Every so often we like to highlight a member of the ZBC community. There are an amazing number of astonishingly talented artists among us, and some in particular stand out for their generosity. These people constantly share new work, explore or discover aspects of ZBrush use, and participate in the community.
This week we've interviewed Alex Oliver (known here at ZBC as alexleia). A perusal of his ZBC Gallery shows almost unbelievable diversity, not to mention a practically rabid proliferation of work! Alex's talents can currently be seen in IMAX theaters around the world -- for more on that, keep reading.
Note: The ZBC Gallery link above will take you to the many WIP threads that Alex has contributed. This is a great way to learn more about Alex's techniques. To see his personal gallery, please click on the thumbnail at the end of this interview.
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Alex Oliver, and I'm living in Brazil.
What company do you work for, and in what capacity?
At the moment I'm a freelance character modeler, and also teach at the Melies 3D School here in Brazil. I have a traditional sculpting class where we begin studying anatomy sculpts and move on to create your own sculptures in clay.
In one of your recent posts you showed work that you did on a project for National Geographic. Could you tell us more about the project?
Well, the work was a great pleasure to me because I love dinosaurs! With the help of some paleontologists who were on the team I was able to find a good look for the T-Rex and the styoussaurus. After we had the right "look" for the dinosaurs I moved on to work with the actual sculpting. The project is an IMAX film called "Sea Monsters 3D: A Prehistoric Adventure".
What did you personally do on this project?
The dinosaurs concepts and sculpt work.
How was ZBrush used?
ZBrush was used in each step of the process, from sketches to final sculpts and painting the textures.
What features of ZBrush were the most helpful to you? Could you tell us more about your methods and workflow?
Well, I used ZBrush 2.0 to do this project. None of the amazing new features of 3.1 were able to be used because ZBrush 3 was still under NDA while I beta tested it. However, ZBrush 2 worked very well. I began with many ZBrush 3D "sketches" just to determine the look of the creatures. That way we could test the base mesh before moving to the final and animated meshes.
Is there a place where the animation can be viewed?
You can see the movie in any IMAX 3D theater around the world. But you can also find a trailer on the National Geographic website.
Anything new on the horizon that you can tell us about?
Nothing really new now, but next month I will be back to my desk, taking up pencil and paper to try and find some new and good designs to sculpt in ZBrush.
Your user gallery at ZBC has quite a variety of artwork! What are some of your favorite images?
Well, to be honest with you: none yet. I am trying to work as well as I can, but it's a long process. I'm still looking for my best work.
How does ZBrush help you in your creations?
Some months ago I started a thread on ZBrushCentral called Sketchbook . (Editor's Note: As of this writing, the thread is 40 pages long and has been viewed over 160,000 times!) I know that many artists there have asked, "Why so many models, with none of them finished?"
What people don't understand is that I use ZBrush like a traditional sculptor. If you look at some traditional sculptors' studios, you will see many projects -- some forgotten and others in various WIP stages. ZBrush is like paper to me, used to begin any new idea. It's my digital atelier. Some pieces are simply new ideas; just sketches that I may finish if I decide that I really like them. If not, then it won't be finished.
About my workflow, I start my sculpts while keeping my focus on the shape, before later working in the final details. I only move on to the small details when I find a good shape. About 70% of my work is done with free hand sculpting, then about 30% more is done with alphas.
Do you have a favorite ZBrush feature? Why is it your favorite?
Well, there are so many new features that I love... but what I really love are SubTools, 3D Layers, the new sculpting tools, TransPose, and of course PolyPainting. Out of all of them, though, my favorite is the SubTool feature.
How long have you been using ZBrush? How did you discover the software?
I have been using ZBrush for three years now. I discovered it when I learned that many traditional artists and studios like Jim McPherson, Stan Winston Studios, Rick Baker and Weta Digital were moving to digital tools. I remember advice from Stan Winston Studios' crew saying to study digital because it "will be the new tools of the future." I'm a big fan of Stan's studio, and sent an email to a crew member there at the time to be sure that the studio was using ZBrush. When I received a "yes" from him, I quickly moved to digital and began my ZBrush studies.
What is your art background like?
I'm a traditional sculptor. There are great artists that never worked with clay, but for someone that intends to learn digital sculpting my advice is to study traditional clay as well. Traditional sculpting will help so much for anyone intending to improve digital skills.
Could you tell us more about yourself? What are your hobbies or interests?
Well, I love books and movies. I love spending my time watching cartoon animations; I'm really a big fan of all Walt Disney classics so I like to take time during the week to watch some of those with my wife as well as get in some reading. My favorite books are those about archaeology; any book talking about Egyptian, Mayan or Aztec culture. I also enjoy going to the beach, and some sports on occasion.
Thank you, Alex, for taking the time to speak with us! And of course a big thank you for your great participation here at ZBC!
Alex Oliver's Artwork
Click the image below to be taken to Alex's gallery of ZBrush work.