Ted Lockwood talked about his distinctive stylized 3D sculpts, personal style, and some peculiarities of the sculpt prepared for printing.
80.lv: Could you talk a little bit about yourself and your journey into 3D?
I started playing with 3ds Max r2.5 in the late 1990s while I was in high school. I honestly don’t remember how I originally found it, but I imagine that being a gamer opened the door to 3D art for me. I taught myself the basics of 3D art for a few years, just as a hobby, and didn’t really consider following it as a career until around the time I graduated high school. I ended up attending Digipen (a video game programming and art school near Seattle) from 2002 through 2004, started doing free work on mods and indie games while working at 711, and eventually landed my first paid freelance gig a year or two later.
Since then, the bulk of my career has been freelancing and outsourcing, with a couple of failed game studio phases. Spending so much time freelancing helped to learn a huge range of art styles and workflows, and gave me a resume that probably looked a lot more impressive than what it really represented. Most of what I’ve worked on ended up being pretty forgettable, but some highlights include some prominent character work in Infamous 2, a ton of skins for League of Legends, and helping to develop the character art style for Gigantic.
I enjoy sculpting, painting and mural work in my free time, and have been really into graffiti art for a while. I think those interests have really helped me push my own art style and abilities, and the personal artwork I’ve done has definitely helped me land more interesting gigs I’ve been lucky to work on.
Developing the Personal Style
80.lv: What do you think is a trick to great sculpting in ZBrush?
In terms of what has helped me personally stand out, I think it mostly comes down to the art style exploration I’ve done in my free time. I spend a lot of time sculpting and painting weird stuff, pushing interesting shapes and colors, and trying things. Sometimes I find something cool, and it ends up in my portfolio. Aside from just being something I love to do, it demonstrates that I can make solid artistic decisions on my own, beyond just following someone else’s concept and style guide. Combined with the amount of production experience I’ve accumulated, this has helped me find some really cool projects with small teams specifically looking for self-motivated artists who can be trusted with more artistic freedom than is generally allowed on a game project. It’s not for everyone, and I wasn’t trying to engineer my career in this direction, but it’s definitely where I want to be.
80.lv: How important is the initial concept?
I prefer to work off a single, posed perspective concept. I’m not a big fan of orthos or turnarounds showing the character in T-pose. A posed concept gives a much better idea of the personality and vibe of the character, and in my experience, you usually end up with a less stiff-looking character that way.
A bit of Texturing & Stylized Projects
80.lv: What way were you working on texturing in the FillMe project?
The texturing of the FillMe characters is actually pretty basic: just solid colors and the renders are a few different lightings and material passes from ZBrush comped in Photoshop. The most fun part of working on these character has been the challenge of taking Max Grecke‘s stylized 2D images into 3D without losing the qualities that make them work so well. That’s one of the main reasons I tend to work mostly on the stylized side of the games industry – there’s a special creative challenge in translating the concept art to 3D that I don’t encounter much on more realistic projects. The first part is, of course, analyzing the 2D shapes and figuring out how to make them work in 3D, which is a great challenge on its own. The other half is even more fun for me, which is finding that special vibe that imbues the stylized 2D with its personality and appeal and bringing that to the 3D version along with the proportions and shapes.
80.lv: You have several beautiful examples of surrealistic sculptures. How were they born?
Most of these are sketches that I liked enough to finish. I spend a fair amount of time doing quick rough sketches in ZBrush and throw most of them away. They usually involve a lot of crazy unintuitive shapes and distortions, just to keep pushing myself outside of my artistic comfort zone. Sometimes I stumble into a design that grabs me, and I just have to keep exploring it, and if I’m lucky and good enough, something cool and portfolio-worthy comes out at the end.
Lighting the Characters
80.lv: What’s the way that you usually light your characters?
Lighting is something I’ve only recently started to study because I focused on form and color for so long. Most of the sculpts in my portfolio are very simple comps made from ZBrush renders. In the last few models, I’ve tried to pick specific lighting and surface targets to achieve in my renders, and I think it’s really helped. Imagine if painters didn’t do anything special with light, seems crazy right? But that’s what I was doing with my sculpts.
A Sculpt for Printing: What’s the Difference?
80.lv: Does your approach change in any way when you actually do a figurine that’s going to be printed? Is the approach any different?
There are a few differences, but most of those happen in the concept/design phase. Mainly, the sculpt shouldn’t have too many weird cavities, and you don’t want any long thin elements that could break easily during printing, casting or transport. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a team that includes people who are much better than me at prepping ZBrush sculpts to be printed, so most of that work hasn’t been on my plate.
80.lv: Do you add a lot of post effects? What would you say are the most effective ways to highlight the strong points of the project?
I used to fool around more with weird post stuff, but mostly that was in Photoshop. I’ve only recently really started to dig into bringing my sculpts into proper renderers like Marmoset and Keyshot. My work focuses mostly on interesting shapes and color choices, so generally, I try to keep my post effects limited to things like backlight, depth of field and modest color grading.
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