How to Create 3D Stylized Characters: Introducing Freelance Artist, Jorge Yepez
Aiming to empower CG freelancers to create more excellent CG artworks and realize their dreams, GoCreation Program, organized and sponsored by Fox Renderfarm, is willing to provide preferential prices and subsidies for freelancers, helping them to focus more on creation.
Jorge Yepez, one of our accredited freelancers of GoCreation Program, is an outstanding digital artist from Ecuador, who enjoys digital sculpting, modeling, lightning, texturing and animation. From his artworks, which are full of delicate details, we can see his romantic and mysterious style and excellent CG skills.
Kulta © Jorge Yepez
Gold © Jorge Yepez
Freddie© Jorge Yepez
As a freelance artist, he also started up his own animation studio TITA STUDIO, focused on storytelling by creating animated and static compositions. MAYO is one of the artworks from TITA STUDIO, which is made for learning purposes and the beginning of exploration and studies about Real-Time Rendering used on films.
MAYO © Jorge Yepez / Tita Studio
Here’s the exclusive interview between Jorge and Fox Renderfarm, in which he talked about how to create these amazing works and his CG journey.
- Jorge Yepez
- 3D Modeler
- Look Dev Artist
Fox Renderfarm: Hi Jorge, thank you so much for accepting our interview! Could you give us a brief introduction about yourself?
Jorge: Hi everyone! First of all, I would like to thank all the members of Fox Renderfarm for the opportunity and space for showing up my work.
I’m a 3D artist based in Quito - Ecuador, I think I can’t say I’m a generalist, but I have always loved to learn more about every step of a production process, from the sketch to the final result and especially the study of the light which help me to generate stories on each character.
Fox Renderfarm: Your artworks’ styles are very mysterious, such as MAYO, Kulta and Gold, could you tell us what inspired you to create these works?
Jorge: I would say, all these characters started as an exploration. I didn't have anything planned or sketched before starting the creation process, I really liked that, because I didn't expect anything and the ideas just came through.
I’ve always felt really inspired by the culture of Ecuador and South America. I’ve had the opportunity to travel and get to know some countries and their cultures, so I try to implement each color, texture or feature that identifies me into my projects.
I always look for my characters to be extremely expressive through their gaze and body expression, that’s why the eyes are usually their only and most important feature, so I leave an open possibility to the viewers to create their own stories and feelings identified with them.
Many times I’ve tried to find the perfect meaning and story behind my characters, but I think it's like an explosion of energy related to how I'm feeling or the situation I’m going through at the moment I am creating them. Also, I like to have a very strong contrast between colors and materials, especially with metallic ones and dark tones, they help me to create an atmosphere of mystery, giving prominence to the character's body expression and silhouette.
MAYO © Jorge Yepez / Tita Studio
Fox Renderfarm: We know that Kulta is a project you started as an anatomy study, which is excellent, could you introduce the CG pipeline?
Jorge: When I released this project, I was really happy with the huge reception it had. As I said, this was my very first project trying a new visual style and I felt really proud of the audience it got.
Kulta © Jorge Yepez
I started making the base sculpt on ZBrush, studying many books and references I found on the internet about human face anatomy. I always use a software called PureRef, it's an incredible tool that helps to keep your references organized and has the option to be always on the top of any window, making it easier for the artist to look at, especially when you have only one monitor.
When I feel blocked and don’t know how to start, I usually use a clay buildup brush, it helps a lot to create primary and secondary forms while giving you a more organic look.
At the beginning I was a little bit scared about sculpting opened eyes, because I hadn't had good results in my previous attempts, so I decided to sculpt them closed, it helped me to add some mysterious look to the character. Once I was happy with the base form, I used ZRemesher for a quick retopology because it wasn’t planned for animation.
I created the UVs on Maya, this time I wanted to have more resolutions in areas like the face or the neck, so I divided them into 2 UDIMS. It’s very important to have them organized to make the texturing process easier.
I decided to make some variations on his anatomy and that’s when I decided to have a specific feature that will represent the style for my future characters.
After creating the base of the head, I like to stylize most of my characters with a kind of crown or metal halo, I want it to be seen as a sign of royalty and power, a kind of symbol of their divine nature outside of the ordinary. I also think it helps to transmit the energy that it has and from that point, I begin the creation of the character.
Following the idea of focusing on the general style, I made a simple cloth; a kind of a poncho (it's a traditional cloth, commonly used by many cultures in Ecuador and some countries from South America).
I felt ambitious with the texture for this project, and due to the simple shapes it has, I tried to put most of the details over the textures, so I started adding wrinkles and pores on ZBrush, using standard brushes with some alphas.
After that, I sent the model to Substance Painter where I added some contrast like gold lines and dots. Its texture was inspired by patterns and symbols found in the clothing and crafts from Ecuadorian indigenous cultures.
The lightning was very important too, I put two main lights, a keylight on the right, a Rim light on the left and three lights to enhance the gold parts.
Fox Renderfarm: Your personal project Gold shows a noble queen, and the texture is so great, could you tell us how you created the character?
Jorge: For this project, I focused on the study of female human anatomy and its attributes and proportions, which allowed me to delve into the analysis of distinctive parts such as the eye socket, the shape of the jaw and its entire bone structure, and so on, to be able to create a much feminine character with a rigid and formal appearance thanks to the modification of her long neck, this would set a new style into the anatomy of my characters.
Gold © Jorge Yepez
Like other projects, I started by making the base sculpture in ZBrush, using Dynamesh and not worrying about topology in its first stage of creation.
After that, I used the clay build up brush, it makes the process much simpler for sketching and helps to visualize the main shapes easily.
I used to sculpt the clothes in ZBrush for my previous characters, but this time I wanted to experiment with Marvelous Designer and I really recommend it, it’s a very useful software, the only thing you have to do is to create pieces of fabric and sew them, as you would in the real life, so I made a square path and a hole inside for the neck, this made the dynamic wrapping easier.
For texturing, I used Substance Painter. First, I baked the textures and then I used some of the generators for creating dust and metal wear look. For other props, and parts of the face, I use some Redshift procedural nodes to have more control in Maya while making the look dev process.
For lightning, I used a basic set of 3 lights and 2 extra ones that helped me to enhance specific parts, such as the top of the head and the eyes. For rendering, I used Redshift, which despite using 4k textures and 5k final render, it did it really fast, taking into consideration that I was using an NVIDIA 980 graphic card.
Fox Renderfarm: BTW, we want to know that when will you release the short film Gold?
Jorge: It was planned to be released last year, but due to the pandemic and work, I wasn't able to finish it. The good part of it is that I can give myself more time to write a script that can make the story more attractive to the viewers and not captivate an audience just because of the characters' looks.
My goal is to create a universe for all of them, and for the new ones that are gonna be created during the process.
Gold Teaser © Jorge Yepez
Fox Renderfarm: Among your works, which one impresses you most? Did you meet any challenges, and how did you solve them?
Jorge: I think MAYO was the most challenging one because it was made during the first two months of the lock down, so I didn't have much time to focus on my own projects.
I took a few hours every week to start studying human anatomy and I was very curious to know how the cloth reacts over the body.
My main goal was to create a cinematic short film using real-time rendering and learning more about video games workflows.
At the beginning, I had some problems with the textures and my frame rate dropped down around 10fps, that happened because the whole scene had 4k textures, so after some research, I optimized the scene, having less resolution on the textures that are far from the camera and keeping the 4k textures for the character.
Fox Renderfarm: What 3D software and plugins do you use most often and why?
Jorge: I usually use Maya for most of the tasks, like modeling, UV layout, animation and rendering. This is the software I learned in college and I feel really comfortable with the UI and the tools it has.
I also have been using Redshift for 3 years now and for me is the best GPU renderer out there, it’s easy to use, it has simple settings and obviously it's the fastest one.
I generally sculpt the base mesh in ZBrush and after bringing the mesh with UVs and a good topology from Maya, I start making the details there. The textures are mostly done inside Substance Painter, lately, I’ve done more procedural look dev with Maya and Redshift though.
I’m also starting to learn Houdini. At first I was a little bit scared about nodes, but then I realized it's extremely powerful and it’s getting easier when you study the logic behind it. I have also been really interested in real-time rendering, that's why I started experimenting with Unreal Engine, mainly because I want to learn more about video games workflows and how it's commonly used in cinematics and creative fields.
Fox Renderfarm: Could you briefly share with us your education and work experience along your CG journey?
Jorge: This passion started when I was a kid, I really enjoyed playing video games with my cousins and I remember three titles that made me feel a deep interest in the VFX world: Resident Evil 4, God of War, and Guitar Hero. I feel really happy to be able to create something similar to that nowadays.
I started learning a software called Rhino almost every evening after school. I remember I was trying to model my home with basic shapes, but then I stopped studying it for a few years, until I decided to study something related at college. I have a degree in Multimedia and interactive animation, the career took me around 4 - 5 years, including the final project. But almost everything I’ve learned has been by myself through internet tutorials and personal exploration, this has given me the opportunity to grow as an artist and the knowledge to solve any problems or challenges within a project.
I have been working as a freelancer since I got my degree, I’ve worked with many clients here in Ecuador and also from all around the world, I am currently working with a producer company from Germany, and also focusing on creating my own creative space called TITA STUDIO, where I’m open to show any exploration or study related to my characters.
Fox Renderfarm: How do you feel about Fox Renderfarm cloud rendering services?
Jorge: Sincerely, is the best render farm I’ve ever used. I discovered it two years ago, they have a great user interface, it’s intuitive and easy to use. They have incredible customer support, which is 24/7 up to help you with any problems or questions. They also have great competitive prices and the speed of their machines is amazing.
Fox Renderfarm: Do you have any suggestions for CG freelancers to improve their CG skills?
Jorge: Practice, perseverance and patience. I heard once from a very talented artist that one hour of study or practicing every day can improve your skills incredibly. This is not a one-day journey, it's a process of personal and professional growth, be focused on that and you’ll see that the road is gonna get easier. Try to not compare yourself with any other artists, everyone has their own paces of learning, the key is to try to overcome ourselves first and if you ever feel tired, learn to rest, not to quit.
Fox Renderfarm: Any other things you want to share with the CG enthusiasts?
Jorge: I think the best way to stay motivated is to focus on more than one project, sometimes we spend a lot of hours a week on a specific one, that can make us feel stressed and we could get stuck creatively. A good start is to have a schedule, try to organize your time between professional and personal work but also don’t forget to get some time for yourself, it’s good to have a distraction from the 3D world, otherwise you could get exhausted. I'm starting to study pastry and it has helped me a lot.
As a final point, I would like to recommend trying to work on your own ideas, I mean, fanart it's great! But if people get to know you by your own masterpieces and you let your ideas grow, you will feel more satisfied, and don’t be scared to share them!
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