In this interview we talk with Jesse Amiel D. Gayanilo, the 1st place winner of the CG Boost Snow Creature Challenge from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines. He will give us some insights of his journey as CG Artist and a look behind the scenes of his winning artwork.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
Hi, I’m Jesse Gayanilo, currently an Engineering Student at Ateneo de Cagayan, in the Philippines.
2. Tell us more about your creative path: How did you get to the point you are now?
I have been drawing since I can remember. As a kid, I always draw, trace, and copy characters, animals, and insects from movies I watch, and books and magazines I read, all for fun.
During my adolescence, I was introduced to the internet and was awed by different artworks, especially Photorealistic paintings, drawings, and Anamorphic drawings, and tried imitating them, and of course I always fail because they were too advanced for me, but I still tried.
Around high school, I was introduced to Blender 2.74 while searching for softwares used in 3d animated movies. Then I started watching YouTube about Blender basics. Around this time, I started joining online competitions (BlenderGuru competitions and Weekly CG Challenges) and learned Blender at the same time.
Over the years, I saw lots of awesome Character Art on the internet and at the start of my College years, I wanted to learn how to create one too. I looked at some artists in Artstation and saw that some of them are Art Students. So I wanted to learn Art like how Art Students learn it.
I searched online for Art schools, maybe they have a curriculum that I can see, and I found Gnomon Art School has a curriculum on their website. Then I used their curriculum as a guide for me to study subjects in the correct order.
Even though I already have a long experience in drawing, I wanted to go back and study the most basic and fundamental drawing skills and practice in the traditional medium. I realized why I failed drawing Photorealistic drawings in the past because I was too focused on the advance technique instead of the fundamentals.
So for a few months, I studied and learned from YouTube videos about fundamental drawing skills like drawing different kinds of lines (importance of line quality), drawing squares, circles, ovals, and then drawing spheres, cubes (perspective), and cylinders, etc. Repeatedly drawing with a pencil and paper ~50 to 100 circles or cubes with various shapes and sizes a day.
It was boring and a chore, but it was a chance for me to improve my skills in drawing the simplest shapes yet fundamental in creating even the most complex artworks.
Then I studied Gesture Drawing. It was also a very important fundamental subject for me in drawing humans because I learned how to break down the complex human body into simpler shapes, ignore unnecessary details and focus on the gesture, or flow, or the “feel”, generally the bigger shapes where the details sit.
Now, I am studying Anatomy.
3. What was your main motivation for participating in the challenge?
My motivation for any challenge is to test my skills.
If I lose, for me, it means that I still lack some skill, and I still have to improve.
I take any criticism from other people to point out my weaknesses that I couldn’t see on my own, or compare my artwork to the winner’s artwork and see what I think I lack, and work on those weaknesses. And when I feel confident, I try to join again.
Also when comparing making an artwork for personal projects, and making an artwork for a Challenge, the latter has a real deadline and competition, which encourages me to really do my best to create the best artwork I can create before a deadline.
4. Where did you find the inspiration for your latest entry, and what inspires your work every day?
At first, I wanted to create some sort of Eldritch Horror Wolf or Hound in a Dead Winter setting.
I really like the idea, but after sculpting it, I couldn’t draw a basic gesture of the wolf, which I think is very important in making its pose feel natural and dynamic, and also important for the composition of the scene.
I think it’s because I haven’t studied enough gesture of wolves or any animal. Plus I still have to model a large environment for the wolf! The deadline is very near, I felt discouraged to continue.
I went to Artstation for some inspiration and found Nikita Veprikov’s artworks. It looks simple and not simple at the same time.
I then went to YouTube to watch some videos on sculpting stylized human characters, then I found one of Follygon’s videos of a breakdown on how he sculpted one of his artworks. I was inspired by the pose of the character in his artwork because it felt so chill and relaxed.
Both of these inspired me to create a new artwork.
I decided to create a less demanding scene, something smaller with fewer elements, a Snow Fairy, chilling on a leaf.
With this, I only have to model a few objects. I also chose a Snow Fairy because it is humanoid, which is a subject I’m more familiar with.
5. What software (and plug-ins) did you use to create this image? Are there some other tools that make your life as artist easier (maybe not only CG tools but also something you used to organize your work etc.)?
6. Are there any particular techniques that you use often? Can you give us a short breakdown of your entry?
In creating characters, I prioritize the gesture or the big shapes because it is the foundation for the anatomical details that sit on it.
Generally when creating something, I always start from the biggest form to the smallest details.
7. Can you give us a short breakdown of your entry?
First I sketched the pose for the character from reference. I sketched it twice so that I can refine any mistakes that I made in the first sketch.
I learned from one of Follygon’s videos that I can sculpt the character posing already and not from T-pose, which means I don’t have to rig it anymore, saves me some time.
Next I modeled the basic shapes and gesture of the pose in Blender using primitives and vertices with skin and subdiv modifiers.
Then I sculpted the anatomical details with small resolution, maybe around 10, and constant detail.
I always start with small resolution when sculpting big shapes to avoid unnecessary details.
My general process in sculpting is to start from the biggest shapes and forms, then to smaller details. Start with a small resolution then gradually increase it as I sculpt smaller details. I also sculpted some parts separately for more control.
Then I exported the sculpture to Instant meshes to retopologize it to a cleaner mesh, then imported it back to Blender.
Then I blocked out the rest of the scene. I started exploring how to create the muscles, tried adding the muscles using planes with solidify and subdivide modifiers.
Her dreadlocks were made using hair particles, which I then converted into curves so that I can twist each strand and create a custom bevel profile to it.
I noticed that some muscles, particularly the thick muscles like the shoulder, look flat.
So I decided to replace it with a round cube object and sculpted it into a shoulder muscle, no Dyntopo, just grab brush and some inflate/deflate brush.
Then with this way, I started adding the other details, like the muscles, tendons, hands, and bony landmarks. They are all just simple primitives (cubes, rounded cubes, etc.) sculpted mostly with grab and inflate/deflate brushes and no Dyntopo, and then a subdiv modifier to make it smoother.
The thinner muscles, like the lats and the traps, are made with planes, with shrinkwrap, solidify, and subdiv modifiers.
Also, I added these muscle details only on the parts seen by the viewer to save some time. I didn’t even have to sculpt her mouth.
Then I added some details to the leaf, to the twig, and the frosts as a simple particle system. Then added some basic shaders, just Principled shaders with simple textures.
The frosts were challenging, I tried to model a realistic and detailed frost with a photorealistic material for it, but I decided to just use a low poly crystal-like object as a particle instance with a single Principled shader because making it photorealistic and too detailed would make it out of place from the whole image.
Throughout the process, I give importance on the fundamental stuff or foundation of the artwork like the big shapes, 3D forms, lighting, gesture, and composition, keeping it stylized, and not too photorealistic.
8. What was the hardest part on creating your entry?
Probably the hardest part was before I decided to make a new artwork from scratch.
It was difficult for me because I have already spent some work and time on it, it was almost impossible to let go. But afterwards, it felt enjoyable, almost like a relief or release because I liked the new concept better.
Here is my progress with the hound, which I then discarded.
9. Have you learned something new from participating in this challenge and if yes, what?
I was able to further hone my skills in creating 3D stylized humanoid characters, which I haven’t really created a lot before.
10. Any advice for people who want to learn 3D art or join challenges like this?
I suggest people who want to learn 3D art, especially those who want to create 3D characters, to learn gesture drawing or figure drawing first before learning anatomy. If gesture drawing is difficult for them, then I suggest learning fundamental drawing skills before learning gesture drawing.
Generally when I want to learn and try to master a skill, I prefer starting from the very basics and fundamental and work my way up so that I will cover every important skill and not miss anything, just like how Engineers start from basic 1+1 math as a toddler in elementary school.
11. Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?
11. Any good books, podcasts, YouTube channels or other useful / inspirational content you can recommend to other aspiring artists?
Corridor Crew on YouTube, they do fun reactions to movie VFX while giving some useful insights, and they do fun CG challenges with each other.