wherever it takes me.
3dt: What are your artistic ambitions?
To do what I like, and hopefully get paid for it while maintaining as much autonomy as possible, something like my current job at Vida Systems. I never have enough time to create all I have boiling inside me, so I'm constantly working on it.
City Watch, Vimes and Detritus. 2015
3dt: What software would you like to learn in the future to expand your portfolio and skillset, and why?
Having finished animation and new media at the Academy of Fine Arts, I would very much like to find some additional free time to study an animation software, though recently I have developed an animation technique due to that lack of time – 3D stop motion. I model each extreme in ZBrush as a separate model and then put them in sequence in a video editor. Somehow I prefer it to rigged animation – it feels more classic, and that's where I am most comfortable in that field.
Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin. 2015
3dt: How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?
I update my portfolio as soon as I finish a piece, or as soon as I am happy with a piece that is a work in progress. I don't think that regular updating of portfolio is that important in landing a job, at least not in my case, just having pieces that stand the test of time is usually what suffices in attracting attention. I found that writing a short caption about how much a portrait took me, (I mostly do speed sculpts) does well with employers, and that's what got me a job in the medical visualization company in the first place – time of creation noted under portrait of Danny Trejo
– and a couple of more freelance gigs.
3dt: Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?
My favorite artists are people involved in different areas of creation, who don't just go with the flow of things accepted by the world only because they are the current trend, but manage to free themselves from that influence, and approach their work through a thorough train of original thought, which surpasses the art itself, and where art serves as a means to perhaps make the world a better place. Not superficially and not to put a smile on someone's face, or steal someone's time by sheer appeal, but really search for the truth in all things to put it simply and be guides to others. I don't want to name anyone because my favorites are all who act like that, both known and unknown to me.
Human skull created for Vida Systems
3dt: How do you like to unwind?
As a fan of active holidays, I spend as much free time as I can either using my mountain bike, or hiking in the mountains.
3dt: What can we expect to see from you next?
I can't definitely say what can be expected, but the plan is to continue working on medical models in my job. And privately I would like to finish my Curse of Monkey Island remake project. Some seven portraits I've started recently, and record a process of modeling, texturing and rendering of a character (secret) which I would offer as a tutorial since there were a couple of requests, and finish it all by the end of year. That's the plan, it remains to be seen whether I'll manage it.
3dt: What animal would you choose to be reincarnated into?
I hope you are asking because you know someone who can make it happen. Since I am already a monkey, I would like to be a bird next time.
Check out Dmitrij's personal site for more great work
Dmitrij's Javier Bardem sculpt earned 1,747 points in the June gallery
Grab a copy of ZBrush Characters & Creatures