For this week's interview, we're pleased to bring you a brief visit with Magdalena Dadela, better known here at ZBC as Intervain. In addition to being an exceptionally talented figure artist, she's a really fun person to talk to.
Hi Magdalena. It's a genuine pleasure to be interviewing you. As with all my interviews, I'd like to begin by learning more about you on a personal level. General background, family, things of that nature. Care to share?
I was born and raised in Poland. I had been obsessed with art for the first 15 years of my life but never saw it as a carreer prospect. So by the time I was in high school it became only a hobby and I headed for language studies instead, giving up drawing completely. Well it wasn't that straightforward but it's a long story
And how about your professional background. Schooling and work?
I finished my university studies in English Literature - quite a long way away from 3D. It was during my second year of doctoral studies that I saw "Finding Nemo" and decided that I wasn't interested in persuing an academic career after all
So I started to look into graphics - learned Photoshop first and got so excited about what it could do that I wanted to know more. 3D seemed like a natural next step. I was old enough to know that I couldn't spend another 4 years at school and needed a crash course instead. That's where VFS comes in.
I've really seen a lot of phenomenal demo reels coming from Vancouver Film School graduates, and many of them are now using ZBrush. What can you share about the school and its courses -- especially in relation to ZBrush?
Going to VFS has definitely been a turning point in my life. The school is one hell of a ride and once you start working on your reel you just have to live it 24/7 (literally). Otherwise you won't have much to show for yourself at the end of the course. Thankfully you're surrounded by a big group of students who are in the same position and sometimes even more driven than you. It's basically a 3D survival camp.
The students have access to a great lab and all the important apps - ZBrush included. I've met some awesome artists there, many of whom are quite active in this forum in fact!
For some reason, it seems that mostly men go into the 3D industry. What inspired you to become a CG artist?
I think the main reason is that men are more interested in computers in general. What inspired me was movies like "Lord of the Rings" and "Finding Nemo" in particular, as well as commercials. I love the creative commercial work from houses like Framestore, Glassworks or the Mill, to mention but a few.
You currently work at Ubisoft in Montreal. Is that correct? How long have you been there, and what do you do?
Yes, I am working for Ubisoft Digital Arts studio. (Cinematics) I've been working here for almost a year and a half now, creating high-res character models (and some props if need be) and learning a lot in the process!
What projects have you worked on? And what's currently in the works? What has been your involvement with these?
I've worked on several "Assasin's Creed" connected projects, most of them under NDA's, doing characters, props and a bit of texturing. I've also worked on "Tom Clancy's End War" trailer and a few other projects, which I cannot speak about either though I'd love to share.
How do you use ZBrush in your work?
ZBrush is currently my main tool and I use it both after and during the modeling process. It makes things faster and allows for more freedom when making artistic decisions. I can quickly change a posture and decide what works best for a character. Besides, with the new topology tools it's great not to be restrained by the wireframe at hand. One can always redo stuff later.
I also love the fact that one can work on something and then change the UV's without worrying about stretching while sculpting! The ProjectAll feature has also saved me a couple of times.
One other thing that ZBrush's great for are face shapes. It's so much faster to sculpt one than to model it in a traditional 3D application.
Do you find that ZBrush allows you to try things that you might not have attempted before?
Retopology is a great feature and so is the TransPose tool -- especially for personal projects as it allows me to avoid the time-consuming rigging process. One can be way more daring with the poses as well and not worry about the crazy bends and twists.
I've noticed from some of your WIP's like the "Old Woman Knitting" that you really enjoy putting a lot of detail into your models. What are some of the techniques that you use for this?
Yes I love small details, that's why sometimes, with my personal work, I get caught up in them a bit too much and take way longer to finish a model than I should, putting in details one cannot even see.
For the grandma I used a lot of custom alphas to make the knitting patterns and the crocheing seem more real. I also made pattern textures which I then turned into alphas and used as masks to create checkered patterns on the slippers and the skirt.
Is this similar to how you roughed up the "Blind Faith" sculpture, to create marks from the sculptor's tools?
The tool marks were made in a slightly different way, mainly with the Flatten and Rake tools. Also the new Smooth, which is slightly different than the Z2 version is a great help in achieving such effects. I know a lot of people complained about it but I really like the new Smooth much better than the previous one.
Speaking of "Blind Faith", is there any chance of sharing that bronze shader with the community?
I have shared the shader just after posting the character itself - it's available in 2 versions in the MatCap Repository
thread. I've seen it applied to some great models, which made me rather happy
I used three different versions of the shader (slightly different settings) to paint my own sculpt.
So how long have you been using ZBrush, and what inspired you to learn it?
I have been using it for around 18 months now. I have learned mostly on the job, but I have to admit I didn't know it too well (just using it for some cloth and simple wrinkles) until Pixologic gave me a shot at the Beta version last year. I got addicted within a week and I now just cannot do without it.
Looking at the 2D work on your website, it's clear that you're heavily inspired by painting's old masters. How has that influenced your 3D work?
Oh very much. I love old paintings - I've always enjoyed staring at the costumes and faces on 17th, 18th and 19th century masters' paintings in particular.
Artists like Van Dyck, David, Ingres, Tissot and Winterhalter stirred my imagination. I love the costumes in their portraits. On top of that
I'm also a big fan of BBC's costume adaptations of literary classics which are a great source of inspiration. I have, in fact, recently started working on a 3D model of a Victorian dress... A bit crazy, I have to admit.
Have you dabbled at all in ZBrush's 2.5D painting tools? If so, what were your experiences with ZBrush as a drawing and painting medium?
Yes, I have tried polypainting and found it really relaxing and enjoyable. I especially found the color spray combined with Alpha 07 to be a brilliant tool for colouring skin as well as cloth - it gives a slightly uneven finish thus making it very natural. It's also great to be able to paint with materials; if only one could make a blurry mask to smooth the transitions between them that'd be grand! (Nudge
Do you have a favorite ZBrush feature? Can you give some examples of how you use it in your work?
Definitely the Lazy Mouse
I use it almost constantly nowadays, especially for cloth and wrinkles. Also some default alphas are a great help in sculpting hair and folds. I have become quite a fan of the Inflate brush over the last couple of months, too, I have to admit. Combined with Gravity it gives quite a natural feel to wrinkles and clothing.
Anything else that you'd like to share with the ZBC community?
I'd love to thank everyone contributing to the community, especially in the Troubleshooting forum which is very active, and one can usually count on a quick solution to one's problems!. It's also a great help to see people share their ideas, techniques and MatCaps so eagerly. Having so many awesome artists sharing their work on a daily basis always gives one a kick in the gut and motivates to learn more and work harder. Keep it up folks and keep inspiring!
Many thanks to Magdalena for taking time from her busy schedule to speak with us! I'm sure we'll get to see a lot more from her in the future.
Be sure to also check out our past interviews, which can be found in the ZBrush Artist Interviews forum.