Born from a Dream  with the hands on destiny

Born from a Dream with the hands on destiny

Jennifer Weber
by willowandoz on 25 May 2021 for Rookie Awards 2021

Hey my name is Jenny and I want to show you my little CGI family. Each member has a special place in my heart and helped me continue my journey to become a character artist. Get ready to meet Andy, Emily, James and Stanley!

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Legion of the Black - Andy Biersack as “The Prophet”

This man and this band means a lot to me, so I thought it was time to honor them and the record I feel most attached and related to. this model is based on Andy Biersack from Black Veil Brides. The style of clothes and hair orientate on the 3rd record of the band. For references, I had a whole movie to capture from and lots of pictures with clothes, style, and mood to get in the right direction. The final reference pictures I used (for pose and scene rendering) came from Pinterest.

In this project, I modeled, shaded, rigged, lighted, and rendered everything myself. For the stylized concepts of Andy Biersack, I had the help of my friend Annika.

Software: Maya, ZBrush, Substance Designer, Arnold, Photoshop.

Concepts: Annika Schwiderski (

Close-up  on Clothes

I found out the vocalist designed these unique pieces of clothes himself. It made the research a pretty tough one, but I found a couple of pictures that helped me transfer it into this kind of art style. Even during the modeling process, I found new images and more information about the clothes and jewelry. This one-sleeved Jacket, with a sewed glove to the sleeve, safety -pins as assessors, and other specific details took a long time to get right.

Close-ups on Tattoos

The rough part of this, besides the messy hair, was Andy's inked body. Which of the tattoos were on his body at this time, and which of them weren't. This meant doing some more research to figure that out. I was glad to have the legion of the black movie, tons of fan pictures, and photoshoots to capture every slight angle and put it into Photoshop to stitch them all together.


I can say I’m pretty glad this man is a walking expression. His moods are apparent to read, and I recreated them as close as I possibly could. I  also exaggerated them a bit to get more appeal into the stylized version.

Rigging Process

Because of my classes in university, I always start with a t-pose in modeling. I have aspirations to myself to create a character who could walk and talk if he or she wants to. I love this process from starting with the first square and finally moving polygons around for facial variety. I love to see the character come alive. Andy got the highest number of blend shapes I ever made, a standard human IK rig out of Maya, and this aim controller for the eyes. 

The Scene, Lighting and LookDev

For me, as a character artist, it was always kind of essential to set the character in a natural environment. That's why I decided to recreate the black and white reference, even before I found my final beauty shot pose.

I started by modeling the environment, and I got pretty obsessed with it. I wanted it to be exactly like the one from the reference. So when I started to place the props in the scene, I also set a render cam, captured a screenshot out of the viewport, and tried to match them in Photoshop. Maybe it's not the fastest way to get on track, but it worked for me pretty well. I got a feeling for distance and placements through this process. In the end, I realized, because my Andy was somewhat stylized and even his anatomic shape worked for him, I had to move the room a bit downward to get the correct ratio between my Andy and his room.

I didn't have a BTS Video to capture the light placement, so I tried to analyze the "Legion of the Black" movie again to find out where the lights came from and what kind of lights they could have used to get the right mood.


After I rendered a clear image with z-depth, I imported it all into Photoshop to match the render with the reference image.

I adjusted a few color filters, curves, and masks, according to the color scheme I created out of a colored reference. Subsequently, I used a noise filter to recreate the photo-ish look.

I also added some black & white adjustments and a slight vignette to adapt my render to the reference as close as possible.

Reference vs. Render

Character Breakdown

I decided early on to mix two styles I admire since I was a little girl. The style of Tim Burton and Walt Disney. I thought this could be an opportunity to create something new out of someone who already existed. Also, I thought this style would perfectly fit Andy and let him shine.

By now, I have got a good understanding of anatomy and shapes. So I analyzed this human being, and I knew I wanted sharp edges and a lanky and narrow shape. I had to exaggerate the jawline, cheeks, and body. Things I saw Burton did in "Corpse Bride" and "Nightmare before Christmas". And there I found my Burton Part. For the Disney one, I already had a style in mind. Dylan Ekren did a fantastic job with Hiro in "Big Hero 6".  I wanted Andy to look very young,  so it formed a picture in my head, of how he had to look like.

Because my drawing skills are not as good as I want them to be, I asked a friend of mine (Annika Schwiderski - picture on the top right) to draw me turnarounds in side and front view (t-posed). I used them to orientate on the vision in my head when I started modeling in Maya. But only in ZBrush, with the right brush, the idea and the result blended perfectly together. The hair was created in ZBrush with fiber mesh and became a nHair version in Maya.  

Inspirations & References

These pictures were collected from Google, Pinterest, Tumblr, Andy Biersack fan pages and the Black Veil Brides short film “Legion of the Black”.

Blonde Rebellion

Emily here was my first human being for a long time. She is often misplaced as a self-portrait but actually based on Taylor Momsen from "The Pretty Reckless." She is also one of my RPG characters.

My dear friend Annika drew me some concepts out of my reference board, and I was able to go through the whole character development process(modeling, sculpting, shading, rigging). I was glad I could use the Ibanez guitar of another friend of mine for one of the renders. With this prop, Emily was able to become the rock-ish girl she always was.

Software: Maya, ZBrush, Arnold, Photoshop 

Concepts : Annika Schwiderski (

Ibanez Guitar: Hermann Weber (

Rigging Process

The tricky part of rigging was the hair rig. I knew already nearly everything is rigable. I chose modeled hair instead of generated hair system hair to place joints in everyone  of her strands. It made the posing process later more flexible and much more accessible. The root hair was a parent constraint to the head joint. For facial expressions, I used blend shapes and an eye aim controller to move her eyes. 


by Annika Schwiderski

Inspirations & References

I knew Taylor as a musician way before I knew she was the little girl from “How the Grinch stole Christmas” or even before I watched “gossip girl.” I have admired her since then, but her role as Jenny Humphrey brought other opportunities into my life. I saw this little girl who grew up and became an independent woman. I guess I fell in love with that as well. I love the dresses she wore and her different hairstyles. 

So it was hard to decide which style would be the perfect one for my character. I finally chose to go with long and messy instead of straight and short hair, go with the bangs, the outfit on the bottom left, and the poses on the left corner. I knew I wanted a Disney-ish influence as well, but because she was my first human for a long time, and of course, I thought it fits the design a bit more, I went with modeled hair instead of fluffy hair system hair.

These pictures were collected from Google, Pinterest, Tumblr and gossip girl, and Taylor Momsen fan pages.

Victorian Toad

Next in line is James. He's a Scrooge kind of type. The project was among Disney's Thaddeus J. Toad inspired by Ebenezer Scrooge of Charles Dickens' - a Christmas carol.

This one was a solo project as well, and I was responsible for all departments (character development, environmental development, lights, particles, rendering, compositing).

Software: Maya, ZBrush, Mental Ray, Xgen


During research and the visions in my head, I found a couple of incredible vintage Victorian or steampunk-ish assets I wanted for my scene. With the fireplace tool stand, I wanted to show where James’ roots were and that he has a toad side, after all. For the fireplace, I tried to recreate the iron one on the reference, and the material represents his stubborn personality in some kind. The wooden table is just an inspiration, and I added a glass plate inside instead of a clear varnished mahogany top. These three props are just a brief of props you can find in the final scene.

Lighting and LookDev

In this scene are way more lights than I first expected. I orientated on a Vimeo video I knew to get a feeling for lighting and look dev. In the breakdown below, you can find 23 lights. 

Inspirations & References

For the primary model, I used different pictures of toads in front and side view. His clothes were inspired by the victorian century. For the environmental assets and the whole study room, I used different aspects you can find on the reference board. I wanted all to look warm, contrary to James' personality. I also used complementary colors of red and green in the whole room to reflect that. 

These pictures were collected from Google, Pinterest and Tumblr.

Nightmare on Ripper Street

And last but not least, say hello to this awful little raven called Stanley. He lost parts of his face because of an accident. The half-mask should help him see straight. He has kind of a ripper personality, but he just kills the evil ones.

I designed the character and his steampunk personality according to a clear picture in my head. That included modeling, sculpting, texturing, shading and rigging. The rig was created without pre-made rigging systems. I also rendered a few beauty shots, turnarounds and made a rig- demo.

For the base mesh references, I used a Funko Pop version of Diabolo from Disney's Sleeping Beauty and anatomy pictures of birds.

Software: Maya, ZBrush, Mudbox, Arnold

Rigging Process

This rig was different from all the others. I had to create every little joint and controller you can see in the demo below. During this process, I learned a lot about different versions of skinning. The part that caped me occupied the most was the wings. Not even the joints in every feather, but also the folding birds do. I had to understand how the anatomy works and what possibilities I had in Maya. I finally went with two different deformers to pinch and fold them the way ravens probably do. The video below is a short demonstration of the various controllers, and functionalities Stanley has earned during this process. 

Character Breakdown

I realized a bird species could be defined by its feather form and beak length. According to the reference, the beak seemed normal, but it seemed way too short on my model. I had to stretch it a bit out to give Stanley a more raven-ish look. In the beginning, he looks more like a sparrow instead of a raven. The half mask was kind of a phobia training. I’m scared of this kind of mask since I was a little girl, but I love steampunk, and I loved the idea of giving him this kind of influence. The Body feathers were sculpted first but recreated in Maya in a low poly version. For texturing, I used first ZBrush and then Mudbox. For rigging, I started with a whole plan of which joints I may need, studied bird anatomy, and found a middle course to get it done.

Inspirations and References

I went the stylized way with the help of the funky pop figure. The mask was a combination of the things you can see on the reference board and the things ZBrush insert brushes could do. I experimented a lot to get it really creepy and steampunk-ish enough. For colors, I used this color scheme and different brushes in Mudbox. The lower top hat inspires Stanley's hat.

These pictures were collected from Google, Pinterest and Tumblr.

Finally, I want to say: thanks a lot for stopping by and taking your time to look over my little boys and my girl. It was fun and an honor to create them and, in the end, share them with the world.

I also want to thank each, and everyone who encouraged me believed in me and helped me along the way. Special thanks go to my friends who taught me to live my dream and to Andy Biersack himself, who saw his stylized version during a virtual fan meet and who encouraged me with his impressed look and his kind words to finish the project right on time. 

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