So, here we go!
Currently I'm working on 2 personal projects on my spare time, they are totally different from each other. I'm gonna talk about the one that I started first, Ellie and Hagan.
This post ended up been very long, because I'm covering several steps of the process, but I promise the next one will be shorter! x]
This will be a full project, concept, modeling, texturing, rigging, animation and maybe VFX.
My concept art skills are not that great, so I have been trying to improve it by exercising my creativity, painting skills, and workflow. I would like to not only translate other peoples's concepts arts to 3D, but also my own characters.
I really hope this can inspire 3D artists like me, who struggle a bit doing their own concepts, as well new students who wants to join the game industry.
After the Art War 2 contest, hosted by Cubebrush, I felt the need to do more concepts for practicing, since I was struggling a little bit to make my own character design and finish this guy here:
Having that in mind, I decided to start a new project, aiming for a hand painted style like League of Legends.
I knew I wanted to make a character with exaggerated proportions, carrying something on his back, a character that could look strong, but also cute or Innocent somehow, something that I could feel that was unique. I started with some very simple and rough silhouette sketches, until one of them call my attention, reminding me a turtle... So that was it!!! A turtle it would be!!!
After a certain time working around the idea, this was the evolution of the process:
The idea was getting better shapes, but I was still feeling that it was too basic and not unique at all, so I started to search for more and more references that could give me some ideas.
In the middle of my search I did remember of the Cosmic Turtle, a Hindu myth that tells that the world is carried by a giant turtle with 4 elephants on it's back. The myth seems to vary a lot, but one of it's versions is something like this:
(yes, the Earth is plane on this myth! xD)
So I decided to make something inspired by this myth, and that is how Ellie, the little elephant princess was born! I started the sketches doing a male elephant, but I decided to change to a female later.
Ellie is the currently worthy of an Ancient Gem Stone (I still need to come up with a name for it) that gives infinite power to it's holder and guides the destiny of Hagan, the eternal guardian of the stones and it's holders. Although Hagan be an immortal being, the holders are not, and every time that they perish, the currently gem stone will break and a new one will "born" waiting for the next worthy holder.
Back to the concept process, I started some new sketches trying to give some quick shapes to my thoughts, BUT this is the tough part for me, remove things from my head and put it into a 2D draw is something kinda hard for me, I can totally visualize it on 3D but on 2D I struggle a lot because of lack of practice. I can totally replicate a drawing looking and doing it by my own, but create something from scratch is waaaay harder, that is why I found myself on 3D I guess, because I could just translate something that was already done by other concept artist.
Anyway, after certain time this is what I got:
I felt that I was not been able to represent my thoughts into these sketches, but this whole process, although a little bit frustrating, was very good to give me a North. I realized that I was getting away from what I first had in my mind for the turtle, that was something closer to a sea turtle (like the 3rd drawing of the first sketches), but I was doing something closer to a tortoise. If you look a sea turtle from the side view, they have a very "flat" body compared to other turtles and specially tortoises, with very long and flat arms, and representing those characteristic on a biped turtle from a 3/4 point of view in a 2d drawing was very tricky for me.
So, I decided to jump into ZBrush, knowing that I would "discard" the previous visual concepts, BUT keeping the essence of the character idea.
I spent 20 minutes doing a quick blocking and it was enough to see that definitely that was something that I didn't want to. I didn't want to make the classic humpback biped turtle, looking old and slow, you can find dozens of this on ArtStation if you look for turtles. No, I wanted to make it look strong and wise, a great guardian, something unique like the ones from Mickael Lelièvre, but with my style!! So, after a little bit of back and forth this was what I got:
For Ellie, I was planning something cute but elegant, happy and agitated something that could contrast with Hagan. Different from the turtle, I didn't spend much time on the elephant's body but on it's head. Was tricky to find a sweet spot that could match the style I wanted.
I Decided to start modeling a more realistic elephant head to understand the basic shapes, and from this point start to stylize it.
For style reference, it didn't took much to find out that people don't model much cute elephants. Most of my cartoony elephant references was from Zootopia or Dumbo, but even I loving the Disney style, that was not exactly what I wanted for this project, also it wouldn't match the League of Legends style. Since the Cosmic Turtle is a Hindu myth, I wanted a face that could somehow reminds Ganesha, the elephant God.
I still gonna improve the head/face shapes, but for the blocking phase, this is more than enough to give me the vision of the character.
As I said before, the body was way easier, heavily inspired by Zootopia elephants, I kept some key elements that helped to give the feeling of an elephant body and not only a human body with an elephant head. This is the result for the whole body blocking:
For clothes and accessories I already had in mind what I wanted as well, it was just a matter of try and combine some of this ideas.
Ellie would be a cute and happy princess with this Hindu type of looking. Hagan would also be inspired by the Hindu culture, but he would be like a strong and wise "monk" who could travel for long distances with great endurance. The turtle would be carrying the elephant in a rustic Jempana, a type of wooden litter.
This was some of the references:
I tested 6 to 7 different initial clothes/assets, but most of them I just discarded so I can't show here, but they were all around the same ideas.
Since the final product should be a "League of Legends character", I was constantly paying attention to ALL point of view of the character, specially the top view. It will need to have a good reading from a far distance, so I avoided small details that wouldn't add much to the character. Also, is important to say that I used the Hindu culture as inspiration, but I didn't want to be exactly the same, it should be sut
This is part of the process and decisions made for the props.
Before to move on with the character and assets, I wanted the make sure that would be possible to move the turtle's head with it's horns been in contact with those 2 big logs. I had an idea of how it would work, but even with that, I decided to make a quick rigging for testing and prevent me from future frustrations.
The rigging worked the way I was expecting, so I decided to move one with the assets and this was the results of my final blocking:
After this step, I wanted assure that the things I had on my mind for detailing and color would work, so I made a quick pose inside the ZBrush, and went back to photoshop for some paint over, finalizing the concept.
At the end of the paint over, I decided to take a screenshot from the League of Legends maps, and put the characters over it to check if everything was working as it should be.
So, that is it!! I'm pretty happy with the result so far, looking forward to keep going with the project.
I still probably gonna change one thing or another and for sure I gonna add a little bit more of detail and refinement, but this is gonna be all on the highpoly model.
I hope you have enjoyed it so far! Any critiques or commentaries are more than welcome! I really appreciate any feedback, even about the step by step itself!
Thank you very very much for your time and patience!!