Making Of 'Artist'
Hello everybody! My name is Nikita Veprikov and I live in Kremenchug, Ukraine. I've been engaged in the 3D graphic arts for more than three years already and it takes up the greater part of my life. My latest work is "Artist" and I'm going to share the process of its creation in this Making Of.
Before I start, I just want to mention that I will not be describing how to model something, how to put textures on objects or how to use ZBrush. There are already heaps of lessons on these themes out there on the internet and therefore I will only stop for those moments that I consider the most interesting. Also I will expound some of my considerations. I don't pretend to be an expert on innovation and I'm not saying that I'm right; it is just my ideas on one regard or another.
Everything, certainly, begins with an idea. If you begin to draw without an idea, you may spend a lot of time doing nothing and simply not knowing what to set your mind on. The less time you spend on the reasoning of an idea, the more time you will spend in the future in the process of its realization. Having a natural gift for drawing gives you an enormous bonus in terms of that qualitative first sketch. I, unfortunately, don't possess such a gift and that's what I have to explore different ways of creating and developing an image, such as using reference images.
When I drew "Killing of Prayer", I used reference photos of myself to help with the posing. To give myself plenty of time to prepare for each shot, I took the pictures with a 10 second delay between them. Later, looking through the footage, I noticed that my cat had sneaked into one of the photos and was sitting and looking devotedly into the camera, apparently attracted by the blinking green indicator. This immediately inspired me to come up with the following (Fig.01).
To help fix the idea in my mind, I created a text file with a quick description of the concept. I always do this when I want to record an idea because I may not work on it straight away and I need to be able to recall what I have seen, even after a large period of time has passed. On my hard drive I have about 50 such ideas saved in this way. I always look over them when I'm thinking about creating a new picture.
This time, it wasn't quite like that. After finishing my previous picture, I already knew what I was going to undertake next, so I opened a file with the sketch of the cat and launched! As you can see, the initial sketch doesn't look like the final picture and I will therefore endeavor to explain the evolution behind this idea.
I personally see nothing shameful in an idea changing during the creation process. A picture is not created for one day; moods change and more interesting, fresh, new ideas come along - it's great!
I began modeling from a character, because at this time I didn't have an exact picture of the environment in my mind. During this entertaining process, I stumbled upon the picture of a cat sitting upright. I liked the pose and so decided to put my cat in a similar position. After rummaging around on the internet, I managed to collect the following reference images (Fig.02).
When I adjusted the pose of my cat, it seemed to me that it didn't benefit the cat to be sitting on the floor and so I decided to construct a padded stool for him to sit on instead. This immediately led me to make a decision about the color spectrum I was going to use in this piece (which ended up being red, green and gold). Here's a small extract from the book The Complete Color Harmony, by Tina Sutton and Bride M.Whelan (please note that this might not exactly match the original because I translated it from Russian):
"Burgundy and deep green, when applied with a gold color, generates a feeling of opulence. These dark, pompous colors - used in such different materials as leather and taffeta - create a dramatic effect. They are associated with riches and high status."
If you don't own it already, I'd really recommend getting this book for your shelf. And never ignore the laws of composition or color combinations. They were developed a long time ago and have been perfected over the years and presented to you on a plate.
Moreover it's already impossible to surprise somebody by just realistically rendering a mobile phone in the centre of a shot. If you want your work to please and be memorable, then every area of your image must be finished to a high standard. It's no good having great color choices and composition if your technical execution is lacking (and vice versa). You can think about it mathematically: grade each section out of five and then multiply them together to get the final score for your image - the higher the better! I agree that this is a primitive method, and there are lots of different factors to consider beyond the three I've mentioned, but I think it's important to keep things like this in mind if you want to produce really great work.
Okay I've been become a bit distracted from the theme, so let's return to "Artist". Here's one of the test renders at this stage (Fig.03).
I continued to work on the cat and padded stool. At this point already knew that the cat was going to be an artist and he would have drawn something interesting on the wall. An idea with a vine and easel suddenly appeared - eureka! I distinctly saw something that looked more like a final image. In such moments, I always feel particularly inspired and that day I drew without stopping - and slept well that night! Here is what the picture looked like at the end of the day (Fig.04).
The next day I continued to develop my idea. To model the cat and the vine branches I used polys in ZBrush. By the way, it's possible to break up the 3D work process into three distinct stages: modeling, texturing and light, which you can also apply the grading system to. I say this because you must not neglect any of the stage and you have to try to do each of them as well as you can, because they are closely interrelated.
Here are some of the reference images I was using at this point (Fig.05).
And the results of my modeling (Fig.06).
Texturing And Materials
Photos were used for the texturing of the easel, vines, leaves and canvas. The vine branches were textured by using bark from photo, the leaf textures came from photos of leaves - etc. For the canvas I used a canvas texture in the bump slot. Everything else is a color or texture that was drawn by hand, including the texture of the carving and the dust on the easel and the marks on the wall (Fig.07).
An idea with a wave and fishes came to mind when I looked more closely at the shapes on the wall. So I decided to come up with something a bit more visually interesting and came up with a simple sketch. A lot of people like it - which was great! - so I developed the sketch by hand into a texture, using the wall's diffuse channel (Fig.08).
And because I know the interest materials can arose, here are the specific settings I used for the material of the vine (Fig.09). The materials of the leaves, I have to admit, never quite succeeded as I wanted.
Lighting And Visualization
For the lighting I used mainly V-Ray sphere lights and a couple of plane lights for local lighting. My lighting setup can be seen in Fig.10.
As you can see in the image, I used sufficiently large sphere lights and into one of them, I placed another smaller one. This made for greater control over the gradient of the light transition into shade.
The local sources of light (those that are in the room) were created for different aims, mainly to illuminate some concrete areas or add highlights to the right places. For example, two V-Ray planes were directed onto the easel to compel the bump map to sparkle, in order to give more feeling to the texture of the campus. Two V-Ray sphere lights were placed next to the cat to brighten up the shades.
Similarly, you can probably see lines from two large sphere lights. These were standard direct lights, tied to the V-Ray light source, with the possibility of looking from it. As you may know, V-Ray light sources don't posses such a function so the check boxes on the direct lights were certainly turned off.
I did not use Global Lighting for this scene. The picture was already 3800 pixels wide without it having to take about a day to render!
Here I used a pair of interesting modes. I rendered with VrayMtlId, which helped me to cut out the objects easily with the magic wand tool in Photoshop. Here is it (Fig.11).
Again, with the help of VrayMtlId I received the next image (Fig.12)
I created the two simple materials and mixed them by using BlendMtl, laying on a channel mask texture with the waves and fishes. The last picture was needed for the creation of a small amount of luminescence around the golden picture on the wall.
During post-processing, I added different details and also did a little color correction. You can see the results of post processing in Fig.13.
Well that's all (Fig.14). If you have any questions, I'll gladly answer them and I hope you found this Making Of useful. I wish you all creative success!
To see more by Nikita Veprikov, check out Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection