Interview with Daniel Peteuil

We chat with pro character artist Daniel Peteuil about his superb sculpts and the inspiration behind his work...

We chat with pro character artist Daniel Peteuil about his superb sculpts and the inspiration behind his work...

Likeness study of Richard Harrow from Boardwalk Empire, as portrayed by Jack Huston

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

My name is Daniel Peteuil (pronounced like Petay). I am currently working in the games industry as a Character Artist at Ready at Dawn Studios. I reside in downtown Los Angeles.

Did you always want to be an artist? How did you find your way into the world of 3D?

Yes and no. I grew up around sports and was obsessed with them for much of my childhood; art was something I thought about often, but didn't pursue very strongly. In second grade I think I wrote I wanted to be both a football player and an artist when I grew up. My now brother-in-law was playing professional baseball when I was in high school, and that really encouraged me to pursue that path. However, I had some injuries and eventually realized I didn't really have enough passion for the sport to struggle along that trajectory.

Bronze cast sculpture

After that I really thought about what I would enjoy doing on a daily basis. I was always attracted to sculpture, films and games, and it seemed like 3D was a way to pursue all of that. I did some research, then enrolled in an introductory Maya class at an art school in Detroit (CCS) during my senior year of high school. Things happened between then and now, but that's essentially what led me to where I am now.

Who or what are your biggest sources of inspiration?

Almost anything can inspire me, though I think stories are often what have the most effect on me. There is such an abundance of great visual storytelling these days, it's hard not to be inspired by it. Written stories are also very inspiring, though they demand more time to experience. What I like about literature is that you use your own imagination, and that isn't limited with technical restrictions or someone else's visual interpretation.

In terms of individual people, Bruce Lee and Ricky Gervais (odd combination, I know) have had the most influence on how I approach my work in terms of pride, integrity, efficiency and general outlook.

Sir Galahad's Blackwall Yard shirt wrinkle maps

Artistically, I am most inspired by Rodin – it mesmerizes me how effective his work is in conveying emotion without being restricted by technique and anatomical accuracy. More contemporarily, Gary Weisman, Robert Liberace and Roberto Ferri are big sources of inspiration in traditional art forms.

Then there is of course the endless and evolving list of artists working in the entertainment industry who help all these inspirational visual stories come to life. It's great working in this industry for that reason; often the people next to you are inspiring you and pushing you to improve.

Likeness study of Tommy Shelby from Peaky Blinders, as portrayed by Cillian Murphy

Which software packages do you use for your work, and do you have any favorite tips and tricks for using them?

For the bulk of my work I use ZBrush, Maya, Photoshop, and KeyShot, but dabble in other things if needed.

One thing I've started to do lately in ZBrush is to make things more physically accurate; if there's a seam in cloth, I break apart the mesh and create a physical seam instead of just using brushes. I find it to be simpler to get a cleaner result, especially with Insert Multi Mesh brush stitches and the like. I've also started to use ZBrush noise while sculpting to get a better sense of the material I'm sculpting. For example, if I use noise with a fabric alpha while sculpting cloth, it's easier to visualize the type of fabric I am sculpting. I can also use the Smooth brush without having to worry about losing my fabric detail. Also, if your workflow will overlay a tileable fabric pattern later, it can help to see how your own sculpted details hold up once that's applied, and you can see if you need to exaggerate them more to be readable in the final product.

Zbrush 4R7 beta-testing

As well as 3D sculpting, you can also turn your hand to traditional sculpture, photography and 2D art. Which do you enjoy the most, and why? How do your other skills inform your digital 3D work?

I love learning new art forms and think they all inform each other and can only make you a better artist. 3D form is my passion, so traditional and digital 3D is what I enjoy most and where I feel most comfortable. 2D is something I struggle with; I tend to lose patience easily, but I also think it's important to practice it for that very reason. I find it's not like clay, which has a physicality to it that forces you to take your time. I started photography as a way to pursue art outside of the house and explore the area I live, but when I'm focused on a project it can be hard to keep up.

What are your plans or ambitions for the future?

Above all my ambition is to improve. I am afraid of being satisfied with my work; I think satisfaction is the death of progress, and my number one goal is to progress. So if there is an opportunity that I think will help me progress, then that is what I want to do.

Zbrush 4R7 beta-testing

There are many things I think about doing and many crafts and skills I'd love to pursue. For example, I'm really itching to learn how to make my own knives. I'd really like to pick up a skill to work on that's away from a desk and maybe even gets me back in nature. I really just love making things and want to make and contribute something interesting with the skills I learn.

How do you like to unwind after a hard day's (or night's) work?

I am a big fan of stand-up comedy, and being in LA there's an abundance of free comedy shows with established comedians. I spent much of my teens playing video games and watching stand-up comedy on TV. Now I'm making games during the day, and watching comedians I saw growing up at night at random bars or above Chinese restaurants, and I love it. It's a great way to relax, yet still watch people be creative and work to master their craft; stand-up is a rare art form in that it can only be practiced in front of others. It's such a simple yet challenging thing to just stand there and be entertaining, and I find it super interesting to watch. I really love learning new skills, so watching others hone theirs and improve themselves is really inspirational.

Related links

Discover more of Daniel's work on his site
Check out the latest from Ready At Dawn Studios
Grab a copy of ZBrush Characters & Creatures
To see more by Daniel Peteuil, check out Anatomy for 3D Artists

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