Cheeky Little Rascal

My standard workflow exists out of the use of several apps. When making a model I use Blender for making a quick basic to start from, export that into ZBrush to start sculpting, ad the fine details and paint the whole thing. Then back to Blender to uv-unwrapping, back to Zbrush to fetch the displacement and diffuse map. Then again back to Blender to start working on the materials, possible hair or fur and lighting setup so I can render it as a final rendition.

It looks complicated and time consuming, but it works for me and it works fast.

But sometimes I want to try something else

Enter The Blenderguru Competition

Andrew Price form Blenderguru.com promotes using Blender as ones sole 3d application. On a regular base he sets out competitions so people can practice their Blender skills. The price, if you win, isn’t the primary incentive, at least for me it isn’t: Andrew mostly gives away his own products (and a lot of them I already have) and a sum of money to a charity of your choice.

I do participate from time to time. Most of the time because a subject appeals to me, sometimes because I want to practice on my blender skills.

This time I loved the theme of the competition: “make a character, anything goes as long as it is alive” and I had an idea right away.

Young Giraffe

As you might know from browsing through my website, I do love my animals and animal anatomy. It is my wish to some day model the complete anatomy of an amazing animal like a giraffe (or a Nile croc..). The first thing that popped into my head reading the competition page was a young giraffe.

Like most young animals young giraffes are playful, cute and, to be honest, little rascals.

So I started out making the base. It doesn’t look anything near the final result, but I made sure the main extremities were there.

Immediately after I started out sculpting away. And I have to admit: I liked the ease of sculpting in Blender once I got the hang of it.

Above you see the intermittent states of the giraffe. Young giraffes are like all young mammals: everything that makes them cute is larger than life. They got folds everywhere and their eyes are huge. So I first did all the sculpting to get that right.

The next thing to do was getting the model thus far that I would be able to add a diffuse texture on it. Since I sculpted it with ‘Dyntopo‘ on, I had a mesh that was to complex. so I needed to get it manageable again. First I used the ‘remesh‘ modifier, but that didn’t gave a mesh I was pleased with. So I made a second version of the model with a better topology.

I finally had that and then I uv-unwrapped the model so I could stick a texture on it. I then started painting the model as a giraffe. I anticipated that I didn’t need a very detailed texture because most of the details would come from this diffuse texture in combination with the fur I was planning.

Strike a pose

Next thing to do: giving the young giraffe a lifelike pose. I added a simple armature, enough to pose without too much distortion.

And then I send 4 different poses out into the world. The pose that was liked the most was the young giraffe drinking water, but the longer I looked at it, the less I liked it. I wanted an illustration that, like almost anything I make, has a character of its own. The young giraffe should be a “someone”, not a “something”.

So I ignored all the likes (sorry) and made a fifth pose: the young giraffe looking at the camera, one leg a little bit bent, as if it just saw us and wanted to find out who we are.

Since giraffes have an enormous tongue, the next thing was easy: I gave the rascal a tongue he could put into his nose.

Give me a fur coat, baby!

The basics done, now it was time to put on some substance. And boy did I know it! The first day I tried to render the giraffe with some fur, Blender crashed.

Every.

Single.

Time.

So I had to make a change in plans.

Since I used the multires modifier, I tried to see what happened if I applied it, set on a lower level, or even removed it altogether, but Blender kept crashing.

So I had to do jet another retopology (some minor description about it) . Since my model wasn’t symmetric anymore (I choose the pose, remember?), the retopology didn’t go symmetric either. It took me a while and since the model was purely meant to produce a 2d rendition, I didn’t go all out to get it symmetric.

Finally I had a model that had the right pose, all the folds where there again and it wasn’t too heavy to bother all too much with rendering it.

The images above are some of those renditions. After this I tweaked all the 12 fur systems, tweaked the material so that the fur looks realistic and groomed the hair. I think I worked more than 2 weeks on getting the fur the way I wanted.

The tongue was actually rather easy. I did sculpt it at first, similar to the rest of the young rascal, and later did a retopology on it. I love the fact that I was able to get such a realistic tongue material with a rather simple setup.

The Finale

As you might have noticed I uploaded a lot of WIPs (work in progress) on social media during the making of this. When I had the young giraffe in his final pose, I knew the fur was going to be good at the end (that took a lot) and the tongue and wet nose where as they should be, I thought there was something missing.

Giraffes are the largest living ruminants and they poop all day.

All day.

They don’t have large dung like bovines or rhino’s but small pelleted ones, almost similar to goats and sheep. It’s rather characteristic of giraffes, their crap.

So..

I added one little trick to an already little cheeky rascal: his poop. Steaming of course.

I like to put gimmicks into my renditions and this one I really like.

Funny enough I got a lot of negative comments on the poop. Remarkably all from 3d modelers, who thought it didn’t add anything to the image. Scientists, some of who are actually involved in giraffe research, loved it.

The poop stays. And I love it 😉

Here the final rendition, after a lot of tweaking an rendering, change of lighting (I used the Pro-lighting Studio from Blenderguru.com, which is great for these kind of things) and change of poses:

But what about the competition?

Ah, yes, the competition. I did enter. Last weekend I send in the above rendition and one without the poop. It is still a few weeks until the deadline and although I am of course curious what Andrew thinks of it, that wasn’t my main purpose.

I got a great idea in my head, my Blender skills have grown again and I love the final result.

And that was what it was all about!

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