The Node System

Blender has come a long way! You can create a lot of amazing renders for glass, metal, rubber etc… Here’s a test scene that I put together that didn’t take much work. However, to make things look unique and creating real world materials, with stains, scratches, and many imperfection that we see in the real world, is an art in itself.

I don’t see myself specializing in this area. It takes a lot of work! I have seen some samples of the node trees that people put together to create a specific material (all done procedurally), and it’s like a programming language—the logic and math that went behind it boggles my mind.

My focus is mainly on concepting and the art side of things. I don’t focus that much on the technical side of art such as the Node system of Blender. However, it’s still good to know how things work, and to know enough to make a few changes here and there. But for more advanced looking procedural materials, I would definitely go down the route of purchasing them from those that are specialized in this area.

With that said, here are a few resources that I find helpful to give you an idea of how the Node system works. Knowing how it works will help you to create non-procedural materials (less technical compared to procedural). This knowledge will help you later down the road if you do get into compositional nodes:

Learn by Examples

Blender’s Pose Brush

Last March I wrote a short post to talk about how sculpting the hand can be a challenge without the ability to quickly pose the sculpt. You can read it here. Today I found out that 2.81 has it and you have no idea how excited I am. Someone posted a video demonstrating that brush here. Earlier I reopened that unfinished hand sculpt file to test out the brush and it’s amazing.

This one below is another test to see how convenient it is with modeling. All I can say is WOW. You can tab in and out of “Edit Mode” to “Sculpt Mode.” Edit Mode to model, Sculpt Mode to use the Pose Brush without damaging or make any changes to your mesh poly count! I’m impressed.

This Pose Brush is making Box modeling fun again.

Pen or Display Tablet?

Recently I borrowed a Cintiq 13HD from someone to try it out to see if it’ll help me with line art—if it does I’ll have an easier time on deciding whether I should get a better one later on—but I can’t seem to get it to work on my MacBook Pro. So I’ll talk about something else.

Last year I asked a very skilled cartoonist what tablet he was using, whether it’s pen or display. He told me that he works better with a display tablet because he gets to see his hand and stroke at the same time. That really got me to think, because I noticed that I have no problem sketching on the fly with a pen tablet. However, I struggle when it comes to refining that sketch! When things are loose, and accuracy isn’t that important, I have no problem with a pen tablet. But if I want to add weight to my lines, and to bend or curve it a certain way, then I find myself undoing it a lot because I’m looking at the monitor and not my hand.

I hope to write a post and talk more about this in the future.

Base Meshes for Figure Studies

Back when I was starting out with 3D modeling, there wasn’t that much resources to help me in my endeavor. But those that are starting out today are very fortunate to have a lot of resources and aids to help them progress much faster in their studies.

http://vgl.ict.usc.edu/Data/DigitalEmily2/

Digital Emily is a project that is based on an actual person (3d scanned). Notice that the left and right side of the face are not identical (asymmetrical). Very often when we model from scratch, it’s symmetrical (mirrored) to speed up the process, but in real life very few people have symmetrical faces. Do an image search on “photo symmetrical celebrities” and you’ll see how strange and bizarre well known celebrities look when you turn their asymmetrical into symmetrical. This is something to consider when seeking to capture the likeness of a well known person.

https://mblab.dev/

This one is from MB-Lab, and it’s base is not meant to be hyper realistic. However, it’s a good base to start with! This is a plugin for Blender that can create a full figure, with many parameters to change the look of the character. It’s also poseable.

This post will be updated with more links as I come across them.

An extremely detailed model done in Wings3D

Here’s another model by Xuan to show that anything can be modeled in Wings3D if you set your mind to it. This one is 99% Wings3D, and it’s extremely detailed. I wish I can show you more angles and closeup but my computer can’t handle it in the viewport (too laggy). A few wires were modeled in Blender using curves to speed up this project.

What this goes to show is that the right tool does speed up the process. Anything that is curvy such as wires and so on, are best modeled using curves, and it’s what they’re made for.

Meditate upon it day and night

bmv
A shot taken while I was at a BMV store here in Toronto on Bloor.

There isn’t any shortcut to getting good at art, whether it’s drawing, digital modelling or sculpting. With the right mindset and attitude the whole process can be speed up, but there is no shortcut. Knowledge without doing is no good and can deceive you, and doing without proper knowledge and understanding or a clear guideline is a waste of time. To get better at anything at all we must practice day and night, and we must meditate and dwell on the things that we seek to be better at or become.

As Christians, God saved us to be holy and blameless. He has set forth Jesus Christ as the primary and ultimate example of godliness, and the Scriptures tell us to look to Christ—always. This is because whatever we set our eyes upon we will eventually become that thing. We become what we treasured the most in our hearts; we become what we think, study and trusted in. We conform to the image that we are seeking after. For this reason, Christians are to set their eyes upon Christ, they are to have Christ in their hearts.

As artists, we are to immerse ourselves in the things of art and read good books. We must meditate on these things. We must think and see forms and shapes and anatomical structures. In the same way that Christians are exhorted to read the Scriptures daily, to study it, meditate upon it day and night.

“his delight is in the law of the LORD;
and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”
(Psalms 1:2 KJV)

NOTE: This post was initially written on [March 13th, 2016 @ 12:00am]. It was tucked away in the draft folder and I was not aware of it until today while sorting through. So now I’m posting it as it is.

A note on learning and progress

Sometimes I find myself doing well, and I see that I’m progressing. Then I read a book, or accumulated some new piece of information, and to my puzzlement, instead of advancing and doing well, I noticed that I’m declining and not doing well. I forgot where I read this from, but it’s normal. A lot of us go through this. The mind needs time to absorb and adjust to the new information that is coming in. Give it time. Once this period is over you will do much better with the new information you have gathered. It’s funny how the mind works.

That’s why there are studies that say your mind do better when you’re not thinking or trying hard. Or that you’re more creative and interesting ideas come to mind when you’re relaxing or go about your business not thinking much. So when new information comes in, you’re processing it.

The Importance of Warming Up

I have heard people say, “Before you run or workout, make sure to warm yourself up first.” It will not only prevent injuries, but you will perform much better as a result. The advice is good, but beginners often see “warming up” as tedious and a waste of time. So they don’t really take it to heart until later down the road. And speaking of warming up, I believe it can apply to art as well. Let me explain…

Last year I had the opportunity to conduct my drawing experiment in Krita. I noticed that I have produced a lot of nice rough before bed, but then upon waking up the next day, I noticed that my drawing and roughing out the form wasn’t that great when compared to the ones done in the previous day / night. I didn’t understand why at first. But noticed that it’s only 1 hour into my practicing session did I start to do well, and my hand and mind was flying freely. This whole thing on “warming up” didn’t cross my mind yet, until I read somewhere about an artist who wouldn’t even begin to start his actual painting until he spent the first 6 hours warming up, doing rough sketches, etc… That’s when I saw the connection. Most of my rough sketches looked great from evening and onward because I was warming up in the morning. And sometimes when I couldn’t get to it in the morning, I noticed that I was only flying around an hour into the session.

I would say this will be different for everyone, depending on your skill level and experiences. Those that do art for a living probably warm up much quicker than those like myself who are just doing it on and off.

A Casual Mindset

Whenever I’m not doing any art, my mind is always thinking about it. Theorizing and meditating on certain principles and theories; seeking for ways to explain difficult concepts or explain things in a way that beginners can understand and put it to use.

The first mindset that took me up one step in my journey is the [Casual Perspective] mindset. A lot of times we’re not building a spacecraft, so things don’t have to be dead accurate. We can guess, estimate and be casual about it. No need to take out your ruler to measure everything and to make sure that all lines are perfectly straight.

Then I thought to myself, what about creating the illusion of depth in drawing/painting? What about painting textures for 3d models? Eureka finally struck again. I hope to touch on this more later on when I finally sit down to test out these theories with examples.

GIMP

Once in a blue moon I check on GIMP to see how the GUI is doing, and the latest version has some improvements. However, it’s still the most frustrating app to use. I want to incorporate GIMP into my workflow so I can make a complete switch to Linux, but GIMP is extremely unorthodox at the moment, in my opinion, if you’re coming from macOS or Windows using other softwares.

Blender used to be unorthodox but changed its way from 2.8 and onward. Blender is a lot more popular now as a result, and I hope that GIMP will one day do the same.

It’s not the Software

This was modeled 100% in Wings3D by an artist I know. This is one of his fan-art piece modeled straight out of a blueprint model sheet you can find online. Having seen some of his works, I would say he’s a Wings3D master. Blender has a lot of tools to speed up your modeling process, and as we all know, in Wings3D, things are done manually. What this goes to show is that it’s not really the software, but the artist.