Old Sculpts Revisited

Old Sculpts Revisited

Just spent some time revising an old sculpt to increase the level or realism.revised1 revised2

ZBrush Every Week Series: Week 1 Skull

My New Year’s resolution is to sculpt something new at least once a week. As part of this resolution I’ve started sculpting the human form based on the excellent drawings of Dr. Paul Richer (1849-1933). Dr Richer was a French anatomist, physiologist, sculptor and anatomical artist. Richer approached anatomy like a draftsman; he created drawings of top, side, and front views that can be used for developing 3d models. A great tool for  using with ZBrush! I began this sculpt began with shadowbox to define the major masses. I used the image plane tool with the various views to get the finer detail.

week1_01 week1_02 week1_03 week1_04 week1_05 week1_06 week1_07 week1_08 week1_09 week1_10 week1_11 week1_12

Likeness pt 2

Another attempt at achieving likeness. This time the 4th Doctor from Doctor Who (Tom Baker Era 1974-81).

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Working on Likeness…

Working on Likeness is one of the most difficult things to do in sculpting. Trying to replicate the shape, shadows and angles of a face based on photos taken at different stages of someone’s life is challenging. Here are two of my attempts in ZBrush. Scroll to the end to see who I was trying to portray.



“Read More”

Bernini's David from Wiki Commons

My Nine Favorite Sculptors (Digital and Traditional)

Figurative art is all about observation. Looking at the work of other artists helps to improve an artist’s technique. These are the artists who inspire me to be better. I learn just by looking at their work and some of them have videos detailing their technique.

1) Ryan Kingslien

rki_09Ryan Kingslien

(Samples of Ryan’s work from Gnomon Workshop & CGSociety)

Ryan Kingslien attended Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and trained as a traditional sculptor. He was the first product manager for ZBrush at Pixologic and played a key role in developing the sculptural feel of ZBrush. Ryan is an excellent teacher and his curriculum has been used by computer graphics companies such as ILM, Sony Pictures, Imageworks and Electronic Arts. To see Ryan’s teaching methods you can look at his YouTube channel, his iSculptStuff website, his Visualarium training website or ZbrushWorkshops. What I like about his ZBrush work is that it looks like traditional clay and has a very loose sculptural quality. His teaching focuses on anatomy and he gives his students a solid foundation to build on. I see the influence of Rodin in his work.

2) Rodin (1840-1917)

The Kiss400px-Monument_to_Balzac

(Rodin’s Thinker, Monument to Balzac and the Kiss from wikipedia and tumblr)

François-Auguste-René Rodin was largely self-educated although he did take drawing classes from Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran. Like many great artists of the period (look up the Impressionists), his work was not appreciated by the Academy. His work has a very loose expressive quality with great mastery of anatomy. He breathed life into his work
through his treatment of form.

3) Scott Eaton


(A sample of Scott’s work from mairintajcaya.blogspot.ca)

Scott Eaton studied both engineering and art as an undergraduate at Princeton University. He later received his master’s degree from the renowned MIT Media Lab and continued his art studies at the Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy. He is a master anatomist who teaches courses in anatomy and digital sculpture through his website. He developed an anatomy app for the iPhone with Michael Defeo called L’Ecorché.

4) Kris Costa

kris-costa-28 (A sample of Kris Costa’s work from izbrush)

Kris Costa trained at Universidade de Brasília (UnB), Brasilia, Brazil. He works for Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and was responsible for sculpting the incredible Hulk in the Avengers movie (2012). He has a tighter realistic style.

5) Magdalena Dadela


(A sample of Magdalena ‘s work from Magdalena Dadela beta-test)

Magdalena Dadela is a 3D Character artist educated at the Vancouver Film School in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Her work has a very delicate realism and has a very high level of polish. She has worked on some of the most popular video games in the world including Assassin’s Creed. Her work has been used by Pixologic to illustrate the documentation and training videos for ZBrush. Her work shows echoes of Bernini.

6) Phillipe Faraut

mysoul1 artcritic1

(My Soul and the Art Critic are samples from Phillipe’s website)

Phillipe Faraut trained at Germain Sommeillier in Annecy, France. He is a master of portraiture and expression in clay. I love the sneer he created for “The Art Critic”. I get the sense he was making a comment about a real critic.

7) Bernini (1598-1680)


(Bernini’s David from sommerville88.wordpress.com)

Gian Lorenzo Bernini trained under his father in Rome and became an important sculptor in the Seventeenth century patronized by Cardinals and Popes. His delicate realistic style is impressive even now. He turns marble into living humanity. Compare his dynamic energetic David to Michelangelo’s David. Bernini’s David looks like he is about to kill a giant.

8) Honoré Daumier (1808-1879)

Daumier busts

(Sample sculptures by Daumier from julialundmanmidlock.blogspot.ca)

Although best known for his political cartoons, Honoré Daumier sculptures are another example of a loose painterly approach to sculpture. Please read my poem based partly on his work “Gargantua”

9) Rembrandt (1606-1669)


(Rembrandt’s self-portrait from paintings-art-picture.com)

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is the only painter on this list. I put him here because he applied paint as though he were sculpting especially in his later works.

To Model or Not To Model

To Model or Not to Model


To model from scratch or not. This question has caused great debate between modellers and Poser users. On one hand Poser is great for pre-visualization, forensics animation and drawing reference. On the other hand no major motion picture has ever used Poser for the finished product. No major video game has ever used Poser for the finished product. According to some Poser users, Poser is looked down upon by modellers because of jealousy. From JHoagland’s Weblog Why do elitists look down on the use of Poser?:

The most logical reason for the Poser-bashing is probably the simplest: professional jealousy. Some elitists may have spent years to build up their talent to the point where they can make a human figure from scratch. But, along comes John Poser-User who can place a pre-made human into a scene, pose it all kinds of different ways, and make an image in a few minutes.

Where’s the years of study? Where’s the “mastery” of building models?

Obviously Mr. Hoagland has never heard of the Dunning–Kruger effect. From the Dunning–Kruger effect article on Wikipedia:

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.

Kruger and Dunning proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:

  1. tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
  2. fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
  3. fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
  4. recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill

As a modeller, I do not look down on Poser. I’ve learned about edge flow by taking apart Poser models. I’ve learned about animating 3D characters by solving joint problems in Poser. My reason for modelling is that I see greater value in developing my modelling skills versus continuing to use Poser. Anyone can use Poser, as Hoagland himself admits. It takes time and attention to detail to learn how to model. I find modelling challenging. The greater the challenge, the greater the reward. I find Poser far less challenging. The more I learn about anatomy, the more glaring the anatomical errors in Poser figures appear. Below is an example comparing Poser shoulders to photographs of shoulders from http://www.3d.sk. Can you spot the problems?


Figure 1a Figure 1b Figure 2a Figure 2b
femaleShoulder v4Shoulder maleShoulder m4Shoulder


First, I deliberately made the Poser shoulders appear as close to the photographs as possible in terms of color and lighting. Someone trained in anatomy would notice that figure 1a and figure 2a have wrinkles at the armpits making it clear that they are the photographs from 3d.sk. Both figure 1b and figure 2b have armpits that are up too high. They should align more with the bottom of the deltoid. Also the Poser shoulders are rounder than the shoulders of real people. There is an obvious plane change at the acromion process that appears in the photos but is absent in the Poser renders. Modellers look for those details to add greater realism to their work. Poser users fail to recongnize these details. Many times I have witnessed “balloon shoulders” on Poser renders which are even more extreme than the ones pictured above.




To get a sense of why modellers are used on major motion pictures instead of Poser, take a look at this YouTube video “Behind the Magic: Creating The Hulk for “The Avengers” (Part 1)”


If you watched the video, I hope you received the same message as my example above: Attention to detail matters. Poser is a good tool for quick sketches. A model that will hold up to review on the big screen has to be better. That is why modellers are used. Its not about jealously. Its about attention to detail. Artists who notice detail will find problems with Poser figures. Artists that are less aware of detail may reinterpret criticism as “jealousy from elitists”. Anyone striving to create humanoid 3D animation on the same level as major motion pictures will have to learn anatomy. Knowledge of anatomy allows the artist to correct obvious anatomical errors and create higher levels of realism.

Modelling is important for me in my growth as an artist. I hope I’ve persuaded some people of the value of modelling. After all if no one modelled anything, there would be no content for Poser.

Same Base, Different Face


Here is a visual demonstration of what a good base mesh can be. All the faces in this article were built off the same base mesh, which can be downloaded at the end of this article. I developed this base mesh after running into sculpting problems with my previous meshes. I made a conscious effort to replicate the muscle and bone structure of a real face while at the same time leaving a low enough poly-count that the mesh could still be adapted to different faces. The development of this mesh owes a lot to ZBrush Studio Projects: Realistic Game Characters by Ryan Kingslien and L’Ecorche iPhone/iPad app by Michael Defeo and  Scott Eaton.

Method of Production

Eyes, eyebrows, hair and, eyelashes were all done as separate ZTools. I used mask extraction to create the eyebrows and eyelashes. I appended a polysphere for most of the hair. The dreads were done using the Curve Multitubes brush. My five most frequently used brushes were Move Topological, Inflate, Trim Dynamic, Damian Standard (Dam Standard) and Smooth. These scupltures can be seen in the round on my Youtube Channel.

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Download Base Mesh Bust (Updated Feb 5, 2013)

Click here to download my base mesh bust. You can auto-polygroup the model using the existing UVs I created for it. It consists of 1034 quads and weighs in at 143 KB.

A Female Touch (September 2012)

Applying a female touch to my face anatomy studies.