18 Jul

Normal Mapping

Jenn / 3D, gaming, normal maps, VR / / 0 Comments

Hello again! As I promised months ago, I finally got some of the weapons for the VR arena game (codename: Dark Kingdom) up on the site. However, the reason for my postponing this post is due to the dreaded subject: normal mapping.

Normal mapping is the bane of many 3D artists, and I thought I would share my insight into the particular problems I encountered. I don’t claim to be an authority on normal mapping, but I have learned many things along the way.

For the past couple of years, I believed that the fewest amount of UV seams was the best way to UV unwrap a model. This view changed once I started unwrapping the weapons. I have modeled and unwrapped characters and other organic models in the past, and using the fewest UV seams is often the best approach. Yet, because I never unwrapped a hard surface model before, I was in for a surprise.

I encountered two main problems while I was unwrapping the weapons.

  1. 1. Hard edges
  2. 2. Waviness on cylinders

Let’s tackle problem #1 first. All of my models have hard edges – i.e. edges that have a 90° angle or more. When I first started baking (with everything UVed together as much as possible), I was getting blotchy areas where I had hard edges. After googling the problem, I found that I needed to not only harden my edge normals where there were hard edges (90° or more), but also I should cut the UVs where there was a hard edge and separate it from the other UV shells so that a black line wouldn’t appear on the edge. This will ensure that the normal map will not bleed from one edge into another. The following video and blog post from polycount proved invaluable in figuring out this problem.

Now let’s talk about problem #2, waviness on cylinders. I encountered waviness when I started baking the cylindrical details on the hilts, the handles, and the pommels of my swords, as well as the handle of my halberd. Waviness is basically the skewed detail/black curves that occurs when the low poly model does not have enough detail for Maya (or xNormal, etc.) to correctly bake details from the high poly model. With cylinders, this happens when the curvature of the low poly does not match up to that of the high poly. Also, if any parts on the cylinders have 90° angles, the bake can have issues since technically the high poly mesh will be slightly curved at these edges. A great way to fix this is by using the bevel tool at those 90° edges! Just make sure that your high poly and low poly meshes line up and have as little difference as possible. If you have any issues with this, I encourage you to check out the following blog post from polycount (and if you are having any other trouble with normal mapping, hit up the main forum on polycount, as they seem to hold the key to normal mapping).

Before I leave you, I have one last note. If you are texturing your model in Substance Painter, you will want to figure out whether you will be using wear on your edges, and if so, where. Substance Painter is an awesome texturing program, but if you are using generators to create edge wear, you’ll want to be mindful about your UV unwrapping. Generators use a curvature map to read where the edges are so that they can map the texture onto the edges. However, if you cut your UVs at the edges (such as the hard 90° edges of your mesh), the generator will not read curvature on an edge and you may end up with something like this:

wearLine 2Dwear

In this case, I cut my UVs at the edge to get a better normal bake, but since I did this, the curvature map only read the curve as being on one side of the hilt. There are several ways to solve this issue. Substance Painter recommends that you keep as much of your UVs together as possible to get the most out of their program. In an Allegorithmic tutorial, they split the UVs down the middle of the mesh, to best optimize it for games and Substance Painter. However, I’ve seen other artists going about this differently, including artists at major game studios such as Naughty Dog. It occurs to me that they might be inserting an extra edge loop on the beveled edges of hard surface models and cutting the UVs on this extra edge loop in order for the curvature map to read both edges as curved, even if they are on UV shells. This is just a theory on my part though. In order to remedy the edge wear issue, I ended up painting in my own edge wear, which is slower, but it does solve the problem. If I come up with a better way to keep the normal bake clean as well as use Substance Painter to it’s full potential with edge wear, I will be sure to let you know!


12 Mar

Sculpting Facial Anatomy

Jenn / 3D, anatomy / / 0 Comments

Lately, I have been tinkering with realistic character modeling in Mudbox. I’ve been shying away from sculpting realistic anatomy for far too long, so I decided to give it a go. I focused on the face of an English male, and so far, it’s going pretty well! I’m just going to have to retopologize this guy to get more detailed.

Final Face:

Swordsman's Face WIP

Face from just a couple days ago (it really changed!):

Swordsman's Face WIP

25 Aug

Demoing Starfighter VR

Jenn / 3D, gaming, VR / / 0 Comments

Hi! For a couple months now, I have been working on a Oculus/Leap Motion game with my partner, James Webb. We were selected to demo it on a morning news show in Albuquerque, NM. It’s still in progress, but it’s coming along! If you want to see the segment, click on the video below!

23 Mar

Article on Virtual Reality

Jenn / art history, gaming, VR / / 0 Comments

It’s been awhile since I last posted. During that time, I created some new 2D artwork, went to GDC (Game Developer’s Conference) in San Francisco, and wrote an article on virtual reality! Virtual reality (VR) is something that I’ve been interested in ever since I started learning about experimental art and media in college. I’ve kept an eye on it, and I’ve even experimented with stereoscopic 3D cameras in Maya, as well as in the real world. If you want to learn more about VR, read on:

Also, Origins Scientific Research Society, the group that let me write this article for their magazine, explores some really interesting topics! The current issue is on gaming. You can find out more by going to:


21 Jan

Thinking Outside the Box

Jenn / Sketches / / 0 Comments

Occasionally an idea will hit me while I’m thinking of something else, and I usually try to sketch it out. This image came to me as I was planning out a demo reel. I sketched it out, and because I liked the message and the way it looks, I decided to post it. Now, back to planning demo reels and writing applications.


17 Jan

Raven Sketches

Jenn / raven, reference, Sketches / / 0 Comments

While working on my 3D model of a raven, I’ve started sketching reference for the model, including partials of certain areas, and taking notes on the physical qualities of this common bird. I’m pretty happy with how they came out!


Raven Body, Head, and Feet Study


Raven Wing Study

11 Jan

Traditional Artists I’m influenced by

Jenn / art history, inspiration / / 0 Comments

Hi, I’m Jenn, and it’s been over two months since I last posted. During that time, I have started working on some group projects,  as well as continuing my own. However, I decided to make this post about traditional artists that influence me. It’s important to identify the artists and types of work you like, so that you can understand your own artistic sensibility. I don’t necessarily do the same type of art as them; yet, I admire what they do, and their work inspires my own.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519), one of the great (ART with a capital A) artists, is very well-known for many reasons. He was an inventor, sculptor, painter, engineer, mathematician, architect, writer, musician, geologist, botanist, anatomist  . . pretty much THE Renaissance man. He painted the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper. Although his paintings are extremely well-known, I tend to gravitate more towards his drawings and sketches. I especially love his drawings of anatomy. Sure, he dissected corpses (illegally) in order to capture the science behind them. But, he drew them with exquisite detail from life (or death). Plus, there’s something about the dirtiness of a sketch, with all its markings and lines present for the eye to see. Sketches have a sense of life about them. Maybe that’s why animators often tend to draw out their characters’ movements and leave the lines and motion paths untouched. Da Vinci’s work is one of my reasons for taking up drawing anatomy. Also, it’s important to know how to draw a human figure before you start to minimize that form into a more stylized character. One of my favorite works of his is the Vitruvian Man.

Mona Lisa (1517)

The Last Supper (1495–1498)

Vitruvian Man (1490)

The next artist, Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849), was a well-known Japanese ukiyo-e painter and printmaker during the Edo Period and Japan’s leading expert on Chinese painting during his time. He is best-known as the author of the woodblock series “Thirty-Six Views of Mt Fuji“, which includes the iconic Great Wave off Kanagawa (also known as Under the Wave off Kanagawa). Although the use of multiple names was a common practice of Japanese artists of the time, the numbers of names he used far exceeds that of any other major Japanese artist. Hokusai’s name changes are so frequent, and so often related to changes in his artistic production and style, that they are useful for breaking his life up into periods. Ukiyo-e traditionally was a medium for portraiture, focusing on images of Kabuki actors and courtesans. While in the Katsukawa school learning this art form, Hokusai began exploring other styles, including European trends he was exposed to through Dutch and French copper engravings. He was soon expelled from that school, but this inspired him to create his own artistic style. Hokusai changed the subjects of his work, moving away from the images of popular people, and focusing on landscapes and the daily life of Japanese people from various social levels. Over the years, he became famous both for his artwork and his talent for self-promotion. His works also include Hokusai Manga and various etehons, or art manuals, which featured quick lessons in simplified drawing, often with humorous overtones. Hokusai’s manga, sketches, and caricatures, that included thousands of drawings of animals, religious figures, and everyday people, were very popular, and have influenced the modern form of comics known by the same name. Most of his well-known work was produced in his late life, including the series “Thirty-Six Views of Mt Fuji” and “One Hundred Views of Mt Fuji“, which is considered the masterpiece among his landscape books. Hokusai believed that as he grew older he would begin to grasp the essential nature of his subjects, eventually gaining a divine understanding of them. Constantly wanting to produce better work, he continued to wish for another five or ten years of life while on his deathbed. Nevertheless, his work reached the Western art world, creating Japonism, influencing such artists as Van Gogh, Monet, and Gauguin, and transforming Impressionism.

Under the Wave off Kanagawa
(1830 – 1832)

Hokusai Manga Example

South Breeze, Fine Weather
(early 1930s)

Another of my artists is one of the world’s most famous graphic designers, M.C. Escher (1898 – 1972). During his lifetime, he made 448 lithographs, woodcuts and wood engravings and over 2000 drawings and sketches. The themes of his work are mathematical calculations, impossible constructions, symmetrical images, and transformations. He played with forced perspective in a very three-dimensional way, and he gave Oscar Reutersvärd‘s shapes and objects (that eclipsed geometric laws) a place in his etches, drawings, and paintings, incorporating them into impossible worlds that transcend the Euclidean laws. He inspired other artists and mathematicians to create impossible shapes, and to this day, others are influenced by his work. His constructions are frequently used in stereoscopic examples, and they have also influenced games. The most recent are Monument Valley and Relativity (which is to come out soon this year). Both of these are 2D games, as it is easier to simulate Escher’s world when there is a forced perspective (as in two-dimensional space). However, as talked about in this article, it is impossible for his objects to exist in a 3D environment, for they are impossible constructions not meant to exist in our world, much less in virtual reality. This is not to say there might not be any 3D Escher-inspired games in the future. It seems that as technology develops, so too does our willingness to make the impossible possible. My favorite thing about Escher’s drawings is that they cause us to wonder and challenge the very laws of reality.

Drawing Hands (1948)

Relativity (1953)

Reptiles (1943)

The last of my “traditional” artists is Salvador Dali (1904 – 1989), who would probably not have liked being called traditional at all. As a Surrealist icon, he was known for his skills as a painter and the shocking quality of his imagination. He referred to his paintings as “hand painted dream photographs”, and his most well-known work is The Persistence of Memory. Mastering what he called “the usual paralyzing tricks of eye-fooling,” Dali painted this work with “the most imperialist fury of precision,” but only, he said, “to systematize confusion and thus to help discredit completely the world of reality.” This philosophy went well with the Surrealist ideology to release the creative potential of the unconcious mind, through such things as the irrational juxtaposition of figures. Dali also invented double images through a process he called the paranoiac critical method, in which he would stand on his head to induce hallucinations as inspiration. This resulted in the willful distortion of reality until one could see wild visions jumping out of ordinary objects. Some examples of these paranoiac critical paintings are Swans Reflecting Elephants and Old Age, Adolescence, and Infancy (as shown below). Although Dali was expelled from the Surrealist group during the mid-1930s, he continued to participate in international Surrealist exhibitions, and his work persisted to show a Surrealist influence. Over the course of his life, he also worked outside of painting, writing Un Chien Andalou with Luis Bunuel, working with Alfred Hitchcock on Spellbound, and creating the animated short film Destino with Walt Disney (which only recently was completed in 2003). During his life, two museums dedicated to his work were built – the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres, Spain (his birthplace) and the Dali Museum in St Petersburg, Florida. Dali was one of the first artists that came to realize that public relations was more important than talent; however, he possessed great talent. During his training as an artist, he studied the masters, and it was his belief that only once one has perfected the technique of the masters, can they create their own style. Dali used PR to focus attention on his work, doing commercials and performance art, as well as working with other artists on collaborations. It worked. Everything that he made sold. Dali had vowed never to be forgotten, and with his creation of the Teatro-Museo Dali, he achieved immortality.

The Persistence of Memory (1931)

Old Age, Adolescence, and Infancy (The Three Ages) (1940)

Swans Reflecting Elephants (1937)

All of these artists were game-changers in the world of art. They broke the confines of the normal and enhanced the imagination, often inspiring other artists along the way. I’m not sure how the world would be without Da Vinci’s anatomic drawings, Hokusai’s ukiyo-e prints, Escher’s impossible etchings, or Dali’s surrealist paintings, but I believe that it would be much less interesting than it is now.

This is only my short list for traditional artists, not even including architects. There are many more that have changed the way the world views art. However, these are the four that I look to whenever I reflect on traditional 2D artistic influences.

27 Oct

New Stuff

Jenn / anatomy, Sketches, tribal / / 0 Comments

I haven’t posted in awhile, so this long post is to make up for that. For the past month I have been traveling, but I’m back and I will start posting what I’m working on. My goal is to at least update this blog once a week.

Before I left, I started on learning how to draw abs. I followed a tutorial in the anatomy magazine from ImagineFX, and then I took the image into Photoshop and traced the outline of her body. I’m pretty happy with the result.



Detailed Sketch and Outline of Same Body


I’ve also been working on some 3D projects (other than demo reels to contribute to the job search). I started on a 3D model of a raven and the texturing of a room for a previous school project that I never finished to my expectations. Once I have something to show, I will post on them. For now, amidst looking for jobs and doing demo reels, I have been doing tribal sketches of animals. I tend to work on these when I’m just relaxing, since they are therapeutic for me. Here’s the latest that I have done.


Tribal Fox

I ran out of space for part of the head, and since I was working on paper, I couldn’t just extend the canvas size. When I draw these sort of animals, I try to incorporate similar shape elements of the actual animal (the fur direction, the head shape), while getting lost in the design. I find that Southwest and Northwest Native American stories, characters, and tribal patterns inspire me, but I also draw from Celtic and Scandinavian tribal patterns. I think it might have something to do with living in New Mexico and Washington state for long periods of time, while being of Swedish, Irish, and Scottish descent.

Next post, I will show more drawings (and hopefully an update on my 3D projects), as well as some artists that inspire me. Until next week!

14 Sep

Sketches of Human Anatomy

Jenn / anatomy, Sketches / / 0 Comments

These past couple of weeks, I have been teaching myself how to draw human anatomy using Imagine FX’s Bookazine How to Draw and Paint Anatomy. It’s a fantastic compilation showing how to draw human and animal anatomy, focusing on both the whole body as well as specific parts, such as hands, feet, claws, etc. The bookazine also includes a disc with video tutorials. Anyway, be sure to check it out if you are interested in learning how to construct two-dimensional anatomically correct humans and animals! I’m concentrating on improving my drawing skills for concept art by revisiting and learning some of these techniques. I’ll be posting these sketches to the blog as I go through the bookazine.

Imagine FX Anatomy

How to Draw and Paint Anatomy



26 Aug


Jenn / Uncategorized / / 0 Comments

This is the blog for my website, I will be posting both things that inspire me, as well as stuff that I am working on. I hope that this will let you get an inside scoop into how I work, as well as entertain and inform you if you come across any problems in your work that I have experienced before. Anyways, ending my first post. Hope you enjoy!