A few years ago I designed and released my first crowdfunded miniature of an original character. I designed and produced the figure in collaboration with a group called Painting Buddha, a great team that later disbanded. We went back and forth on some of the ideas for her design, but I was given lots of creative freedom and they took care of lots of the graphics and design like her awesome logo.
The scale for her original version was 75mm. At the time it was the most complex miniature I had sculpted up to that point and she had lots of exchangeable and customizable parts like alternate heads, weapon arm, skirt and no skirt, and two sidekick monkeys. I learned a lot with that project.
The full project was pretty ambitious. It reached funding in indiegogo and we sold a fair amount of units. I had hopes of even bigger success with it, but the 75mm market for painters is relatively small and maybe she wasn't everyone's cup of tea. Still, I was very proud of the project. In collaboration with the guys at Buddha we made three posters, postcards, a T-shirt, and I drew a 5 page mini comic for the ultimate edition of the kit. The boxart paintjob of the figure was done by Ben Komets who was part of the Buddha team at the time and is one of the top-top miniature painters of recent years. He did an outstanding job of it.
Since I still have her zbrush files in my hard drive and I'm not planning to produce anymore units of the kit, I decided to dust her off and play around with the model by throwing on some polypaint and some materials in substance. This gave me the idea of possibly re-releasing Betty as a printable STL file set. To celebrate and promote that I'll be putting together some new promotional images. Here she is in Substance Painter with some very quick materials:
I'm also playing around with the NPR filters in Zbrush:
And here's a more final look I'm considering for the promo shots done in Marmoset Toolbag:
I wanted to achieve a hand painted look, but didn't want to overspend time on an old sculpt, so I used the cavity and occlusion bakes from substance, exported them, converted them back to polypaint and did another quick pass on them for more emphasis, but not a full hand painted look. What do you think?
I'll be updating the configuration sets with one more version before release, the no-jacket version. I'm also aiming to paint up her monkeys to make some more fun renders with them too.
I've sold some simple STL files before, but this will be the first time I try this with a more complex piece. Do you guys out there have experience or thoughts on selling STL files? I might do this with more pieces in the future and might make special sculpts for this very purpose from the get go. I might even use Betty again since over the past few years I've commissioned comics artists and have done art trades for pin ups of her:
My favorite for trying out first would be this adorable version by artist Miss Sashi, would you like to see this one in 3D?
As more people become interested in printing, more become able to afford a printer and take it up as a hobby. This side of the market will keep growing as it already has been. The best part about making figures for miniature painters or model kit hobbyists is seeing their completed painted pieces. Some of them turn into epic dioramas and they get super creative with the paint schemes. Some of them achieve levels of complexity and polish that would be near impossible for mass produced pieces. Unlike in other fields, the sculpt you create becomes a collaboration with the end user as they take what you sculpted and give it life with their paint brushes and skills, that's pretty awesome. It's a relatively small market, but a very dedicated one. Maybe Betty will continue to have a future there now. :)
Who cares? why does it matter? well it matters to me and that's all that matters. This is a bit late since the project was unveiled a while ago, I posted the pieces a while ago and they did ok on several communities, a top row in Zbrush central, a couple staff picks here, I got to do an interview and breakdown on it for 80lv and a couple weeks ago I started playing Darksiders Genesis Co-Op on my couch with my wife. We're busy people so we're still getting through it, but it's a lot of fun. I also got to play the board game with our minis at least once so far with one of my friends.
So why is it a big deal to me? well here's one of the reasons why... these below are some of my oldest comics from back when I was like 13. Back in the old days when Wizard Magazine was a thing and X-men comics were selling lots thanks to the Fox animated series. My teenage comic geek eye noticed something... yeah the Jim Lee comics were amazing, Silvestri, but there was this newcomer doing some interesting stuff with his sequential art and comics covers. Dude's name was Joe Madureira and he was one of the most exiting artists at the time. He was a bit of a mystery at first, but eventually the magazine articles and interviews with him made their way into Wizard mag. Turned out he was one of the youngest guys to break into comics ever, he started drawing professionally for Marvel around age 16. He was also big into video games (one of the reasons his books were often late) and anime, and he was bringing these influences into his Xmen art. Suddenly the X-men were drawn with these hyper stylized proportions, super dynamic poses and the comics were selling like crazy. Back then I was still drawing a lot, and Joe was one of the guys that made me want to stick to this art thing and for a while there I was really into wanting to become a comics artist.
After his years at Marvel Joe went on to do his own thing and created his own IP and company, he teamed up with Humberto Ramos, and Scott Campbell, two of my other favorite comics artists. He created Battle Chasers, Campbell created Danger Girl, and Humberto created Crimson... man those were the days of super fun comics with amazing art.
I was so into these artists and the whole comics scene that I eventually even bought a Marvel Try-Out book and gave the whole thing a go. For the younglings and non-comics nerds out there, Marvel Try-Out was an official book that Marvel used to publish with a script and some instructions, and even blank comics pages for you to draw the scripted story and show Marvel editors what you got. I was about 18 back then and by my count two years late on catching up to Mr. Madureira... I really wanted this thing. I drew my pages, inked them, and even colored them, no photoshop digital colors. These pages were colored with color pencils, before age 20 and around 1999 I had never really had access to a computer for graphics or software like Photoshop. I gave it my all, the pages took me several days to complete and eventually I sent them in. I don't remember if I never heard back or if I have my Marvel rejection letter tucked somewhere in a box at my parents home. It was worth a go, and if I hadn't been de-railed into computer graphics by watching Toy Story and other new options, I would have given comics many more goes still.
So going back to Darksiders: Forbidden Land, why does it matter? Again it matters to me because it comes nicely full circle to coinciding to at least a small extent with one of the guys that inspired me, Joe Mad didn't necessarily start this whole art thing for me, but his work was for sure an inspiration and a goal post at a certain turning point... it was stuff that kept me going so for me it's a big deal that he later moved into video games, started Vigil, created Darksiders and that last year I got to work on something related to that IP. I pulled together a small team of artists and in a couple of months we did all the figures for that board game.
It's kinda weird how things line up at times. Some people might know already that THQ kinda died some years ago, their IPs got sold off and Vigil games became collateral damage to that shake up. Later on the remains of THQ were bought by Nordic. That became THQ Nordid and one of their main offices is here in Austria, in Vienna. I'm Mexican, I lived in the US, Netherlands, Germany, and these days in Austria... the company that brought me here to Austria went bust some years ago, by then I had already been freelancing for some years, but one of the people that I knew from that company went on to work at THQ Nordic and she gave me some gigs to work on for them. That eventually led to doing the Darksiders board game minis... I often say it's a small world, and an even smaller industry.
Back in the 90s I read an interview where Tod McFarlane, creator of Spawn and McFarlane toys, pretty much bragged about having a collection of around 300 rejection letters from comics companies. Not sure how many people can take that much rejection or be that damn persistent, but whenever I had rough times I thought about stuff like that. I never got to be a comic book artist, but I did get to work on some stuff designed by one of my art heroes, Joe Mad.
Back in 2013 in my second year freelancing I got to work on the Mega Man board game. Mega Man being one of my fave game characters and Capcom being one of my favorite companies that influenced and inspired me as an artist for decades.
Darksiders: Forbidden land was a super fun project for me and it was a nice cookie to get from the universe last few years. I'm grateful for the wins I get and I keep getting great projects to work on, wait till you see the stuff that is still coming this year. I leave this now with some pics of my first round of playing the game with my friend, Leo, who also worked with me on that project.
You can find the figure projects posted in my gallery here and I guess my main point was to do the thing, be creative, keep persisting and improving. Things may not go exactly according to whatever very specific plan you might form in your head, but good things come to those who wait and work their butts off. So yeah, do the thing, whatever the thing is for you, keep at it... git gud and keep getting better. :)
I recently finished up presentation renders for Street Fighter and pushed them out there on several places. I've written about it here a few times by now. I've posted WIPs, made preview posts on my portfolio and posted a whole bunch about it during and after the fact... I should probably shut up about it already, but this is hopefully some of the last of it at last. Part of me wants to throw the whole thing away and part of me is very proud and wants to keep talking about it to anyone who'll listen. It's been long enough to where I see many of the flaws and things I could still fix, but these things had to be sent to the factory at some point and Capcom gave their approval. I have a probably unhealthy amount of respect and admiration for Capcom and their OG Street Fighter designers. In fact, one of the highlights from last year was getting one of my tweets about the project noticed by Akiman and retweeted.
“If you’re trying to figure out what others love, but you don’t love it, it’s very hard to make that great. So when you work on something, if you fall in love with it, that’s a good sign. Don’t worry about if others do. If you do, others will.” That's apparently something Elon Musk said recently or at some point. Street Fighter is one of those properties that pulled me into doing art. Back in the 90s I had a couple of games magazines in English, back when I didn't really understand English. The crazy colorful adds, the interviews full of sketches, the promotional art for SF2 Turbo, and then the reveal of the new fighters for Super Street Fighter 2 with Cammy, Fei Long, T. Hawk, and Dee Jay. I was never as good at fighting games as I'd like to be, but I've always loved and enjoyed the art that comes out of them, from concept, to pixels, to final in-game or cinematic models.
Many people here in Artstation are big time professionals that get to work on movies, AAA games, and more, in many cases they're living their dream. For some it's a job and in some cases it even becomes boring or a chore. Some people get pretty jaded or even cynical about it. It's a rough industry or industries... and lots of things about conditions like crunch and compensation needs massive improvement. However, this is still quite something for me at least, to be doing this and enjoying it. Back in the day I was some 12 year old kid in Mexico copying drawings by Akiman and trying to come up with new drawings that matched his style. In fact I copied this drawing down here with color pencils a couple times:
I wish I had a scan of that drawing, it's probably somewhere in my parents' house and it probably looks way off in relation to the original, but it was what I could do back then and I was proud. Those crappy doodles were part of my road to get to where I am and I'm actually pretty happy with where I am and where I'm heading. Things are lookin' up in my little corner of the world.
On Fanart and other Myths
"Don't do fanart!" or "Do less fanart." Somewhere down the line I've heard it from art teachers, other artists, students, colleagues, and not even sure who else, but many people make fun of or look down on fanart. I never understood it and I still don't, because I grew up loving comics, video games, movies, and from the moment I figured out these things were made by people, I tried to figure out who these people were and how they got there. I grew up reading Wizard Magazine, an American magazine about comics, the IPs, and the people that wrote and drew them. I learned to read English with comics and Wizard mag. I learned names like Joe Madureira, J. Scott Campbell, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, and of couse Stan, The Man, Lee... way before even your average bear knew his name and his MCU cameos. From interviews with people like Joe Mad I learned the names or at least code names for the Japanese designers like Akiman, Bengus, Ikeno. I was always curious about these people and tried to learn more. I became half decent at this whole thing by admiring and studying the work of people who got there before me. I still admire and collect the work of these artists. Their work keeps me inspired and motivated. The properties they created or worked on through the years spoke to me so much that I had to respond, and fanart was the outlet. In comics it's sort of a given and pretty normal that your portfolio will be full of fanart, but I guess because concept art is a big part of games and movies, more originality is of course needed, but for character and environment 3D artists, the gig is usually matching a given style and making something that fits into an existing IP.
I've been what you might call a professional for more than a decade and I never stopped doing fanart, and many of the jobs I've landed in the past seven years as a freelancer, have been a side effect of doing fanart. I'm a fan of tons of mediums, creative industries, IPs, and individual artists, so even if I wanted to I would not be able to stop. The funny thing about the past couple years is that I've been doing very little personal art or fanart because the projects I'm doing for work are stuff I'd be doing as fanart. I'm overbooked with work that I enjoy and I finish my day exhausted but satisfied... and at times I go to bed anxious to wake up and get back to it and start the next piece. There's lots of road ahead, God willing, but I'm really enjoying the ride now.
It's not all roses of course. I've been close to burnout also. I should probably look up more official definitions, but the two ways that I understand burnout is when creatives just exhaust themselves by overworking and losing all the joy in the work, or by becoming kind of depressed and creatively blocked. In my case I had more of the overworking myself kind, but I managed, by taking trips and holidays to see family and get away from the routine. As for the other burnout where you get depressed or bored and apathetic, blocked, etc... I mostly have the opposite problem, I wish I had more time and energy for all the stuff I want to do, but when friends going through it have asked me about advice, I always recommend going back to origin. What I mean by that is to just take some time off enjoying the things that got you into this troublesome path in the first place. Read that comic that you loved back in the day, re-watch that anime, go play that video game, etc.
At some point I do plan to do more of my own projects. I have done work for that on and off for decades and I eventually want to turn to that fully, but for now, the projects I'm getting are pretty exiting, hard to turn down, and I still got time to dig more into my own stuff.
The other subject I'd like to touch on is reference... who did this? who was it that started telling artists that drawing without reference and from your head only or mostly was the way to go??? How is this still a thing? This Street Fighter project required so much reference and research, I learned so much about my inadequacies with anatomy and how much I still need to learn. I've been pursuing improvement, like most artists out there, in this area, and it's a long quest. I thought I had a handle on this thing, way more than I actually did, and I still have plenty to do. I grabbed again all my old books, gathered up even more ref folders, pinboards, and bought scans from Anatomy 360. Even then I still goofed a bunch of stuff that I only caught it by the time these figures had been approved. I'll keep improving then. At the end of last year I bit the bullet and went for one of Scott Eaton's courses. So the anatomy quest shall continue.
This project was a big deal for me and the people that backed it in Kickstarter seem to love the work. Both Jasco and Angry Joe were super happy with my results and more projects have come from this. I can't wait to reveal some of the next projects and see what else comes after, but in the mean time I'm thankful for that 12 year old little nerd version of me that didn't stop drawing Ryu, Chun Li, Cammy and the others... even when people couldn't understand it or downright mocked it... those people can suck it!
I live in Graz, Austria these days. I freelance from here for clients half the world away and that's pretty comfortable. My parents back home in Mexico are English teachers in a public school... the stories they tell me about the children there, it's rough. It's rough out there in many countries and in many parts of even the nicest countries. Selling people too much stories of "follow your bliss" and "do what you love" can be dangerous because not everyone is in a position to do that, and many people misunderstand that and think that it will be easy. It usually isn't, everyone makes the sacrifices that they can or that they're willing to make. I made my offerings and I'm still paying some dues, some have paid off better than others, but I'm doing my thing and it's going well enough for me. I'll keep doing what I can so that it keeps getting better.
So I guess my point is just, do your thing. Do it well, and love it, love it long time, hahah. Do it as good as you can do it, and finish it by the deadline or at least close to it, and then do the next one better. If you can't love it and you don't live in a really tough situation where the risk might be too much, then go do another thing, love that one. Don't let yourself become that jaded cynic who takes the jelly out of everyone's donuts. Bide your time and take the risks when you're able, just don't be reckless. Make the mistakes and learn from them and keep going. Make that fanart, or don't, but make that call yourself, don't just follow advice from people that are too afraid or narrow minded, and for fuck's sake, do use that reference, and learn that damb anatomy... don't try to be the next Kim Jung Gi when you can't even be the next Rob Liefeld. That's all I got on this for now. I leave you with the SF turntables and if you wish to see the individual posts of the figures, you'll find those in my portfolio. Happy Z-brushing and stuff!
Last year (2018) I backed a kickstarter for one of Derek Laufman's art books, eventually I got my copy and really loved it... around end of the year I got an email asking if I'd like to be part of a board game involving both Ghostbusters and Men In Black. Like many people, especially 80s and 90s kids, I'm a fan of both movies and the IPs in general. I was pretty much ready to say yes, but then on top of that they showed me the character designs for the project and I immediately recognized they were Derek's designs. I was pretty happy to see that, so double yes!
I'm doing all the player figures for this game. These are some of the core figures, and there's even more surprises coming later when the kickstarter is unveiled. Derek's interpretations of the heroes and his designs for the enemies are great. I'm having a blast with this project. :)
The Ghostbusters gang:
The MIB gang:
A few of the bad guys:
Not only am I having a blast sculpting these, I'm actually really looking forward to playing this with friends. Really looking forward to that.
This is the most ambitious thing I've ever done in terms of accepting and taking on a gig. I don't know for sure, but I've never seen one single sculptor take on a 30some set of miniatures for one single board game. Maybe someone's done that many or more figures for one project, but for sure this is the first time pre-painted minis of this scale are being attempted. It's exiting and nerve wracking.
How do you eat an elephant? one bite at a time, right? I'm eating the elephant of this whole cast of characters one bite at a time. I'm still having a blast and I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, only a few more left to start from base mesh, and after that it's a period of polishing, Capcom approvals, and final prep for print.
Rashid was a bit tricky, he has one of the more complex outfits, and for the longest time his pose was looking very boring. I think it's working now, but once I added his wind tornado it became a surfer pose that began to click. His airplane stage from SF 5 was really fun to incorporate into his base.
Makoto was nice and easy... I converted her base body starting from Sakura. I repurposed Ken's Gi and added long sleeves to it, the rest was about getting the pose from one of her sprites and I took the idea of her wind effect from one of Rashid's attacks. The zen garden for her base was also fairly easy to incorporate, pretty happy with her overall.
Karin was also relatively easy. I took Sakura's base body for her too. Adjusted some of her school uniform parts and I only needed to make a few new pieces. The base was easy enough too and I incorporated what I think is her family crest to her base, Capcom will let us know if that's wrong I guess.
Necalli is one of my favs, one because he's Messican like me, but also because he's just cool looking and fun to play in the game. I incorporated a variant of the Aztec sun to his base, partly based on his stone form from the game. It's also a risk that Capcom might not like that for the base, but worth a shot.
Viper still needs work, but she's about 60% f the way to where she needs to go, the pose still needs to get pushed further.
Ryu is coming along, but his pose also needs to look a bit more intense. He'll crouch down a bit more and flex a bit harder.
Violent Ken is coming along, hope they let us use that Shadaloo logo on his back.
Gouken is coming along, needs more work on the pose and there's almost no sculpting done on his clothing, but he's on track.
Only about 4-5 left for the whole set to start and then it's all polishing, final touches, approvals and print prep... wish us luck!
I've been working pretty hard on more of these while the Kickstarter campaign is going. Some of these are wide open for feedback and crits since I'm trying to make these as good as possible, so feel free to tear me a new one when it comes to the ones that look more iffy at the moment. Sakura I'm actually fairly happy with, I'll just do minor polishing on her and her backpack, nothing major.
Cammy, my favorite character and main when playing the game. Still tweaking things on her like the anatomy, her leotartd, and the blue paint swirl needs some work. Will also mess some more with the impact effect.
Balrog is still unpolished, he still needs his Vegas floor base and lots of refinement on the clothes. I'll try to punch up the pose some more too.
Blanka has given me a bit of trouble, I'm currently trying to re-pose his arms and I'm re-doing the lightning bolts based on feedback from my friend Heri Irawan. :)
Same with Dhalsim, pose is ok, but it needs cleanup and polish, along with some symmetry breakage and I'm re-doing the energy bits on him.
Guile gave me some trouble, but I think both my client and I are pretty ok with him now.
Happy with Honda, but might bulk him up some more if I get a chance.
Dan I'm also happy with, he was very fun to work on.
I'm still working on a bunch of these and having the time of my life. Best project I've ever worked on and I'm doing all I can to make these good. Hope you like them too. :)
I've been working since last year on this project and recently finished the semi-final drafts of the first 8 characters. I'm a long time fan of Street Fighter and Capcom, so it's been very enjoyable to work on this project. It's also pushed and challenged me on improving my composition and anatomy skills.
Akuma was one of the first I worked on and by the time I finished the other figures I ended up having to come back to him to improve him some more in order to match the level of detail and style that the others ended up with.
Ryu was one of the first I completed with the intention of figuring out the quality bar. I tried to make his fireball differ from Akuma's while still looking like a similar effect. I also tried the ink effect based on Street Fighter 4's effect and on a similar effect used on a couple of statues out there.
Ken was requested in a classic Shoryuken pose. This is a pretty common and obvious pose for him, but I tried to bring something extra to it by making rising fire spirals based on his super move from games like Marvel vs Capcom where the effects are very amped up.
The pose for Chun Li is based directly on the box art for the game. I added some smoke and wind effects to hold her in the air, these are similar to the effects in an existing statue. It's tricky to create something new or too new with the licensor and briefing constraints. Hopefully I made something classic yet unique enough with her.
Zangief has been kinda tricky, but also very fun. There are lots of interpretations of him out there with varying degrees of cartoony exaggerations and extreme stylization of his muscles and face.
Sagat took a bit of trial and error too, we tried a Tiger Knee pose, but ended up sticking with the Tiger projectile pose.
Vega went relatively smoothly. We might end up removing the impact effect from his hand so that the claws are more emphasized and not hidden behind the effect.
Bison was started along with Akuma a while back. He was much easier to finish once Ryu was completed as the style and quality bar.
These miniatures will be around similar size to Amiibos and will be pre-painted. The kickstarter is coming in April 4th and I'll be working on the expansion characters too. Looking forward to making more of these and to seeing how the campaign goes. Wish us luck! :)
Started working last year on and off on the DBZ miniatures game that Jasco Games and Angry Joe are making. These are some of the minis that are in progress for that project.
I've been having a lot of fun with this project, it's been both fun and challenging since this is an art style that took a bit of getting used to and I'm still not as comfortable with it as I'd like. The works of Japanese sculptors that have been doing toys and statues of these characters have been very helpful for this.
The figures will be similar to Amiibo size and will come pre-painted. Some of these characters are getting two figures, one in a more friendly or non-combat pose and one will be an FX version with engergy blasts that will be done with transparent plastics.
Goku is pretty much done. He's sort of the quality bar for where I'm trying to get everyone up to:
This is his FX version, almost done but not fully complete yet:
Piccolo has taken a bit of back and forth, but this is where he's at now, this version will still get some energy bolts coming out of his forehead:
His non FX version with the cape:
Vegeta FX, partly based on a statue of him at client request:
Goku, Nappa, and Raditz are the more finished ones, everyone else is still in need of a polishing pass and some fixes. What do you think so far? got any feedback or suggestions on getting these to the finish line?