Ivona Aleksandrova
by shony on 1 Jun 2020 for Rookie Awards 2020

My most recent personal project inspired by the current situation and the issue of Social Distancing. I wanted to represent the dehumanisation and state of mental collapsing but in a more futuristic and twisted way. It was also inspired by some theories and investigations hat the Novel Coronavirus might be intentional.

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As an Artist with a diverse background, I am deeply passionate about Computer Graphics (CG) and Science. My interests lie in particular is in the intersection of these two areas and technology offers a bridge to achieving photorealism and pushing boundaries in Film and Games.  With this Project I wanted to merge diverse workflows and achieve a collision between Hard Surface Modelling in Maya, the organic freedom of Zbrush combined with Scientific accuracy and Procedural workflows in Houdini.

Final Render in Maya and Arnold.

I created the Male character as part of my dissertation and one of my final year projects which was exploring the Uncanny Valley.  The aims of the research were to study, understand and explore the creative process of realistic digital humans. 

I also used this project as a great starting point for doing Houdini and I am absolutely in love with the workflow.

Visualising the COVID protein in Houdini using Protein Data Bank files to achieve scientific accuracy.

It was an amazing journey exploring the procedural workflow for 3D Modelling. I studied the core concepts of using Houdini for Hard Surface. Here is a breakdown of the way I constructed the Machine.

I have always been passionate about Anatomy and working accurately. Therefore I dedicated a lot of time researching how this is implemented in the CG practice.

The biggest issue with digital humans is what the audience generally feels when something is wrong but does not know what.  By gathering scientific data on muscle volume, mass and proportions, I attempted to reduce some of the variables in the equation of what feels right and get closer to visualising convincing characters.

Over a few months, I was investigating how changes in anatomy can be studied using musculoskeletal modelling. The model I created was by exploring the underlying structures and the way they affect the appearance of a healthy human. Studying traditional art for years and seeing a lot of beginners making major fundamental mistakes, I wanted to emphasize on the importance of having strong observational skills and brief biomechanical knowledge as a foundation for building convincing organic models.

The underlying anatomy must be studied, considered and implemented in order to accomplish the accurate and convincing appearance. Adding thickness to the face with informed knowledge instead of having inflated surface can drastically increase the believability and sell the work. 

My work was heavily influenced by a presentation of one of the legends working on Digital humans - Ian Spriggs. His techniques inspired me to dig into forensic science and attempt creating a portrait starting from the skull. Applying general data about the thickness and various tissues covering the bone structures at specific points, forensic sculptors can reconstruct and bring remains back to life. Aiming for accuracy and realism for my project, I relied on forensics while constructing my 3D base mesh. 

I used a male average height approximated to 18 cm for this representation. The Transpose measure tool units were calibrated according to the mesh and divided in sections of 1cm. These were used in the measurement of the separate marker’s thickness.

For a lot of years I have been doing life drawing and practising art fundamentals, THe observation skills I gained were extremely beneficial in my 3D practice and eased the process of accurate representation.

Sketches and a reference of real skull from the Medical University of Bulgaria I used in the R&D.

I loved creating this model which is aimed to be used as an accurate building block for character artists. I also wanted to prove the thesis that Art can be scientific and by following the logic of biology and physiology can be the key component to achieving the ultimate realism.

Having the solid base of the skull, all major muscles overlayed and using the additional help of forensic science gave me a strong foundation in the construction process. I was constantly referring to these elements when I felt something with the portrait was off but I could not identify what is it. These renders support the thesis that using the power of science can eliminate many variables and reduce the uncanniness in constructing believable organic beings.

Zbrush Development and Anatomy studies.

The main underlying motive of this piece is addressing the issues of Social Distancing. The two characters are lovers held separated at 2m distance. The Female is in the process of full dehumanisation as opposed to the Man who still has his conscious. 

No matter the circumstances, both are reaching to each other with the hope that things will have a happier ending.

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