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Denis Udalov: 3D artist interview

Denis Udalov

3D Artist

Russian 3D artist Denis Udalov has worked in the game industry for the last 6 years. He transposed from a network administrator to a 3D character and creature artist, and now works for Sperasoft Studio. Find out more…

Denis' profile

Adam

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?

Denis

Hi, my name is Denis Udalov. I live in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. I've been working in the game industry for 5-6 years. From a young age I was fascinated by computers, games, and any electronic device I could get my hands on. As you can understand I wasn't an artist at all. At age 26, working as a network administrator at a local ISP, I had friends asking me to make a game with them as C++ programmer. But at some point, I had to get my hands on 3D, and it was like a charm. I spent two years learning it by myself. Then I got my first paid job as a freelancer for a small outsourcing company called H2Games (Sergey, Alla, thank you very much). And at the age of 29 my dream came true; I got my foot in at Saber Interactive right in the middle of the Halo 2: Remaster production as a texture artist. Saber was a great place to work, but I wanted to make character/creature art, so I spent a lot of time learning anatomy, traditional and digital skills, and after 4 years at Saber I moved to Sperasoft Studio as a 3D artist.

Adam

What was the workflow behind your latest gallery image? Where did the idea come from?

Denis

I made this project during the Gael Kerchenbaum "Sculpting Anatomy: from Animal to Creature" course. It was the final of the 6th week of the course. For the final render I wanted to make a really dynamic pose of a charging bull that has to turn to the side. A lot of videos from YouTube were my main references. But prior to the final image we had to go through the full course pipeline, such as skull sculpting, full skeleton reconstruction, muscles of the body aka ecorche, static poses, and dynamic pose renders. To get the final posed model I make a static one that has 40k polys for the lowest subdivision, and using Transpose master I set it to a desirable position. It is crucial to have subdivisions on your model to be able to pose it from a static one.

Adam

What challenges did the image present? Did you learn something new?

Denis

Since I knew very little about animal anatomy, I literally buried myself in the books/scans/video lectures about bovine anatomy to understand how it really works, and where all the muscles and volumes should be placed. I learned a lot out of this project and there is still a long way to go. Also, it was pretty hard to get the pose and get the movement feeling. I spent hours looking at reference videos and hopefully achieved a believable motion.

Adam

Do you use any other software, either for work or personal projects?

Denis

Since I work for an outsourcing company, I have to use wide range of software. It really depends on the project; Modo, Maya, 3ds Max, ZBrush, Substance Painter, Photoshop, Marvelous Designer, and xNormal are the most common ones. Previously I used to do retopology in Topogun, but these days it is a really outdated workflow. Most 3D modeling packages has its own retopology tools, which combined with polymodeling tools, makes it really comfortable. For render, I prefer FlippedNormals render scene for Modo; they have great light and material setups to render high-poly models. For game-rez models I use Marmoset Toolbag, but look forward to trying UE4.

Main beauty pose render

Dynamic pose, back side

Bovine muscle study

Adam

How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?

Denis

It is crucial for an artist to improve; it doesn't matter if you are an aspiring artist, or an established professional. Our industry grows fast, and half of the tools we used five years ago don't exist in current pipelines. The most important thing for growing as an artist is your personal projects. This is where you can take yourself out of the studio pipeline boundaries and make something great. This way you will make a new project for your portfolio and improve your skills. Try something new. There are a lot of new tutorials coming out by great artists around the world every day. And of course love what you do, without love for your craft it will be a disappointing experience trying to improve. We are doing it not only for money, don't forget that.

The most important thing for growing as an artist is your personal projects. This is where you can take yourself out of the studio pipeline boundaries and make something great.

Adam

Are you a member of any social media groups? Any favorite hashtags you check on a daily basis?

Denis

Yep, there are many online communities worth looking at. I don't check every one of them every day, but quite often. To name a few: Artstation; a lot of great art posted every day. 80.lv’s website has grown to be a great source of industry news. Facebook groups like Ten Thousand Hours, and ZBrush, Substance, and Modo communities. I check Instagram feeds with a lot of groups and individuals posting great art every day. The new 3dtotal website has become a great source of inspiration and knowledge. As I said earlier, there is a lot of new information posted online every day, and we have to check it from time to time, to be up to date.

Adam

How important is the recognition of your peers?

Denis

It would be a lie if i said that I do art only for myself and don't care at all. As an artist it is one of the greatest feelings, when you understand that your art made people feel something. In social media it usually has visual indication such as likes/shares/comments, and it really motivates me as an artist to make more and better art.

Adam

What are your artistic ambitions?

Denis

For a long time I didn't have a specific goal and was more like a 3D generalist doing a lot of different things here and there. But for the past two years I’ve taken a lot of steps towards becoming a professional 3D character/creature artist for AAA games, and hopefully printed miniatures; this is quite an interesting and challenging area that requires a lot of knowledge.

Adam

Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?

Denis

This is a really tough question. There are a ton of great artists that I admire. I'm not really into traditional art, but a few names that come to my mind are Ilya Repin, a great painter and sculptor; Paolo Troubetzkoy, just Google him, he's insanely good; Boris Vallejo, one of the ancestors of heroic fantasy art; Paul Bonner, his style is something beyond awesome. I'm not talking about old masters like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and so on, they are the undisputed grandmasters of art.

Speaking of digital art, there’s too many great artists around. Here are my favorite ones: Ben Erdt (a great creature designer, I love his combination of organic and hard surface shapes). Jonathan Fletcher (love his art). OccultArt (whoever he is, love the variety and quality of his art). Qi Sheng Luo (incredible anatomy and artistic expression). Kris Costa, Cedric Seaut, Mike Kime; this could be a very long list – you can see most of them in my "Following" list at Artstation.

Bovine skeleton study

Gaur static pose render

Gaur static pose render, back side

Adam

What can we expect to see from you next?

Denis

There are a variety of plans I have at the moment, from learning sculpting for miniature 3D printing, to making a big fantasy creature. It should be quite a fun experience, and if I'll find my new knowledge useful enough, I'll do my best to share it with the community.

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