Emre Ekmekci: character & creature artist interview

Sucker Punch Productions character & creature artist Emre Ekmekci shares some of his amazing concepts, and details his workflow and ambitions...

Sucker Punch Productions character & creature artist Emre Ekmekci shares some of his amazing concepts, and details his workflow and ambitions...

3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
Emre Ekmekci: I was born and raised in Turkey, spending my days as a kid drawing and playing games all day. I have always had a huge interest in animals and creatures. This expanded to fantasy fiction and I found myself working in the US modeling all sorts of creatures and characters and getting paid for it which was my ultimate dream. I currently work at Sucker Punch Productions in Bellevue, WA as a character artist with a very talented team. I get to model highly detailed cool looking characters at work and I try to design and model characters and creatures after work in my spare time.

3dt: What was the workflow behind your latest gallery image? Where did the idea come from?
EE: As the name of the artwork suggests it is sort of a dinosaur-like creature that lives in an alien environment, but not drastically different from our planet. I always had an interest in alien animals since I think we don't see them as much as the human-like aliens we encounter in most sci-fi stories. I wanted this creature to read as a dinosaur/dragon right off the bat, but also wanted to enhance my design with some alien elements. I used amphibian and insect references for the alien part of it. As for the workflow, I pretty much concepted and sculpted the whole thing using ZBrush, and once I was happy with the sculpt I switched to Photoshop and did a paintover to get the final look.

3dt: What challenges did the image present? Did you learn something new?
EE: The most challenging but also the most fun part of it was to come up with an original concept design for the creature. As I mentioned I wanted it to look alien while still feeling somewhat familiar and identifiable. Another challenge was to set up the overall shape and silhouette of the creature. Since I decided to make it just as a bust, it limited my options as to how the general crude silhouette of the creature would be like. My first trials ended up being too square overall which is not good visually especially for an organic design like this. So I had to make it asymmetrical by either making it a vertical or horizontal rectangle. So I ended up making the overall silhouette a rectangle in order to show the huge neck and fins as well.

3dt: Do you use any other software, either for work or personal projects?
EE: I use a variety of software both for professional and personal use. I usually start off my models in ZBrush, and Marvelous Designer for clothes. After I am done with the high-res sculpt I move on to Maya or 3D-Coat for retopology. I like to have options as to do the same part of the workflow because it gives me the opportunity to switch to an alternative program if the one I use doesn't work the way I want for specific things. After I do the low-res model and do the UVs in Maya I start baking the sculpt details onto the model using either Substance Painter, Xnormal or Handplane depending on how they perform for that specific bake. For texturing I mostly use Substance Painter and Mari, but I do use 3D-Coat where it's easier for me, and of course Photoshop.

3dt: How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?
EE: Even though I sometimes make an artwork solely for portfolio reasons, I mostly just work on a personal project after work hours and that sometimes ends up in my portfolio. I personally found that the best pieces I have are the ones I enjoyed the most, so I usually just do whatever I feel like doing unless I feel like I need to focus on and improve on a specific thing for my artistic development. I constantly try to put a new artwork on my portfolio and I do it out of eagerness to create more and not just out of showcasing my work for job applications. I also try to take out any artwork I don't see fits in my portfolio since we are judged by our worst works. If I don't like any of the works in my portfolio, that means there is a good chance someone else is not going to like it, so no matter how many hours I had put into it I take it out.

3dt: Are you a member of any social media groups? Any favorite hashtags you check on a daily basis?
EE: I am only on Facebook in regards to social media and I don't use hashtags since I couldn't keep up with that trend to begin with. I mostly hang out in 3dtotal, ZBrush Central, ArtStation, CGSociety and such websites to keep up and communicate with fellow artists. It is important to be aware of the industry and follow other artists, but I sometimes lock myself out of any social media or websites in order to focus on my works and have a fresh eye.

3dt: How important is the recognition of your peers?
EE: Getting a fan base and being recognized for your work is very important for artists in this day and age. A lot of talented artists get selected and discovered by others thanks to social media, art websites and other kinds of recognition medium. Although it feels very fulfilling to be admired by many, seeking recognition and followers can tempt one to produce art just for the sake of producing art and getting followers. So I approach it carefully and try to find the balance and remind myself that at the end of the day all that matters is how much I enjoy spending my time doing my art.

3dt: What are your artistic ambitions?
EE: My biggest ambition and goal is to make an artwork that clearly exceeds my previous pieces. I try to learn as much as I can from other artists because learning never ends especially in this information age where everything changes so quickly. I strive to go further with each piece of art I do and I try to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone every now and then.

3dt: Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?
EE: I have many favorite artists involved in various types of art but what they all have in common is the fact that they produce something original and that they inspire me by doing so. I would say Bernini and Michelangelo are some of my favorite old master artists, along with Tolkien whose work inspires me always, as well as Frank Frazetta. To get into more modern artists Nick Keller, Simon Lee, Rafael Grassetti, Jamie Beswarick, Adam Skutt and Glauco Longhi are among my favorites because of the quality of the work they do, and also their knowledge level. I keep discovering new artists constantly so this list is much bigger than I could type here.

3dt: What can we expect to see from you next?
EE: At some point I would love to recreate an old masters sculpture as a study, and of course many more creatures, chaacters and organic models and designs. May be in the future I would go into doing more hard surface stuff just to get out of my comfort zone too, but I guess I want to satisfy my eagerness to design and sculpt organic creatures and characters first.

Related links

Check out Emre Ekmekcis website
Emre on ArtStation
Emre on Facebook

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