We spoke to Microsoft’s lead character artist, Dan Roarty back in 3D Artist issue 103 about his artwork Roxey November. Roarty tells us why he turned to ZBrush for the first time for Roxey November, and gives us tips on creating realistic portraits.
3DA: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be a character artist?
DR: Sure! I’ve actually always been obsessed with drawing characters as a kid. When I was 13 my parents bought me a 3d program called ‘Truespace.’ From there I was hooked. I literally spend every minute I had trying to create 3d characters and usually realistic. I knew pretty much from the age of 13 that if I could get paid to make 3d characters, then that’s exactly what I wanted to do.
3DA: How did you come up with the idea for Roxey?
DR: To be honest, the inspiration came from some of the characters we created for Gears of War 4. There were a few characters with the stylish ‘shave and a haircut’ look to them. It looked very appealing to me so I decided to create a realistic portrait of a female with this type of hairstyle. I didn’t really have any specific reason or idea for creating it, I just hit a stride and decided to complete it. The name ‘Roxey’ though, is my wife’s middle name, so I thought why not.
You typically use Maya and Mudbox for sculpting your characters, why did you turn to ZBrush for Roxey? Will you be using ZBrush more in the future?
DR: Million dollar question! I probably get this one more than any other. The answer? I don’t know. Mudbox still gives me everything I need and of course, I’m extremely comfortable with it. That said, I really wanted to use zbrush for the sculpting portion of Roxey and I enjoyed it. It was a learning curve at times but that’s one of the reasons I did it. I definitely will be transitioning from time to time to Zbrush. As it stands as being the ‘only’ program I use though? I think for me, I haven’t quite decided that yet.
3DA: Roxey November reminds us of the render of your wife in The Blue Portrait with the dewy glow on the skin, was this lighting choice deliberate when you were working on Roxey, did you want to evoke a similar effect to The Blue Project?
DR: Yes I did! There was a lot of the Blue Project in this piece. One of which is its still named after my wife ‘Roxey’ but the subject matter is quite similar to. I also used a similar lighting setup. I like to use light sources that are realistic but also have an artistic quality to them, rather than flat diffuse lighting. I think most people will find some similarities to this piece.
3DA: We’re starting to see more and more use of Texturingxyz which launched in 2016, how did you use it for detailing the skin for Roxey?
DR: Yes I did. Jeremy Celeste (creator of Texturingxyz) has become a friend of mine and I was fortunate enough to stress test some of his maps that he created. I have been using them ever since for portraits and skin detailing. There are some extremely useful benefits to using the maps which enables you to get closer to having a realistic look to your skin and character. I highly recommend them.
3DA: Do you have any tips for creating realistic character portraits?
DR: I think it’s important to find a subject you are not going to get bored with. Its also really important to show your work during a WIP phase to get some honest feedback. I tend to lean more towards portraits just because I love to do them. There also has be a lot of patience when creating them. They can be time consuming and frustrating, but the end results are very rewarding. Focus on the expression of the face and ensure the hair and eyes look realistic. As a previous boss of mine said, “Take care of the little things, and the big things will take care of themselves”