Maarten Verhoeven is a prominent CG sculptor, character designer and VFX artist with a talent for bringing creatures, animals and characters to life. With his mastery of sculpting and lighting, he reveals the interest and intrigue of his subject. Here, he shares advice for character design and how he uses KeyShot in his work.
Modeling software used: ZBrush
What sparked your interest in sculpting and character design?
Movies! As a kid of the eighties I saw a ton of creature features and somehow most of those monsters found a place in my heart, being amazed through animatronics, stop motion and make up, I wanted to know how this was achieved and how these monstrosities could amuse or frighten me. So from a very early age I drew them all sitting in front of the VCR. I’ve drawn all my life so at a very early stage I knew I would eventually go in the direction of sculpting and creature design. The love for the weird is still big.
What was the turning point in your career? Or highlights or your career?
A turning point in my career was discovering ZBrush. I was working in a small post production company and I was looking for a way to do my artistic thing. I had an education in animation film and arts but wasn’t really going anywhere. So, while I was looking online, I saw an image and was amazed how it was created. This is how I found ZBrush–the moment I touched it a new world began. One year of playing with it and being addicted to it helped me give up my steady job and go freelance as a digital artist. From then on everything has been a wonderful experience trying to find my way in this new realm.
What would you say is unique about your approach to a project?
The unique thing about my approach to a project, lies is how I haven’t learned ZBrush or KeyShot from a person. I have read books and tutorials on my own, but having a background in classical arts, I have a certain feeling about what works visually and what doesn’t. Personally, I think it’s very important to have a good foundation in the history of art and design for succeeding in any project that I start. I always let a project grow when I work on it, but I have a certain focused goal in my mind. If the goal isn’t reached, I will destroy the work that I’ve created.
What is your primary 3D modeling software?
My primary software is ZBrush, I’ve discovered it six/seven years ago and fell in love with this program. For me as an artist, it’s the prefect extension. I started playing with 3D software around 2000 and I always found box/point modeling very clucky. Wacom tablets were not really as good as now and programs weren’t built for this also you needed a lot of technical background to make stuff look good. And because I came from a traditional education I really knew what I wanted to create but there was always a certain border/limitation that held me back in creating great models. So once I got my hands on ZBrush it felt as drawing and sculpting and the results really satisfied me as an artist.
Where in the process do you use KeyShot?
I use KeyShot almost all the time for creating presentation images for clients or myself. I like to create a lot of details on my sculpts and I love how KeyShot transfers all the high resolution data from the ZTools with Polypaint. Especially with the ZBrush to KeyShot Bridge connection, no more creating maps and setting up all the parameters. You see what you create and that’s what I like as an artist–being able to work fast. No one likes to stare at a blank screen and wait hours for an image.
What makes KeyShot an important tool to have?
Speed, real-time rendering and great materials are very important to me. When I’m creating art, I like to try some different things and see what works. With KeyShot, it’s so easy to try different light settings and materials; it’s just drag and drop. When you open it you’ll notice it’s so clear and easy to navigate.
In this day and age, it’s so important to be able to work fast. There is not a lot that holds you back as an artist to just create good looking images. KeyShot is the best tool in my workflow: instant gratification!
What advice would you give to someone interested in doing what you do?
If you want to design characters, drown yourself in good reference materials, art and study anatomy for characters and creatures. Try to find your strong points and exploit these, to make up for the stuff that you still are learning. Step out of you comfort zone from time to time, just to keep you mind and skills fresh. Do what you do and create your style, by being inspired by fellow artists that you admire. There’s no 3 step plan to get there find your way and do what you love as an artist.