For this week I am going to continue on a little about references showing something closer to James Gurney use of building a small model mock up of what it is you want to paint then lighting it and going from there.
The other night I spent about 30 minutes in Sculptis, a free toned down version of ZBrush found here http://pixologic.com/sculptris. This extremely easy to use 3D modeling tool (as this was my 1st time using it) let me create a quick reference for the Rabbit’s father’s head from my sketch of the Rabbit meeting his father in my fairytale series. I was able to render it out, paint it and set the lighting - a bit. Now it is only a rough mock up as I didn’t paint it in Sculptis saving that for Photoshop later or overly render the sculpture. The lighting wasn’t like the more developed programs where I had different lights that I could control and set to where I want them but I could choose from a preset selection and get a variety of lighting anyway finding the one I wanted in the end. It maybe more complex in it’s lighting but to this point I haven’t figured it out but then I have only used it once at this point. I can export it to Photoshop and with the more recent versions (I am on CS5) I can rotate it there and set it up how I want to use as a foundation with the lighting still in tact or just take a screen shot of it in Scultptis and use it as reference to paint in the shadows and lighting.
Now I am not trained in 3D sculpting or using the programs. I have MudBox and Maya on my computer for over a year now since I was able to pick them up for free as a student but never really touched them especially since the Maya interface is more complex then I have time to figure out. An introduction to Maya and some 3D animation are on my list of DVDs from Gnomon now for winning 2nd last month in the Sketch Theatre Forum contest. I might as well put them to use and expand my versatility in the arts hopefully expanding my employability as well.
If I can build up in 3D what I want to Illustrate I can make it that more believable when I do Illustrate it though. At 30 minutes for a solid head reference of a horned fantasy character it can be a time saver. It would take me longer to set it up and photograph it. And if I sculpt the character once I can pose it and use it again for other Illustrations and be assured they will look the same in each Illustration. Plus one of the things I wanted to do was make figurines of the characters as part of the merchandising for the storybook.
I would also recommend the free Google SketchUp for building 3D models of your buildings and some other things. It was originally started as a program for architects and is therefor best suited to more man made objects with hard corners and surfaces but you can find several free models of things in their library. You can also set the time of day for lighting so if your Illustration is to take place at sunset you can set it for that and get those long dark shadows you need. It is easy to use and I think I will start using it myself. I know several Illustrators use it in Concept Design as well as Illustration but had forgotten about it until Dan Dos Santos mentioned using it in his class the other day for this exact purpose.
And finally if you have any doubts about the ligitamacy of using photo reference for your Illustrations here is a fun post from Muddy Colors about it.
And if that doesn’t convince you look up Norman Rockwell’s process. He used photographs that were set up, modeled and used specifically for his Illustrations. And I don’t know anyone who would argue with Rockwell on painting.