Hi! This is my first time entering a FlippedNormals Challenge and I’m super excited.
Below is my entry: Ekim the Forest Guardian. The model caps out at 94,887 tris with two 4K UV Spaces. It was initially sculpted in Zbrush, Retopologized and finished in Maya, and ultimately rendered in Unreal Engine 4.
With having been cooped up at home for the majority of this challenge, I looked to nature for inspiration, much of which I got on my daily morning walks. Ekim, as a result, is meant to be a protector of the forest, a guardian with hidden magic abilities. He is built for battle and will fight if the forest is at stake.
Inspired by wood, orchid flowers, and butterflies, I played a lot with patterning and underlying colors in the textures of some of the armor. While creating this character, I envisioned him to be a guardian of the local woodlands near where I live in the Southern US, therefore while there are many variations of green and brown for trees and leaves, the vibrant color of the flower pattern and gold trim hint that this guardian has some royalty or flare to him. Some of the inspirations I looked into early on was military garb, therefore he has the aura of an old general with the shoulder pads and high collar.
Despite there being a lot of different beautiful flowers on my walks, the biggest challenge was color, and I went through various iterations before I had to step away from the texture for a few days and wind down. That was where inspiration struck, for when I sat down to watch a movie with a drink in my hand, I happened to set the drink down next to the window and look at how the light was playing with the color. This is also a reason why Ekim is named the way he is - because his color palette was inspired by Mike’s Hard Strawberry Lemonade and the bushes outside my house XD (you can see the picture I took of that moment in the Inspiration picture).
One thing I wanted to play around with was the idea of age and the body. In nature, age is often reflected in trees in the form of tree rings or crevices. They keep their battle scars and often grow around them. I wanted to capture that idea in areas like Ekim’s face, which shows many battle scars and age while simultaneously not losing the human-likeness of some of his features. He is meant to be seen as wise because of what he has lived through, his eyes showing two sides of the same creature that has lived in these woods for centuries.
I separated my UVs out by what would be baked from the High Res Zbrush Sculpt and what I would model in Maya and enhance in Substance Painter. As a result, I was able to play around a bit with some areas like the petal skirt and cape more because of how much detail I had given the UV of that piece of the model. Likewise, I had the poly budget to play with leaf cards, so I took the liberty of adding that to the second UV set so that it would not impede with the bake of the first.
All in all, this challenge was extremely fun to do and let me stretch my legs in an area I’d been wanting to sink my teeth in to. I’ve included Ekim in my Sketchfab so that anyone that is interested can see him up close and personal.
Thanks again, FlippedNormals!
Link to WIP: [Warlock Challenge] – Ekim: Guardian of the Forest