Thursday, 14 April 2011

Progress and updates and criticisms and...

Working gradually on my sculpt. It's been fun, and hard, but mostly fun. Figuring out how to use Zbrush again was the hardest part - as well as an upgrade, there are a lot of changes in Zbrush 4. Some are good, some are awkward, but it's not like I can continue to use an old version forever.

When it comes to sculpting creating a character, I think that an external eye is always needed. Sometimes what looks fine to you looks odd to other people. I can only attribute that to working on it from the ground up for many hours. After looking at something for that long you tend to get tunnel vision on it, and you fail to see the problems. Usually for a 2D picture, I can flip the canvas around and rotate it to get a new look, but in 3D you're constantly rotating and changing angles to get stuff to look right from all views, which makes it even harder to get a fresh eye on it.

These are all my work in progresses. For the most part, I had gone too wiiiiide with the whole thing, though looking back I didn't hate it. But opinions for the most part said to go thinner, so thinner I went.

(From awful to not so awful!)

On the subject of criticism, I was talking to a friend today who said they didn't understand how people can get blasted and be enthusiastic about it. And for the most part, people are wusses who have been raised under a soft blanket of love and comfort. I was raised in the pits of hell and torment, anyone who knows me can attest to this by the way I act.

(Disclaimer: I'm kidding, Mum. You raised me well.)

But seriously, people are too sensitive in general. The thing about criticism is that people only do it when they care, and you lose nothing from at least trying their advice. Of course, I think that on the flip side, giving criticism is just as hard as taking it sometimes. It's hard to judge how a person will react. Some will crawl up into a ball and rock back and forth in the fetal position, some will lash out at your and others will take your advice like a man and do what needs to be done.

Level 1: Coddling (The Wuss)
To coddle someone when giving them advice usually means you're giving them the bare minimal. Stuff that won't affect their work, but makes it look like you care or have something to say to them. This level is pathetic, and no one grows from it.

"Oh, your work looks great! Maybe you could tweak this part a little, it isn't necessary, otherwise it is looking good!"

The coddle requires a profuse amount of lying, ego-stroking and hand holding. If you have to coddle someone like this, I suggest you buy them diapers and a pacifier. Because they're a baby who is probably just fishing for compliments. People like this rarely want to change their work or listen to your advice or get better. Avoid these people, they are a waste of time.

Level 2: Buts... (The buttings)
To "But" someone, is to give them equal amounts of praise along with criticism. For every nice thing you say about their work, you add "but..." and criticize them. This is somewhat more honest, and usually what most people can handle. Some like more praise than criticism, and some like the praise after the criticism so you leave on a high note. That last part is important if they're a whiny douche who can't handle reality.

"Your work is good, and I love the colours, but maybe you could work on the [AREA YOU SUCK AT] more, and really refine it. I love the idea of the gesture, but you could make it less awkward and stiff?"

The "But" is a good way to go for the most part, it's the middle ground, and middle ground is always good.

Level 3: HELL MODE
HELL MODE is for masochists and Satan worshippers. It's for people who really want people to dig into every aspect of their work and really give it to them good. Most people hate this, and will often mistake it for a personal insult. Some people love it, and will see it as a positive thing overall. HELL MODE decides the boys from the men, if you can take HELL MODE in your area of expertise, then you are someone worthy of respect. Taking HELL MODE means you really want to improve at something, or you genuinely care about making your work better.

"You need to work on your [AREA YOU SUCK AT] because it looks like you haven't studied [AREA YOU SUCK AT] very much. This [AREA YOU SUCK AT] needs a lot of work, because it looks awkward and unrealistic. The colours are flat and there's no depth to it, you need to study [AREA YOU SUCK AT] more before you attempt something this complex."

People who give HELL MODE advice usually seem like assholes, and usually they are... more or less. It depends on how you say it, usually a HELL MODE crit won't focus on the areas that are good or don't need work, because if you're good enough to not get criticized in that area then you don't need to be told about it. If your lighting is really good, but anatomy is really bad people will focus on the anatomy first and foremost. Some may comment on the lighting afterwards, giving compliments that are akin to pouring honey on an open wound, but someone looking for this type of crit isn't looking to be complimented.

Also, I really need to stop bouncing between UK and NA English spelling. Why can't those assholes just spell the words the same way we do?

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Luce Umbra Final Concept - Lineart

Do I have to explain how much I love lineart? I do, and it's a shame that more people don't do it. While it's a respectable skill to do without, good lineart is just as hard to achieve. Years of practice have maybe gotten me half way there. The hardest thing is controlling line weight and keeping a good flow.

All I can say is thank god for the rotate canvas feature. Makes those harder lines a lot easier to deal with.

Anyway, the character is all but drawn out. I'm quite happy with the details and the design, though I worry a little that it looks too busy on certain sections. With that in mind, I kept the face and dress relatively simple so the eyes have some resting area before moving onto the next detailed area. The wings sorta throw that balance off, though I'm keen to keep them as I've never modelled anything like wings before, so it's a good learning experience. I had the idea of maybe getting rid of the wings and making the crown floating above her head more dynamic to replace them... but I think not.

My goal is to have concept and colours done by the end of March, and then during April I can work on the 3D sculpting stuff, then during May until the end I work on textures, effects and a rig/pose.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Luce Umbra - Further Designs and Ideas

So, here are a few more designs for the Goddess of Equilibrium, now aptly named Luce Umbra. A name borne from the need to stop typing excessively to refer to this one character. Generally, the idea for her design is to mix heavy/strong armour with soft cloths and fabrics. Which is a sort of balance in itself, and proving tough to crack. Beside balancing light and dark, which is a bit harder to show off without colours (I suppose I should get to those now and not when I'm painting textures) but regardless of that, I think I got some decent designs here. Now to find a direction and go with them.

I generally like the idea of the pauldrons, along with the gauntlets and greaves but it's hard to decide a direction to go with generally with it. Should I emphasize the light and dark aspects more on each side, or focus more on a balance which could shift tonally (is that a word?) I'm growing on the idea of giant angel/devil wings, no matter how cliché it might seem.

The idea for the weapon was originally scales, but it has been done to death (by that I mean by basically anyone else who choose balance as a theme). So, with the help of the think-tank, which is more like a think-pod considering it only consists of one other person (thanks Steve), I decided to go with a spirit level for a weapon. This goes along with the pebbles you can see in her hand, the idea is that she can always balance what seems impossible to balance, and the pebbles change colour. If this were a game, the idea would be that the pebbles represent which side is winning, and if all the pebbles turn black she has to fight for heaven, and if all the pebbles turn white she has to fight for hell.

Along with that mechanic, her powers and appearance change depending on how much light or dark energy she's using. More light means a more angelic appearance, and more dark means something more devilish. I really want to get that across in the design, but with the limits on the contest it might be a bad idea. However, now is the time to experiment, so I might just see what happens from that.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Dominance War V

So it's finally started. It was supposed to start weeks ago, but I guess stuff happens. I've been looking forward to it for a while, every since DW III I've wanted to join, but many things have kept me from doing so. Now I can focus on it, I hope to have a decent entry.

Of course, this is a world wide art competition, and when you start going to places like Russia and Korea (as countries with nothing better to do than solely devote yourself to a craft, whether that be drinking vodka, playing Starcraft or making awesome art) you start to see some amazing artists and ideas.

Seriously, these guys have some wicked imagination. I doubt it's the kind of thing you can learn, as most of my characters are pretty down-to-earth, but DW requires you to make giants. The scale of some of these characters is immense, even if they are humanoid type characters. But ultimately, this is about keeping up with the art-thing, which I haven't done in a looooong time. It's fun, but I forgot how tiring it is... the Russians have no problem with this, their blood is made from ice and vodka giving them unlimited energy, and the Koreans need a way to get out of Korea... that would be motivation enough for me to be awesome. But what do I have? Nothing really, a few Red Bulls and perhaps some fleeting illusions of grandeur. What can I hope to achieve? Something that I won't hate 20 minutes after it's complete.

As this is a character design and art blog, let's move onto the character.


The idea behind this Goddess is equilibrium, which is a fancy-pants way of saying balance I guess. But there are a few God/esses of balance, so here's me trying to be different. This Goddess uses both light and darkness to maintain balance in the universe, possibly some other magic that combines them both. She does this so that one side doesn't grow too powerful and take over, which would be bad for most people.

Oh yeah, before I forget, the theme behind DW V is to make your own God or Goddess. Last year it was robots, the year before it was demons. Or was it demons then robots? Whatever, the point is, every year they have a theme, though this one seems less broad than the others.

Essentially this means she's both evil and good depending on her mood and who she's fighting for at the time. If light is winning, she'll fight for darkness and vice versa. The idea extends to heaven and hell, though the concept of a traditional heaven or hell bores me - however it isn't a big deal or something worth thinking about since this is just a character design challenge. But... maybe I'll give the "game" some thought so that might help influence the design.

Originally this Goddess was human, and after a rough stint in life was sent to "Hell" for her crimes. In the pit she saw chaos and anarchy, and longed for order and peace. These feelings helped her escape from Hell and reach Heaven, where she was rewarded for her persistence as long as she be faithful and serve obediently. However, she found she hated Heaven as much as she hated Hell. The lack of freedom and individuality was driving her insane, but with no outlet she had no choice but to bottle it up. The cruel things she endured in Hell she was now inflicting on those who defied Heaven. She couldn't simply see things as black and white, there had to be a middle ground that was better, and in defiance she abandoned Heaven.

Her power and experience in both Heaven and Hell allowed her to act against both forces - this earned her worship from humans who needed a gentle hand to guide them against darkness, or an outlet to release their sadistic whims on another. She swore to keep balance and ensure that no side wins, and in that way she perpetuates constant war behind Heaven and Hell. When things get quiet, she fans the flames to stave her boredom.

The idea behind the design is to infuse classic light and dark elements. Angel and devil wings, halos and horns etc. Though I don't want to be that obvious with it. She's a fighter, and balancing of light and dark leads me to the obvious (scales) which I'm trying to integrate and use as weapons. I also liked the idea of representing those elements with objects - so far I'm using flowers in her hair. There's a creepy-ass flower called the bat flower or something, that looks like it's been chewed up and spit out by a dog. And some lilies for good measure.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Long Time No See

It's been a while since I posted, but let it be known that a job (full time) makes people unexpectedly lazy when it comes to other parts of their lives. Like cooking, cleaning, and eating (or maybe that's just me.) Usually you would have seen my epic struggle to complete my final MA project - and I promise you it was indeed epic. 100+ hours with no sleep, mild hallucinations, some anxiety, despair and finally acceptance (like I was dying or something). It was a roller coaster, but who cares about that? The day is won, and I am finally free.

Looking back, I'd really have liked the time to do this properly, but things change. I'm proud to say that at the very least, I learned a LOT, and I mean a LOT about animation. And I'm confident with enough time to do animation, I can make something decent. The learning curve has been destroyed, so the hard part is keeping at it in order to get better. Hopefully a few of the things I have lined up (ALL FUHN!) will give me the chance to explore more animation. I really don't like being a jack-of-all-trades guy, but I'm confident enough in my design (add in the fact that I do it 5 days a week for 8+ hours a day) to know I don't need to practice that on my own time.

So, sweeping this entire last semester under the rug, I feel compelled to continue my blog. I apologize to all the readers who actually read (yes, all 3 of you...maybe 2) my blog, but the coming months should prove to be an interesting (or not) return to the ways of old. I'm planning on doing a 3D speed sculpt today or tomorrow, and Dominance War V is just around the corner. I've been looking forward to joining D-War for a long time now (since III actually), and with no other worries and a good chunk of now free time I can actually finish.