CG modeler Jose Manuel Linares Lopes shares his impressively detailed models and explains his expansive workflow methods...
3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
Jose Manuel Linares Lopez:
My name is Jose Manuel Linares Lopez. I am a CG modeler focused on environments and characters for animation and VFX. I am actually based on Ceuta, a small Spanish city in the south.
3dt: Where did you find the inspiration for your latest gallery entry? What's the story behind its creation?
Banderlog - Inspired by Artyom artwork
The latest gallery entry is part of my last modeling reel. I am always trying to look for great 2D references in order to translate into a 3D version, so I can complete the demo with personal works based on some Jaime Martinez, Paul Sullivan, Johnson Truong and Ximo Ferrer artworks.
Dragon - Inspired by Jaime Martinez artwork
I loved the complexity of the character and it was a great chance to improve some techniques inside ZBrush
and my workflow inside Maya
Vaquero - Inspired by Paul Sullivan artwork
Paul Sullivan is one of my favorite artists and his "Sly Cooper Thieves in Time” designs are simply amazing (environments and characters).
Vehicle - Inspired by Johnson Truong artwork
I am a complete fan of hard surface references and the "Wildstars” series are simply perfect to improve this modeling technique.
Laboratory - Inspired by Ximo Ferrer – Pendulo Studios
This kind of environment equates to an incredible amount of work; that's the reason why I love to work on them, because you have to think about the entire composition and all the individual elements at the same time. I think it's a good example of dedication and patience.
When I build a summary of my professional work of the year I always try to complete this with personal example of characters, props and environments to show different modeling techniques (traditional subdivision, hard surface and sculpt).
3dt: What software and plug-ins did you use to create this image? Did you face any difficulties, and how did you overcome them?
The modeling process is always a challenge, and a constant learning process. I have always focused on a cartoonish style, but some years ago I decided to expand my field with realistic looking tasks. Both use different methods to reach the same solution. I started with 3ds Max
, then I worked with XSI for 5 years and 2 years ago I decided to change to Maya (client's requirement) so I needed to adapt my workflow to this software. It was a great opportunity to consolidate and create an effective way of working (how to sculpt and connect with Maya, do the retopology process, apply displacement maps, create basic light setup, find tools to check geometry issues, unfold UVs and so on).
3dt: Do you normally use this software in your workflow? What other software and plug-ins do you favor?
Engine - Inspired by Alejandro Burdisio artwork
I always use Maya as my main software. Sometimes I use 3ds Max, for example for Blur Studios.
ZBrush for sculpting (characters and some parts of the environments). Topogun and retopology tool inside Maya to create the animation mesh, Headus UV Layout for unfolding UVs.
Talking about plugins, I always try to get only what I really need when I create a model to speed up some processes. I have some checking tools to locate overlapping geometry, one personal plugin for cleaning empty groups/delete namespaces/history and so on.
For modeling: scatter/shell/bent tools. The most important plugins for me are the ones that let me modify the pivot interactively. Most of them were made for a TD as a personal assignment.
3dt: Are there any particular techniques that you use often? Or do you like to experiment?
Engine - Inspired by Ardman Bartazar artwork
Well, when you work as a freelance modeler sometimes it is impossible to experiment due to tight deadlines, but depending on the company, I use different techniques. For example, when I work for an animation I always work (and think) in subdivision (some companies only want "models based on quads” and others let you use "ngong or tris”). Other tasks require only the sculpt process and you can work with a decimation mesh (a defined posed character for example) and finally one company can call you for a speed concept model; then I usually use more dense meshes and booleans to create an easy/fast unfold. I think it's a must to spend time trying to learn as much as possible. Even if you think you are not going to use it, in fact you do not know.
3dt: What are your artistic ambitions?
I did not used to think so much about future plans. If I have an artistic ambition, it is to continue working in what I want/like and be part of great projects i. I have worked (and I am actually doing work) for amazing companies, but I think that the goal is to improve and learn every day.
In 8 years I have been part of feature films, commercials, cinematics and videogames. Each one with their own requirements, rhythms, workflows and pipelines. I have always tried to adapt my skills to the requirements of companies such as Blur, Axis, Glassworks, Snowball , Buck, Volta with clients like Coca Cola, BMW, Sony, Mattel, Disney… sometimes making a big effort, modeling environments and characters "at the same time” has cost me a great effort. So maybe it is time to search for unique companies and find time for working on personal projects with friends. It doesn't matter; I only want to be proud of what I do regardless of the company. I have always admired the work done at Blur Studios.
3dt: What software would you like to learn in the future to expand your portfolio and skillset, and why?
Sculpts - Inspired by Dan Seddon and Robb Mammoerts artworkk
I am going to start with Fusion 360. In the past I was a fan of this kind of software based on nurbs. I used to work with Moi3D and Rhino but only for personal work. It is not only for expanding my portfolio, but also for understanding how to work with this kind of model. I guess I will have to learn how baked normal works and so on. I recognize that it is not something I will need in my actual work but I am interested.
3dt: How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?
Well it is easy when work and hobby are the same. The only way to keep this up to date is to invest your personal time in your own work. I still remember when I started in this field, I almost had no more life than this (many identify with me)and so many years later I am still trying to find free time to work on what I like. I am still connected to websites, social networks and so on. As I explained, an artist should do so because it is going to help someone to improve.
3dt: Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?
I have an endless list of favorite artists (designers, and modelers). As a hard surface fan I mostly like: Fausto de Martini, Amin Akhshi, David Lesperance, Vitaly Bulgarov, Hyungho Jang... for the incredible details they can apply to their models.
When I am trying to look for inspiration about what to model: Toph Gorham, Johnson Truong, Paul Sullivan, Bret Bean…
Finally, my references about how you should model cartoon characters are: Sergi Caballer, Pedro Solis, Matt Thorup, Luis Gomez Guzman... simply for their perfection.
But I would like to point out one of the most important modelers I have ever met: Mike Altman. This is the "real” reference for me because I started to model admiring his wireframes and shapes. I started in this field thanks to his work.
3dt: What can we expect to see from you next?
My goal for the next year is trying to face one of the most complex scenes I have seen. It's a concept art from Toph Gorham, and it's a mix between future and sci-fi. You can see here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/1bNe
and I will try to apply all I have learned in the last few years, but, as always I do not know where to find time. It will be a pleasure to share with the community (with a making of).
Check out Jose's personal site
Laboratory in the gallery
Grab a copy of Beginner's Guide to Character Creation in Maya