My latest work, "The Two Mighty Kings", was created for CGSociety's 23rd challenge, "Steampunk Legends and Myths". The project took me a little bit less than two months to complete. Photoshop and XSI were used for the creation.
I didn't spend too long trying to find the right legend because, to me, that's a waste of time. There's no particular legend that I think is better than any other. So I set my focus on the old Chinese legend Journey to the West and decided to make the monkey fight a giant Steampunk monster.
I'm not from an art background, so drawing is something I'm not very good at. To make my early concept, I grabbed a couple of elements from the Internet and put them together. The idea of making the concept image is to set my focus. I need to know what I will have to face further on in the process. I need to know how I want to deal with my composition, light and colour; the number, size and pose of characters. The more time I spend thinking before I start, the better result I will achieve. Jumping right into modelling a character is never a good idea (Fig.01).
There were two characters that I planned to include in the image, a big one and a small one. According to my concept, I knew that the big character would take up at least half of my image and he was surely where I wanted to focus the viewers' attention at first glance. Therefore I started by modelling him.
I modelled a simple base mesh of a gorilla, then rigged and posed him (Fig.02). The reason I did this is because I wanted to establish the silhouette of the character as soon as possible. It's just like drawing; you want to get the gesture of the character first before you draw each muscle.
I keyed the neutral pose of the character at frame 0, and keyed the action pose at frame 1 (Fig.03). I had my camera fixed after I set the pose (Fig.04). The low-res modelling, posing and camera fixing took me two nights.
After that, I modelled a bunch of gears and pipes so that I could "Lego" them onto the base mesh (Fig.05). I worked on the details at frame 0, and constantly checked the result at frame 1 to make sure that I could see all the details through the camera from that pose. I ignored the back of my monkey because I couldn't see those areas through the camera (Fig.06).