Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vikky’s Gun – Choosing the right weapon.

Originally I thought about giving Vikky a set of Colt peace makers. The Peace Maker is a classic gun that revolutionized the west and it’s what most quick-draw artists shoot with today, but as I was studying it, it felt like the form didn’t Match Vikky personality and appearance. It’s too masculine.

Because the story is set somewhat in the future, I flirted with the idea of using a more modern firearm but I wanted to keep the image revolver. My first choice was a Smith and Wesson .357. It’s a solid looking gun, but I felt like the modern double action mechanism took something away from Vikky’s charm. She needs single action pistols. In the right hands, a single action pistol has a higher rate of fire. With the double action, the shooter is somewhat limited to the speed of mechanical mechanism. With a single action, all the speed is on the shooters ability. I needed something older.

My next choice was the 1851 Navy. These guns were originally designed as black powder, ball and cap guns, but after the Peace Maker came onto the market, many shooters converted their guns to a standard self-contained revolver. This gun has that old charm to it, but in my opinion, it kind of looks a little frail. I needed something stronger.

The Colt Single Action Army seemed like a good choice-- It has that old charm to it and seems solid, but it felt like something was still missing. I needed something with a little more sex appeal.

I finally came up with the Remington 1875 Outlaw. I think it fits Vikky well.

My next post will be about boxing out this gun in Maya.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Vikky’s Face Sculpt

So after miserably failing at drawing an orthographic projection of Vikky’s face, I started to worry if I could even do the sculpt. I mean if I can’t even sketch it out, how am I going to sculpt it?

So rather than letting this worry eat away me, I decided to tackle it head on. There was no point in me blocking out the body if I couldn’t do the face. I took the reference that I had and started with clean geometry.

From working inside of Max, I have a pretty good idea how to set up edge loops for animation. The tools in Maya are really put together nicely. They seem more efficient than Max’s tool set. After about an hour or so I had my basic geometry ready to export to Zbrush.

Once inside of zbrush, I very slowly started working on the model here and there, it took me longer than I would like to admit, but the I’m satisfied with the results I came out with. She looks different than I originally intended, but, its close, so we’ll see. I’ll probably go back and tweak is some more once I add the body.

Vikky’s Face Ref - Ortho fail.

Initially I thought about just boxing out Vikky’s body and worrying about the head and face later, which is fine, that can be done, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it might be easier/better to start with a complete mesh rather than trying to stich a head on. I attempted to draw an orthographic projection of Andrea Boehlke’s face… As good looking as Andrea Boehlke is, she also has kind of a strange face. It’s thin, but not. I don’t even know how to describe it.

As you can see, my results didn’t really pan out. My knowledge is still pretty limited when it comes to drawing a face. Anytime I do a concept drawing/painting of a face in PS it takes me a really long time, and I figured that because this is just reference, I shouldn’t stress about it.

Right now I’m just looking for basic edge flow. Hopefully when it comes to time to sculpt in Zbrush I’ll have a better understanding of the face.

I’ve been thinking about checking out Ryan kingslien’s Anatomy of the Face for Artists. It looks informative and I really like his approach to things.

Anyways, for this basic edge flow I just ended up finding a simple orthographic view of a standard female on It think it should work for this stage of development, but I’ll definitely have to have some better understanding and ref before I start sculpting. Many thanks to Dr. Dan Saranga for posting it.

Now that the image planes are set, I’m ready to begin boxing her out.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Vikky’s Body – Finding the right form.

I've noticed that oftentimes in mainstream comic art, the girls are drawn to unrealistic proportions. I guess it’s understandable considering that most comics are geared toward horny guys that can’t get laid, (no offense comic nerds) but because Duke vs. The Dead is a love story, I’d rather try to have Vikky be appealing to everyone, so I’ve decided to go with a semi-realistic form. I was tempted to make her hips a little larger, but I figured once she has her holsters strapped on, her silhouette will take on that classic hourglass form.

I intentionally keep this illustration simple because its only purpose is to help me box out her body. As I progress I might come back into Photoshop and start drawing in her clothing and accessories, but I think even if you’re going to model/sculpt the clothing right onto your geometry, it’s a good idea to understand the form underneath.

The female body fascinates me. I know that makes me sound nerdy, but it really is amazing how subtle changes will give you a completely different result. For this drawing I started with the pen tool inside of Photoshop. (It’s funny because I used to scoff at the pen tool, but once I started using it I quickly realized how powerful it is—the ability to manipulate handles on the fly in invaluable.)

I used a very neutral background of 50% black. Once I had my lines and landmarks established, I took a blocking brush and fleshed out the form. I did this in three steps. The first step was to use a 30% black, which essentially lightened the form. In the second step I went in with an eraser and kinda cut the form. In the final step I took my blocking brush up to 100% white and very lightly painted in the higher points.

Michael Hampton’s book- Figure Drawing - Design and Invention has been very helpful in understanding how to place landmarks. Many thanks to my friend Molly for the recommendation. You can check out some of her amazing watercolor work here.

My next step is to image plane these and box her out inside of Maya.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Vikky’s Hat – Box modeling in Maya, detailing in Zbrush, and a note about reference.

Anytime I sculpt, draw, or model something, I’ve found it to be a good idea to have plenty of reference-- even if I already know exactly how I would like my piece to look. Reference is invaluable. I can’t stress that enough.

My imagination is fluid; it changes with my mood and what I’ve experienced. I’m constantly being influenced and inspired and most of the time, I don’t even realize it. By setting myself up with a donkey-load of reference, it allows me to tackle my projects with a broader spectrum.

When I gather reference, I try to collect things that invoke emotion; whether good or bad, I want it to inspire me. I’ve found that some artists only gather things that they like. For me, I think it’s important to gather things that I not only like but also dislike. It helps me avoid what I don’t want to do, and gives me a clearer direction on where I would like to take my stuff.

I think many of us take for granted that now-a-days the world is literally at our finger tips with services like Google Image Search, and Flickr. Ten years ago if I wanted to see what was out in the world, I was limited to whatever books were in my local library, or I would have to go see it for myself. Today I can visually travel around the world in ten seconds. I love the internet.  

As great as these services are, I try not to let them be my only mode of reference and inspiration; there is nothing like experiencing something first hand, so get there and do fun stuff. Look for unpredictable situations.   

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m a total newb when it comes to Maya. From my understanding, Maya gets a bulk of its allure from the programs ability to work with NURBS surfaces, however my knowledge in working with NURBS is somewhat limited; I’m not even sure if NURBS transfer into Zbrush, so until I read up on it, I’m going to continue doing my modeling with polys. I realize this project is pretty simple, almost to the point of being comical, so hopefully I’ll look back on it in a years’ time and laugh.

This is not intended to be a tutorial, but if you happened to stumble on it and you have some questions, please leave a comment below.


Inside of Maya I started with a very simple poly sphere. At this stage, the simpler the better, I’m looking for the bare minimum I need to find the form; this particular one is divided 8x8 for a total of 64 faces. 

By keeping it simple I can quickly establish the form I am looking for just by moving a few verts. I really like the way Maya is set up for adding additional geometry. With a couple clicks you can add it where it’s needed. (Around the brim edges.) At this stage, I think I ended up with around 150 faces after I added the additional geometry, which is still considerably lite. 

Here is the same 150 faced model, but now with 3 levels of subdivision. You can see it’s starting to look more like a hat. It bumps the face count up to around 8,000. This probably the level I will render at when it comes time for animation. 

I lower my subdivision and export the model into Zbrush using the GoZ feature built into Zbrush.
As you can see, we’re back to the 150 faced model. 

Now inside of Zbrush, I can divide the mesh into much high levels. This allows me to sculpt in the fine details like the cord, stitching and texture. For this particular model I’m at 9 levels of subdivision, which equates to about 8,000,000 active points. (I <3 Zbrush)

Here at the final stage I have all my detail sculpted in, and my textures painted and this model is ready to be exported back into Maya for animation. I’ll probably add some straps, and maybe a piece of hardware in the front, but I’m not sure yet. 

From Blender, to Max, to Maya – my general progression in 3D

When I first got into 3D modeling, I was using was Blender. The fact that it was open source made it good program to start with, but as I began to dig in I realized that a lot of the tutorials and information out there was not put together well. Blender is a good program, I’ve seen some artists do some amazing things with it, but I personally didn’t like the interface or the results I was getting.

This was one of my first renders in blender. I posted it to my facebook in October, 2009. I was very proud of myself at the time, and excited to start working in 3D!
(Almost 2 years ago– which feels like another lifetime.)

After working in blender for a bit, I made the decision to switch platforms, but I wasn’t sure which program to use. At the time it seemed like 3DS Max and Maya were basically the same thing and it just came down to user preference. There appeared to be a larger community for 3DS Max, with more tutorials and support, so I ended choosing Max.

There is no doubt that Max is a great program. You can pretty much do anything with it, but because there are so many options and plugins, it takes a while to get a hang of them all. I’ve been working inside of 3DS Max about a year, and I’m nowhere close to having the program mastered. Every time I open the program I learn something new.

It’s sometimes frustrating because I’ve spent hundreds of hours in there, but because I am learning on my own, most of my time is spent figuring out why something isn’t working like it should. I can’t tell you how many countless times I’ve been working on a project, things are going well, but then because I forgot to do a step 5 stages back, I have to scrap the project and start from scratch. I know a good practice to save your work in stages, and that’s something that I’ve been doing more of lately.

This clock was one of my first renders inside of Max.
I posted it in May of 2010.
One of my biggest frustrations with Max is how SLOW it is.

I figured it was my system— at the time I was just running an AMD Athlon II, which was decent, but it was hardly an ultrabeast.

Because Max ran so slow I decided to go top of the line with my new system. I upgraded to an Intel i7-2600 thinking it would boost things up, and it has to a degree, but 3DS Max is still by far the slowest program I’ve ever used.

The problem is that MANY features inside of Max are not multicore supported.
(And by many, I mean almost all of them.)

When I built my new system I did not know this. I just assumed that Max would support multicores, but I was wrong. It was shocking to open my task manager and see only one core humming away. I thought I must have had some settings wrong, so I did some reading, and found out that at the heart of 3DS Max lays really old code, even Max 2012.

All that aside, I’ve been finding that Max doesn’t really fit into some of my work flows. This is especially true with character development, and working with Zbrush. There are workarounds, but I don’t even want to go into some of the frustrating situations I’ve found myself in to get a result I’m looking for.

One of the more recent renders I did inside of Max.
See if you can spot what is off with this one. (July 2011)

I’ve decided to put more emphasis in using Maya. I’m still a total newb inside of Maya, so there is a lot I’ll be learning, but I’m hoping that because I have a solid base understanding of how 3D programs work, I’ll be able to pick up on things much faster. I guess we’ll see.

In my next post, I’m going to briefly go through the process of box modeling Vikky’s hat in Maya, exporting it to Zbrush, and adding some high detail.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Vikky Miller - Early Concept.

Duke Vs. The Dead is a story I'm writing which involves Zombies and Gunslingers.

The human spirit may never die, but it sure takes a hell of a beating in this a post-apocalyptic love story.

One of the characters is named Vikki Miller.
She's 25 and originally from Austin, but now she roams the wastelands.

A few years ago she was a Texas beauty queen-- but don't let that fool you, she's hardly the prissy type. Raised on a horse ranch, her father worked the rodeos as a rifleman.

His marksmanship would leave onlookers stunned with awe, but it was Vikky who brought in the crowds.

At fifteen she took a liking to the six gun.
Two years later she had mastered it.

When showtime came she had two colt's strapped to her hips. Her quick-draw was legendary. She could hit five targets in under a second. They called it the fast five. These days she's still drawing quick and hitting her mark, but the rodeo sure has changed.

I had a lot of fun creating this character-- she's sexy, smart, and tough. Basically I was just trying to get a good feel for her.

I'll probably change a few things as I go, but everything needs a starting point, and this just happens to be it. My next step is to refine these a little bit and begin boxing out her form in Maya.

Andrea Boehlke, from Survivor - Redemption Island was my inspiration for her face.

I'm hoping to take these concept drawings and develop them into an animated series, but we'll see what happens. One thing is for certain -- I'm going to document the process.

These drawing were done in Photoshop on my Wacom Bamboo tablet. I've since upgraded to an Intous 4. At the time I really didn't know how to draw (and I still don't) but I've been slowly teaching myself since January 2011. Right now I'm reading Michael Hampton- Figure Drawing - Design and Invention.

First Post - Why?

Dear self, you need to start keeping track of your progress -- otherwise you'll just spin your wheels and repeat your mistakes. Hopefully this blog will give you a solid record of what you're doing right, and what you're doing wrong.

The future is only as rich as the past.