Final Portfolio/Showreel Feedback & Chosen Disclipline

This afternoon I delivered my final portfolio to all members of staff present and was given my grade for it. Here are my thoughts on the whole submission.


A common mistake during the Christmas 2016 prep run for this was talking too long about your work and treading over ground the lecturers are well aware of. So I made the decision to edit everything into a reel, its a little long for a standard industry showreel but has to cover all aspects of the course and a years worth of best work from each module. So eight minutes isn’t bad. I themed it 1980s style and did all the title card work in After Effects for some extra spit and polish.

Feedback was immensely positive and the few bits of constructive feedback I received were as follows:

  1. Where I collaborated on a project, clearly state which aspects I was responsible for.
  2. For future reels, cross fade music track to music track without any pauses between audio. Gary compared this to an animation where it stops suddenly and is jarring to the viewer.
  3. When rendering animation cycles or anything with a ground plane in future make sure objects are actually touching the ground (my cycles were hovering and casting shadows making it really obvious).
  4. My font choice for the lower banner is a little bit unreadable (I was worried about this and seems I was correct). Thankfully an easy fix to make.

The fact those few points were the only things to be raised, I’m absolutely bloody thrilled! I was graded a Distinction for the portfolio. It has been a fantastic first year and has really woken up a side of me I’d considered long gone, as sentimental as this might be, a big thank you to all of the staff over the last year who made this possible. I’d buy you all a beer but rules don’t allow it, so catch me in another year!

Now after seeing some of the truly wondrous talent at Animex, I don’t personally feel like I’m anywhere near the level of talent I need to be despite the grades. So I have a long year ahead but more on that in a moment.

Chosen Disclipline

Being a mature student with some prior experience I already knew when I joined I wanted to focus on modelling and texturing. That isn’t to say I’ve not picked up new things I have an interest in over the year, I’ve really enjoyed my After Effects from the more motion graphic kind of work to compositing and matte painting. I don’t want to lose or ignore these new skills but will likely continue them as a sideline/hobby and continue to focus on modelling.

I’ve gotten to grips with Maya, had great success with Substance Painter and am looking to purchase ZBrush over the summer to include it into my workflow. I’ve also had some great texturing success using curvature maps and generators to weather and age models. Over the summer I plan to get much better use out of my paid for training materials (Pluralsight) and brush up further on all of these tools. Hopefully I should return for the synoptic project ready to produce something the industry would be proud of! My time left to succeed is limited so if I don’t kick it up a notch now, I’m only hurting myself.

Year One – Contents Summary


This is a post bringing together all of my submissions to allow teaching staff easy access for marking. I’ll categorise to each module.

3D Modelling

3D Room – Feedback Re-submission

Low Poly Project – Submission

High Poly Pirates – Wk 4&5(unfinished)

Concept Art

Robot Concept Brief -Developed Design

Dystopian Vehicle – Final


Animation Ident – Final

Break the Cycle – Animation Project Submission

(Optional Animation Post/VFX)

After Effects Rigging – Animation with Expressions (Pt.3)


VFX – Final Idea Pt.4

(Optional VFX Posts)

VFX – Skin Replace/Glow

VFX – Matte Painting

After Effects – All Star Credits (Pt.2)

Game Design

Analysis of Game Design Pt.1

Analysis of Game Design Pt.2

Analysis of Game Design Pt.3

The Maze Game

Xmas Game – Submission

Another Xmas Game – WIP

Programming (Yeah I know the grade isn’t based on posts but it keeps my mind organised)

Exam Prep – Individual Game (Pt.3)

Walking Sim – Unity Asset Creation

Walking Sim – Adding Scene Interactivity

Walking Sim – Polish & Peer Review


Global Game Jam 2017






Head Sculpt with Sculptris

Last week we sculpted with plasticine, this week back to the good old mouse for some digital sculpting. It has been a while since I’ve attempted this kind of thing seriously, we had a rushed head in Mudbox back in the start of the course but no further time was put into it. The exercise, same as last week, sculpt a head with total freedom but using Sculptris. Sculptris is Z-Brush light. It’s created by Pixologic too, and feels like a trimmed back demo version of Z-Brush.

There isn’t a huge amount of detail to go into today. Again I tried to round out the basic shape before adding detail, taking note of prominent bone structures and using those to guide the overall shape of the head. However after a few minutes I’d sunk my teeth into the flatten tool and decided to attempt something a little bit more stylised using harder edges.


I had some concerns going into this lesson regarding what the end result would be. Thankfully those were unfounded and if anything, proof that basic head construction knowledge transfers to all mediums. I did some cleanup on the mesh after getting home, mostly using the pinch tool to harden the edges in certain areas even more and a last pass of smoothing.


An important point I frequently remind myself to do, is always rotate the model after every edit. I can guarantee if you get too transfixed on one projection and only rotate 10-15 minutes later SOMETHING will be wrong. The idea of doing something like this in Maya or Max is still daunting and strikes fear into me, at some point its a bridge I’ll have to cross and I just need to remember the same basic shape principles and approach the task slowly.

Link to the model on Sketchfab

For a good laugh however, lets compare my very quick Mudbox attempt from the start of the year.


I’d like to think there has been some self improvement! Now to derail ever so slightly to introduce the thing all of this has been building up to.

Character Design Brief

I’m sure we all remember those moments of dread from childhood, when we thought something was behind us, watching us from afar. The monster under the bed we never see, the thing behind the curtains we never see. These are the kinds of moments we’ll be basing our concepts around, throwing away our adult common sense and re-imaging what those horrors could be.

This concept will run all the way from pencil sketches to 3D, sculpt, rigged and animated. Finally placed on a diorama for rendering. Alternatively if we feel our talents are stronger on the 2D side, the end result can also be a rigged 2D character.

Hopefully over the Easter break I can begin to generate ideas and start fleshing out the beginnings of whatever horror lurks behind every corner!




Pirate High Poly Wk.2

This will be a short update this week, mostly covering the finished concept and a normal mapping proposal. Continuing on from last week, I finished my sketching.

Office Lens 20170328-104820

Cramming everything onto the right hand side of the page I finalised the design and created a front, side and top view. After last week I knew I wanted to run with the skull legs design and use a ships hold door as the top of the table, this just needed fleshing out so I could figure out how all the parts fit together. I tried to include wooden braces where required along with brackets and turned two of the teeth on either side into small stabilising legs. I’ve built enough furniture over the years to keep the design fairly well grounded in terms of construction.

I added plenty of notes regarding materials, location of pieces and design tit-bits. For example I want the end of the planks on the top of the desk to have seen some heavy wear and damage. The issue with a table is it’s highly symmetrical and will need a lot of detailing to make it look interesting, I also plan to wear down some of the hard edges. As the top of the desk will be a much older chunk of wood it’ll require much heavier weathering than the base.

The other important part of the notes is the plan for my normal mapping. I had to figure out what details would require geometry and what would be faked. Having limited experience in doing this outside of the class exercise the other week, the plan had to be passed by Matt before it was approved. I had suggested the following as normal details:

  • Gaps between planks
  • Rivets/Screws
  • The skull on the side of the table
  • Surface scratches / gouges
  • Edge bevelling

All of these passed okay except doing the whole skull. It was suggested that I try and add some surface geometry or risk making the side of the table look too flat and boring. So my plan is to try and add geometry around the cheekbones and other prominent features of the skull (thanks to Tony for his concept lessons!).

So next week I’ll be importing my profile images into Maya and begin working on the low poly version.

Concept Art – Sculpting a Head

To cement our knowledge of how the human head is constructed, Tony had one last exercise for us. We would be putting down the pencils and wacom tablets in favour of a huge chuck of plasticine, we’d all be sculpting heads using all the reference gathered to date.

The whole process was rather relaxing, I must admit. To kick the process off I balled up all of my material and then tried to squeeze a neck out of it, then slowly taking small pieces of plasticine, moulded these into features and then smoothed them onto the existing surface. I cut away excess material where required (I brought some of my own tools used for miniatures) and slowly I began to shape up a face.


I didn’t attempt anything hyper realistic because that is adding levels of difficulty I wasn’t prepared to tackle in two hours, so I kept the proportions a little silly and cartoony. I almost feel like I made a small Easter Island head.


The hardest part was the eyes, I had started thinking more of the skull structure and therefore scooped out a lot and made deep sockets. Returning later and attempting to fill them in with eyes was a little difficult. The end result still looks rather sunken with a puffy eye in the middle, next time I need to remove less plasticine from the area and think about the muscle and flesh layers rather than the socket of the skull.


The jawline and overall neck shape I was rather pleased with. They all fit together quite well, flowing into each other without any obvious topology issues, even the ears worked despite their lack of detail. However from the side profile its obvious that the chin needed to be lower and a little less pronounced. I was going to discuss shaving down the size of the nose but y’know what, he may just have a big nose!



This exercise will be very valuable to us shortly when we start doing the same kinds of things in Mudbox, the theory is no different. The only bonus will be Mudbox won’t require me to go running around the college looking for soap!


High Poly Brief – Pirates

The end of the year is drawing near and we have been given one last modelling project to keep us occupied until then. We’ll be teaming up into larger teams of around 7-8, each creating a hero piece based around a theme. These pieces will then be combined to make a small high poly scene of exceptional detail.

Team leaders were picked (hi, thats me this time) and c0-workers were picked at random. I feel like the team assembled has a lot of potential and drive and look forward to the end results. To begin with we needed the following:

  • A theme
  • Mind Map based around the theme
  • Research images (group and individual)
  • An asset list to keep track of what everybody is doing

Right off the bat, Michael suggested pirates as a theme and nobody had any objection. I’d wanted to get away from doing something sci-fi for once and was pleased for the change of scenery. We refined the idea down to the captains quarters only, so we didn’t end up with a mis-matched collection of pirate ship parts that didn’t fit together.

Once group research was complete we all picked an idea from the mind map that would become our hero piece, initial concept sketches were drawn up and I’ll be choosing the final design from one of these. However first some catch up in image form.

Our final mind map with chosen hero assets highlighted.
The group mood board full of other captain’s quarters.


The asset list was discussed and divided into high priority hero asset jobs, for anyone that finished these ahead of time we also assigned medium and low priority objects that would also look great in the scene. No harm in planning extra.

My individual research into old ship tables and old tables in general.

It was difficult to find anything definitive when looking for old sailing ship tables/furniture, however I came across many examples of old desks that had been converted from ship hold doors and I am rather fond of the hand holds and steel braces that were never removed. It adds a lot of detail and character to an otherwise bland functional object. Otherwise I mostly went looking for variation in leg styles.

While I’m not finished drawing or settling on an idea yet, here are my sketches so far.

Office Lens 20170324-164836

I know I’d like to replicate the hold door for the desk top, it gives a lot of opportunity for weathering and having the shape a little more rough as the hunk of wood has seen service elsewhere before. Maybe battered by storms, chipped by great pirate battles etc etc. Therefore I mostly doodled leg designs looking for something interesting. Matt had demonstrated how to easily make the lathed legs using the revolve tool in Maya, however I don’t think they’d match the very practical/salvaged aspect of the rest of the desk. So I’m currently hovering between the heavy riveted look or the single leg carved like a skull idea, the skull details could be normal mapped in and give a custom look without being too ornate.

I’ll have to make a decision and finish this up soon as I also need finalised concept sketches, a front view, side view and 3/4 view to help with modelling.

Character Design – Head Composition

I mentioned in my previous research post that all the research into heads would culminate into a composition of sorts that arranges all your head sketches together into a single image. Due to the enemy of us all that is time, Tony removed the necessity for this bit of work in order to push the class forward onto the next part of the exercise. To that I say, nope! I already had an idea and I will see it through to the end, at the end of the day its for my benefit and no-one else.

After some musings on how to arrange heads without the rest of the body I came to the logical conclusion of severed heads, but how to arrange them? I started thinking Mayan/Aztec ritual, generic tribal rituals and finally landed on de-moralisation in tribal conflict with many heads mounted on pikes. The kind of thing you’d leave as a warning to the next set of would be attackers. I picked up a few Photoshop cheat brushes (in the shape of heads) to help me arrange this composition, eventually I’ll begin to work in over the top of this template and make the scene my own. For now though here is the current work in progress.


It’s rough and not everything has been arranged into the correct layering for depth yet but the core of it is there. I’d like to add a background once I’m further through production, just to ground the whole thing into the place/scene of a battle. This is actually the first time I’ve installed new brushes to Photoshop and I can see the uses already, some of the stray bits of hair were also a new pack of brushes.

I hope to return soon with updates!


As a bit of a play about/test I added a quick background using some battlefield photography from WW1. I think the final will definitely need a backdrop to make it pop!



Character Design – Further Research

This is something of an add on post to the previous research post into heads and construction. There were some new artists revealed to us by Tony that gave me a lot more clarity in regards to the direction of the assignment. I’ve also done some sketching and a bit of tracing for some general practice.


These came about due to something of a misunderstanding about the exercise, however I can’t complain, practice is practice. It had been quite a number of years (too many) since I’ve sat down and tried to draw a bunch of heads. Probably not since life drawing classes in Uni (so around 2005). You may never forget how to draw but you do get rusty at it.

I tried to use a few artist anatomy books that I have lying around and the “Figure it Out!” book I mentioned in the previous post. I’d say the page has a few worthwhile sketches and a few failures in terms of angle and proportion. As simple as the sketch is, I’m pleased with the getting the shape correct for the babies head.

Moving on, its time to mention the artists Tony recommended we look at.

Dave McKean

Dave’s name seemed familiar and after I had done a quick search online it struck me. He does a lot of art and book covers for the author Neil Gaiman, a lot of which is on my shelf. Most familiar to me are his front covers for the Sandman graphic novel series.

Before I throw up a few examples I’d like to explain and iron out the point of the exercise, which in turn informs the choices of Dave’s work I’ll refer to. Tony wants by the end of this multiple heads at different angles arranged on a page in some form of composition greater than the sum of its parts. So not several floating heads as above but something that ties all the heads together.

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Dave has a great talent for arranging heads into his compositions, sometimes for macabre interest and sometimes to get across a moral/political meaning. They’re quite frequently built out of other elements relating to the meaning behind the artwork.

Initially I thought most of his book covers were all paintings and while he does paint most of his work is digital composition, so likely multi layer compositions done in Photoshop with some painted elements.

I draw attention to the image of the man sitting down and peeling a variety of heads as if they were potatoes, I highlight this one in particular as this is exactly the kind of piece that Tony wants us to achieve by the end of the exercise.

Alex Pardee

I love being introduced to new talent and I may be considering finding some prints of Alex’s work. Its a blend of crazy, disgusting, colourful and packed full of life pop culture that talks to me on a level I immediately grasp! Finding his portfolio was a joy, so thank you Tony!

Much like Dave he has a fantastic ability for combining heads into other things, sometimes even other heads in fascinating grotesque ways that almost remind me of John Carpenters ‘The Thing’ (one of the greatest movies ever). There are plenty of great examples of mixing in imagined elements into heads which is a direction we can pursue for the exercise.

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I’m not actually sure what mediums Alex uses, I’d guess a lot of it is digital sketching/inking, possibly some Illustrator for the cleaner looking pieces however there seems to be some traditional pencil/ink work in there too.


Before I sign off this post I wanted to give worthwhile mention to the piece above. A brilliant horror icon composition from Alex which pieces together into a bigger head/skull. I absolutely love this and is further inspirational fuel for where I decide to go next.






Research -Head Construction & Photo References

Before half term, Tony tasked us with doing some research into heads, their construction and gathering reference photos and pictures. This was all a follow on from the ecorche drawing exercise to further understand how to break down the human head for the purposes of drawing.

Even as someone with a little bit of experience, its no easy task. I’ve seen character drawing books dedicate nearly a third of their content purely into head anatomy and construction tips, for any character a head will always be the main focal point.

Collected here I have tried to gather a mix of photographs (mostly celebrities), some other artists drawings and alternate construction sketches. Essentially anything that may lend a hand during the rest of this exercise.

Photo References

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I tried to take a mix of angles, some old, some new, some colour and some black and white. I love the Hugh Jackman angry face. When you get celebrity publicity shots they’re usually quite staged and dull, however that one gives some great reference for where the face creases, muscles moving etc. I should look for more of those in the future.

Construction Techniques

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I found a few examples of construction techniques from multiple angles which I thought may come in useful. Its always the more dramatic angles that tend to stump you. I also have a few books which may come in useful.

  • Figure It Out! Human Proportions – by Christopher Hart
  • Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist – by Stephen Rogers Peck

Others Work

I find looking at others work can sometimes be a little daunting for this kind of thing, it takes years of practice to see great results and you can occasionally forgot this surfing through pages upon pages of professional quality artwork examples. However its still an important part of the process and useful for inspiration.

I could come back with thousands of images of others work, but thankfully Tony had given us some direction of people he recommended we look at. First is the rather talented Ian McQue, Assistant Art Director for Rockstar North. Absolutely stunning stuff, now that I know of him I’ll continue to check out his work. He also does a lot of vehicle designs which I wish I’d known about during the last project.

I couldn’t find many of examples of his rough sketches, most of his work either seems to be inked. I would have said digitally but there are too many examples from his twitter of the dark line work directly from the pages of his sketchbooks. I love the detail he manages to achieve which isn’t lost at all during his inking process and the variation in his characters is vast.

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Finally here is a bunch of miscellaneous stuff I found on google and generally just liked the look of. I say that, most of it is actually Bruce Timm’s work. He worked on Batman Animated in the early 90s and also comic books. I love his style for being so simple with relatively few lines, it just demonstrates once you know the basics you don’t need a lot of detail to begin fleshing out a character. Sometimes his proportions can suffer some slight exaggeration but since it’s all for comic book it’s perfectly acceptable and normal. He also created Harley Quinn, so kudos there too!

While I can’t find any confirmation of this I’m sure they must have hand picked Bruce’s style for the show as it would transfer to cell animation without any great loss of detail or charm. He’s traditionally a pencil and marker pen kind of guy, you can see this in some of the pictures below, frequently sketching up characters purely in marker for fans at conventions. One day I hope I can at least come close to emulating his clean, simple designs.

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Character Design- Head Structure

Having recently wrapped up the dystopian vehicle project, it is time to move on to new pastures. Next on the agenda is an exercise in character design, but before we jump into it without preparation, Tony took us all through head construction. While we briefly covered this at the beginning of the course, that was more of an exercise in finding out peoples current ability. This time its for real!

By the end of this project we’ll have approached creating heads from three angles, observation, constructed (using shapes and guide lines) and freeform. We will use one of these methods or a combination to create our own unique designs.

We began by considering the major features and angle changes in the human skull, using the person beside us as a visual aid. The landmarks we ended up considering were large structures such as the frontal bone, cheek bones and the jaw line.


Before jumping into the next part of the exercise, the topic suddenly changed to model topology. It seemed like a jarring jump at first until all was explained. Tony demonstrated using this image:


If we understand muscle structure and how the face moves it will aid us when modelling. The model needs to deform while doing character animation and this can create geometrical nightmares if the topology doesn’t mirror muscle structure.

Therefore our exercise for the day was to take a photo of a head from the internet, open it in Photoshop and draw the musculature over the top. To help us with this Tony introduced us to ecorche, a French term for a painting or sculpture with skin removed to display the musculature. Seems pretty handy! Then it hit me where I’ve seen this word before, during the summer I took a trip to see the Body Works exhibit at the Life Centre in Newcastle.

The exhibit consisted of a plethora of preserved bodies (animal & human) using a process called plastination. Some specimens had nearly everything preserved with ecorche style cut aways, some were fully preserved cardiovascular systems and some were mere skeletons and major organs. Looking back I kind of wish I had paid more attention to the finer details as they would have been useful right about now.


Anyway back to the exercise at hand. I jumped onto google and pulled a front facing image of Mark Hamill, then got to work trying to place the muscle groups using reference.

I won’t get into the painting process as this isn’t the aim of the exercise. I tried my best where possible to match certain muscle groups and shapes up to Mark’s face. I started by defining where the eye sockets were using his brow and cheek bones, this gave me the first muscles to draw on and then used those as a reference to place more.


I have admitted before on this blog that I have a much harder time drawing anything biological than I do hard edged constructs. Maybe with some time spent further understanding the human framework I can address some of these weaknesses and come out of this project having conquered a personal wall.

Before the next session I need to gather photo references for a whole variety of heads in preparation for sketching our own.