This weekend, I had the privilege of attending Judd Simantov‘s first workshop on character design and digital sculpting. Judd recently returned to South Africa after a 7 year stint as the lead character TD at Naughty Dog entertainment in LA, rigging and building tools for games such as Uncharted (1&2). The workshop was run over 3 days at Learn 3D in Randburg, and included a Skype conference with Rich Diamant, lead character artist at Blizzard Entertainment! The workshop was full, and attended by animators and designers from Luma, Bugbox Animation, Wits University and animation teaching professionals . The focus of the course was very much on the principles of character design, especially story and appeal. On the first day, we concentrated on drawing, and different exercises in exploring design concepts. Here are a couple of mine: Next we had to come up with an idea for a character by suggesting a specific story idea, something with some sort of conflict, or irony built into it. My idea was, “A little girl who hates animals, but can talk to them.” Here are some of the exploratory sketches: Judd was extremely encouraging and after looking at my thumbnails, told be to combine some of my ideas and we came up with this: Apart from being an extremely accomplished digital artist, Judd is also passionate about sculpting in traditional mediums. As character sculpting is something you don’t get to see a lot of in South Africa, Judd offered to give us a live demo, and we drew designs out of a hat to see which one he’d tackle. Through no funny business I swear it, yours truly won the draw =) Photo courtesy of Martin Sen After looking at design and drawing, we started to go over design principles in 3D, and how to try and get the appeal of a drawing into our sculpts. We looked at ideas around construction, shapes, anatomy, values and using simple planes to depict form and to evoke appeal. Here is what I managed to come up with in the few hours we had: After having watched Judd knock out an amazing, and appealing character in less than half an hour, it was very humbling to try and do the same! However, Judd urged us not to be too hard on ourselves and told us that what was important wasn’t to come away with an awesome, finished piece, but that we’ve engaged with the concepts and that we get a grasp on what makes certain designs and sculpts better than others. Everyone who attended the class was buzzing with excitement afterwards! Though there are many talented South Africans placed all over the world, it’s very rarely that those of us working in the local industry have the opportunity to learn from them, and to benefit from their knowledge. Judd is not only one of the best people in the world at what he does, he is also an extremely generous person, and was happy to answer all our questions, not only about design and sculpting, but about working in the games industry, what employers overseas value in digital artists, and what makes a great portfolio. A big thanks to Gustavo and the Learn 3D team for the venue, and to Judd and Rich for an awesome and inspiring weekend!