Figure Modeling: Let's See that Again!

Okay, so our assignment this week was to basically do what we've been doing for the past three weeks, except condense it down into one week. I decided to stay with the same pose and try for a little bit better anatomy in the figure.

Truthfully, there are some things I like about this one and some things I don't. After this, though, I am going to take a different approach.


Introduction to Maya - Biped Robot

This week we were given the assignment to model up our robots. Naturally, I tried to get a head start on it, knowing that I am stickler for details. I have to say that I could probably sit and model all day long... because that is what I wound up doing on this guy. There are lots of little details in there that I worked out and I tried to keep him as close to the original design as possible. I'd say I did a decent job of that:

He's also set up right now in a way that you can move certain parts (like the upper part of his arm) and the rest down the line will follow it. This is what I love doing, so this assignment was fun.

I'm stumped as to what to name him. Any suggestions?

Human Anatomy: The Arm

This week thankfully was light on the drawing side, seeing as I had a lot to do in my other classes. This week we studied the skeletal structure of the arm. It's amazing to take a look at all the little details in the bones and see just how they are shaped.

We had our choice of skeleton drawings this week and I was interested in learning more about the hands, so I chose that one. There are a lot of little bones in there that somehow fit just right.


ANIM 623: Beginning of Final Project

I now officially have the coolest master's program a nerd like me could ever ask for. My introductory Maya is essentially going to be a series of exercises that will culminate in the creation of a short animation at the end of the semester. As such, our semester-long project is going to apparently include a robot doing something. How cool is that?

This week we were assigned to develop our robot ideas and sketch them out. Later those sketches will be used as reference images to build upon. I like sketching digitally for projects like this, so a majority of my sketches were done with a graphics tablet. By sketching all in one file on different layers, I can get the size I want and keep all the sketches organized in one file. It is quite convenient. My starts with drawing the rough forms using a digital 10% marker tool on the canvas. If I like what I come up with, I then switch to a pen tool and add the detail on another layer. That way, I can turn off the marker if I want to render it all out.

I started off doing a lot of drawings of technical killer space robots. I have a thing for making autonomous death machines. I liked the floating panel look of this one.
This guy was intriguing in just how massive he was, but I needed to explore something else.
This was a clever idea, sort of inspired by the movie Nine. However, I started moving back towards killer robots.
You can tell that I'm studying anatomy, can't you. Eight heads tall. This concept was intriguing, but I wanted to try going back to the floating panel look.
This was a take on the I, Robot design. However, this direction was making it all seem like some sort of creepy alien and less like a robot.
I took a drastically different approach and tried drawing a mini-mech. I've always like the predatory look of the reversed knees, but decided that I shouldn't try this on my first attempt in Maya.
Bleagh.... don't look at this one.
Starting to go more massive now.
I liked this idea of having these big cans at the end of each extremity. It seemed to give the drawing a much more robotic feel.

I liked the contrasting proportions of the limb members in this design, but it just didn't really have soul to it as it was... plus it kind of looked like Gizmoduck.
I had to go to institute and didn't want to stop sketching, so I brought along my sketchbook and set about to doodling a page while listening to the lesson. That's when I drew a little thumbnail that I fell in love with.
So I set about to make a larger scale of the thumbnail and this is what I came up with. I was leaning heavily toward a steampunk style with this one, which, oddly enough, really appealed to me. So I decided on this character to work with for the semester.
Finally, I did an illustration for him, front and side. I can then use these images as a reference while modeling in Maya. Next, I believe, is to model him up and get him textured. After that, I'm going to need to set him up for animation, which should take a bit of time. Look at all those little parts. He is a jovial character, though, and I think I will have fun trying to make him come alive.

I Think My Job is Safe

Granted, I don't know how to do all of these things yet, but I think I have chosen a safe industry to be in. Check out this demo reel from Stargate Studios and notice just how pervasive green screening and compositing are in mainstream media:


Figure Modeling: Finishing the Figure

I spent some more time modeling in clay this morning. This assignment was originally supposed to be a geometric abstraction of the human figure, but our teacher thought that if we wanted to, we should continue on and produce a realistic human figure. I was grateful for that because I really wanted to finish this guy up.

I'm sure I'll wind up changing a few things before it's all due, but for now this is what I have:

A Little Something for the Ladies

Okay, so this is a poorly titled post. I just wanted to prove that I didn't only have drawings of naked women.

This week we were studying the major bone structure of the leg. I can't name them all, but I do know that they have some pretty cool names like the Greater Trochanter. How cool of a name is that? It sounds like a magician's name.


Out of A Forest

I stole this from a friend's blog who happens to be a professional animator. This is one of the most visually compelling and well-lit stop-motion animations I have ever seen. Enjoy!


Nudity and Art: My Opinion

(Just as an upfront disclaimer, this may be a very controversial post for some of the readers out there. To explain some of what I am thinking, I may use more frank language than what I normally use. I won't post the images of the art I am referencing, but I will place a link to them, so click at your own risk. I just thought I would post that right here at the beginning so you wouldn't feel bad about not reading this post.)

I thought that Valentine's Day would be an appropriate day to discuss this topic which has been on my mind ever since I started this journey to a master's degree at a university that allows very liberal artistic expressions by the students. Being a religious person, the idea of nudity in general is governed by directions of modesty and chastity in regards to the body. That having been said, and having viewed some of my previous assignments, you are all probably wondering what I am thinking when doing these drawings. What does one, so innocent and virginal as I, feel about nudity in art? My answer: well, it depends...

First of all, let me state that I feel that the intentions of the artist largely dictate my feelings toward art that depicts nudity. In ancient times, the Greeks initially chose to depict their sculptural subjects as nude because they found great beauty and enlightenment in the proportions of the human body. This can be seen in such sculptures as Polykleitos's Doryphoros. The golden ratio as applied to this idealized figure was representative of the concept of physical perfection in the human body and thus a direct connection to deity. In this context, I think it is easier to view the sculpture as an abstraction of the human body rather than a portrait of an individual. Sometimes it is also easier to view when the depiction is of a mythical person or generalized population. Such is the case with a few of my favorite ancient sculptures, the Farnese Herakles (Hercules) and The Dying Gaul.

I believe that most people are uncomfortable with the majority of nude art because it makes them feel like a voyeur, especially if that art is meant as a piece of portraiture. In my studies I have felt a bit uncomfortable at first with doing some of the drawings that I have done, but have overcome that when looking at it as a study. I am not interested in creating a portrait of whatever model is around, but rather to use it as an exercise to learn the proportions and visual landmarks of the human body. You can't believe how much of a difference it has made so far in my ability to draw proportional figures.

One thing that I do not think is appropriate in art is the eroticization of the human body, blatant or suggested. This was also prevalent in ancient art with such sculptures as The Sleeping Satyr. The outright visual dynamics of this sculpture is appalling to me, especially with the way that the curves and lines are meant to direct one's gaze directly to the genitals. Given the ancient Greek's obsession with pederasty, it is no surprise that these types of sculptures were forced into the mainstream.

In terms of the intentions of the artist, I believe that it can be easy to stray from a correct path. I have seen too many pieces of art depicting the nude female form, modern or otherwise, created by male artists that focus directly on the genitals. This is shameful because it objectifies the female body into a voyeuristic experience for the viewer. This has been the case from the time of the Renaissance with such pieces as Titian's Venus of Urbino all the way to Daniel Edwards' sculpture of Britney Spears Giving Birth on a Bearskin Rug. Art should never be utilized as a sexually stimulating experience, in my opinion. It runs right across the lines into pornography then.

I should also point out that my feelings in this area are even further extended into my projected field of art: the movies. When I was a teenager, I was shocked that Titanic received a PG-13 rating. It was argued that although the movie contained nudity, since it was depicted as 'artistic,' it was just fine for teenagers. I beg to differ. Anyone that watches that movie can tell the sexually charged mood of that scene which is a definitive precursor to Jack and Rose having sex later on in the movie. I do not believe that nudity in film is appropriate, especially since 99% of the time, it is exploitive of the actors and actresses being filmed. (In contrast, I have to admit that I get a real kick out of David Kelly's nude motorcycle scene in Waking Ned Divine.) This is blatantly different to me than other mediums of art, mainly because it is a perfect portrayal of an individual who normally wouldn't be participating in that type of activity in their public life.

The bottom line for me is that I don't intend to be producing a lot of anatomically-correct nude 3D models in my career. However, the foundation of learning the anatomy and morphology of the human body is as essential foundation to build upon. The human body is a beautiful and sacred creation. It continually amazes me how well things all work together. As such, I think it is something to be treated with dignity and respect, a view with which the world seems to be rapidly disagreeing with.


Introduction to Maya - Scorpion

Even though this stuff is kind of old news compared to the Street Runner design I did, it is still valuable. One of the classes I am taking is an introductory class to Maya. As you may remember from last semester, Maya is the standard 3D animation tool used in the industry. It's what I used to animate Norman.

For our first real assignment in this class, we started learning polygonal modeling. What is that, you ask? Well, we all know that 3D models are just points in 3D space, like you learn in geometry class in junior high. If you connect two points, you have a line. If you connect both of those to a third, you have a plane. Now if you connect that plane to another set of points, you have the beginnings of a multi-faceted object, which is the essential definition of a 3D model.

We were assigned the task of modeling up a scorpion starting from just a box. There are a series of tools designed into Maya (and other 3D software) to let you cut and move the faces (3D planes) and vertices (points) in space just like an infinite blob of clay. After a long while, you can end up with a model that looks something like this:

Kind of looks like a scorpion, doesn't it? Only kind of... That's where the next step along the line is and where the computer helps out a lot. In order to model a completely smooth scorpion surface, you would have to have lots of small faces so that the transitions from one to the other would be hardly recognizable. Thankfully, you don't have to create them all yourself, because Maya will do it for you:

This is called Mesh Smoothing. Essentially, it interpolates the distance and direction between any interconnected vertices and creates a smooth curve between it. It's like taking a really smart sander to the blocky model that was shown up above. From here, you can take make it editable again, then add tiny, miniscule details... up to a point! In reality, 3D modeling in the entertainment industry has one cardinal rule: cheat as much as you can! There is a lot of stuff that you can fake in a texture that you don't have to model in. However, that topic is for another post.

Anatomy - The Torso (Yes that means nudity)

This week in my anatomy class we were studying all of the bones of the torso. Holy crapola are there a lot of things packed in there that all work together to make sure our lungs and internal organs don't get crushed to smithereens!

Our model drawings this week focused on the rib cage, the sternum, the scapula, and the pelvic mass:

Yes, that model really does look that emaciated in the pictures. I guess we needed to be able to see the bones better. (Consequently, the knobby undulations on the side of your chest are, in fact, not ribs, but a series of inter-braided muscles!)

We also had two drawings to do this week. The first was of an actual rib cage. It tool about six hours to do this drawing. I almost went blind trying to remember which rib I was drawing.

The final drawing (which took significantly less time) was that of the pelvic mass and all the bones included in it. Now having drawn part of the internal structure of the human body makes me all the more appreciative of how well it works and how things don't generally go wrong all on their own.


Figure Modeling: The Neutral Standing Figure

The first real figure assignment for my modeling class was to create a standing figure. I'll admit that I took this assignment way too far, but that's because I was having too much fun doing it. I guess I've discovered a new hobby.

When modeling the human figure using clay, it is important to create an underlying structure referred to as an armature. Essentially, by twisting together a few various amounts of one-eighth inch aluminum wire, you create the basics of a skeleton to with to add clay:

Having done that, you can then articulate the armature, posing it into whatever standing pose you are looking for. This first assignment calls for a neutral pose, meaning that the weight of the body is evenly distributed between both feet, the hips and shoulders being horizontally parallel to each other.

The human body is very good at intuitively counterbalancing itself. For example, try standing with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart with your hands on your hips, your back straight. If you look at yourself in the mirror, you'll notice that you're not really straight, but your pelvis is thrust forward with your rib cage leaning slightly back. You can go ahead and try standing straight vertical, but you might fall over. In any balanced standing pose, the center of gravity lines up directly with your C7 vertebrae, that first real big bump you can feel under your skin going down your spine.

I was only supposed to add roughly the amount of clay I needed for each major body mass. As you can see, I had too much fun and before I knew it, I had come to this:

Truthfully, I have never done any figure sculpting before, but I like it. There are a few things to work out on the above model, but it is going to be turned into a geometric abstraction next week anyway, so most of the details will be gone. That's okay, though, because this is just an exercise.