Begin Sculpting Phase


I spent a little time in ZBrush this weekend to get a simple base mesh fleshed out.  From here, I’ll be importing the base into Maya to work on bit by bit.  This base is really only to serve as a guide, since the final version will be made of several little pieces.  Not concerned about the details (like fingers or muscles), I just want to get the basic proportions down to have something to work with.

In the past, I would’ve probably done an isometric drawing to work from directly in Maya, but I’ve found that takes a lot more time and probably isn’t quite as accurate.  This way feels much quicker and intuitive.  While I have had some experience working in ZBrush, I’m far more familiar with Maya.  I haven’t had much opportunity to use the two together on a single project, but I’m definitely seeing the benefit in being fluent with both.  The next step will be to get the first pass at a skeleton set up with all the joints in place.  From there I can build out to the bigger pieces.


End Concept Phase

The concept work is done (for now)!  I’ll be getting these printed and hung on my wall later this week to start a mood board.  Sometimes just little things like that can help keep me on track with a project or get me in the mood to work.  I might have spent a little too much time working on the layouts for these boards, but considering these will be hanging on my wall for the rest of the year, I think it was worth it.

On the final model, I’m hoping to make all the moving parts shown here actually work.  I really want to incorporate the helmet-opening feature, the weapon holsters and arm blades.  I’ve also got a few sketches for how all the joints will fit together that I haven’t published yet.  I’m going to try to do something a little better than the standard ball-and-socket or hinge joints on most figures.  Concept sketches for that stuff will probably show up from time to time.

Moving forward, I plan to get started modeling this week.  I’d like to try to stay on a regular schedule with the updates.  I think I’ll be setting up a calendar this week as well to keep my progress on track.  We’re just getting to the heart of this thing!


Finalizing a concept


I’ve been spending the last month doing the concept work for this project, and it’s almost finished.  I’m just finalizing the rest of it, but in the mean time, I wanted to post the main concept.  The rest should be coming later this week.

Looking back at my earlier concepts, I do feel this is the one I’m most satisfied with (as one would hope).  I incorporated several aspects from earlier designs that I felt were working while trying to refine everything else.  In the beginning, I was trying to start from scratch too much.  I quickly realized I had already done a lot of the footwork for this design with my previous concepts, and it didn’t make sense to throw everything out.

This design has actually been about 90% finished for a few weeks, but there were a few parts that weren’t working, like the arms and legs.  I usually find that taking a break for a little while and coming back later to play with different ideas is the best way to get some fresh perspective on it.  In the past, a lot of my designs would turn out just ‘good enough.’  There would usually be aspects about them that bothered me, but I’d be too lazy to fix.  Instead, I decided that if there was any part of a design I wasn’t excited about or felt like it didn’t fit, it deserved special attention until I got it right.  For the longest time, the arms and legs weren’t working for me, so I kept trying things until I came to something I liked.  I had started getting a bit burned out on this for a while, which was expected, but I’m excited to push forward again.


Concept in progress

Not a whole lot to post yet, as I’m still in the process of getting all the concept work finished for this character.  I’m liking where it’s heading so far.  I thought the main concept was done about a week ago, but after coming back to it, I started making some changes that I think really helped.

Looking back through my sketchbooks, I started to see how much this project had been building up, even before I officially started working on it.  Just pages and pages of ideas, designs, diagrams and quick sketches.  So I’m not going into this thing with a blank canvas, and I’ve had a pretty good idea of what I wanted for a while.  But when you sit down to really flesh something like this out, you start to realize just how much you still haven’t figured out.  When doing the concept work, I feel like I tend to get the first 80% of the design done pretty quickly, and all my time after that is spent sorting out the smaller details.

When I was getting started with this whole thing, I scanned all the pages in my sketchbook that related to this project.  While not everything below was done as part of the Orchid Mantis project, it all contributed in some way, guiding me to the final design I’m working on now.  This collage is more or less a timeline of my ideas, with the newest on top and the very first sketches I did a few years ago at the bottom.  I always find it insightful to see the progression of ideas, and if you’re reading this, maybe you will too.



Over two years worth of ideas and exploration

Project Start


Ver. 1 – My first attempt at this character

The Orchid Mantis Project is something I’ve been wanting to tackle for a while, and I decided to finally give it a go.  This whole thing started as a one-off character from my sketchbook a few years ago that has grown into something more.  When I originally designed her, I was still learning a photoshop and digital painting techniques, so it was mostly to gain some practice.

While at San Diego Comic Con that year, I had a portfolio review from some of the professionals there.  They looked over it and gave me some good advice on changes I could make to the character.  After coming back home, I wanted to take another shot at it.


Ver. 2 – Redesigned after some feedback





Version 2 was more satisfying to me, and I learned a lot while working on it.  During my senior year in college, I decided to make this character part of my thesis project.  After a some further sketching, I wanted to do another version to fit the overall project, and push the insect features further.


Ver.3 – Pushing the Mantis features





After the 3rd version, I was satisfied with the direction it was going.  At the same time, I started getting into some 3D printing projects.  One project I really wanted to tackle was making an action figure.  I figured why not make one of this character I’ve been working on?  Once again, I wanted to redesign it, this time to work as an articulated figure.


Ver. 4 – Adding in some physical function





Since it was going to be a figure, I thought it would be cool to try to work in some little features, like making the helmet open, or giving it some small transformative features.  I’m writing this blog as a way to keep myself accountable to this project and keep a log of my progress.  Hopefully it can also serve as a guide to anyone else interested in doing something like this.

I’ve given myself a year to finish this thing.  Here in January, I am working on some new concepts and breakdowns for the figure (officially Version 5).  By March, I want to be modeling in 3D, and start some prototyping by May.  I’m looking forward to where this journey takes me.