Category Archives: Art

Chair Update Sculpt Round 3 WIP

Well, this isn’t where I planned to be 4 days later, but, computer and website freakouts last night, sudden plans tonight, and a disinterest in sculpting on my birthday (so I UV-ed instead? Well, Happy Birthday to me…) left me here so far. Eh, new habits take time, and Wednesday is still theoretically, a better day for the week’s absolute posting deadline habit to fall given my current schedule.

chairRound2_UV_20131111 chairRound3_sculptWIP_20131113

Sculpt, not even close to finished. Will edit with more details later.

Okay, so, unexpected plans unexpectedly aborted, but not before losing 4 hours of my night, and now that I’m back, computer is chugging and making scary noises again. I did manage, however, to get a little bit further along in the sculpt, though, not without smoothing it down and restarting another two or three times (which, along with going back and changing the base mesh at least once) is a big part of why there hasn’t apparently been a whole lot accomplished here yet. I’m steadily getting closer to getting those dimples in approximately the right spots, though hitting that sweet spot between “noticeable valleys between the dimples” and “accurately subtle valleys between the dimples” is still giving me a Hell of a time.


We’ll see where this goes over the next week, but for now, time to back up and blow all the dust out of my computer and see if that helps with the noise…

Chair Round 2 Quick Update

Just a short update tonight, for a number of reasons.

  1. My computer is running noisily enough that I’m concerned for its safety if I keep making it hang out in Maya with subdivided-thrice models from Mudbox.
  2. I’m thinking posting on Saturday isn’t all that great with my current work schedule, coming as it does after my two longest days of the week at my day job. It’s a good recipe for procrastination, so I’m going to try to make Wednesday my posting deadline (though I’ll need some White-out for my calendar…) and hopefully force myself to better use all the time I’ve got available in the early part of the week.
  3. I’m probably going to give the sculpt at least one more go, since it’s been recommended, but that wasn’t something I really wanted to start on after two long days at work. That’ll be up on Wednesday

chairRound2_HiLoCompare_20131109_01 chairRound2_HiLoCompare_20131109_02

Alright, so, knocked it down to 1,166 Tris so far, beating Round 1 by over 100 Tris. I don’t expect there will be any drastic changes to the silhouette when I update the sculpt, so I feel pretty confident the Low-poly cushions aren’t going to change, and the frame isn’t getting touched again anytime soon.

Chair: Round 2 FIGHT!

Alright, as promised, only a day behind schedule, we’re back to work on the chair and this time, I’m gonna get it, if not right, then not so glaringly wrong as before. Now I’m as into the swing of things as I’ve ever been, the tricks that I figured out with Mudbox and Spec Power maps are fresh in my mind, and now I can go about shooting for accuracy rather than wrestling with the software.


So, here we are. Remodeled the base pretty much from scratch. I kept the casters and the seat frame since all they needed were some tweaks to their proportions and positions from the original version but were otherwise pretty accurate.


Sculpting is where things kinda got fun. I mayhaps shouldn’t have just started over from the base mesh I sculpted on before, if for no other reason than that I forgot until I brought it back into Maya that they were exported at a time when the frame was in a very different position, and stuff just plain doesn’t line up (most notably the indent in the backrest cushion caused by the armrests wound up too high, and the seat and backrest don’t quite line up right in Maya either). However, I’ve definitely managed at least a 100% fluffiness increase over the previous version of the sculpt. Probably going to require a bit of bouncing around between Maya and Mudbox next session to get everything lined up properly.


Chair Update: K.O.

(If I follow the anonymous advice I was just given, that title will probably make more sense next week…)



Nailed it. And by it, I mean the technical difficulties I was having with my spec power, that I didn’t make a big enough deal about for anyone to know about because they fell in the middle of the week when I didn’t really have anything to show except technical difficulties. Apparently, UDK wants a Specular Power value far in excess of 1, and, when I plugged in just the grayscale map, I was giving it values somewhere between 0 and 1.

I couldn’t figure out why I was generating these jagged highlights that just basically looked like they were using the Spec map for diffuse (and I kinda wish I had screengrabbed them, just because it was a cool effect, even if it was tear-your-hair-out frustrating when I couldn’t figure it out). After enough looking at UDK’s own materials (not immediately helpful because I didn’t see a single Spec Power map) and trying to track down explanations of how Spec Power worked, I eventually noticed the trend that all the ones I was seeing were somewhere between 10 and 100. So, once I figured out that I needed to think of my grays as numerical values (0.2, 0.8 etc.), and suddenly the Multiply node made perfect sense! I wasn’t looking at a pure white map. I was looking at a bunch of splotches of 10-times-whiter-than-white, 40-times-whiter-than-white, and so on (shut up. This is a big realization for me). And then I had myself some metal getting tight highlights, just like I wanted, some polished wood getting almost-as-tight highlights, and some cloth and leather getting much softer highlights.

So, done, right?

Ehh… much as I’d like to be, probably not. Of course, it would happen while I’m high on the sensation of finally getting it right and hitting up my blog for the first time in a week, ready to post the “I’m done. Moving on to something more fun,” post, I see a critical comment making the dreaded “You should probably start over” suggestion. And this one has the gall to be straight, to the point, and not feel like the author is going out of his or her way to insult me, my education, and all those other anonymous things that Anonymous said so anonymously whenever the Hell that was (Last year? Longer? Blog time is so far removed from real time the way I’ve used this blog over the years).

And yeah, my sculpt didn’t exactly turn out great. I was so psyched to just have Mudbox doing what I wanted it to that I settled for not making sure I was using that awesome power to attempt to create an accurate simulacrum of what I was looking at. I spent so much time frakking around trying to just get my Spec and Spec power to behave that I’m sure I let the textures suffer in other areas, and I know there’s some proportions that are all wrong (the feet are too wide, for one) that have been bugging me ever since I erroneously called the model “done”. I think I may have to actually take the advice this time. I mean, I did say I was going to stick around until I got it right (wait… I only thought I said that? I could’ve said “to Hell with this” any time, but didn’t? Ah crap, well, I’m saying it now. No sense rushing it and being able to proudly declare I spent more than a month modeling a simple prop, but not doing it very well), and I don’t know what “fun thing” I was going to do after this, so I might as well say that this time, I’ll bite the bullet, go back to square 1-ish, and make a better product this time around, closer to my reference, and with a Hell of a lot less procrastination and a little bit more knowing-what-the-Hell-I’m-doing. Maybe I’ll even go completely mad and say that I’ll put some time into lighting that actually shows off the asset and putting it in a room that kinda makes sense instead of just a mishmash of Unreal materials.

After all, I might as well at least try to please my one apparent reader…


Chair Update: Textures Part 1

Was not looking forward to this. Had a busy week, but even without the legitimate excuses to not be texturing, I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten much farther than this because I haven’t found that wonderful, magical point where texturing stops being a chore that I know I’m going to have to keep suffering through and starts being a fun time when the thing I’m making actually starts looking like the thing I’m referencing. Until I manage to get out of this valley of texturing inability and disgust, I know I’m going to keep finding all the games I can play highlighting things on my desktop more appealing than just getting to work.

Okay, self-deprecation done? Good. Here’s where I got this week:


chair_textures_20131019Okay, so the Static Mesh Editor remains a terrible venue for screenshotting your assets. Glad to see that hasn’t changed since the last time I was at this point on a project. Sometime when my calendar isn’t derisively asking me if I’ve written my week’s blog post yet, and my feet aren’t killing me from standing at my desk most of the day, I’ll probably cobble together a quick room so I can have some tiny modicum of control over camera and light placement.

I’m actually pretty happy with most of the actual chair portion. There’s some detail work I haven’t gotten to, some flecks of spilled paint, the stitches I couldn’t manage in Mudbox, and this handprint on the back that I don’t know where it came from, but the leather looks pretty close to leather, and I finally managed to push the wood, leather, and cloth, to look like they’re not the exact same value of brown. We’re coming along here!

Just don’t look at the base. I’ve barely touched any of the painted metal parts yet (or the unpainted ones), and spec and spec power are still things that I haven’t figured out how to implement visibly the majority of the time, much less getting them to do what I actually want. A long hunt for tutorials followed by implementation is still on the to-do list.

Hopefully Part 2 can get up prior to this time on Saturday, but, you know, texturing, un-anesthetized teeth pulling, same difference…


Chair Update: Reduce and UV

Did not get low-poly finished as soon as I’d hoped, but it’s here now.


And then I UV-ed and quickly baked to test them.

chair_1stBake_20131010Things seem to be on track so far. Hopefully we can avoid the usual issues of things going pear-shaped when I start texturing for real after a weekend off with family.

Incidentally, I can’t help feeling like I ought to take a stab at defending my decision to take such a glacial pace with this prop. On the one hand, I know before I’ll be willing to call myself a “professional” artist (and, if I had to guess about a pace that’ll be necessary before anyone will give me the paychecks that indicate they think I’m a professional…), going-on-3-weeks for a prop like this will not be acceptable. On the other hand, I think there’s something to be said for, when your confidence is as shaken as mine was before I started off on the chair, easing yourself back into it.

I lost count of how many times I got disheartened trying to hold myself to some sort of short deadline without having the underlying skills necessary to actually make something that looks good. A week for a prop or a month for an environment sounds like a great plan, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet, and I have a long list of unfinished projects to prove it. Given a week for what should be a simple sculpt, that friends of mine might knock out in a couple hours, and I happen upon one of the first times I’ve felt like Mudbox wasn’t working against me and that I’m *gasp* getting a hang of this. If the same holds true with making these textures work finally, I think I’ll be ready to turn up the speed and difficulty a setting or two soon.


Chair Update

Alright, been kinda-sorta making Mudbox work for me lately (I know, I’m surprised too!). I was at first pessimistic about having all my sculpting done in time to get an update posted this week on account of, well, of still not entirely liking sculpting and still being in the very early stages of breaking all those bad habits like waiting until 9:00 PM to start working when I have to be up early the next day. But then I took a good long look at everything that I hadn’t sculpted and realized, “The rest of this doesn’t need to be sculpted. Even a…n a-long-way-from-being-good-at-textures texture artist like myself could handle these dents and scrapes on the maps without needing to get into Mudbox!”


We’ll see, hopefully I’ll be able to get a low-poly finished up by the end of the night, and maybe some UV’s and preliminary bakes before too long. I’ll probably just jam it into this post if I get it done soon enough.




I know I just said that the plan was to not just keep getting frustrated attempting to make realistic props, but coming up on a week after I made that post (certainly a week after I started writing that post…) my brain just hadn’t flipped back over into big idea mode enough for anything else. The chair was here; I wasn’t using it since I had converted to a milk crate-based standing desk, and, not that any camera I own is going to show it, it’s taken a beating and has got some nice big spots of textural detail on it.

So, after approximately 6-ish hours back on the horse, the Maya portion of Hi-poly is mostly done. Will probably tinker on that for way longer than I need to before I bite the bullet and start sculpting.


Changes Around

Okay, this has been a long time coming, and because I kept planning for it to come with some new art content, it probably took a lot longer than it should have. In short, there’s been a lot about my approach to art since I graduated back in 2011 that has just plain not been working.

For starters (because— I think— it’s the easiest thing to address on my long list of bad habits that need to be broken), I’m going to fix my approach to blogging. When I reach into the distant past, back before this site became a ghost town, I find myself having written these stiff, formal blog posts that conjure up a mental image of a small child dressed up in his dad’s work clothes, gigantic on the little kid, and he’s trying to talk all serious and grown up; I don’t see someone having fun and trying to improve his craft. What’s worse, my old blogging voice doesn’t seem to be convinced he can improve at his craft. Old blogging me just knows this project is going to wither and die halfway through, and he’s barely trying to convince his reader he believes otherwise.

So, firstly, I’m going to try and drop that affectation. I don’t like putting it on, and I’m sure it does me a massive disservice. When I see my former classmates’ art blogs, or read the blogs of professional artists, there’s none of that. There’s artists having fun with what they’re doing, taking it seriously, but not being dull about it. About the only reason I might slide back into that stodgy old blogging voice of mine is that it’s an old habit which, I’ve been told, die hard.

I’m also going to try to fix my posting habits, specifically, the monolithic cover-the-whole-project-in-one-post posts that I used to do. Creating and editing them is just a massive pain in the butt. I’m sure it would be one thing if I was recapping something I’d already done, but when something is in progress, going back and adding to the post is a mess. It’s not easy to share when I’m stuck or looking for feedback, and it’s so easy to feel like I’m not making any progress when I can’t help seeing today’s texture pass right next to yesterday’s pass. So, every update is going to get its own unique post, and I’m also going to try to post more regularly. For now, we’ll say once a week, even if it’s just to share a few scans from my sketchbook and to promise that I’m not simply playing Baldur’s Gate II waiting for inspiration to strike (because, I know, better than most, how poorly that works…).

Of course, the bad blogging habits only matter as much as I can also surmount the bad art habits that I’ve built up over the years. There’s a long list of ones that are so obvious they’re not really worthy of getting long sophisticated discussion. I don’t think I need to break down why “Taking long hiatuses from 3D” or “Not tracking down tutorials when stuck” or “Inexplicably not being fed up enough with my current situation to start working on art prior to 9 PM any given day” are bad habits. They’re mostly here as part of my public commitment to recognize and fight these bad habits whenever I notice them.

The one majorly bad habit that I do want to discuss, though, is the lack of variety in my work. I think this one definitely contributes to the ease with which I find myself getting frustrated. I mean, I’m still way too new at this to have pigeonholed myself so thoroughly, especially into a category that, on the surface, I appear to have so much antipathy for. Sure, my major was heavily focused on environment art, but it still turned out animators, effects artists, tech artists, concept artists, level designers et cetera. There’s no rule out there saying that my first real job has to be based on the focus of my schooling. I’m far enough away from consistently making triple-A quality realistic sci-fi or modern props and environments, that the sunk cost fallacy shouldn’t kick in too badly, and I need to branch out. I want to take stabs at making characters, or creatures (they’re the majority of what fill my sketchbooks after all…), try some hand-painted textures, learn to paint, either or both digitally or traditionally, get back into writing, design levels, mod games, make board and card games from scratch, and try a billion other relevant, interesting activities.

Maybe in trying new things, I’ll find something I like more than the art that currently gets me so frustrated; maybe I’ll find solutions to issues I’m having with the main focus, or maybe I’ll just stave off insanity by giving my brain a different challenge. It probably can’t hurt, either, to explore a bit more within the wide variety of software (and ever-expanding selection of traditional media) at my disposal and see what sorts of unexpectedly cool stuff I can create.

I’m sure there were others that I wanted to discuss in greater detail, but I can’t remember what they were. Some of them probably got downgraded upon further reflection to the “so obvious no discussion is necessary category”, and others probably got lost in earlier sets of bullet points for this post in which I was planning to go off on a massive, unproductive rant about how I had really wanted to get into concept art as a young’un, but right around the time I was looking at colleges I somehow got it in my head that I needed the word “game” on my degree and thus found myself in the more 3D-focused Ringling program. Whatever, I’ve been dragging my feet on posting this and getting back to work for so long that I’d rather just kick it out incomplete and edit it later than suffer through one more day in this too-long string of un-productivity.

Battlestar Galactica: Blackbird Progress

“Oh, you’re much too modest. After what we’ve been through, it would be very easy to give up, to lose hope. But not here. Not today. This is more than a ship, Chief. This is an act of faith. It is proof that despite all we’ve lost, we keep trying. And we will get through this, all of us, together. I promise.” ~ President Laura Roslin, Battlestar Galactica, “Flight of the Phoenix”

I’ve been in a pretty bad funk for a while; I’ve been in funks off and on since graduating and moving home, but this one had been exceptional in both its length and severity. Hence, when I hit the point where I had to either do something or snap, cheesy as it may sound, I latched onto something symbolic of a similar arc for the characters of a show I love. I also figured, as long as way too long without touching 3D would be leaving me pretty close to square one, I might as well do something that I love —a sci-fi vehicle— to hopefully minimize the chances of getting frustrated and letting the project fall by the wayside as has happened way too many times. I figured grabbing something that was already designed, rather than my usual approach of modeling from my own thumbnails and designing it along the way, might also help mitigate that risk.


A fairly quick block-in model, just to get the shapes.

Hi-Poly model, probably like 85-90% done. All that’s left are the panels and blocky shapes at the aft, the cockpit, and a few details along the struts that support the engines. And the vent in the nosecone. Almost forgot that one…

It should be noted that, upon further examination, along with the liberties I’ve taken in a couple area —mainly the shape of the engines and some proportion bugs caused by image planes that refused to line up— there are a few significant differences between the version of the Blackbird that appeared in the show and the model kit that’s made up the majority of my reference. The fenders that sit lateral to the fuselage are very different between the two versions: The model kit has that crazy paneling, while they’re smooth in the show, and only the show version has what I think are guns at the very front of the fenders. Unfortunately, I’ve got way more reference of the model than of the version that was on TV, and the few shots reference I’ve found from the show don’t really give me a lot of detail on those differences, so those issues probably aren’t going to be fixed.

Finished Hi-Poly model. I may need to slow down on this a bit while I explore texturing solutions. I can’t afford Photoshop’s monthly payments right now, which means I have to either job-hunt faster, get comfortable with GIMP for texturing, or overcome my feelings of guilt over pirating software, none of which are particularly appealing prospects…

Low-Poly. Got it down to 8,807 Tris, and didn’t even have to completely kill all my greebles. It was time-consuming, but for the most-part, really, really, really easy since the big shapes are mostly hard-edged; it was a lot of just cutting out control edges and stitching stuff together without worrying too much about harm to the silhouette.

In UV-ing, I managed to find and get rid of about 500 Tris, mostly hidden faces that I didn’t know were there until I saw them in the UV editor and verts that somehow got missed by Delete Edges operations. Also, a couple of the greebles that are still there got crunched a little more. Down to ,8328 Tris.

First bake test. I’m way happier with this bake than I expected to be. Only a few glaring artifacts that need to be addressed, and I was not expecting the greebles to bake down so nicely (especially the ones in the exposed panels on the engine that go from mesh to texture… well enough with a little cleanup). Family responsibilities have slowed me down this weekend, and I’m still not sure what I’m going to do about not being able to afford Photoshop this month (leaning towards a 30-day trial of CS6…)

Photoshop trial acquired. Textures grudgingly started. UV’s frakked around with to try and eliminate (got ’em reduced!) some baking errors I was getting and a few shells I managed not to realize were packed more tightly than they should’ve been.

Ran into some interesting apparent inconsistencies in the material quality of the ship’s panels while looking for better (read: Higher-res) reference in “Flight of the Phoenix”. Mostly blogging it so that I can link to it in the Polycount thread I’m about to start, but it raises an interesting aesthetic question: Do I keep with the inconsistencies and chalk it up to the ship being made from scavenged parts, even down to the paneling, or do I try to even things out so that the top and bottom of the ship don’t have wildly varying levels of specularity?

As a side note, this reference gave me more than just a headache. I don’t know if that much of it is in this collage, but there’s a surprising amount of wear and tear on it for a ship that gets shot down on only its second mission. Whatever the choice regarding the specularity, the edges between panels are pretty roughed up and the black paint looks to not be very even, so I ought to be able to get some broad strokes of interesting detail. Although, I shudder to think that I might have to go back and paint in all those rivets that I didn’t model in because I was modeling from the model kit reference that didn’t include them…

Long hiatus from posting (but not from work [but procrastination always gets worse when I’m texturing. It’s a vicious cycle of not wanting to spend so much time on textures and not having developed the skills to texture quickly and well]), largely because what I’ve been doing hasn’t been very interesting to show, like the billion times I had to go back and fix UVs and rebake to accommodate. Somehow I forgot how much text this baby has on it. Luckily, it’s all on separate mesh chunks which made fixing the UV’s (for the umpteenth time…) tedious, but not difficult.

Decided to call the carbon wear-and-tear done (mostly some finesse of how contrast-y it is is probably still in order). Started working on the metal parts utilizing Racer445’s awesome metal-texturing tutorial. Will post screens when I’m closer to done with the metal parts. Mostly just updating to have the tutorial link already in the post rather than going hunting between browsers to find it.

I think I’m mostly going to call the textures done. Finished up the metal tutorial and set about getting spec and updated normal maps on the Blackbird. Still planning to knock out the Interior this weekend, making the glass, and spend a little time crafting a simple level to use for making a cube map and staging beauty shots. Goal is to be done by the time I leave for Chicago Monday night to fly to Germany on Tuesday.

Contrary to what my own paranoia tells me people might think, this project has not fallen by the wayside to become the most recent in a very long line of WIP projects. It just got lost in the shuffle between my trip to Europe and starting a new job when I returned.

Since getting back into the swing of things, I modeled out the cockpit, as well as addressing some minor issues with the exterior, specifically, the low resolution ugliness that resulted from having the greebles inside the engine simply as textures. Now, to resume making payments for Photoshop so I can get back to work on the textures.