I'd like to thank 3DTotal for giving me this opportunity to talk about my work. As well as having the honor of winning first place in a competition with this picture, since the challenge I have received a lot of comments from many artists and friends that I appreciate very much.
When I saw the challenge brief I intended to make a huge muscular character and created some concept art along these lines. However this seemed too ordinary to me and not unique. I wanted to create something new, so I quit drawing muscular characters and came up with some concepts of the indigenous people of southern Africa. They are not particularly muscular and don't have any tough weapons, but I feel they are warriors nevertheless.
I created a rough concept for a character living in a small world and riding a small animal or insect into battle. I then had the idea of using a hermit crab and other sea creatures. They have really nice details and I wanted to show different materials in the image such as skin, wood, shell, etc.
Concept Sculpting the Shell
First I tried to do a concept sculpt for the crab's shell using a really rough base mesh. It didn't have great topology for sculpting, but it didn't matter at this stage because I intended to retopologize the mesh using TopoGun. After finishing the concept I imported the model into TopoGun and did the retopology. I transferred the concept details onto a new topology model using Mudbox and did some tweaking. On this new model I sculpted the really tiny details because it had clean topology and UVs (Fig.01).
Sculpting the Crab's Body
The second step involved sculpting the hermit crab's body using the same method as I used on the shell. I then combined the two parts in Mudbox. As for their UVs, I used Roadkill UV in conjunction with Maya (Fig.02).
Pose and Layout
Next I tried to combine all of the models into the same Mudbox scene (Fig.03). Mudbox has really nice preview features (Lighting, Shadowing, Filtering and so on) and also allows you to check Normal maps. I didn't use a high res model because it was really intensive to preview all the models with high res Shadow maps. Instead I used a low res model with Normal maps for posing and layout checking.