It all starts with amazing concept art. This piece "Earth Elemental Sprite" created by Tim Von Rueden was just that. I was captivated every single time I looked at this incredible art. So when I decided to practice my skill at replicating rather than interpreting a character, I decided to contact Tim and see if I could get permission to transform his artwork into 3D.
This character was quite daunting to begin with. I had never done something so intricately detailed before, however, I needed to push myself to the next level. I determined to make this thing match perfectly.
I knew I didn't care about retopologizing or texturing this character. I wanted it to feel like a sculpture. I sculpted everything with Dynamic Topology.
It didn't start off so well though. The first 2 base mesh sculpts hardly matched the reference at all. I didn't even know if this 2D artwork could be matched correctly. I think it was the 4th base mesh/sculpt that finally seemed to be a decent match. I then added the rest of the body which was much easier to match.
Once the body was blocked in I focused on getting the head right. I started off on the left (her right) eye. I used a lot of the clay strips and crease brush. I would sketch in the form with the crease brush and then build it up with clay strips, finally smoothing or using the flatten brush to polish it.
The Bark was done using a similar technique. I would use the crease brush to etch in the crevices. After that sometimes I would mask it off and pull the bark up or I would use clay strips to raise the surface. Pinch, Inflate, and then flatten.
The foliage was definitely a challenge in and of itself. Rather than alpha map some planes or model some basic foliage that could be duplicated over and over again I decided I wanted this to all be one solid piece. This way I could more easily 3D print the character if I wanted to.
I blocked the basic form in like I had originally with the face. After that is was pretty much the same process. I mainly relied on clay strips to build up one side and carve out the other.
The final render was rendered in Blender's Cycles engine. I wanted it to look earthy like the original. I went with the default diffuse shader and a simple lighting setup so as to best mimic how an actual sculpture looks in real life.