Paul Deasy: 3D character modeler

Brownbag Films 3D character modeler Paul Deasy talks about his latest work and processes, and what it's like to work within a studio...

Brownbag Films 3D character modeler Paul Deasy talks about his latest work and processes, and what it's like to work within a studio...

3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
Paul Deasy: I'm a 3D character modeler working for Brownbag Films in Dublin City. This is my first job in the animation industry. Before this I was spending all my time practicing and updating my portfolio until I had a studio level quality of work.

I've transitioned slowly to 3D over many years. When I was a kid I was always drawing superhero's, like Batman and Spiderman, then as I got older, went to animation college where I became interested in becoming a layout artist. Once I finished college, I started to teach myself painting and wanted to be a concept artist. Finally I had a go at ZBrush one day after a friend of mine and fellow sculptor Aidan Coughlan introduced me to it, and found the art form that felt like it just fitted the most.

Brownbag is a studio of just over 200 people making mainly children's cartoons, and due to its size, although I'm a character modeler, I also do props and set work. But generally, I create characters in ZBrush, then do retopology in Maya, Blend Shapes (facial expressions) and then it's off to the texture artists and riggers.

This studio has been a massive influence on my work due to its requirement for simple shapes and very stylized characters, but mainly working with many, hugely talented artists.

3dt: Where did you find the inspiration for your latest gallery entry? What's the story behind its creation?
PD: My last sculpt was "Mouse" concepted by Samuel Youn. I've followed Samuel Youn for a good while now and am a fan of his work. As I mentioned, in the studio, I have to work in a very simplistic style, which can be very difficult to cut away all the fat and make something simple that has a big impact. I saw Samuel's work one day as I was browsing and when I saw the character I put it aside in a folder I keep of 2D that I'd like to sculpt. When it came to doing my next personal sculpt, not only did I love the design but it fit into this simple style that I've come to love.

3dt: What software and plug-ins did you use to create this image? Did you face any difficulties, and how did you overcome them?
PD: I used ZBrush for the entire sculpt. When I started here, my supervisor, Stefano Dubay, showed me how to use the ZModeller brush effectively and properly. I knew how to use it before but he was showing me how to use the topology to get the shapes exactly how you want them and control them by keeping the polys low. This effected my work in a big way because it was the first time someone had shown me how to use the technical side of modeling to further the artistic side of it.

This had a big impact on the cleanliness of the sculpt, and wasn't just something I had used before or seen others doing with the ZModeler brush anywhere across the internet. This wasn't used for the whole character though, only for small parts on the character's clothing and so on, like buckles, or getting the collar at a nice even thickness and nice shape. Once the sculpt was finished I brought it into Maya where I have Renderman, and used this to render.

3dt: Do you normally use this software in your workflow? What other software and plug-ins do you favor?
PD: Yes for the most part, all the modeling I do is in ZBrush. Especially with the ZModeller. I very rarely have much need to go into Maya to box model something, but I do occasionally if it's just easier or quicker.

In terms of rendering, I used to use 3ds Max, but as Brownbag use Maya and I had to learn that instead, I have just started to use that more. I don't have any real preference over 3ds Max or Maya for the tools in them that I need.

I used to use V-Ray until a colleague of mine in Brownbag showed me Renderman. The "Mouse" sculpt was actually my first time using Renderman and I really loved it. Straight out of the box it just works really well.

But since Maya 2017 has come with Arnold, I have started playing around with that and really like Arnold too for the same reason. That said, V-Ray is a great renderer as well, it's just nice to change around and try new software. I've also used KeyShot which I enjoyed for a time, and would like to try Marmoset at some stage.

3dt: Are there any particular techniques that you use often? Or do you like to experiment?
PD: A bit of both really. My process, and I think I speak for many artists when I say this, evolves regularly. This is due to not always changing my process but trying a new way of doing one or two things each time I do a sculpt. For example, for one sculpt, trying out Fibermesh instead of modeling the hair. I am planning on learning Yeti in the near future to start playing around with that. So a part of my process may change as a result and over time, can completely change, becoming quicker or increase the quality of the work.

My process for the most part in a nutshell, is create a base mesh, using SubTools as different pieces, then creating the shapes of the clothing and props, put those in place with a big move brush and once I have the silhouette and forms that I'm happy with, I will then start creating the secondary shapes and so on until the sculpt is complete. It's important for me to hold off and make sure I'm happy with each step before I go to the next, which can take some discipline sometimes, because you want to go in and flesh out the face or make that super cool biker jacket or something. This can cause you problems later if you don't have your forms down first.

3dt: What are your artistic ambitions?
PD: At the moment, for the most part I'm just enjoying modeling in a studio, as this was a big goal of mine which is still only really recently achieved. But in the future I would like to try move up to senior modeler in this company. At some stage I would like to work on feature films, but it's important for me right now that I always stay sculpting. Even in work, as, this is why I got into the industry. So although someday I'm sure it would suit me to move into a role like an art director or something along those lines, for the foreseeable future I'm happy just to be sculpting.

3dt: What software would you like to learn in the future to expand your portfolio and skillset, and why?
PD: Well I mentioned Yeti, which would be nice just to give me the option to make strands of hair if I want that look, instead of just sculpting hair. I'd also like to learn Marmoset as it seems to be a really nice piece of software; I've seen some great work come out of it. I would also like to learn Mari so that I can texture some of my work.

At the moment anything I want to learn is to give me more options because I honed in on sculpting alone for so long, I feel like it would be a big benefit to learn some new skillsets on top of sculpting, but still to drive my sculpts. Topogun is another one since I've started retopologising characters regularly in the studio, I'd like to see the difference with a software dedicated to it.

3dt: How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?
PD: This can be tricky, because it really can depend on your situation, how you deal with this. It takes a love of your work and dedication too, which comes hand in hand. You don't need to force yourself to do something you love generally, but sometimes duty calls when you're not in the right mood, and then the extra dedication really comes into play.

It can be hard to come home after work and keep going on your personal stuff, but what I find helps is a good idea. You can always think, so when you're not being distracted by something, even if it's just for a few minutes, start thinking about something that would be nice to sculpt or draw or whatever your medium is. Browse the internet for some cool work to get inspired whenever you can, be it on the bus on the way to work or wherever. If you can find an idea you're excited about, it makes doing it in the evening much easier. When I find some cool 2D piece of work I want to sculpt, I'm looking forward to getting started. I never sit down in front of an empty canvas, in my experience it just doesn't work for me. It maybe works for some people but I think most need some sort of starting position to get going on a piece.

3dt: Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?
PD: This is always a hard answer for me, not because I have so many but honestly because I don't really follow particular artists exclusively. I always kind of just kept folders of images that I found were inspiring or something I wanted to try and emulate. Just heaps of nameless images. There are of course artists that I like currently but I'm not one of the people who can name lists of artists off hand.

In 3D I love the "Disney Infinty" work that B Allen, Matt Thorup and Shane Olson did, and their own work as well, for the simplistic style; the shapes they create are just incredible. At work my desk is cluttered with them and I use them as reference sometimes when I'm struggling with finding a shape.

I also love to look at Scibor Telesynski's traditional work because it's awesome. I love to use clay to sculpt, but I cannot sculpt to the same level as I can digitally. I don't have the experience with using clay to do so, but he is unreal and the characters he makes are always really fun and lovely designs.
I always loved James W. Cain's work, for the style he works in, he always has this moody feel to his work that I love and these nice flat planes that work really well.

Julien Desroy is another really talented sculptor. I always enjoy his work. But also, Stefano Dubay, my supervisor, and colleague Brice Laville are two very inspiring guys to work with and incredible artists. You can find their work on most art sites, including 3dtotal. Anyone reading this will very likely have seen their work before. Seeing them work is a big drive for my own improvement.

As for 2D, I find I pay even more attention to these artists, despite being a 3D artist myself. I did digital painting for years and so have for a long time gathered folders of images from people like Loish, Sergei Birault, Jake Pinian, Feng Zhu, Sergey Katsukov, Johannes Helgeson, Nicholas Kole, Tan Zhi Hui, Sergey Kolesov, obviously Samuel Youn and many more. I spent years trying to paint like Loish, and then more years trying to paint like Sergey Kolesov, and a few more like Feng Zhu, all really inspirational artists.

3dt: What can we expect to see from you next?
PD: At the moment, I'm trying to really hone in on my technical ability, in which I have a lot of great people around me in Brownbag to help with, including Stefano as I said before, and Matthew Loyd, who helped me with coming to Brownbag in the first place and was also my 3D teacher in college. I would imagine you can expect this to come across in my future work more and more. For the foreseeable future I'll be trying to develop the stylized work that I'm currently doing and after that, who knows.

Related links

Check out Paul Deasy's ArtStation
Vote for "Mouse" in the gallery
Grab a copy of Beginner's Guide to Character Creation in Maya

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