Category Archives: Art

Praying Mantis

I started doing Wah Lum Tam Tui Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu in 2008. I have really enjoyed all that it has to offer from the look into the Chinese culture to the body and mind draining workouts. (Kung Fu – basically means hard work)
So after getting back to modeling again and working on JB and Buddy the manatees, I wanted to create a mantis character that I could animate doing some Kung Fu.
Plus the school has produced a movie on the life of Grandmaster Pui Chan  which has helped motivate me to get back to work on my portfolio.

Final Thoughts Version 1

So this was a good attempt initially but is lacking in several areas.
But I haven’t given up yet. At this point I actually jumped and started working on Buddy.
Also as an added benefit we had a animation/rigger start at work so I got to pick her brain on rigging etc.
She has done some real world work and also been through fullsails animation program.

So the rig I end up using with buddy and later on with JB is much improved. Not to mention I get to write expressions, utility code and even a plugin in the process of building his rig.

The upcoming posts will continue with Version 2 of JB, or you can jump over and check out some of the work on Buddy the Manatee.


So here is more detailed basic turntable animation just using a flat global illumination etc lighting of the more detailed sculpt I did.

In this video you can see some of the flaws in the original poly topology. I believe I manually fixed the nose at this point but the tail is still screwed up.
Not to mention the random dimple I accidentally gave him at some point.

Initial Animation Eating

Manatees have lots of dexterity in there gums and lips and use them almost like hands to guide food and other objects into their mouths.
So the rig has to support this ability.

It actually doesn’t look to bad.

Initial Animations Swiming

With the model and rig from the previous post I did some basic animation tests to test out the weighting and bone layout.

Here are a couple of swim tests.

You can really see where the rig really comes up short.

Initial Character Creation

When starting this character I knew that I wanted it to be as detailed as possible. I have played with modeling other organic objects in maya before using polygons, and sub d surfaces but never could get what I wanted.

Starting with human heads was probably an overly ambitious starting point. And so I figured that maybe thats just as good of an artist that I can be.

Which is ok, because I am really more interested and much better at the technical side of the art process. Ill let the artists make it look pretty, ill just make it easier for them to do what they do best.

But at work our artist was showing me some of his stuff he created in ZBrush so I decided to give it a try and I can say I really like it. I no longer feel like such a bad artist :)


I started initally with doing a rough polygon model of JB in maya using the basic polygon tools. The first model I had too much detail in the mesh and my edge structure wasn’t spaced very evenly.

I also started from a cylinder primitive which gave me headaches later on with the nose and tail caps.


I then added some detail in for his arms and jaw. I also split the model in half and just worked with one side, later mirroring it.


Here he is before I send him to zbrush.


And here his is after an initial sculpt in zbrush.


He looks ok, but just not manatee enough.

After getting feedback from my Dad and some other reference images he is starting to look much more manatee like.


Here you can see the initial bone structure I built for him.


Some more zbrush work, I started to play with Mayas skinning tools to see how to best go about rigging a low res model and then connecting it to a higher res version.

I also believe I was told he was to skinny, so I gave him a little bit more pudge.


Here is a shot of the initial bone structure again, Not sure what i was thinking here but (spoiler alert ) it sucked.

His center of mass/root bone was all off not to mention the alignment etc was not very good.

Not sure why I thought his center of mass/root should be in the tail area. (orange-ish bones)


Here is a image from a more detailed sculpt that I did a turntable animation with.


I like the detail Zbrush allows you to paint in but my initial structures weren’t that great so at this sub div level I could get finer detail in the face but the body(belly) was still too large.

And I you know much about manatees, his eyes are really wrong :)


JB the Manatee

My father works for Save the Manatee club which works to protect manatees and their environment as well as the other animals that share that same environment.

You can find out more about them here

My dad would like to start creating some animated shorts and public service announcements featuring animated manatees.

This gave a me good reason to start fleshing out some of my 3d portfolio, so my first 3d character is JB the Manatee.

Having used 3ds Max and currently Maya I have tinkered and experimented with lots of aspects of the 3d pipeline but never really dedicated to taking a character through the full pipeline from creation, modeling, rigging animating etc.

Upcoming posts will show some of the progression of JB over the last serveral months.