This week artists continue their full figure sculptures by sculpting the hands and hair. The techniques for refining the hands are largely a review of the workflows used in Week4′s exercise, but sculpting the hair in ZBrush is an entirely new topic. Sculpting hair is a very difficult thing because it requires a level of artistic abstraction to translate the flowing fibrous forms of hair into a tangible sculptural surface. Because the process is so intangible every artist eventually develops their own style for sculpting hair. This week’s lessons show Scott’s approach to sculpting hair in ZBrush. They cover his tools and techniques for general hair sculpting, how ZSpheres/ZSketch can be used for hair, and also how the new DynaMesh features can be used to create interesting, complex styles. (and yes, the model does have a crazy double ponytail!)
My iPad docking station, the Venus of Cupertino, is hot off the press. If you missed the genesis of this project see the early sketches in the drawings section.
The Venus of Cupertino is a sculptural docking station inspired by the rounded forms of the ancient Venus figurines – a fertility goddess for the technology age.
With gentle hands, she will cradle your 2nd, 3rd, or newer iPad while syncing or charging. All cables are neatly routed through the base of the figure and are fully changeable to support future iPads. Each Venus is hand cast in museum-quality resin and available in a selection of finishes.
PRICE: $199 USD
ORDER now: VENUS.io
I am just back from a fantastic week of anatomy workshops with the character team at Rocksteady Studios, the creators of the wildly successful Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Batman: Arkham City games. Over five days we covered a lot of territory, going deep into human anatomy and portraiture, including some inside secrets on facial anatomy. While I was there, the Joker took home the “Character of the Year” award at the VGAs! Congratulations to the team at Rocksteady. I think there are a lot of people looking forward to what you do next (no pressure)!
This week students tackle the most difficult task of all – the portrait. Continuing with their posed figures in Zbrush, they learn how to tackle the portrait like a traditional sculptor would: establishing the relationship between critical landmarks on the skull, constructing the features, establishing the profile, and refining the planes. This week’s lectures cover the critical aspects of facial anatomy and portraiture and then give an extensive ZBrush walk-through of Scott sculpting the example figure above. The unabridged session shows every stroke that is need to take the face from start to finish.
This second week of the full-figure exercise is spent in ZBrush blocking in the anatomy for the entire figure, refining the pose, and blocking in a starting portrait. Collectively this is an big task, but students are helped by the experience gained from the previous five weeks of fragment studies. The full-figure sculpture really is a way to consolidate the knowledge of form and anatomy gained from these studies into one final piece.
After a week-long mid-term break, artists are starting their final five-week full-figure sculptures. They begin by proportioning a simple base mesh to match the life model. These proportions are based on a set of measurements taken from the model using calipers, the way a traditional sculptor would approach setting up his armature. Once the proportions are established, we cover how to build a ZSphere rig, a powerful but underused technique in ZBrush for posing a model. From here artists get to choose one of three poses for their final figure sculpture and they use their ZSphere rigs to pose their mesh. The challenge in this early stage of the full-figure sculpture is to establish to correct weight, balance, and gesture on the figure, a task easier said than done.
This week artist explore the forms of the legs. Using reference from a male ballet dancer they build a leg fragment in ZBrush and refine it in a standing position – paying attention to the large masses of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and adductor muscles, and then the bony and tendinous structure of the knee. From here they transpose the knee 90 degrees and re-examine the forms of the leg, paying special attention to the stretching and contraction of opposing muscles groups and the changes in the bony structure of the knee. Lastly, they have fun with Zbrush’s DynaMesh feature and chop their leg sculptures into three pieces, whittling down the middle third into the exposed bones of the knee. The goal is give artists a deep understanding of the construction of the knee, one of the hardest joints of the body to understand and depict successfully.
In addition to two hours of video showing Scott executing the exercises above, this week includes Tools & Techniques videos on using ZBrush’s Morph Targets and also how Scott uses PolyPainting to maintain consistency in landmarks and muscle flow when posing a figure.
In Week 4 artists investigate the hands in-depth. Hands are one of the most difficult parts of the body to sculpt and demand the utmost attention to construction, proportions, form, and gesture to do successfully. They are second only to the face in expressiveness so we spend the entire week doing a single detailed study of the hands in Zbrush. The lessons learned here will be important to transfer to the full-figure sculptures started in week 6. After a lecture covering the anatomy and proportions of the hands, artists sculpt using the best reference available – their own hands. This week also includes lectures on making hands using Zbrush’s flexible and quite useful ZSpheres and reading assignments from George Bridgman and Andrew Loomis.
As many of you already know, the second session of my online Digital Figure Sculpture course is underway. A group of artists are hard at work learning new techniques in ZBrush and studying hard to make great progress as figure sculptors. To give everybody a taste of the types of projects they are working on week-to-week, I have started a blog where I will post updates as the course progresses. If you have an interest in ZBrush and figure sculpture, check it out.
This week artists refine their knowledge of the forms of the upper arm and the forearms. In Zbrush, they start with ZSpheres and build a shoulder “fragment” that is cutoff mid-chest. From here they sculpt the forms of the arm flexed to 90 degrees with the hand supinated (palm-up). Once this sculpture is complete they transpose the forearm from supinated to pronated and adjust the forms and flows of the muscles accordingly (paying special attention to the new alignment of the flexor and extensor muscles of the forearm). One final transpose extends the arm at the elbow, and all the forms of the upper arm – biceps, triceps, brachialis, are modified.
In the second week we continue with the torso, but now focusing on the articulation of the shoulder as the arm is raised. We do a comprehensive investigation of what is known as the “scapulo-humeral rhythm” – the ratio of scapular rotation to arm elevation. Students sculpt a torso with the arms at the side and them modify the sculpture moving the arms through 45, 90, 135, and 180 degrees of rotation. The 0 and 180 extremes are shown above. In ZBrush artists start with a base mesh and use Transpose and masking to rotate the arm and scapula in the correct ratio. Each pose is stored on a ZBrush layer, and the subdivided mesh is sculpted at high resolution to capture all the subtleties of the muscular forms at different articulations. Students are lead through the exercise by a series of videos showing Scott sculpting the torsos in ZBrush.
During the first week of the Digital Figure Sculpture course students concentrate on sculpting one male and one female torso. They work on the torso in isolation in order to focus on the task at hand, without distraction from unfinished areas like arms, hands, and heads. The torsos are created using ZSpheres as a base and then refined using Zbrush’s new DynaMesh feature. There are short technical how-to videos that explain the new features of Zbrush and then a comprehensive Working Example showing Scott creating the torso above from start to finish.
I am just back from a return trip to Lucasfilm, this time to their Singapore studio where I ran courses for their artists at ILM and Lucasfilm Feature Animation (the Rango guys). Over the week I ran two intensive anatomy courses for 30 of their artists (morning and afternoon sessions). The group was divided almost down the middle between modelers and riggers, though there was a stray animator and concept artist thrown in the mix well. The crew was great – obviously a very talented group of artists – and we were able to go in-depth into all the critical anatomy that applies to their work on feature film characters and creatures.
This trip reminded me a lot of the last time I visited Lucasfilm in San Francisco. Pretty much if you don’t like Star Wars, this is not the place to visit. It is everywhere and Yoda greats you at the entrance to both places (he has evolved in style a bit over the years). Luckily, I grew up with Star Wars and was a big fan (though, like most, lukewarm about the three prequels). The outstanding highlight of both visits is still the personal tour of Skywalker Ranch!
At Skywalker Ranch
The first trailer for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming War Horse was just released. The film looks beautiful and early buzz points to Oscar nominations. I was part of a very talented team at Framestore who completed all the visual effects work on the film in late Spring 2011. Spielberg placed considerable techincal and artistic challenges in front of us, but in the end I am very proud of the work we did on the film. Our fingerprints are all over the film (and trailer), but you will have to wait until next December for more on this!
Here are a couple images of a digital sculpture that I did for a ‘recently released pirate movie’. At the time the film was in early preproduction and this piece was more speculative design than anything concrete for the film, though it is loosely tied to an event in the script. The piece also has thinly veiled references to Damien Hirst’s infamous pickled shark sculpture. For more details on how I created the sculpture keep reading below.
“A stylish docking station for syncing, charging and display. An evocative blend of ancient fertility symbolism and modern technology worship. I want one!”
Compatible with second, and third generation Apple iPads, a sculptural docking station for syncing, charging and display.
I try to only show drawings in this section, but I thought it might be interesting to share an image of the ‘digital prototype’ next to the original drawings to show how things progress from concept sketch to 3d.
And then the final physical model, manufactured from the digital prototype:
More images of the final docking station and pre-ordering information can be found here.
a page of drawings inspired by the documentary film, Confessions of a Superhero.
The April 2011 issue of German film/VFX magazine Digital Production features a full-page Hephaestus image to introduce their writeup on Zbrush 4. The image is backwards but otherwise looks good. Their article gives a great overview of Zbrush, my digital sculpting tool of choice.
The recent Portraiture & Facial Anatomy workshop was a huge success. Over three days, ten artists got a chance to build a face from the inside out, gaining insight into how soft tissues modify the structure established by the skull to create the final surface forms that we see in life. The course draws heavily on reference from plastic surgery, medical imaging, forensic reconstruction, and classical portraiture techniques. Upcoming Workshop
The gallery below shows the step-by-step progression of the reconstruction exercise.