Monthly Archives: September 2018

BFA Progress

Below is documentation of my current progress with my BFA Project.

These images depict the block-out for the environment for my interactive experience. This is intended to serve as a 3D layout for where the final 3D Assets will be.

Below are sketches of some character concepts that may be used for the interactive experience. I’m focusing their design on visually distinguishing them based on their socio-economic class/ their economic situation.

Below is the beginning process of sculpting one of the characters for the piece.

Art Exploration

Part A)

Artist #1) Jason Hill talks about his workflow for sculpting characters in the 3D program ZBrush. One of the tools he uses for hard surface sculpting includes the modeling brush. This is a brush new to ZBrush 2018 and allows for the creation of edge loops and such in sculpts. This is a useful tool that is uncommon for 3D Sculpting Packages. The modeling brush used in conjunction with Zsphere retopology allows for artists to sculpt shapes in the conceptual phase, create flat geometry for them, then use the modeling brush to detail the shape with precise edges. This allows for a hard surface workflow that is fast and efficient alongside organic anatomical sculpting. Artists can thus, create hard surface details, such as armor on top of 3D Character model all in the same program and achieve a high level of detail and quality. This is a workflow I plan to learn and utilize as my characters are planned to have both hard surface and organic qualities. Learning how to efficiently switch between hard surface and organic design will be vital in my character creation process.

Artist #2) Marc Brunette talks about his workflow for making a game character from scratch. The techniques he employs encompass a traditional PBR character workflow. This process consists of sculpting a high poly version of the character in a program like ZBrush. The mesh is then retopologized in a 3D package such as Maya, 3DS Max or in Brunette’s case a program specifically made for retopology called Topogun. The idea of retopology is to create new geometry for the character that is lower in poly count to make it less taxing to render. Additionally, defining geometry allows for the artist to decide how the character should deform when they move. Brunette talked about a few strategies on how to handle retopology including the how to implement minimal usage of triangles in the mesh, and how the focus should be to primarily use quadrilateral shapes. Marc then goes into depth about the best way to create a UV layout for a character with custom geometry. After this step, the character is ready for baking and texturing. Baking is a process that involves taking the high poly version of character and “baking” it into a what is called normal map, which is a type of texture map that can be applied to a low poly 3D Model that will let it retain the detail of a model with a higher poly count. Baking high poly detail into normal maps is an essential part of the PBR workflow, which is the current industry standard when it comes to developing games. This is a process I wish to use for my BFA project as will allow me to make characters with high amounts of detail at a low poly count so as to optimize my virtual experience to have minimal lag and high performance.

Part B)

I began my art exploration by teaching myself J Hill’s hard surface workflow using the modeler brush in ZBrush. I practiced these tools by first sculpting a basic design in ZBrush on a sphere. I then began Hill’s process of giving the form new topology using zspheres. I had some difficulty figuring out how to out this tool but I eventually got the hang of it. This allowed me to create a form out of my original mesh that took the shape of my organic design and made it hard surface. I then began to learn the ZModeler brush to practice ZBrush’s modeling tool. I found the tool to be similar to basic modeling tools found in other 3D packages such as Maya or 3DS Max, allowing to user to extrude faces, create edge loops and move individual vertices. ZBrush’s way of accomplishing these tasks came off as a bit clunky to me to me compared to the vast features of the other software I have learned. That said, the ability to perform basic modeling tasks in 3D sculpting software like ZBrush may prove to increase the speed at which I am able to produce models as I don’t have to waste time transferring sculpts to different software. I’m not sure if I will use this workflow as much as I originally thought, but in certain situations it may prove useful in speeding up the modeling process.

For the next part of my Art Exploration I began experimenting with Marc Brunette’s workflow of creating normal maps. For this process I began by making a ZBrush sculpt with some intricate detail to test how well a low poly model could pick up the detail with a normal map. My lack of experience in making such texture masks made for this to be a difficult challenge. My first attempts in creating normal maps for the sculpt were unsuccessful. I tried modifying the topology of my low poly model and reworking its UV map. I performed these tasks multiple times to no avail. I eventually realized I had forgotten to delete the history of my models, which is a step that is vital for making sure the models are clean and ready for exporting. After exporting the models with deleted history, my normal map was created. My final model ended up being slightly too low poly to completely sell the illusion of realistic detail. Nonetheless, the process was a success and I now know how to create a sculpt with a high level of detail and transfer that detail to a low poly mesh to save memory. This will be a vital process that I will use for every asset that gets made for my project.

Here are the final correct normal mapped models (including the low poly, high poly, low with normal map, high poly with cage)



These are the successful normal and ambient occlusion maps:

Here are the failed attempts:


This is the organic design I made that later was remodeled to be hard surface:

This is the organic design next to the hard surface design that came from it.

Here is the hard surface design:

Art Museum Visit

On our class visit to the Toledo Museum of Art I focused on analyzing how artists utilize the gallery space for their artwork. Most 2D images took up exclusively wall space. Pieces that utilized screens, which is what I plan to do for my BFA, typically included chairs for viewing rather than allowing for standing space. This influences my initial decision to allow for standing space to giving participants chairs so that they can interact with the piece more comfortably.

In the gallery we attended there were no interactive works similar to that I am creating. I believe this likely because gallery attendees are less likely to interact with a piece as they are to admire what it is communicating visually. From this I want to make sure no matter what task the user is performing when interacting with my piece, the visuals presented will be appealing and meaningful to those simply watching. This includes character design and extends to menu and UI design. I will also likely need to include in depth tutorials to teach users how to interact the way I wish them to as many gallery attendees are likely unaware of typical ways to use a gaming controller.

From the meeting in the art gallery that took place later in the evening, I learned a bit about the relationship between the gallery employees and the artist. The main thing I took away from the talk was to be respectful of the gallery workers protocol as anything they request of the artist is asked for a reason. Additionally, artists should ensure their attitude towards gallery workers is respectful and professional. They are essentially business partners and transactions should be completed within a high standard of professionalism and courtesy for one another’s time and work.


My piece will be an interactive experience made with 3D Character Models displayed in the Unity engine. There will be multiple characters to interact with within the experience that will have unique animations and interactable text-based dialogue.Viewers will interact with the piece on a monitor using a game controller to move their character and initiate interactions. When viewers move their avatar to an area of close proximity to another character they can initiate a dialogue with them by focusing a reticle on them and pushing a button to initiate the interaction.

The setting of the world within the piece is many years in the future. While there was no singular cataclysmic event that brought the world into a “post-apocalypse” the world has gradually become less and less of a sustainable living space for life due to the depletion of resources. The player, viewed in first person, is a journalist attempting to interview citizens in the main plaza of their hometown. Each character that can be interacted with is representative of a different socio-economic class. In this world, citizens are required to wear gas masks to filter out the polluted air. The type of gas mask a character is wearing is a give-away of their class in society as certain mask parts are more expensive than others, particularly those that are more compact. Character responses to questions will differ depending on their class. This interactive experience is meant to serve as commentary on how people of different economic and social standing view particular issues differently. While the questions asked won’t directly reflect issues faced today, they will relate to various topics that are relevant of the citizens within the fictional town.

Proportions of the characters will be elongated and exaggerated. Depending on the character they may be exaggerated to appear to be anything from whimsical and comedic to eerie and mysterious.I enjoy using exaggerations within character designs as they can give the viewer an expectation of the essence of the character. One of the goals of my projects is to set expectations for the character’s personality based on their design, then surprise the viewer with a perspective on character archetypes that they may not have considered.

The experience will be interacted with on a monitor connected to a computer that is running the application. For the monitor I will use a TV that is roughly 30 inches in width. I plan for viewers of the piece to interact with it standing at a distance of roughly 5 feet away from the screen using a game controller connected to the computer.


List of Equipment needed:

TV (Roughly 30’’)



Table cloth


Extension Cord

Game Controller (Dualshock 4 or XBox 1)



Sept 17 – 30: Unity Engine Setup

  • Environment Block-out
  • Character Placement
  • Initiate Dialogue
  • Basic Dialogue Trees
  • Basic Menu/UI Setup
  • Player Traversal


Oct 1 – 7: Character 1

  • Model/Sculpt Character
  • Retopologize/ Reproject
  • Texture PBR or Cel Shade
  • Import Character In Environment
  • Write Dialogue
  • Basic Animation(s)


Oct 8 – 14: Character 2

  • Model/Sculpt Character
  • Retopologize/ Reproject
  • Texture PBR or Cel Shade
  • Import Character In Environment
  • Write Dialogue
  • Basic Animation(s)


Oct 15 – 21: Character 2

  • Model/Sculpt Character
  • Retopologize/ Reproject
  • Texture PBR or Cel Shade
  • Import Character In Environment
  • Write Dialogue
  • Basic Animation(s)


Oct 22 – 28: Character 3

  • Model/Sculpt Character
  • Retopologize/ Reproject
  • Texture PBR or Cel Shade
  • Import Character In Environment
  • Write Dialogue
  • Basic Animation(s)


Oct 29 – Nov 4: Character 4

  • Model/Sculpt Character
  • Retopologize/ Reproject
  • Texture PBR or Cel Shade
  • Import Character In Environment
  • Write Dialogue
  • Basic Animation(s)


Nov 5 – Onward: Finishing Touches

  • Troubleshoot difficulties
  • Finish menu AI
  • Sound Design

Class 9/5/18

In today’s class I received a greater understanding for what I wish to do with my BFA Project. I had previously had the idea to make a series of characters designed to fit within a world that I designed. The world is one that is futuristic yet declining due to events that have deterred humanity’s progress. The citizens of the world do not typically give the environmental  and social destruction of their world much thought. Each character would be meant to represent a different social or environmental issue suffered within the world, though recent conversations have led me to believe simply depicting these characters may not be enough for an interesting project. I had originally hoped to make a game with this concept with the protagonist being inspired to start to help people by performing different challenges presented within the game. While I may not have enough time to develop a complete game, perhaps I can focus on creating a demo that is representative of the story I wish to tell with the protagonist. The character creation aspect of the game is important to me as I don’t wish for my story to be a series of general social issues, but rather tales of personal stories that teach the player an overall theme: to understand the difference between what we as humans can and can’t change in relation to problems they view to be personal “end of the world scenarios.”

Inspiring Artists

Michael Michera is a Digital 3D artist I’ve found to be admirable for his attention to detail. The intricate parts modeled in his robotic designs are quite stunning on both a technical and conceptual level. Many hours must have been spent laboring over the many small parts that make up Michael’s beautifully eerie creations. While the technical achievements of his work are impressive, what makes his work truly stand out is the emotions that pour out of each scene that have been masterfully rendered. Michael appears to have a story figured out for each character presented in his series of work. This is not apparent by text, but by the small details and tonal cues he adds to make each character have their own personality. This is something I wish to replicate in my work within my BFA Project. I wish for each character I sculpt to tell their story using the details in their visual appearance, much like how Michael does for his.


Matthew O is a 3D vehicle and Prop artist I find to be inspiring as well. His work is strong in its design in that Matthew has a clear understanding of how to use shape language to make an object look appealing. Many of his fantastical vehicle designs are quite imaginative and well thought out. I feel that Matthew is good at knowing where to include pieces of intricate detail, then where to add moments of rest for contrast. I also appreciate the fact that even his most fantasy-inspired designs have clear roots i vehicles that exist in the real world. Matthew’s understanding of shape language and design principles are also something I wish to achieve within my own work as a 3D artist.


Jason Hill is a 3D character artist with memorable designs that tell a story. His work represents closer to what I wish to achieve with this project. I have a similar appreciation to him as I do Matthew in that Jason has a clear understanding of design principles and shape language. The difference is that rather than use these skills to make slick sci-fi vehicles, Jason sculpts thoughtfully proportioned characters with details that (like Michael Michera’s work) tell the character’s story. Jason has a clear understanding of anatomy, how the things he’s sculpting would work in real life, and how he wants the viewer to feel when viewing his work. All of these are skills I wish to also show in the characters I sculpt for my BFA Project.

Artist Exploration 8/29

Ira Glass discusses how creating large volumes of work can aid in improving one’s art. I find this to be good advice as making large quantities of work would allow you to experience a given medium in multitudes of angles showing allowing you to work out numerous kinks you may have in your workflow. Glass also discusses how artists just starting out aren’t often confident in their work due to their taste in art being greater than what they have the ability to produce. It’s good to set high standards for yourself to always stay motivated to improve.


Rob Lugo discusses the social themes of his art and how he uses his chosen medium of pottery to communicate them. This is beneficial as it shows the importance of symbols and materials used and the role these things can play in a given piece of art. He also talks about the power of art and how it can be used to help people, which is another important message for artists who want their work to make a difference. Lugo also talks about the blessing that is the opportunity to fail. Artists should not be afraid to experiment and learn from their process to improve their work and themselves.


Krista Tippet discusses the notion that vulnerability that can be an asset to one’s character and their work. Vulnerability can nurture one’s empathy for others and their artwork. It can also allow us to be at peace with our imperfections and make them into our strengths. While these are broad concepts, they are beneficial in keeping the right mindset while attempting to improve your artwork.


John Cleese discusses the process of creativity and how to stay in the creative mindset. One the points he makes is that often when starting over a project that has been previously worked on, the new product is of greater quality. This is likely because the brain continues to work subconsciously. Cleese also highlights that it is dangerous for the brain to be interrupted while in a flow of creativity. This is why it is important to make sure when one is working on something creative, that they do so in a place with little distractions. It is also important to not be too in love with the state your work is currently in. Be willing to adapt and lose control over your work.


Susan K Grant has an interesting source of inspiration, being that she takes lines of text and attempts to use these as a framework for images. From her perspective art should come from a place that doesn’t exist in the real world. In this way, the subconscious is being used as your reference. I think this is an interesting way to work from a conceptual standpoint but isn’t all that realistic if making art for a production such as a film or game. Reference images are highly beneficial in figuring out how something works when basing a piece of art work on it.


David Whyte discusses philosophical quandaries that are very broad, but can help attempting to stay in the right mindset for developing ideas. One point he makes is to ask beautiful questions in situations that are not beautiful. I interpret this as to never stop learning from your mistakes even when facing difficult challenges while working on a project. Whyte also mention to let the world shape you. This reminds me to accept the things you cannot change and don’t let them be a hindrance to your workflow.


Chitra Ganesh has an interesting process of combining imagery from history and combining it futuristic imagery. This reminds me of a quote about originality that goes something like, “originality is combining things in a way you didn’t expect.” I think this is a reasonable way to think about generating ideas and Ganesh seems to use this process to great affect.


Miwa Matreyek has very interesting work. The idea of using a premade video then having a life performance on top of it using shadow is quite unique. It also makes a medium that is usually premade into something that is more of a performance that can only be experienced situationally.


Maggie Talyor makes interesting pieces of digital art that is enhanced by traditional fine arts principals. One things that was discussed was how they use light in their pieces to direct the eye of the viewer. This sense of theatrical lighting is a principal that has been a method used by many artists both digital and traditional alike.


William Kentridge discussed the importance of staging a subject when being captured on film. Kentridge emphasizes the importance of considering the events that occur before and after a given shot. This is achieved in part by striking a balance of being fluid and flexible with shots while also having a planned concept and following through with it.