`Meet Mat` is Back - The 3D Digital Painting Contest
David Kwahk Rookies Entry

David Kwahk Rookies Entry

David Kwahk
by davidkwahk on 25 May 2021 for Rookie Awards 2021

This is a collection of work I've done from July 2020 to now, May 2021, at Gnomon School of Visual Effects. I'm getting ready to graduate soon, with more projects on the way. Please enjoy!

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Kid and the Hyenas

I first saw this concept by Xiaoyu Huang on Artstation two or so years ago I believe, when I was just barely getting started with 3D. It has an impact that's hard to forget, but I never thought I'd ever do anything with it. After almost three grueling years we finally made it to the last two terms at Gnomon, and when it came time to pick a project to do for Demo Reel class, this piece popped into my head. It's strange looking at my final image and thinking back to where I was in my artistic journey when I first saw Xiaoyu's painting, and although whether I did the piece justice is debatable, it's been one of the most fulfilling projects I've ever got to work on.

After a couple projects I stopped trying to completely finish up my model before moving on to texturing because I always had to revisit the model anyway once I saw it with SSS. Once I had the general shapes done, I took him into Mari, did a fine displacement pass, and took him into Maya as soon as I could. This gives me a better understanding of what more I need to do to my sculpt and textures, and I make the changes accordingly. I'm always going back and forth between modeling, texturing, and look dev until the very end.

You can also see how different he looks in the first image. I posed the kid as soon as I could because I wanted to spend a lot of time on his expression, and it helped me visualize the scene better. Before the pose I was more focused on general anatomy and proportions, after the pose I got to give him a lot more character. I didn't want him to look scared, but I didn't want him to look too aggressive either. I wanted him to give off a sense of confidence, but I also wanted him to look cold and distant, almost bored, like this is a situation he's found and gotten himself out of countless times.

The bulk of the kid's textures were done in Mari, but for the dirt I used Substance Painter. I painted the dirt on a mask, which I then exported out and used as a mask in Maya rather than baking it directly into my textures. I used the vraylayeredtex nodes to combine my roughness/specular maps done in Mari with much lower gloss values in Maya. Doing it this way gave me a lot more control, and it was much faster to tweak in Maya than going back and forth between software.

The gun was modeled after a South African Musgrave 9mm pistol. The modeling was done entirely in Maya, textures in Substance Painter. Even though the gun is such a small part of the piece, I still tried to tell a story with the textures. Where is it more worn down and why, how old or new is it, where would the holder place his or her finger, etc.

My process for the shirt was make and sim it in Marvelous Designer, take it to Maya to sew the seams and give it thickness, Zbrush for cleanup, and Substance Painter for texturing. I also painted a map to plug into the opacity parameter in the shader in Maya so parts of the shirt was slightly see-through, as most dress shirts are. 

I feel like the hyenas were the weakest part of my project. I'd never done a groom of this scale before, and I totally underestimated how difficult it would be. Showing what the hyena looked like in the early stages is pretty embarrassing, but this project really helped me understand the grooming process a lot more. It was due to Tran Ma's guidance that it even got to where it did.

Tran and Miguel Ortega's weekly feedback and advice was an imperative part of this project. They always have an answer for every problem I encounter, not just for this project but many others. I couldn't have completed this project without them.

Common Snapping Turtle

This was a really fun project I did with Elliot Wenzel, also a Gnomon Student. Elliot was responsible for the turtle animation + rig. I was responsible for the turtle modeling/texturing/look dev, bridge photogrammetry, and cringey voice acting.

The only real camera equipment we had available was my Iphone 11, so I'm really proud of what we were able to achieve. Camera animation was done with an amazing Apple app called VirtuCamera. I used another app called CameraPixels to have more manual control over the camera for the bridge photos. The footsteps of the turtle were recorded by tapping my fingernails on my wood desk, and the hissing and snap were cut from a couple videos I found of real snapping turtles on Youtube, all of which I edited in FLStudio and Premiere so they all sounded like they were recorded together.

Just like the kid, I started look dev very early in the process. Even if I don't even have textures yet, it helps to see what parts of my model are getting washed out by SSS.

Bridge photogrammetry was done in Agisoft Metashape and cleaned up in Zbrush and Maya.

This project was so enlightening because it made me dabble in so much more than just modeling and texturing. I will definitely be messing with more animated shots for future projects. Also, the feeling of watching one of your models actually move and come to life for the first time is indescribable.


This project was based on a concept by Liang Mark. I haven't finished the entire concept, but I'm happy to call this piece done here. This was done for Tran Ma's Texturing & Shading 4 class at Gnomon. I followed all the processes previously mentioned to finish this piece, most of which I learned from Tran's class.


This project was done in Miguel Ortega's Look Development class. It was really fun designing this derpy creature (the log was not as much fun), and I learned a ton.

The log was modeled with a bunch of alphas I purchased on Artstation from Jeetu Sharma and textured in Painter. The moss terrain was done in World Machine, and the water was done with BOSS in Maya. Background trees were done in Speedtree. Everything else, the lilypads, floating branches, and foliage were from Megascans. The slime was done by following one of Madeleine Spencer's tutorials on Artstation on Zbrush's dynamics, and polished up in comp.

Raw render out of Maya vs. Post Nuke comp

Thank you for watching!

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