Illia Loginov: character modeler interview
Freelance character modeler Illia Loginov shares workflow tips and advice for working in 3D, and mentions checking out the credits of your favorite movies for new artists to inspire you! Find out more…
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
My name is Illia and I'm a freelance character modeler from Ukraine. My passion is sculpting and modeling stylized characters for animation. With every project I try to capture the essence, attitude and appeal of a 2D design or concept, and transfer it into accurate 3D sculpts.
I have been interested in animation since I was a child. I grew up watching "Atlantis," "Sindbad," "The Road to El Dorado," "Treasure Planet," "The Prince of Egypt" and many other delightful movies. I was always fascinated by stylized characters and I think deep down I always wanted to create something similar, but I thought that this was impossible. Fortunately, we live in the era of information, so a lot of things were there waiting for me.
What was the workflow behind your latest gallery image? Where did the idea come from?
My latest gallery image was created during collaboration with the "Hansel and Gretel" books project. I was fortunate enough to be a part of it, and to work with the wonderful design of Gretel by Carlos Luzzi.
My workflow is always basically the same. I always spend some time studying the concept and making drawings and notes for myself. After that, I collect the necessary references and start to work.
I'm using ZBrush for sculpting. This is the program in which I spend most of my time, and this is my favorite part of any project. I prefer to start each of my characters from scratch and not use prepared blanks if I have the opportunity to do so. I think my sculpting process is not that different from the process of other artists: I work from simple to complex. I start by blocking simple forms, then I use Dynamesh and Zremesh to refine them. The most important thing for me in my work is to focus on the artistic aspects of the sculpt and not be distracted by the technical aspects. I carefully work with shapes, internal and external silhouettes, proportions, lines, and dynamics.
After creating the sculpt, I do a retopology and create a UV in Maya. I prefer to create a color texture in ZBrush using Polypaint, but most of the time I work on modifying it in Substance Painter. Then I use Blender (Cycles) for lighting and rendering presentation images.
What challenges did the image present? Did you learn something new?
The most difficult thing for me was to maintain a sense of balance in the pose but, at the same time, maintain all the life and not make it too stiff. For this, it was important to follow the contrapposto in the design - the opposite tilt of the shoulders and hips.
Another important aspect of creating Gretel's model was following the Simple vs. Complex principle. This is especially pronounced in the character's dress. From one side, it is a simple line. From the other side, it is a complex shape created by several folds. The same things are read through the whole design: in the sleeves of the shirt, boots, the shape of the hands, the map.
In this project, I had the opportunity to create an expressions sheet for the first time. It was quite unusual and interesting to explore the range of motions for Gretel and sculpt these facial expressions. It was important for me to preserve her appeal and attitude in every pose, but not "break" her and maintain the feeling that she is a living, breathing character.
How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?
I think the most important thing is to remember that it is not possible to reach a level where you have nothing more to learn. There is always a direction for self-development and learning something new. The main thing is not to stop, and keep moving. It also seems critical to me not to focus on perfectionism. I try to remember that, no matter how strong I am at the moment, there will always be aspects in my work I'll do better after some time, but which I don't know about yet. I am more often trying to work on the principle that says 20% effort equals 80% of the result. Without a doubt, it's very important not to leave your work halfway and give it your best. But it's also significant not to fall into the trap of perfectionism and stop in time. Done is better than perfect. The main thing is to enjoy every project that you do.
And try not to fall in love with your old works. If, objectively, your portfolio contains outdated works or works that don't correspond to your current artistic level, you should get rid of them, regardless of how much time you spent on the works or what emotions you experienced while creating them. Another important aspect of maintaining an up-to-date portfolio is setting a maximum quality standard. Chase only the strongest artists, the best of the best. Analyze and explore their art, and apply the gained knowledge in your work.
Lastly, take enough time to present your work. This is as valuable as the creation of the work itself. I often see how many really great works suffer from a lack of attention due to careless presentation.
What are your artistic ambitions?
All I want to do is continue to develop and sincerely enjoy my work. I always loved animated features, and becoming someone who is directly involved in creating characters for unique stories has always been my dream. Therefore, all that I hope for is the opportunity to take a part in the creation of fresh sincere artistic stories told with soul and passion.
Speaking about more specific things, in the near future I plan to significantly improve my texturing and surfacing skills, and study look development for stylized characters. I would also like to delve deeper into the artistic foundations, such as composition, color, light and storytelling.
Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?
When I started to study, I remember the feeling of being lost in a huge amount of information. With all the guidance available in the world, the most difficult thing is understanding where to start. And the first thing that occurred to me was to study the credits of my favorite animated features and find out who was responsible for creating characters that I admire. This is how I came across Jin Kim, who is a character designer for "Big Hero 6," "Moana," "Tangled," and "Frozen." I was fascinated by the dynamics in Jin's drawings, his linework, and how much life and emotion he puts into his designs. Since then Jin has become my favorite artist.
Apart from Jin Kim, I admire the art of Glen Keane, Shiyoon Kim, Amy Thomson, Aaron Blaise, TB Choi, Daniel Ariaga and many others. Each of these artists are unique in their own way of creating characters and there is always something to learn from every one of them.
Exploring the credits of my favorite animated features, I also came across people who worked on 3D models. Thus, I found my favorite 3D character artists and role models who I admire and strive for: Dylan Ekren, Sergi Caballer, Ryan Tottle, Suzan Kim, Shaun Absher, Zack Petrock, Alena Wooten, Chad Stubblefield, Brandon Lawless and many others.