Today we round out our coverage of the Dominance War 3 competition by interviewing the grand prize winner in the 3D category: Dmitry Parkin! It was great to see how large a role ZBrush played in this year's competition, and particularly gratifying to see the win go to one of ZBC's own. We hope you enjoy this opportunity to learn more about the artist!
Hi Dmitry, and thank you for talking with us! I always like to begin by getting to know you as a person. Could you tell us about your non-professional background?
Hi. My name is Dmitry Parkin. I was born in Russia ,Saratov Town, in 1982. I barely finished my schooling, and gave up after three months at an institute. All my life, though I've enjoyed drawing and studying the work of other artists. I was married last year, and now have a son who's one and a half years old.
A hobby of mine is that I enjoy watching insects in the garden. At the moment, I have three caterpillars that I've caught so that I can observe their transformation into cocoons. Of course, I like to play games and watch movies. I also like to spend time in nature by the river with my family and friends, or just grill a good meal over the fire.
I'm a big fan of tattoo art, with several small and two large tattoos on my body. I actually want to cover my entire body with images of different fabulous and dark fantasy creatures. I think my grandchildren will get a kick out of it when I get to be an old man!
Where in Russia is Saratov located?
Saratov located on the Volga River, 900km to the south of Moscow. It's a province in Russia with many drunk zombies roaming the streets in the evenings! Most people here don't know what the internet is, and have never heard of Peter Jackson. But we usually have very good weather in the summer, and it's a nice place to relax or live a little ways out of town.
What's it like as a digital artist living there?
Hell is Hell; nothing more, and nothing less. (Ha-ha) This really isn't a place for artists, but don't fault me for having been born here. I had a very hard time in childhood, up to the age of 18 because I'm an artist. I was a very bad pupil in school, drawing on every lesson. My teachers and even my parents told me that I would end up being a hobo, a garbage collector, or never find work. At best, I'd end up painting walls. Nobody believed in me when I siad that I would become a game artist. They just didn't think it was possible.
After dropping out of school I went to Moscow to look for work. As of that moment, I was a 3D artist from Saratov! I lived there in Moscow for about six years, and then a year ago I moved back to Saratov with my wife and son. We have a country house, and I work as a freelancer in tranquility with few other people around. The town itself hasn't changed, and the internet here is terrible. I'm 100% sure that this will not be where I settle down permanently.
What is your professional background like?
Back in 1997 a programmer friend and I wanted to do a real-time strategy (RTS) game. We were very young, and didn't understand much about making games. It didn't help any that we only had one computer between the two of us! But we wanted to do our own game so badly. I spent so much time learning about game art, which wasn't easy at all in our town because I only had one book on the subject and it wasn't even really about game 3D. Not the best book to learn from. At first, I tried to do it all: locations, characters, levels and textures... everything. After several years of that, I had pretty good skill for a Russian game artist. Sure, we hadn't finished our game. In retrospect, that was impossible. But it served as an excellent school of game making!
When I went to Moscow in 2000, what I'd learned allowed me to get work as a 3D character artist in "Mist Land". I then wound up working for a different company that had taken over "Mist Land", followed by two years working on "Akella" and one year with "Sibilant". I also occasionally worked remotely for other companies. All the while I paid close attention to work processes and accumulated the skills that would allow me to start anew as a freelance artist.
Are you a full-time freelance artist, or do you also have a "day job"?
I work full-time as a freelance artist. I've been doing this for over a year now, and don't have a "day job".
The hardest thing about freelance work is usually finding clients. What are the techniques that you use to find work as a freelancer?
I think that if you're a good artist with a good reputation, and if you have the desire to work, you will have a good set of clients. I have spent a lot of time and effort to become a good artist, and that has given me good clients with a stable future. It would be much harder to try and start freelance as a novice without experience.
I haven't had trouble finding clients since my switch to freelancing. I have two permanent client studios in Moscow thanks to the work experience that I have with them in-house. I also post some of my work on various 3D forums so as to show my skill to potential clients. Occasionally I'll check my mail and find work offers in it thanks to that. I think that it's necessary to create memorable works in one's own style. That way you'll become more popular and not look like anyone else!
The only problem that I have is that not all the orders are really interesting enough for me. And sometimes I'll have times when I haven't worked for a month or more. During those times I like to rest and travel, or create personal art just for fun.
You've talked about games a few times. Could you tell us more about the work you do in that area?
Sure, but all those games are Russian and I doubt that anyone would know about them outside the country. All professional art on my web site is for one game: W.E.L.L. Online. I created designs and models of monsters and clothes one and a half years ago, and still freelance for them. At present, I'm make a prison uniform for W.E.L.L. I've reclassified my other game projects as part-time, and have put them under “Old Stuff”. I don't think it's very interesting to read about old Russian game projects!
I'm also currently working for Avalon Style as a monster/creatures designer and 3D artist. I'll soon be posting that work on my website. To date I only have one well-known title, which is "Fallout 3". I also did a small amount of work for Damnation, working for them through Liquid Development. Those projects aren't mentioned on my website, though.
Most of your art tends to be very dark and gothic. Where do you find your inspiration?
Dark, gothic and mysterious are the most interesting themes for me. Definitely my favorite style. I have a very good imagination in this mood, and find my inspirations in my head. I have a lot of dark or gothic ideas. When I close my eyes to sleep, I see many, many fanciful ideas!
As a helper, I listen to true black or folk metal music groups like Gorgoroth, Dark Throne, or Summoning. I don't understand their words, but the music is very good. I can feel the mood, letting me fabricate different creatures and their environments. I think that making different dark or horror creatures is my mission in the world.
Let's talk about your DW3 character. How did the idea for him come about?
Actually, I was originally asked to be a judge from Russia for DW3. But at the last moment I changed my mind and decided to take part in the competition. The idea came at once; I just saw him in my mind. I decided to make a very strong and powerful giant-berserker with a brutal heavy mace. I wanted to make a character that would be easily understood; I didn't want to make anything unusual. I imagined him as a boss from some fantasy game, and of course I wanted him to be something I'd enjoy working on.
Of course, I also wanted to show the best sides of my art. I know what I can do very well, and what I'm not so great at. I knew that I could show a good balance of proportions, and a lot of detail in the final sculpt.
What were the main steps that you used in creating the piece?
My steps... I don't know. I think it was one big step! If you're asking about workflow, it went this way: I drew several easy sketches; only base form and some details like the shoes, armor and mace. Next, I created a very simple base mesh in Maya and imported it into ZBrush to sculpt the general forms. After a few steps I sent it back to Maya to attach the hands, shoes and face. Then I sent it back to ZBrush to complete the high poly model.
After completing the high poly model, came low poly time. I went down to level 4 or 5 and exported what I call "carcass meshes" to Maya. There I built a low poly model over the carcass mesh with lots of polygonal-level editing tools. So I made the low poly model in Maya and UV mapped it, but then baked the normal map in Max. That's just a habit of mine.
For texturing I used Photoshop. For the diffuse map I needed to bake an occlusion map, which is a good way to get detail from the high polygon model. I used this map as an overlay. Then I split the materials map off from the color map and painted over it in different surfaces: dirt, blood, scars and so on. Finally I dropped some background layers over it: usually scans of rusted metal, shabby skin or other rough surfaces. I also wanted to make a burning shine in some places, so I painted that into a separate layer in reds and yellows over the completed diffuse map. This I put against a black background layer to create a glow map. After finishing the diffuse map I also made a black and white copy which after a little correction was used as a specular map.
How did you use ZBrush in your work on this character?
At first I started by adjusting his proportion and weight. Then I sculpted in the base anatomy: muscles and fat. The next step was adding some peculiarities to his anatomy with little horns under the skin around the neck and skin ornamentation on the arms and chest. I used the Inflate brush to do this. For work on his skin features I used the MalletFast brush with a custom alpha (sort of some oval scales) to paint over the body. My last step was using skin alphas in some places, such as on the neck and face.
For creating his legs I followed human anatomy as the base but then added some free elements in the lines of the muscles. For more natural defenses I pulled out short thorns here and there. I also added some sharp lines with the help of the Pinch, Flatten and Smooth brushes. His shoes and mace were made using the same techniques.
Do you feel that ZBrush made a big difference for the project? How so?
ZBrush is my overall secret weapon! It lets me sculpt and draw in one program. It's also just a really comfortable program for me to use to realize my ideas in 3D.
How long have you been using ZBrush, and how did you discover it?
I've used ZBrush for about 1 1/2 years now, and before it I had only made low poly models. When starting at the last company I worked form, my job was to make high polygon models, and my computer had ZBrush on it. I just started to work with it and learn. Over the next year or two I'm going to be learning even more good stuff about 3D sculpting!
Was there any particular "Eureka!" moment with ZBrush, where you just KNEW it was the program for you?
Ha ha! Yes, sure: It was when I finished my first sculpt, "Devil Head". At that point I decided that this program was for me!
Could you tell us more about your ZBrush techniques? Any favorite features or workflows?
In truth, my technique or workflow is very simple and rough: I just draw. I don't really have any secrets or subtlety in my work. I just try to make a balanced form at the beginning, then add interesting details at the end. I try to get a good portrayal on the canvas. It's like drawing with a pencil, but I use the Inflate brush as a base tool, Flatten and Pinch as auxilliary tools, and I finish by using different alphas. On the whole, my methods are pretty standard; nothing great...
Winning the Dominance War 3 competition is a prestigious honor. Have you already found new doors opening for you as a result?
I don't know yet. So far I have just given a lot of interviews and received many congratulations, but no good work offers. In any case, it's really good for my portfolio! And for self-affirmation.
What are your goals going forward?
I want to be one of the best artists in the dark style, and not just in the game industry. For the near future I would like to find some good work on game projects in the dark "Resident Evil" or "Silent Hill" style. But I also plan to create some big images in traditional techniques. As for the distant future, I would love to create designs for cinematic creatures.
Congratulations on your win, Dmitry! We certainly hope to be seeing a lot more of your work in the future.
Be sure to also check out our many past interviews, which can be found in the ZBrush Artist Interviews forum.