I’m not dead

Okay, I’ve admitted this to myself a million times, but never said it publicly:

I never wanted to be a 3D artist. I never enjoyed it. I never wrapped my head around all the abstractions in 3D art (shaders, any map less straightforward than a diffuse or specular map), never came close to figuring out the right poly-count on the rare occasions when I even got close to getting something into an engine (but hoo boy do I know how to freak out about poly-counts…).

I’ve spent my entire life poring over books of concept art, for pretty much everything I could get my hands on. I’ve always loved seeing that what-if: the wildly different ships we might have seen in Star Wars, the completely un-prawn-like aliens that eventually became the creatures from District 9, the countless designs that eventually got finessed into the weapons of one of the dwarves from The Hobbit, literally any piece of mass entertainment media whose concept art I could find. That’s what I always wanted to do.

And it’s that first point that holds the majority of the key to why I’ve gone two and a half years without using my blog (and why hackers have spent more time here than I have, hence one of my last posts is just gone…), why I improved at a glacial pace and wound up backsliding pretty regularly.

But, at the same time that I knew I wanted to be a concept artist, I also wanted to work in video games. And as a listless teenager, I latched onto the most prestigious school I could find offering a major with the word “game” in its name. This major, in a supremely poor fit for me, was split off from a phenomenal computer animation program and, especially in its infancy, focused overwhelmingly on the 3D side of things. For— I’m pretty sure, last I heard— everyone else graduating from that first class, that wasn’t a problem. They either developed the knack and passion for 3D to get that career, or figured out enough on the side to get into a related position (the folks who went on to become tech artists, game designers etc.). I didn’t. I didn’t get it, didn’t catch that studying on the side, posting my work on forums like Polycount, doing side-projects for the sake of additional learning, tracking down tutorials pretty much constantly, were supposed to be a major part of my education, and I was too caught up in sunk costs and just wanting to be done with school to even consider switching majors or schools to find something that would actually teach me what I wanted to do, or at least not waste so much money that I didn’t have.

(Don’t get me wrong: I’m not calling out my school. The fact that it seemed to have worked for the rest of my class and for every subsequent class that I remain in touch with, suggests that it is indeed a good school and a good program for students who weren’t me.)

And so I graduated, after four years of probably straight C’s, with a mediocre portfolio demonstrating modest skills in something I didn’t actually want to do. Much like the proverbial person who tries to get into QA and work their way into the job they actually want, I had this notion that I would buckle down, build a slightly less crappy portfolio, get my foot in the door as a 3D artist and start learning concept art on the side until I could get the job I actually wanted.

You can guess how many of those steps happened. Oh, I came close. I tried a variety of techniques over the years to cut down procrastination, started a lot of projects aimed at going back to the fundamentals and finally grokking 3D art, did a handful of art tests and sent out my resume and portfolio all over the place.

The one thing that never happened was the one that’s probably closest to the root of my problems, at least where art is concerned: Admitting that 3D wasn’t what I wanted to do, and wasn’t something I enjoyed. As long as those two things were true, I was never going to get better, never going to get employable, never create art, never feel like I’m not lying through my teeth when I call myself an artist.

So there it is: Creating 3D art for games is not my jam. It’s not my passion, it’s not what I want to do with my life. It’s something I haven’t touched for two years and will be okay with never touching again if it comes to that. I don’t see a future for me in creating 3D art.

I’ve always regretted not learning to paint, digitally or otherwise. I’ve always regretted that I didn’t see where Game Art & Design was heading with our first class and say “You know, I think I want to switch to Illustration.” I’ve always regretted that it wasn’t until senior year that I even figured out Gnomon was a thing, much less a resource at Ringling’s library.

And it’s been very hard lately. I let myself be convinced to try being a ski bum, which is a brutally expensive lifestyle. When I get a break from a 60+ hour workweek, the last thing I want to do is bang my head against the wall, creating art that’s nowhere near the standards I hold myself to.

Going forward, I am going to take the first baby steps into learning the skills and pursuing the artistic career I actually want. There will probably, eventually, be some redesigns of this blog to be more “concept art” and more “anything I’ve been doing more recently than 2011”, and I guess more frequent updates, especially once I get into either creating more art digitally or just get better equipped to post sketchbook pages (currently I have to either take a terrible cellphone picture or carve out a chunk of time to scan stuff at the library).

So, yeah, it already feels better to admit what I’m actually after instead of pretending I’m interested in a field I’m not. Now I just gotta keep this motivation going.

Anyone got any resources they’d recommend to the beginning self-taught concept artist?

Way Too Long (Yet Again…)

Yeesh. I look forward to the day when working and documenting said work is such an ingrained habit that it doesn’t take anonymous commenters to shock me into doing it. There’s a vicious cycle that forms when you’ve gotten into a bajillion unproductive habits and feeling like there’s not much point in making a post until you’ve made significant enough progress, progress that you’re not making because of all the little distractions out there.

Anyway. Yeah, after a few months of just about every day saying “I really ought to post what I’ve been working on,” I got an email notification that I had a comment waiting for me that sounded suspiciously unlike spam. “have you given up yet? no updates in a loooooong time.”

And it was an interesting question. Of course I haven’t given up. I just moved on because…

Wait. Why did I move on againg? Seriously, this made a lot of sense to me at the time. Oh that’s right. After sculpting for a bit on Libusa Mk II, I ran into a lot of ugly faceting around the sternocleidomastoids.

20140716_facetingHideous, I know. I thought I was done with that after the ugliness around her jaw in Mk I. God knows I didn’t want to go back and build the base mesh yet again to try and figure that out and go back to square 1 on the sculpt…

Except maybe I did just that. Because when I looked at the overall sculpt file rather than just that screenshot, I apparently wasn’t still having that problem. I distinctly remember not wanting to redo the model, but I remember going back in anyway and experimenting with redrawing those edges and seeing what I could do with various extrudes, but I don’t know anymore whether or not I figured out a way to prevent this. Regardless. Here’s what the sculpt looked like when I decided to move on, determined not to go back and redo everything a third time.

20140805_LibusaMk2SculptThat’s… not bad. Far from finished, and probably still in need of significant changes to the base (what was I thinking recessing the eyes so far?), but when I went back in today to screenshot this from a file that otherwise hasn’t been modified since August 5th, I can’t fathom why I initially threw down my Wacom stylus in frustration a month and a half ago.

This whole post so far has proven to be one long lesson in why it’s a good idea to document your work on a regular basis, not just the work, but what you’re feeling about it and theorizing about the solutions to problems you’re having.

Anyway throw it down I did, and I moved on to one of the other models from the 3d.sk freemium downloads. The filenames for this guy didn’t list his name, so I’ve just been calling him LJG, short for Letter Jacket Guy. I thought he looked more interesting than the other nude model I got in the pack, but I sacrificed having anything more than the head to work from (well, I’ve got a body covered in bulky, baggy clothes, which is far from ideal for learning anatomy).

20140828_LJG_baseBase mesh as of August 28th.

20140918_LJG_Front 20140918_LJG_Side20140918_LJG_RearLJG sculpt as of September 18. Still got a lot of work to do on him, but I figured my silence needed to be broken. Next time, there shouldn’t be such a long wait.

Libusa Mk II Progress


Okay, I have been… intermittently… hard at work on Mk II of the model that I started… back in February? Holy cow, do my work habits need to improve.

So, I started with the head, as that was the part that was giving me the most trouble. I think I’ve managed to give her a decently shaped jaw this time around and get better topology in the region where the cheek connects to the nose. I’m expecting that will make sculpting a bit less painful when I get back to it.

Just started the body tonight. This time around I, eventually, had the brilliant idea to base the breasts on eight-sided polygonal spheres rather than six-sided so that I don’t have to cut them up with weird edge loops. Other than that, I haven’t departed too much from what I had done the first time around, but I haven’t gotten back to any of the major problem areas. When the time comes to make the hands and feet and connect the arms to the torso, then we’ll really see if I’ve learned anything yet!

Libusa: Ready To Restart

Alright, I’m sick of fighting with the geometry while trying to sculpt on Libusa. I managed to build in an awful lot of diamond quads and edge loops that spiral around limbs a bajillion times without going anywhere. Now I’m reaching a point where every stroke I make sculpting in these areas— the feet and hands, the jawline, the areas of detail on the face— just facets hideously and needs to be corrected with a dozen extra strokes. I think I need to go back and rebuild the base model without all the bad geometry before I’ll get any more useful sculpting practice out of it.


So, I figure for Mk. II, among other things, I’ll want to really define the edge of the jawline on the base model. I think I don’t want to separate the head and body the next time around. I’ll need to experiment and see if it’s better to fill in the eye sockets or not. Sculpting on the thin lids was a pain, but I don’t know if filling them in will be better. Other than that, I’ve got a lot of work to do the next time around to make sure that the topology sucks less in the extremities.



It’s Been Too Long…

Man, letting yourself fall behind is a thing that can really come back to bite you. One day you’re not where you think you should be, so you start putting off posting until you catch up, but you haven’t yet broken the bad habits that caused you to fall behind in the first place so you’re never going to “catch up”…

Or maybe that’s just me.

But, of course, I’m not operating on any sort of deadline. There’s no grade or job on the line if I don’t get this done by a set point. Have I made some poor decisions with how to spend my time? Definitely. Am I actually figuring out how to make organic models, not fear sculpting, and get into a personal working flow several effing years after finishing college? Yes, yes, and, I guess I’m kinda on my way to that last one.

So, when last we met, I had started modeling Libusa from 3D.sk, following the 3dTotal “Joan of Arc” tutorial, and I was freaking out about that tutorial’s apathy towards N-gons (or my own lack of experience with translating whatever Max tools make the N-gons that tutorial generates into a Maya environment, one of the two).

Not long after that post, I went back to square one and found a different tutorial, also from 3DTotal, this one by Jahirul Amin (Part 1 in a series). I don’t know that I can say, looking back through this tutorial, that it’s necessarily better than Joan, since I ended up taking it mostly as guidelines (the tutorial was modeling in individual muscle groups with no intent of sculpting and its associated image plane couldn’t possibly be much more different than the one I was using) so much as I just needed a clean start with Libusa.


Finalized base mesh. I’m already seeing a lot of work that needs to be done for the next model. For every n-gon I avoided, I seem to have replaced it with an ugly diamond quad that’s making sculpting in certain spots a nightmare. I look forward to seeing what I manage to make out of the armpit by the time my Wacom pen punctures my monitor in frustration with the topology there…



Sculpting progress as of tonight. By no means close to done, but I was getting real annoyed with myself for not having posted in so long, so I remembered that a WIP is better than nothing.

Maybe someday soon I’ll stop being the boy who cried “I’m going to start posting on a regular schedule!”

And Now for Something Completely Different…

Alright, so the whole “One Post Per Week Minimum” thing kinda crapped out there for a few months. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get back into the swing of that though. I actually had a productive night after one of my long work days, so that’s an improvement too.

And, as the title of this post implies, I’m trying something new. It’s no secret I’ve had a bit of a problem keeping myself interested in the last couple… everything… I’ve started lately. What may actually be a bit of a secret though, is what I’m thinking might be part of the cause for that:

The Game Art program at Ringling, at least when I was there, was heavily focused on creating Environment Artists as a complement to their character-focused animation major. Had I been more canny in college, I might have noticed this disparity, noticed the way my interests leaned more towards creatures and characters than towards environments. I might have noticed that, left to my own devices, environments are not the things that I wanted to fill my sketchbook with. Had I been more canny, I might have done something with this knowledge.

Of course, I wouldn’t be where I am if I were more canny in college, so I kept plodding along, trying to force myself to like environments enough put the time and effort into being able to create professional environments rather than figuring out how to add what I wanted to learn to what we were “supposed to be” learning. But now, going on three years out of college and without having added more than one new piece to my portfolio, I’m starting to think that “not working hard enough” isn’t the only thing I’ve been doing wrong.

To that end, I’m going to take a stab at changing paths, and if I’m wrong, well, hopefully the “At Least One Post a Week” thing will stick better this time so that all the business about probably not being destined to be an environment artist gets buried by the time I come crawling back to environment art.

I’ve started attending Open Figure studios at our local art college. This is something I’ve missed. Just drawing from observation feels so good, even when you’re insanely rusty because it’s been over 3 years since you’ve done it…

miad_20140114_01small miad_20140114_02small miad_20140121_small miad_20140211_small

And I recently found the needlessly well-hidden free membership option at 3d.sk (seriously, you have to be on the verge of trying to see if anyone’s uploaded their stuff to thepiratebay before they’re like “Wait! Wait! We’ve actually got a free account you can use!”) to start getting image planes and figuring out how to model and sculpt the human form.

20140214_libusaBaseMeshStart of a base mesh after a couple hours tonight. I was working from this tutorial to hopefully get something approximating good topology, though, I’m a little surprised at how many N-gons are just sort of left in a very highly regarded tutorial. Will have to figure out how to clean those up before moving on…

Holiday Update

Okay, by no means was I supposed to get so little 3D done this month, nor do I really think I’m getting away with anything here (except that, I’ve apparently got two readers at this moment, so, it’s not like I’ve got a huge audience to disappoint). Whatever, December’s been busier than I anticipated, and lazier too. I’ll figure out something enjoyable to work on soon.

In the meantime, I spent all day today in the kitchen rather than at my computer. I think I’m probably winning Christmas. Best one-size-fits-all gift in my family, I suspect. My siblings and cousins are each getting a package of spiedini:

spiedini01Deliciousness in its purest form. Fresh beef ( I’ve heard of doing it with other meats, like chicken, or swordfish, but I’ve only ever eaten or made beef. Maybe next time…), sliced suuuuuper thin, and covered in olive oil, cheese, and seasoned bread crumbs. So far as I know, no one in my family, outside of my second-cousin at whose deli I learned to make this knows how to make it. This is only my third time ever making spiedini, but I think all the practice I got today counts for a couple times.

spiedini02This is less than half of the final product. Six pounds of meat netted me eleven of these skewers, with 8-10 pieces per skewer. That meant I could easily give each of the people on my list two skewers and still cook up one for dinner tonight to make sure it was as good as ever.

spiedini03Lest you think that 3D is the only department where I’m kinda sloppy about final presentation. Also, I hate my phone’s camera almost as badly as the Static Mesh Editor for making things look less good than they actually are.

For everyone who wants to play along at home:

Apologies about my lack of precise measurements. I almost never measure when cooking; I go for what looks like a big enough pile, or what smells like enough of a given seasoning and add more as needed. It’s worked out so far, though I know I could never take that attitude to any sort of baked good…


  • Beef (I’m pretty sure I got top round) sliced thin. Definitely, get the slicing done at the butcher’s. If you have to slice and pound the meat to get it flat enough, you’re going to be sore and frustrated before you even get to the fun part. Just over 1 pound of meat will get you two skewers of 8-10 pieces, if it’s sliced as thin as mine was. (It worked out to about 1.2 lbs of meat per two-skewer package this time. The last time, when I was pounding out my own beef, because I couldn’t get it as thin, 1.5 lbs got me about the same number of pieces)
  • Bread crumbs.
  • A dry Italian cheese, finely grated. I used Asiago this time, but Parmesan, Romano, anything like that will work. If you’re not making enough that grating your own cheese sounds utterly insane, grate the cheese fresh. It’ll taste better that way. Don’t use the stuff in a can, not just for this, but ever.
  • Herbs and seasonings. Dried basil, oregano, and garlic powder is what I had available, so I used that. I’ve seen recipes that also include things like pine nuts and raisins and, though my Sicilian culinary background probably has an easier time with that than I expect most do, I’ve yet to try making them any other way than plain.
  • Olive Oil. Don’t tell anyone, but I cheaped out and didn’t buy Extra Virgin. I’m a little ashamed of that, but it didn’t ruin anything.


  1. Mix bread crumbs, cheese, and herbs and spices in a large, shallow bowl or plate.
  2. Fill a smaller bowl or plate with a little bit of olive oil. I found it’s easier to have a very shallow pool of oil and refill it frequently than to go really full and have every slice of meat just drenched in the stuff.
  3. Dip a slice of meat in the oil, then in the bread crumb mixture, coating both sides thoroughly with both.
  4. Move the meat to a cutting board or other clean working surface, and roll it up tightly.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 with each slice of meat, setting the finished rolls very close to each other so they can’t unroll. Alternatively, you may wish to skewer each roll as you make it, but I like to use two skewers to make it easier to turn them while cooking, and it’s a lot easier to pass one skewer at a time through all the pieces of spiedini than it is to push two skewers through one piece of spiedini at a time.
  6. Cook, either in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil, or on a grill or in the broiler after brushing spiedini with olive oil. Regardless of your cooking method, they only need about 3-5 minutes a side.
  7. Serve with long pasta (e.g. spaghetti or linguine), tomato sauce, and crusty Italian bread.

Hopefully we’ll be back to 3D before too long. The design of this website really doesn’t lend itself to too many more cooking episodes…




Chair Rematch

chair_bake_20131208_01 chair_bake_20131208_02

Okay, I really really do need to work on anything but this for a while. Two consecutive months on one prop is pushing it. Any more will almost certainly drive me crazy. But I couldn’t leave it at where I had left it with the Sick of Looking at it post. So, as a promise to redo it later, I went back and rebuilt parts of the Low-Poly and decided to be slightly less miserly with my tri-count. Before I was kind of wrecking the silhouette to shave out tris, which seems like a bad practice…

Chair Update: Sick of Looking at It

This is probably going to reflect poorly on me, but I’ve been on this for over 2 months; I’m sick of it. If I don’t work on anything else, I feel like I’m liable to stumble back into that terrible phase where I went a year between updates, and nearly as long without working on 3D. It may be a far cry from “hitting the visual target”, but it’s also a far cry from where I was back in September. I’ll mark it up as kinda a win that I’m no longer flailing about quite so hopelessly whenever I have to open a sculpting package or a texture file.

chair_tex_20131204_01 chair_tex_20131204_02 chair_textures_20131204

Alright, now. If all goes according to plan, this time next week will see my first progress from Polycount’s Monthly Community Noob Challenge for December (they’ve lengthened the titles since the last one of those I participated in. I’m out of breath just typing it…).

Maybe I’ll redo this in a few months to test how much more I’ve improved, but at this point, I know I’m not improving without restarting, and that’s the last thing I want to do right now.


Technical Difficulties

I really do hate my tendency to make excuses (and I really would rather be done with the chair than dragging it out any longer than needed), but this has been a week of just about everything going wrong that possibly can, so I think this time it’s warranted (all the other times, less so). My Maya license expired on me in spite of me taking the exact actions suggested by their built-in authenticator. My tablet seems to think it’s a funny game to just sort of go narcoleptic if I let my stylus get more than, like half a foot from it, and my computer has been running extremely loud just about all week in spite of a thorough cleaning.

So, if I don’t make my self-imposed Wednesday posting deadline, or if I make it in a less spectacular fashion than I’d hoped, that’s what’s up.

Thursday Night Update:

And, for no apparent reason, UDK refuses to launch tonight, and I really don’t have much time to troubleshoot it right now on account of needing to be at work early and all day tomorrow. So, I guess the bake and my WIP textures aren’t getting thrown into this update. Not much point making a separate post when all I’ve got, then, is the one screenshot from Mudbox then.

chairRound3_sculpt_20131119Alright, hopefully I can get the UDK shenanigans sorted out, and hopefully, I’ll only need to have reinstalled one program in the week of technical difficulties…