With a bachelor's degree in Studio art from the University of Texas, Geoff Priest, a ZBC artist (user name "Marsyas") is self-taught. Moving from Photoshop, to Painter to Maya… and then on to our favorite, ZBrush. Though he says his art training was all traditional, charcoal, oil, acrylic, sculpture, etc. "I'm very grateful for the experience but at the same time, working on the computer can be frustrating when I want to reach in and smudge things with my hands." ;)
Remembering creating art from a very early age, he credits his inspiration to great art, documentaries, interviews, books and the achievements of other great artists that, as he says, "make me crave more, and inspire me to be creative. My approach to creating 3D art is greatly influenced by painting and sculpting fantasy miniatures when I was young, particularly 'Warhammer' miniatures."
I've been using ZBrush since shortly before 2.0 came out, but my first cg package was "Probably a crude old program on the IBM PCjr. I remember drawing video game characters pixel-by-pixel as a child. Before ZBrush 2 was ever announced, I merely tried it out of curiosity. After I saw what was being done with the ZBrush 2 beta, however, I quickly plunged into studying the previous build and purchased it before ZBrush 2 was released (to take advantage of the free upgrade). It was pretty obvious that ZBrush was going to be huge.
"I'm a traditionally trained artist, so anything that helps me create art in a more natural manner is welcome. ZBrush is much like Painter--it tries to bridge that gap between the real world and the digital, while still offering the best of both worlds."
Tell us about your creative process. How do you start, by sketching? Do ideas just come to you? Or are there particular artists or works you are inspired by?
Ideas are actually quite difficult for me. Usually I'll have to start playing around with sketches or brainstorm quite deliberately. In the case of the mama ogre, I had the luxury of playing in a pre-existing fantasy world ("World of Warcraft"). Many of my ideas tend to germinate in pre-existing fantasy worlds. If I have an idea before I start sketching, I'll usually let inspiration carry me for the initial stages of design, and then seek reference if I need it. I'm inspired both by artists who are masters of their craft (mainly concept artists) and also by artists who simply create from their gut, chasing beauty and their own ideas (perhaps my favorite of such artists is Rick Berry--www.braid.com-- an early digital pioneer).
Tell us about your work process (thanks so much for documenting it on ZBC, by the way)
Thank you, I like to include useful information with my posts. With this character, I knew that I would end up with a pretty generic face if I jumped right into sculpting, so I made a few sketches first to come up with something a bit more original. Afterward, I searched the internet for reference photos of large women and incorporated those body shapes into 'ogre'-like proportions. I also looked for images of belly dancers for clothing ideas. Even though she's an ogre, I wanted to make her 'cute' and attractive in her own way. Also, the ogres in 'World of Warcraft' are a fun and humorous race to observe and interact with so I wanted to capture that feeling.
After I completed the sketches for front/back/side views of the character, I imported the image into ZBrush and used it as a reference to create Zsphere tools of the figure and various accoutrements.
For texturing, I painted most of the color outside of Projection Master, with the regular edit brush in RGB mode only. This lets me work much quicker and with symmetry turned on. It doesn't allow nearly as much detail as Projection Master, but I was only aiming for a stylized realism. I did have to separate the belly from the original mesh to get more detail into the tattoo however.
The materials are derived from old materials I cooked up a while back, as is the lighting. I mixed a slightly glossier material into the face to add some variety to the specularity in that area.
After rendering in ZBrush, I touched up the image in Photoshop, using a flat-shaded rendering to help me isolate the different areas while painting. I work mostly with 'overlay' layers in Photoshop, painting with black or white to darken or brighten areas. My main concerns when finishing off a render are to enhance the lighting and to direct the viewer's eye.
What projects are you working on now?
I'm mostly toying with old ideas, trying to get my noodle working. I have a lot of projects I'd like to finish but I tend to flip back and forth between them quite a bit.
Where do you see your work going? Both professionally and recreationally?
I would like to create some children's/picture books, dabble in animation and video games... lots of stuff!
Any last words?
I can't wait for ZBrush 2.5!