Jan 032018

Pixar Animation Studios front entrance gate

I’ve recently returned to London after a busy couple weeks on the West Coast – this trip taking me back to Blizzard Entertainment and Pixar for anatomy talks and workshops. I’ve been to both studios a number of times in recent years, but this visit was for something new – the inaugural sessions of my Comparative Anatomy for Artists course.

blizzard dedicated to entertainment plaque.

What is comparative anatomy? Simply, it is the study of animal anatomy. More accurately though, it is the study of the relationships between the homologous anatomical structures of different animal species. For example, how a horse’s humerus (upper arm bone) differs from a human’s, and how that differs from a mole rat’s, or elephant’s, or dolphin’s in structure, function, and appearance (unbelievably yes, a dolphin has a humerus, as well as forearm, hand, and finger bones, all hidden in its front flipper!). There is a treasure trove of fascinating and bewildering adaptations that have taken place in the natural world to fit the general “animal vertebrate body plan” to many different environments and ecosystems. This course explores these amazing adaptations and how we apply this knowledge artistically to create, imagine, sculpt, draw, and animate better animals and creatures.

My Comparative Anatomy for Artist course will be running in London in the Spring of 2018, dates to be announced (sign up to the mailing list for news). If you are a games/visual effects/animation studio interested in an onsite workshop, please get in touch.

Scott Eaton running comparative anatomy workshop at PixarWith the giant Luxo Jr sculpture outside Pixar’s lobby

contrast in styles - orcs versus cartoonsOrc v. the Incredibles, a battle of campus art

Sep 032015

Thames Horses underwaterclick for larger

I am excited to show the first images from a recent collaboration with fellow artist Jason deCaires Taylor. I designed and sculpted the four Shire horses with oil-pump heads for Jason’s installation The Rising Tide currently installed on the Southbank of the Thames, right outside the MI6 building (for all you James Bond and secretive intelligence agency fans out there).

The piece is a powerful commentary on man’s relationship with the environment. Throughout the day the sculptures are submerged and revealed as the tide cycle waxes and wanes. As a long-time scuba diver I am delighted by Jason’s epic underwater works, so it was a pleasure collaborating with him on this piece.

Thames Horses, Scott Eaton for Jason deCaires Taylor's  The Rising Tideclick for larger

My work on the piece involved the design and digital sculpting of the 18-hand tall Shire horses. Interestingly, over the past few years I have sculpted quite a few horses. First my centaur, then work on Mark Wallinger’s White Horse (also installed in London), followed by the horses for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, and now these petrochemical Shires.

ThamesHorses_nearlySubmergedNearly high tide. image © Jason deCaires Taylor

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Jun 202015

war_horse_banner_tnour digital horse in action

I recently kicked off a series of pastblast posts digging up old but interesting projects that I didn’t have time to write about when they were happening. One of the most interesting and enjoyable visual effects projects that I have worked on is Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of War Horse.

The story follows Joey, a farm horse in rural England, onto the battlefields of World War I. Being a war story, you can imagine there are a few upsets along the way, and Joey inevitably finds himself in very dangerous circumstances – circumstances too dangerous in fact for real ‘horse actors’. Cue our digital Joey.


Our digital horse stretching his legs

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Feb 102014

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The White Horse is finally installed in London. This is the project of artist Mark Wallinger and was originally planned as a towering 50m tall horse (as tall as the Statue of Liberty) to be erected in the countryside of Kent and visible from the Eurostar. But around the big crash, arts budgets downsized and so did the scale of the horse. Now it is only a very average ‘life-sized’, but it is still striking in its crisp white finish and realism. About a year ago I worked with the team from Sample & Hold to refine the digital version of the horse, based on a scan of Mark’s actual horse. I spent time adding anatomical accuracy and life to the head, face, legs, and hooves (at the time my horse skills were primed, having just finished Spielberg’s War Horse).

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After a bit of massaging the data was sent off for fabrication. Through a combination of 3d printing, CNC machining, and casting, the piece was brought to life – albeit at a scale smaller than originally intended. But if you are in London and want to check it out, it will be on display on the Mall (just off Trafalgar Square) for two years.

fabrication, in progress

1200-British-Council--Mark-Wallinger's-White-Horse-032-tnlit at night. © Copyright Sutton Vane Associates

Mar 192009

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After a few more iterations on proportions as well as layering in some of the thin layers of muscle, veins and skin folds, the sculpture is getting close to completion. It still needs one more pass at a higher subdivision level to capture some fine details and break up the regularity of the surfaces. I may need to modify the pose a bit as well.

Image rendered with Hypershot.

Feb 202009

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Here’s a snapshot of the current state. I have done work to improve the gesture of the piece, trying to add more strength to the pose (rearing higher, chest out, arm back, twisted more, etc).

Also more attention to the legs – it is important to understand the bones, tendons, and ligaments in a horses legs, as they are the primary forms below the knee and elbow. Beyond this there is still a “softening” pass, that includes veins wrinkles and those small variations that keep anatomical forms from being perfectly smooth. And obviously I am going to have to address the hair and tail at some point. Perhaps soon?

Feb 202009

Progression of the Centaur Base Mesh
click for full image

If you are interested in this sort of thing, here is where the model started. Click on the images to see the complete evolution. On the far right you see I started with a base human model I have lying around and built a low-resolution horse proxy around it. This was fused (second image from R to L), and refined in Zbrush. The final ‘bind pose’, from Zbrush, is shown on the left.

Feb 162009

work in progress

Here are a couple renders showing the point the upper body is at. For the most part, I am happy with the anatomy, there is still a bit of refining to do and another pass of details like veins and wrinkles, but the structure is sound. The next stage is going to be refining the details of the horse anatomy and then I will address the hair and tail, two parts that will give the piece a strong sense of motion (I hope).

Feb 112009

here is the current state of the hind legs straight out of Zbrush. I am generally happy, but they are a little stumpy – a proportional error that snuck in during posing. There is also refinement still to do on the bones, tendons and ligaments in the lower legs. Right now they are very approximate. Beyond that there is work to do around the knee – re-establishing some of the boney landmarks that have gone a bit squishy. Finally, there will be a skin and veins pass, but this will wait till the very end.

Mar 282007

Here is an image from my article on Animal Anatomy in the most recent 3dWorld (issue 89). The base model, the winged lion, is still a work in progress and I will post a few updates as it progresses.

update: You can now download the complete article from the Tutorials section.