Ethan Clark's Artistic Journey

Ethan Clark's Artistic Journey

Ethan Clark
by ethanclark on 14 May 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

A collection of art depicting the world from my perspective. Through different styles, colors, and atmospheres, I invite the audience to view the world with a little more wonder. These are the pieces that I've worked on so far in my time at Gnomon!

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"In this world, magic and daily life depend on ambrosia, a mystical form of honey. Buildings are painted in rich blues and turquoises, the typical dwelling hang spices and birdseed at their doors with lamps powered by ambrosia. Translucent windows made of Eadi's wax will glow faintly, humming with magic." - Airi Pan

In my interpretation of an environment from Airi Pan's "Ambrosia" concept art, all assets were lovingly hand-modeled, textured, and arranged by me, with the exception of the flowers and weeds which are Megascans taken from Quixel Bridge. 

Unreal Engine 2.46.2 - Maya - Substance Painter - Substance Designer - Photoshop - Premiere - Nuke - Megascans - Marmoset Toolbag - Zbrush

Individual shots of some props that I feel most proud of--modeled in Maya/ZBrush, textured in Substance Painter & Designer

Tiling Substance Designer materials created to coat my props and scenery--tried to maintain a consistent level of wear to show that the world Ambrosia is old and steeped in tradition, it was not created yesterday.

Lüther, the Forsaken Pyromancer

Formerly known as Prince Lüther, this forsaken pyromancer was stripped of his title and banished from his throne after being caught practicing forbidden fire magic. Without proper training, his amateur attempts resulted in a devastating misfire that permanently scarred his right arm. Since his banishment, Lüther has found himself part of an underground kingdom of like-minded miscreants, quickly rising to the top of their society while furthering his mastery of powerful destructive magic every day. The fire in his heart fuels his anger, and he eagerly awaits the day that he will seize the throne that was taken from him.

Music Credits: Aggression (Total War: Shogun 2) by Jeff van Dyck

ZBrush - Maya - Photoshop - Marvelous Designer - Marmoset Toolbag - Substance Painter - Substance Designer - Premiere

Lüther is totally game-ready and raring to go!

An alternate color-scheme, had he perhaps taken up frost magic instead.

Some ZBrush screenshots showing off the details in my high poly sculpt.

Fun Fact: My inspiration/muse for this piece was actually my friend Megan's cat, Luther, who is a similarly nefarious hairless cat. Thanks, Luther!

Blade of the Feathered Serpent

Some prop modeling for games -- I've got my final result,  my high-poly, my low-poly mesh with wireframe, and the original concept by Jonah Lobe.

Maya - ZBrush - Substance Painter

Jellyfish Fields

Why have a beach day when you can come relax underneath the waves down in Jellyfish Fields! This was my first ever Houdini project, in which I took on the challenge of making a stylized Spongebob environment, inspired by the art of the 2020 movie, "Sponge on the Run". As my first Houdini project, I tried to do as much of it as possible in Houdini, ending up with about 80% of it made in Houdini. Inspired by the work of Romain Boncens, I tried to keep the colors vibrant to maintain the cartoony look of Spongebob, with a lush field that you could get lost in!

Houdini - Redshift - Maya - Substance Painter - Substance Designer - Photoshop - Nuke - Premiere

The basic workflow of the Houdini scene revolved around the heightfield. The environment was made by arranging primitive shapes on a plane and projecting them onto a heightfield, then using noise, terrace, erosion, etc. to get a more natural look.

While they may look like a backplate, the clouds are fully 3D and volumetric; being generated by drawing the flower shape with a curve, converting it to geo, and using the cloud + cloud noise nodes to achieve the desired shapes.

My coral strucutres started with primitives shapes and curves that were converting them to VDBs to combine and remesh them. After that, I scattered large spheres with random scales onto them and used booleans to achieve coral-like shapes. Finally, I repeated with a larger quantity of smaller spheres to represent the tiny holes caused by bio-erosion in coral. And don't forget the sea urchins on top!

Examples of some of the anemones that are scattered around the scene. They are created procedurally using intersection analysis so that the red dots generated will be different every time, with an infinite number of possibilities, but will never overlap.

Most of the textures in the scene are tiling textures made in Substance Designer. Here are some of the Substance Designer materials created to tile along the coral and terrain of the scene.


Now that's one tasty-looking fish. This was my first project in ZBrush, and I had a lot of fun with it. I considered the feeling of this character a lot when creating it, and tried to reflect it in the roughness maps. His eyes, lips, and nostrils are all moist, while his shell stays a bit more dry. The moss under his feet feels soft enough to nap on, while his skin is more bumpy and rough.

(Concept by Devon Cady-Lee)

ZBrush - Maya - Mudbox - Substance Painter - Photoshop

Crystal Canyon / Mechanized Guardian of the Valley

Even the air seems to creak in a valley that predates the very society we live in. In Crystal Canyon, the large vintage camera-based mech in the background is known as the Mechanized Guardian of the Valley. In a past age, it served as a guardian of the land. Now it lies in slumber, steadily receiving power from the energy of the crystals as it sits dormant and dilapidated, awaiting to be awoken once more.

Through this piece, I got to learn a lot about more functions of Unreal Engine, as well as environmental storytelling.

(Music credit - “Memories” by Sean Williams)

Unreal Engine 4.26.2 - ZBrush - Maya - Substance Designer - Substance Painter - Megascans - SpeedTree - Photoshop - Nuke - Gaea - Marmoset Toolbag - Premiere

The terrain was blocked out with terrain sculpting tools in UE4, then taken into Gaea to generate more refined terrain, then taken back into Unreal and sculpted on top of once more with terrain tools. Megascan rocks are mixed into the terrain to blend it all together more seamlessly. The ground textures were created by hand in substance designer and blended together in a landscape material in Unreal Engine, while textures for the flowers and grass were taken from Megascans, modified, and used in SpeedTree to generate foliage.

Props such as the Crystals and the Guardian were made with the standard pipeline of creating assets between Maya and Zbrush, and then baking high resolution detail onto them if necessary and texturing them in Substance Painter before importing them into Unreal Engine for shader creation and placement.

To cover my vast landscape in Unreal, I needed several materials that would tile into each other seamlessly with variations that could be blended in randomly. To do this, I created substance designer materials with several seeds could be randomized to give completely different variations of rocks, plants, and dirt. The sliders show some of the random seed variations!

In Unreal, these materials were blended together with a noise mask in my landscape material. Once I had blended these materials together, I had an excellent base to scatter my foliage on.

Astro Telescope

One more game-ready prop -- Based on a concept by Cholong Lim! If you look closely, you'll notice the constellations that I engraved in the gold part on the side.

Maya - ZBrush - Substance Painter

1953 Chevrolet Pickup

 With this model, I tried to challenge my hard surface modeling skills, and make a truck that was clean and satisfying.

Maya - Substance Painter - Photoshop - Premiere

Return to Shell City

In a universe where King Neptune's rage overtook his benevolence, Shell City was flooded. This render shows the damage caused by such a tragedy.

Maya - Substance Painter

MECH NO. 185; codename: [The Imitator]

Have you ever seen such a happy robot? This is my model of the mech designed by Madow Tsai. While he is unabashedly a robot, his golden-brown coloring and green pom-poms show that he imitates a tree. Maybe he is jealous of organic life?

Maya - Substance Painter - Photoshop

The Wisdom Tree

Every journey must reach its climax. The Wisdom Tree is where travelers find this moment.

A more conceptual piece where I experimented with Speedtree, photogrammetry, and megascan assets to create a story.

Unreal Engine 4.26.2 - Maya - Megascans - Photoshop - Nuke - Speedtree - ZBrush - Substance Painter - Metashape


So what's next?

Here is a current work in progress on my latest piece, a sculpt of Garchomp based on the concept by RJ Palmer. (Concept pictured on the right!) Can't wait to share it with the world!

ZBrush (so far)

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