Generating gestural figures
Morten Jaeger reveals the techniques for creating gestural figures using ZBrush, Maya and Photoshop
I really wanted to a full figure that had a realistic clay-like feel to it. I came across a couple of clay sculptures online which had both an interesting look as well as a nice gesture, so they became my basis for this piece.
I have never tried to recreate a realistic clay look, and this was actually not as hard as I initially thought. My main philosophy for this project was to stay rough and try to imagine what it would be like to work with a real sculpture. I primarily made use of the ClayBuildup brush for big surfaces and the Dam_Standard
I started out very rough from a sphere in ZBrush and then quickly tried to figure out the pose. I used DynaMesh for this, because it allows me to prototype very fast and not worry about flow.
I then quickly moved on to getting my proportions the way I wanted. This just involved blocking in the main muscle groups and bony landmarks. I think it's important to keep in mind that beginnings are, for the most part, ugly. That's something you have to bear with. As long as you keep telling yourself that it will get better, you will be able to create something amazing in the end.
We all hit a point where we're not satisfied with our work. It's important not to lose hope, and don't constantly compare yourself to artists who are way better than you. Believe that you can get there one day and you will! Trying to recreate anything from the real world really, you need references. This is by far the most important tool in your artistic arsenal.
As I started to detail further I really didn't want to be bothered with the space that no one would see. I therefore abandoned the back entirely. This gave me more time to focus on the pose.
One important aspect I tried to stick by, was to never smooth anything. I wanted to preserve a rough look in order to achieve the clay feel.
Next was posing. I had already sculpted it in pose, but I felt I needed further adjustments. At this point I also went away from a symmetrical figure and introduced a lot of big slaps of clay. I think this is really what helped me with the look.
I imagined what it would be like to work like this traditionally. I used the ClayBuildUp Brush to build up big surfaces, and the Dam_Standard brush to cut into the model as if I was working with real tools. I try to objectively look at the model and figure out what worked and what didn't.
Leaving the face behind
The face wasn't really an important part to me, I wanted to keep it fairly generic but add enough detail, so that from far away it would look like a person. Keep your work simple, always try to find the least time consuming solution, this will almost always give you better results.
Like I mentioned, the sharp details here are all done with the Dam_Standard Brush, cutting underneath places like the chest to exaggerate the shadow that would be cast. I also added a lot of random dots and slices around for a more natural feel.
It took me a while to get the proportions that I wanted. In the end I decided to scale down the head further and extend his lower legs. This helped the model achieve a more heroic look. I make use of the Undo history in ZBrush a lot to scrub through my pieces to figure where I've started and if my end result was what I envisioned.
When all of this was done, it was time to render. I first decimated the model in ZBrush so I could actually work with it in Maya, and then proceeded to make a very simple light setup. It's a very standard three-point light setup. I made a fairly intense backlight with a neutral color, and then had a warm and cold light on either side of the model.
I also decided to add two rotated duplicates just to add a bit more visual interest. I feel this really helped the image as a whole in terms of framing and composition.
To really sell the ‘clay' look, I also needed to create a shader. The good thing about the decimated model was that I wouldn't have to create any sort of bump or irregularities in the shader. There was really nothing special about the shader, just a standard Fresnel material with a little bit of reflection.
Moving into post
The final render was rendered out with depth of field to create a bit more of a miniature feel. I then made good use of Photoshop to really polish the piece to its final look. I always put my pieces through an extensive Photoshop pass and just to give you an idea of the process here's what it looked like before.