GW: What does a Lead Character Sculptor for WWE do exactly – what were your everyday tasks and key projects, and what were your sculptures used for?
HD: There was a roster of WWE characters listed in a spreadsheet – I could always see who was the next subject that I needed to sculpt. I would start with an A-pose, then pose using the Transpose tool in ZBrush. The posed sculpts were used in big events like the Royal Rumble; the 3D renders would appear before the two wrestlers competed with one other. The A-pose sculpts were created for a different project entirely, where they were rigged and all that stuff.
GW: Do you ever get the chance to update your models from earlier years and projects? If so, what are the first areas you tackle when updating an older character?
HD: Yes, actually I do that a lot! Usually, the first things that need to be changed are body proportions, and then improving some basic and secondary forms.
GW: Your earliest portraits were shared in the community in 2011 and 2012. Can you recall the main hurdles you experienced with these, and how did you overcome them?
HD: I remember that my problem in those first portraits was the base sculpt. I would try to hide my sculpting weaknesses with texturing and rendering, but later on I decided to mostly focus on my sculpting techniques, and I'm really glad how much better my sculptures look today compared to those early years! Actually, the WWE project helped me a lot in this regard, because I was mostly responsible for sculpting, and it forced me to enhance my anatomy knowledge to try to get the right look and likenesses across all my sculptures.
GW: What steps did you take to perfect your portrait creation techniques between 2011 and 2016?
HD: Actually, I started my journey into the 3D world in 2007 – I just didn't share my works until 2009, when I felt I was getting somewhere. From that time, I focused on portraits and tried to be the best I could be in this category! This is my favorite thing to do in 3D: creating likenesses of people and sculpting heads. I’ve spent a lot of time doing it, and I’ve sacrificed lots of things to become good at portrait sculpting.
GW: Were there any key software improvements during this time that helped you step up your portrait game – if so, what and why?
HD: I think DynaMesh was a really great addition to ZBrush. I could make a head from a sphere without being worried about wireframes or anything – just creating it from scratch and trying my best to make something cool.
GW: I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but what are your thoughts on the uncanny valley, and how do you breathe life into your 3D works to break through this preconception?
HD: A really important thing is that you should pay attention to not just capturing the likeness or getting the forms right, but also trying to capture a sense of emotion and the spirit of the character – especially through the eyes. I try my best to avoid the uncanny valley in my works. I believe it mostly exists in rendering and facial expressions, rather than in the sculpture. Sometimes we see in projects that the characters are based on scans – but even then, they can still look fake, which I think mostly comes down to the renders, shaders, and expressions.
GW: When it comes to posing your 3D characters, how important is it to create a dynamic pose for showcasing your work and bringing characters to life, and what references do you use to perfect these?
HD: I believe it’s crucial to have a pose or an expression for presentation purposes. It can make a huge difference! If I can't get the references for the pose I'm looking for, I will take reference photos of myself instead!
GW: At what point did you decide to jump into the world of freelance, and what do you identify as the main challenges of freelancing in such a competitive industry?
HD: I have been mostly working as a freelancer, but I have worked as a full-time artist in studios, too. I honestly didn’t choose, though. Lately, I have had offers from some of the biggest companies in the industry to work at their studios – both in games and VFX – but it hasn't worked out yet. I like the journey I’m on, and I'm really excited to see what happens next in my career!
GW: How important has the study of anatomy been in your work as a 3D artist, and what are some of your favorite ways to sharpen up your knowledge?
HD: I would say a lot. Because the WWE project required a really great attention to forms and muscles, I had to practice a lot on my anatomy skills. One of the most difficult things in sculpting is creating muscles in poses. You need to know how they look when flexed and stretched, which makes it really hard to do.
GW: For someone starting out in the 3D industry as a character artist, what are your top pieces of advice to help them get their footing?
HD: Be patient. I have seen some new-generation artists who want to be good in a year or two, and they want to earn money from it really soon. I remember I landed my first job after almost three years of practice. You have to practice a lot! Take your time to focus on one thing and try to be the best at it. And show respect to artists who have been working in the industry for a long time – this will help you to get connected and also learn from their experiences.
GW: You’ve been nominated in two categories for the upcoming 2016 ZBrush Awards, which will be announced at Gnomon during the ZBrush Summit. How does that feel, and are there any other artists in the nominees are you stoked to see?
HD: I think ZBrushCentral and ArtStation are the best CG communities these days. And getting this recognition from Pixologic feels really great! I really like the work that Naughty Dog, The Mill, and Disney have shared, and they have got nominations as well. I also really like Daniel Bel's nomination for ‘ZBrush to 3D Print of the Year’.
HD: I recommend this workshop both for beginners and professional artists out there. I have shared my complete workflow for sculpting a realistic character for production and I have tried to cover as much as I can for everyone to learn from, right from the initial sculpting through to posing and rendering inside ZBrush.
GW: When did you first learn about the Gnomon Workshop, and what are your thoughts on the quality of training in the library?
HD: I think the library is awesome! You can find lots of useful tutorials here, from modeling to rendering and painting. I think this is the best resource for those looking to level-up their game!