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Joseph Diaz: concept artist interview

By 3dtotal staff

Web: http://www.ghostsolid.com/ (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 17th February 2017

"Warcraft" and "Game of Thrones" concept artist Joseph Diaz shares some of his great portfolio work, reveals his workflow and lets us know what's coming next...



3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
Joseph Diaz: I'm a Barcelona based concept artist and digital illustrator. During the past 9 years I've worked mainly as a concept artist for productions like Warcraft, A Monster Calls, Game of Thrones, REC, Europa Report, Sleepy Hollow or Cirque Du Soleil's Luzia. For the past year I've worked mostly designing creatures and monsters for different genre movies still to be released. Right now I'm working with Guillem Pongiluppi, my partner at Ghostsolid Studio, on different projects based on H. P. Lovecraft's mythology.

In the future, Earth will be threatened by an alien panspermia attack. Only the evolution of artificial intelligences could save humanity. This is one of the 21 robotic ronins that will fight for humanity's survival. Modeled in Cinema 4D, rendered in KeyShot and overpainted in Photoshop.

3dt: What's the story behind your latest gallery entry? Where did the idea come from? What were you trying to achieve with it?
JD: My gallery entry "Space-Time Traveler" was an exercise I did while developing a script for a short movie I want to direct. The idea behind the story is the behavior of reality against time travel. In the story reality treats the time traveler just like our body will treat a virus, first getting ill, then generating antibodies against the virus, and then attacking the virus. This image was one of the first attempts to design the time machine that the protagonist uses to travel back in time.

This is my depiction of the creature that the great H. P. Lovecraft describes at the end of the story "The Dunwich Horror". I started the image with a very basic sculpt in ZBrush. Then I rendered the model in KeyShot and finished the image in Photoshop.

3dt: What software and plug-ins did you use to create this image? Did you face any difficulties, and how did you overcome them?
JD: I use different methods and software packages for each work. In this case, I wanted to quickly develop ideas, and I used Cinema 4D to play with shapes and build a basic 3D model. I mainly used already modeled parts from my 3D library to design the time machine. I've gathered a lot of models from different projects and I keep them in my library for future use. I also use on most of my hard surface projects Black Phoenix kitbash models from the amazing Vitaly Bulgarov, he is a true master of robotic design. Then I rendered the built model in KeyShot with a very basic setting and brought the image to Photoshop, where I finished detailing the ship and painted the environment.

This is a military robot designed to guard and protect government facilities. Modeled in Cinema 4D, rendered in KeyShot and finished in Photoshop.

3dt: Do you use any other software, either for work or personal projects?
JD: For creature design I use ZBrush a lot. It's an amazing piece of software that allows me to get really quick to the design I have on my mind. I'm mostly a 2D artist but I really love to sculpt in ZBrush, and try to use it as much as possible to improve my abilities, although I still need to do a lot of overpaint work in Photoshop to get to the finished result. I also use DAZ Studio if I need to include people in my paintings. I just use the models as a base for posing reference but it's still a very helpful and powerful tool.

I remember watching Dune when I was a child. One of the things that remained in my subconscious was the sandworm creature. Years later I read the Frank Herbert novel and it still remains one of my favorite sci-fi books. This is my interpretation of sandworms. The sandworm was modeled in Cinema 4D and the rest of the image is a mix of painting and photobashing.

3dt: Do you have any tips or techniques that other artists may not be aware of?
JD: The most important tip is to never stop learning. It might seem obvious, but it isn't. I've seen many talented artists that got lost along the way because they lost the drive and focus they had at the beginning. The work of a concept artist is constantly evolving and you really need a lot of constant work to have a successful career. Also, no matter how much work you have, you need to keep doing personal stuff. This is probably the thing that has helped me the most. Most of the best projects I've worked on came to me because the client saw a personal piece of artwork. Last, but not least, go back to the foundations, since there is where the key to being a good artist lies.

Regarding techniques, I use many tricks to accelerate my workflow and be more efficient with the digital tools. I will probably do a proper tutorial explaining them soon.

To mix the old and the new has always attracted me. This robotic warrior uses old Japanese fabrics, iconography and a weapon in the form of the legendary Katana to face his enemies. Done in Cinema 4D, KeyShot and Photoshop.

3dt: What are your artistic ambitions?
JD: I started working as a concept artist 9 years ago. My first job was in Alejondro Gonzalez Inarritu's Biutiful. Back then, I didn't really know what I was doing. During all these years I've had the chance to slowly develop my abilities and my knowledge working with many talented production designers and directors. It was a really fun trip, but now I'm more focused on doing other kinds of works where I have more creative freedom. Now and then I work for a director or production designer, but instead of doing concept drawing of interiors and other boring stuff, I only take jobs where I can design creatures, monsters, robots or spaceships, just sci-fi, horror or fantasy. I'm also working on different projects around the figure of H. P. Lovecraft with my friend and partner Guillem H. Pongiluppi. This really is a dream job.

Robots and Samurais are two of my favorite themes to paint. This robot is known as the Neo Ronin 7. His only aim is to avenge the murder of the scientist that created his artificial intelligence core. Modeled in ZBrush and Cinema 4D and overpainted in Photoshop.

3dt: Are you a member of any social media groups? Any favorite hashtags you check on a daily basis?
JD: I've used Facebook for several years and a month ago I started using Instagram, which is really fun. I really like the chance to see WIPs from my favorite artists and show my own sketches and WIPs as well. This is something that Instagram allows you to do very easily. It is also great to be in contact with other amazing artists and the chance to do that anywhere is really great. I usually check hashtags like #creaturedesign #characterdesign #lovecraft #conceptart #robots #scifiart #fantasyart #cyberpunk...

Another one of the 21 Neo Ronins that will fight against an alien invasion in the near future. Modeled in Cinema 4D and photobashed and overpainted in Photoshop.

3dt: How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?
JD: I try to upload on social media and portfolio sites at least a personal piece every week. If you want to focus your career on doing environments, you should try to focus all your efforts in that area. That way you will receive feedback from more experienced artists and you will have a way of measuring your progress. In my case, a few years ago I started to work intensively on robots, spaceships and creatures.

Moonbeasts are one of the creatures that inhabit the Dreamlands of H. P. Lovecraft. Modeled in ZBrush and rendered in KeyShot. Textures applied in Photoshop.

3dt: Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?
JD: I was born in Barcelona so my first real influences were the work of Dali and Gaudi. Then I discovered Hieronimus Bosch, Giger and Moebius, Wayne Barlowe and Juan Gimenez, they are still very influential to me. Later I discovered Ralph Mcquarry and Syd Mead and they were the main reasons for me to become a concept artist.

Now I follow very closely the work of concept artists like James Paick, Maciej Kuciara, Piotr Jablonski, Paul Komoda, Feng Zhu and Aaron Sims, among others.

3dt: What can we expect to see from you next?
JD: Lots of monsters and creatures!! I'll be working on various board games designing characters and cards during this year. 2016 was a very prolific year for me and I worked a lot of movies designing creatures and monsters that will be released during this year. So, I will be publishing all the concept art as the movies are released. And by the end of the year, the amazing Guillem Pongiluppi and me will have ready our huge three-volume coffee table Lovecraft book.


Related links

Head over to Joseph Diaz's website
Vote for "Time-Space Traveler" in the gallery
Grab a copy of ZBrush Characters & Creatures

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