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Saturday, August 23, 2014


 One of the great things about being involved in a project like Nectar is that I get to play with really cool programs such as Z Brush.  I've never done any modeling before (not like this anyway) so there was a bit of a learning curve.  I won't bother showing you some of my early attempts, but this image (left) is a good example of what one of these 3D models looks like at first. 

You start out with a sphere that you can pull into cylinders and cones.  At any point you can add spheres to each shape and manipulate those as well.  The structures can be moved at the newly created joints and can be enlarged, shortened, or removed entirely.  So with very little effort one can generate a basic skeletal structure.  This guy is to become one of the game's baddies.

Once the structure is completed it's time to model the character.  This is done by adding and carving into "clay" Z Brush has a symmetry feature which allows me to render the details of the spider equally on both sides.  So essentially I only need to model half a spider...  In this snap shot you can see my in progress.  Notice the joints on the front legs and texture on the head.  It's in these details where I can enjoy implementing my style.

Now that I have a finished model it's time to start painting.  For this I spend a lot of time looking at photos.  This particular spider is a Garden Spider.  This is my interpretation of what I gathered from several photos.

Garden Spider

Check out this awesome Ambush Bug modeled by my partner Malachi.  My task was simply to paint it.  It was difficult landing on a color scheme and patterns because these guys change color to blend into their environment.  It may be necessary to paint several variations of this predator depending on what flower it will be hiding in.  Anyway, I chose to make it brown and green, obviously two very common colors in our game.  It's hard to believe this creature really exists.  Seems made up to me!

ambush bug



Some more assets to our game.  As always, the leaves and stems are interchangeable.  That means they can be flipped, moved around, and distorted to look like different leaves.  So several variations on these plants can be placed in the game and they won't all need to be identical.  Too much repetition can destroy the illusion of flying around as a bee in the natural world.


clover (side view)
clover (top view)
skunk cabbage

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Making of Nectar: A Honey Bee Quest (Part 2)


Malachi and I have spent a great deal of time on the creation of Bella, the star of our game.  Malachi supplied me with an amazing 3D model he created in a program called Z Brush.  Using Z Brush I was able to draw in more detail and apply color.  The finished Bella is now ready to be plugged into the game and for us in promotional materials.

The Bee Tree

Now that we have our main character, it's time to develop home base - The Bee Tree.  Above is an example of Malachi's original sculpture.  It's up to me to add the bark texture and paint it to the best of my ability. If you look closely you can see where I already began playing with brush types and textures.

In the end it would require a combination of Z Brush tools, some additional sculpting, and a paint job.  Above you can see how I used a rake tool to further subdivide the form and lay out the foundation of tree bark.  I also experimented with new features such as moss and mushrooms.

Building up and carving into the digital clay was necessary to achieve a realistic oak tree bark texture.  Further manipulation of the model may be necessary once it's put into the virtual world Malachi and I are inventing.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Making of Nectar: A Honey Bee Quest (Part 1)

I am pleased to have begun work on Nectar: A Honey Bee Quest, an interactive game app conceived by Malachi Bazan of Nevada City California.  Mal approached me over a year ago about the potential of collaborating on a fun, educational game featuring honey bees.  My job is to render background art, create textures, model characters/assets, and work closely with Malachi on game play and story lines.  Mal is a gifted animator and programmer.  He's also a skilled character modeler and 3D designer.  Our goal is to create a game with a strong mood and attention to detail, to put the player in the world of honey bees.  In doing so, we hope to create empathy for these insects, and educate young people of their importance.

The first step is to design the world our honey bee character (who we call Bella) lives in.  Below are some samples of various textures for leaves, trees, and ground.  This 2D art will be melded with 3D assets within the game to create the environment.


Apple Tree

Maple Tree

Pear Tree

This game will require several types of trees for Bella to fly into.  The leaves and tree branch art will be fixed to three-dimensional structures within the game, sort of like placing a skin over an object.  The leaves and twigs on these branches are all separate assets and can be moved, flipped, and rotated so that they can appear random. 

Apple Tree Branch
Maple Tree Branch
Pear Tree Branch

Pear Tree Leaves

I gave particular attention to the details on the leaves.  From Bella's perspective, these leaves must hold up visually when players fly in close.  Several variations of each type of leaf are drawn up, and with the help of some tools in Photoshop they can be manipulated further.  Everything put together and you have any number of trees all of which will be unique.

Tree Bark Texture

What about the big parts of the tree?  Like the trunk for instance.  For that I have to design bark texture that can be wrapped around a 3D model placed within the game matrix.  

 Apple Tree Bark

 Maple Tree Bark

Pear Tree Bark

I enjoyed drawing up these textures.  Every species has unique bark patterns and coloring.  I look at several samples of bark in order to get a feel for each type.  In order to cover large areas that can wrap around a 3D tree trunk the artwork has to "tile" as seamlessly as possible.  So they must connect top to bottom and left to right.  If any details stand out too much or aren't spread out evenly, a pattern can emerge.  The Pear Tree sample below is an example of a texture that still needs a little work.  Of course there is only so much you can do.

 Apple Tree Bark (tiled)

  Maple Tree Bark (tiled)

Pear Tree Bark (tiled)

Ground Texture

It is especially important for ground textures to tile comfortably because it has to cover a large area.  3D assets such as trees, bushes, rocks, etc will break up the monotony and a believable world will emerge.




Dry Grass

Dirt (tiled)

Mud (tiled) 

Stone (tiled) 

Dry Grass (tiled)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Making The Mouse & The Meadow

Here's a peak into my process for The Mouse & The Meadow, due for release February, 2014.

The first thing I had to do was create the main character.  Here's how the mouse looked at first.  I quickly determined the mouse was not cute enough or young looking like he's supposed to be in the story.
Here's the revised character in a comp.  I shortened his snout which made him look more childlike.  I also began to work out the setting.
The finished spread.  I wanted the first page to be bright and cheerful, to set the tone for the rest of the book.

When I first wrote The Mouse & The Meadow I did some experimental illustrations to see how it could look.  This is an early interpretation of the box turtle scene.  It also happens to be one of my earliest attempts at digital painting.
I had to rethink the illustration to fit into a double page spread.  At first I tried to salvage some of what I accomplished the first time around and combine it with new sketches.
After doing some research and digging through my sketchbook, I was able to come up with this finished comp.  The background elements are mostly based on drawings I've done in the past involving meadows.  Three paragraphs of type and the center gutter made designing difficult.  At this point all my values have been established and it's ready for color.
The finished illustration.  Based on the fact that these box turtles have warm coloring, I knew having a cool background would help the characters pop forward.  This is one of four pieces selected to be in the Illustrators 56 Annual and Show at the Society of Illustrators, NY.
Take a look at the early sketch for the bunny scene.  I had a great deal of trouble balancing the text with seven bunnies, one mouse, and one adult rabbit...
This is how it wound up.  Flipping the whole scene was a start, and repositioning the rabbit and bunnies this way makes more sense and there's plenty of room for type where the light is filtering through the hole.  I did my homework to get the anatomy and details right.  I'm looking forward to the interactive app version of this page (you can wake the bunnies up by touching the screen).
Another early digital attempt from when I first wrote the manuscript.  Fortunately I was able to preserve the spirit this piece always had and reformat it for the double page spread.

The revised art.  I was glad to be able to add other fireflies flashing in the background.  And more contrast adds to the drama.  This piece was also selected for the Society of Illustrators show in February.