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Making of 'Lady of Shalott'

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Date Added: 9th December 2009
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Story, Concept Design & Drawing

In the beginning, I wanted to do a portrait of a young girl, with a sort of love story type background, but then I decided to place her into an environment which better fitted her story. Remembering an oil painting by John William Waterhouse, my favourite Master of art, I wished for my own female character to be in such a beautiful picture. I changed the heroine and the environment of Waterhouse's original painting, and made my character expressive through her body language and her abundant expression. Waterhouse's landscape also includes depth and feeling through its aesthetic appeal, which is a common characteristic in my own works; harmonising characters within their environments. This is why I selected this painting as a reference for my work. I had to consider that some people would think that I had just simply copied the original picture, and so I decided to add my own elements - I was not attempting an exact pixel for pixel copy of the painting. I changed the lighting, perspective and atmosphere of the original, and I spent around one and a half months working on it, through which time I acquired a lot of knowledge about traditional art, 3D, and 2D techniques. In the beginning, it took me some time to decide which software and techniques I should use to get the effects that I intended to achieve. I tried very hard to consider the difficulties that I would face along the way, such as the water's wavy surface, the woods in the background, my character's hair, the lighting, and so on.

Collecting References

After I finished the concept design, I spent a long time collecting various references, such as human anatomy pictures, human skin textures, pictures of boats and clothing, environment textures, and so on. I should certainly thank and, because almost all of my references were gathered from these resources. I then modified my design again, using the reference materials which I had gathered to inform my work (Fig.01).

Fig. 01

Modelling, Pose & Layout

Moving on to the low-resolution modelling process, my character was modelled in Maya. Firstly, I modelled a standard, human body and spent a lot of time on the topology structure. At this stage I didn't use any reference material; I just let her look like a 'normal' person, then went on to create the teeth, eyes and hair. The eyes are two-layer models; one layer was used to catch the Specular highlight and reflectivity, whilst the other one was used to place the colour textures. I also used NURBS patches to create the hair's initial style. After all the elements were finished, I started to adjust her facial characteristics, making use of some of my reference images and, of course, Waterhouse's original oil painting. I didn't want my role to look too desperate or painful, so you can see the wireframes of the character's head in Fig.02 - 05. You especially need to take care in the places which have been marked with red arrows (Fig.02 - 05).

Fig. 02
Fig. 03
Fig. 04

Fig. 05

After finishing the character modelling parts I simply bonded the model together, and then placed it in my required pose. I had to consider my model in relationship to the original oil painting. When I achieved a satisfactory pose, I copied a new character model and then hid the original model. The rough, low-resolution model can be seen in (Fig.06).

Fig. 06

I applied clothing to the body of my model, then modified the topology structure and the appearance of the character, all the while taking into consideration the materials and the gravity of the clothing. I didn't use Maya's cloth system because I wanted more control and freedom over it. I modelled her hands separately, so that I could save more RAM and also so that I could control the hands' shader separately. The long grass in the foreground was modelled by hand, because this was the only way I could achieve a satisfying result. I first modelled various forms of grass, then placed them into my scene and duplicated them to make more. I mainly used the Soft Modification Tool to modify the grass, because this process required more care being taken. The grass and leaves in the foreground can be seen in (Fig.07 - 08).

Fig. 07

Fig. 08

There was nothing special about the other elements in the modelling process. Tip: we can sometimes use texturing instead of modelling, for example on some leaves and grass which can be hard to see. When I finished all of the models, I then needed to carefully place them so that they work well for me (Fig.09).

Fig. 09


After the layout of my models I began the high-resolution modelling process. I adjusted the body's appearance in Mudbox, added more details, and then took it back into Maya. The high-resolution modelling process for the clothing was the same as for the character, however more attention needed to be paid to the creases in the clothing. The hands also required more detail (Fig.10 - 11).

Fig. 10
Fig. 11

continued on next page >

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Paul on Tue, 02 October 2012 2:09pm
I just saw the original painting only last week. This is extraordinarily good. You captured the mood and the colour of the painting beautifully.
Ali on Sat, 17 March 2012 1:02pm
the modeling is awesome
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