Intermission

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It’s been a short while of busy happenings since my last post about the Rock Series, which I’ll be continuing shortly. One of the things I did recently was wrap up an exciting consulting opportunity with Boston Scientific, where I led some progressive training sessions for them. It’s so exciting to see how they utilize emerging digital solutions to help so many people in the health community.

As I rolled off the trainings, I jumped right into Finals with my students for the Digital Sculpting class. So, this is somewhat a slight intermission for the blog posts. And, once Finals wrap up, I’ll continue with the project-based lessons that I mapped out for my class, along with some other posts that I plan to share.

If you happen to be in the Northeast, the weather reports are shaping to be a really great week of much needed sunny, warm weather. And for those in the art community, what a great time to be able to grab the camera for photo references, and even do some life drawings, character studies, and gesture studies.

Series 1: The Rock Project (Mood, Reference, Usage)

In my last post, I introduced ‘My Thoughts on Teaching and Mentoring.’ In this post and the first of the Series, I outline the “Rock Project,” the first assignment that hones in on the fundamental skills for digital sculpting with ZBrush.

My pedagogic philosophy is that smaller, lower pressure projects allow my students to fully complete projects with high quality and true learning. I never want them to bite off more than they can chew, just for the sake of a ‘challenge,’ particularly since they are in a safe, learning environment of the classroom. I often reiterate to them that there are no short-cuts around “Muscle Memory” which can be highly technical if looked at from that viewpoint. And therefore, art should be viewed as fluid and should not be compromised by the technicality of the tool sets.

So, on this first Rock Assignment, I posed the scenario of a Studio Environment where I act as an Art Director and have my students play the role of 3D artists creating a Rock that will be used by Designers/World Builders for in-game use. I want them to propose possible directions that I would ‘Approve’ prior to their initiation of the Rock sculpt in ZBrush.

STEP 1: Asking the right questions. 

I implore my students to engage in a dialogue with the Designers/World Builders, or even the AD. Having a creative, mutual respect for what the Designers/World Builders do and aim for, encourages team camaraderie between cross-disciplinary team members. (NOTE: In some cases, an Artist might also be the Designer or World Builder – it all depends on the Studio environment – and in this particular scenario the Studio Environment is comprised of various disciplines with full teams for each.) The following are just some of the questions that can and should be asked:

  • Who will be using the asset? (i.e. – World Builders)
  • How will the asset be used? (i.e. – single rock asset or POI/point of interest, cluster of rocks, spanned within a scene, etc.)
  • Is there an established footprint for the asset, or particular constraints?
  • What type of environment does the rock belong to? (i.e. – desert)
  • What might be the largest scale/size of the asset for its usage? (i.e. – some Designers/World Builders might plan to scale an asset up or down for its usage; perhaps aim to provide 3 versions of a single asset – Small / Medium / Large – to ensure proper usage of that asset)

A key notion that I verbalize to my students is: always attempt to create with scalability in mind. This helps with repurposing an Asset in a World within the Production Pipeline and helps to ensure design consistency. With that, even digital file folder-structures and organization play an important role when Modularity and Scalability reign supreme.

STEP 2:  Mood Boards and Reference Sheets.

Once the questions are asked, pulling Mood Boards and Reference Sheets together is the next step. This serves as a guide to the possible Art Directions that the AD will ‘Approve’ for production. The Mood Board allows me to see the artistic decisions of my students who are offering suggestions for the Mood. I like them to engage in conversations about how or why a Mood is being chosen. Is the Rock jagged? Is it in a hostile environment, or just a garden? Sometimes the World Builders or Designers might already have some of these settings established, but in the event it is not decided upon in a real-world Studio scenario, at least my students can participate in the artistic conversations that could occur (practice role-playing these dialogues). I like to see the creative thought process and imagination of my students during this Mood Board step.

The first set of images is a sample of a presented Mood Board pending AD Approval. The second set of images are selected and Approved Rock types with the AD’s notes.

Franco_Galletta_Mood_BoardFranco_Galletta_Mood_Board_Direction_Picked

Now that we’ve gone through the exercise of selecting the Moods, we move on to picking out the Reference Sheets. The Mood Board conversations go hand-in-hand with ensuring that my students are thinking of and using the most interesting silhouettes and shape forms, demonstrated through the usage of Reference Sheets. In many cases, reference gathering entails Google searches, which can absolutely suffice and is often the quickest method of reference gathering. But, I ask them to be aware that many other people could have used or referred to the same online references, which can lead artists to make similar, unintentional interpretations. And even in other instances, artists could look at other artists’ completed work, which has already been interpreted by the artist himself, and that can lead to indirect plagiarism. Therefore, I personally recommend that when possible, going outside and seeing real life in person is always ideal. Take Pictures!

For instance… here are a few photos from Lost River in New Hampshire that I took for a particular project I was working on. I went ahead to gather real-world reference myself. The rocks were formed thousands of years ago when the Glaciers were melting. If you take a closer, live look at them, it sparks the imagination and leads the viewer to imagine that these could be ancient, monolithic structures. When you gather the real-world reference yourself, it really becomes an experience and a memory that is Your Own. And, through that, you can share something completely original and fresh as you use something like this as a starting point for interpretation through your own creative mind’s eye.

  Franco_Galletta_RealWorld_3   Franco_Galletta_RealWorld_2   Franco_Galletta_RealWorld

I stress that when a single asset is created with Modularity in mind, it should look different from every angle, and it’s priceless to be able to see for yourself just how different a Rock could look from a multitude of vantage points in nature. Therefore, when creating the Rock asset, I have my students think about how a Rock might look when rotated, enlarged or shrunken, placed on its side, or even placed into a replicated cluster of a rock formation.

Below is a sample of placing the images gathered into a Reference Sheet to utilize for the Sculpting process. It’s best to keep all the collected reference images into 1 sheet (i.e. – 2000 x 2000 pixels). This is helpful for zooming in and out when looking at the image. And, another best practice is to grab the highest resolution of the image to ensure that there is no degregation of the quality when zooming in. These images can also be placed directly onto ZBrush canvas, utilizing Spotlight.  

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STEP 3: Getting into Sculpting.

In my next post, I’ll get more in depth into the actual Sculpting process of the Rock asset and what we get for some results in ZBrush. Just from a simple object, I’ll illustrate what my students learn from not only a technical standpoint but also an artistic standpoint within Sculpting.

But before I close out for now, here is something that I think is a nice example of how real life inspiration captured by photography is translated by the artist and what actual, final output made it into the Game. This proves how important reference truly is, from seeing something (tangible or ideally, live, with your own eyes), to taking your own photography, and then interpreting what you see for artistic creation……

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With all that is highlighted above, these steps set the stage for moving forward with a smooth transition to the Creative process of Sculpting with a clear vision in mind. I can’t stress enough how important and significant this step of the process really is, which helps facilitate the dialogues between the  Artist and his teammates. Most importantly, it helps facilitate clear and concise communication about the artistic decisions to the AD.

For now, stay tuned for the next post! I’ll be diving into ZBrush for this Rock Assignment!

Sharing My Thoughts on Teaching and Mentoring

Franco_Galletta_FoundationI’ve been teaching Intro to Digital Sculpting with ZBrush at the College level for some time, and it’s led me to really think about how I can be most effective in mentoring my students. What I hope for them to come away with is key foundational knowledge that is necessary so they can continue to build upon and grow.

The students that I’ve had join my class have a great passion for video games and animation and are highly enthusiastic about getting into the Industry. Some of them have not had any exposure to the craft, while others have tinkered with various industry softwares in some ways. More often than not, they are all eager to run before they have learned to crawl! But the main takeaway I teach is just how important it really is to establish solid footing so that they can eventually get to the point of springing off and running.

Software is highly technical, but there is still an artistry involved that goes beyond the technicality. I’m not sure how much conversation takes place about mentoring fledgling artists or teaching students the Artistry of the craft, but it’s important to demonstrate that there is a technical perspective (software) and an interpersonal perspective (working with people and communicating ideas) that should always be considered. There are many moving pieces in this industry, and I feel strongly about how these notions should be continually reiterated as I guide my students through the lesson plans. Having been in this industry for well over a decade and some years, I’ve seen and experienced first-hand how many variances there are from Studio to Studio in terms of their ways of working, art styles, managing styles, etc.

What I’ve set up for my class is an outline of a full-cycle through the production pipeline of varying projects that range and progress in complexity. Each project allows my students to build a solid foundation and muscle memory that they will re-apply as we progress in the lessons to the more complex assignments. To illustrate, I start with a Rock Project, then a Tree Stump, and then finally a Character Bust (Or, they can choose just to do a face cap). It allows them to go through the exercises of inorganic/hard surface sculpting (i.e. – rock), and more organic shapes (i.e. – tree), to full organic shapes (i.e. – character bust). These exercises include tools and processes that are constants that allow them to focus on the artistry of creating the pieces, rather than fighting with the technical aspects, of which ZBrush is quite a robust tool.

I’ll be sharing the process through a series of blog posts. Stay tuned, as I’ll be posting very soon just some of the things I communicate and share with my students as I walk them through their very First Project: The Rock Assignment.

Influential Artists

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I was recently asked as to which three artists have influenced me the most throughout the years. As you know, that kind of stuff can be hard to really narrow down to a curtailed list! Each artist is influenced by many other artists. There are too many to name them all, especially when thinking about an ‘artist’ outside of the traditional sense. These days, art can be realized through many mediums (whether it’s an athlete, a writer, or a mathematician). But I guess that would be a separate topic for discussion. nevertheless, I responded to that initial question naming the top three artist that stand out to me the most at this time: Camille Pissaro (impressionism), Frank Frazetta (fantasy art), and Zack Petroc (digital art).

Camille Pissaro:
I’ve always gravitated to Camille Pissaro’s art style of impressionism, which was revolutionary for its time, where he captures the ‘glimpse’ of nature in bold colors, yet simultaneously paints the simplest scenes, capturing a seemingly grand moment of time. What makes him stand out in my mind is his mastery of impressionism, but willingness to also transition into neo-impressionism and adapt with the changing artistic movement. Adaptability to various styles of art and constant evolution with technology is something I believe is important to all of us in the industry.

Frank Frazetta:
Frank Frazetta was an artist that captured action poses in a way that made it seem as though the characters themselves were ripping through the canvas. Every character he depicts, whether male or female, are equal in strength, evoking emotion, thought, and the viewer to wonder how the scene might play out. Growing up, his name was echoed in my neighborhood of Brooklyn as the kid that made it. I’ve always looked up to him as a fellow Brooklynite, a fellow gearhead, fellow comic book lover, and the cameraderie that he and his group of artists friends had was about encouraging one another to be better.

Zack Petroc:
I worked with Zack Petroc when we were both invited to do consulting work with Hasbro. I was already familiar with Zack’s art at the time, as he was leading anatomy workshops. His immense knowledge of human anatomy and consistent contributions to the art community with his digital workshops is inspirational. While working with Zack, we developed a great working relationship and a personal friendship. We’ve continued to be good friends, sharing our works and thoughts with one another.

Giving Back

I really enjoy watching the various TED Talks that are released to public. The concept of “Ideas Worth Sharing” that TED stands for is awe inspiring. I came upon this particular video of Rodney Mullen giving a talk to USC about innovation demonstrated by his years of experience and passion of skateboarding.

It’s interesting to reflect upon how different each of our paths may be but empowering to know that we all have common threads. By juxtaposing skateboarding and digital art I find the common string of creation and innovation is not so obscure.

I’ve always believed that working together is conducive to innovation. There are unlimited possibilities for us to interpret from what already exists, make it our own, make it better, make it different, and then give it back so we can together benefit from the contributions. As a result, the cycle repeats and continually evolves. Hearing this TED talk by Rodney Mullen has reinforced my beliefs and further inspired me to continue doing more and contributing more.

Therefore, as I had done in the past, I plan to give back to the artist community by sharing my workflow, art, and any tools that I use and/or create. With an onward march, I plan to use this new blog to do just that. And, in the meantime, feel free to check out my portfolio website of my works: www.francosg.com.