Sunday, September 16, 2007

Character Maquettes

I’ll wrap this "maquette miniseries" with the best known kind—the character maquette. Whether the character is human or animal, exaggerated or realistic, animators and illustrators use maquettes to stay “on model” with a character even in weird angles or light situations.


I made this bust of the explorer Arthur Denison because I couldn't find a real person with exactly the features I was looking for. I used Sculpey modeling compound, which can be shaped like clay and then baked hard in the oven.


With a maquette in front of your drawing table, you can experiment hundreds of different combinations.


You can also accessorize the maquette with a hat, turban, or whatever. The head on the right is a simplified “plane head” that I sculpted based on the anatomy teacher George Bridgman’s analysis of form. The plane head helps me to see the head’s basic construction without getting distracted by the features. The head is mounted on a flexible metal tube from the hardware store, which allows you to tilt the head to any angle you want.

Here’s one of the paintings that used these maquettes for reference.

4 comments:

Cat said...

Wow, Will's looking so grown up!

I went in to my favourite local bookshop to reserve my copy of Journey to Chandara yesterday and the guy who was working the cash said that I was the first person he'd met who was a Dinotopia fan. We crop up when you least expect us, I think!

John Ward said...

If it's not too much trouble, could you take a moment to write a post about how you are lighting the maquettes? What type of bulbs, lamps are you using? How are they set up? That sort of thing. I have tried lighting models in the past, but I have not yet been able to achieve the same polished look that your lighting schemes have. Thanks.

Bill said...

Hi James,

"Can you get organic forms (like rock or tree bark) with the 3D programs? And do the light rendering programs give you reflected light as well as simple light and shadow?"

Well, the 3D programs out there are always getting better. The one that would probably suit you best is called ZBrush, and it allows you to "sculpt" 3D clay right in the computer. But I'm gonna go ahead and say you've already got such a talent for traditional sculpting that you should just continue to work that way! Given the right amount of processing power and render time, you can get beautiful reflected light (known as "global illumination") as well as hard or soft shadows of any color.

Speaking of maquettes, I went to a benefit dinner at Pixar last night and saw their maquettes for the characters from Ratatouille. Absolutely beautiful work - the expressions and poses and attention to detail was incredible.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Cat, John, and Bill,

I do plan to do a thing on lighting in the future, because I use a pretty unusual set-up.

Bill, if you have links for more about global illumination and Z-brush, I'd be curious to learn more about them. Even though I work in traditional media, I'm completely fascinated by what my colleagues do digitally.

And thanks for you loyalty, Cat. Hope you enjoy J2C.