Dwayne Jones is a shining example of the success you can achieve as a self-taught artist. After growing up a fan of animation and video games in Nigeria, he began learning Blender after graduating from college. Struck by the lack of African characters across 3D art, Dwayne grew determined to create more. Today, he’s a super-talented artist with a cartoon style reminiscent of your favorite Pixar movies.
Keep reading as we catch up with Dwayne to discover his modeling tips, his approach to creating stylized characters in Blender, and much more.
TurboSquid: Can you tell us about yourself and your career?
Dwayne Jones: I’m from Nigeria and I specialize in 3D modeling, rigging, and look development, but I also love to experiment with grooming. I’ve been a 3D artist for five years and I currently work as a freelancer making characters for short films and games, including the ongoing YouTube series OmoBerry. I spend most of my downtime working on personal projects to improve my skills.
My journey started after I graduated from college. I did some research online to figure out the ideal software for learning 3D, eventually coming across the open-source software Blender. It took me roughly three years of practicing to get good at sculpting and modeling characters.
What makes you passionate about 3D art?
I grew up watching animations and playing video games; I had no idea how they were made, but I was fascinated by them. Besides a good storyline and animation, I love to see great character design and a unique style.
After 3D animation became a passion of mine, I realized that characters were the part of production I enjoyed the most and decided to focus on that. I’m driven by the desire to tell stories with my characters and inspire people with my work.
What made you focus on stylized character design?
I’m a massive fan of stylized art. There’s a lot of leeway when making stylized art, you get to exaggerate shapes to achieve an appealing look. I like when people see themselves in my art. I felt there were fewer African characters in 3D art generally and I intend to fill in that void.
Can you describe the workflow behind making your favorite character?
My favorite character so far has to be Jasmine. The first step was to decide on the simple concept of an African lady. I started to block out the character in Blender with very simple shapes. After I had all the primary shapes in the right place, I started to sculpt the face and body and then clean up the mesh.
After sculpting, I did the retopology with RetopoFlow in Blender. Then started grooming the hair with Blender Hair Particles. It took some trial and error to make the hair look realistic. The right approach depends on the hairstyle. For straight hair, I use Blender’s HairNet add-on, using a plane mesh as a guide and the HairNet to convert the mesh into hair particles. For curly hair or complex hairstyles, I add each strand individually to get the desired look, then I work the particle kink to get different styles, like braids, dreads, or curls.
The next step was to make the clothes with a clean mesh, simulating and sculpting the details and folds. I did the UVs in Blender before exporting the mesh to Substance Painter to bake and paint all the textures. After I had all the textures and maps, I worked on the shaders and lights, then rigged the character for a strong pose.
Finally, I rendered it with Cycles. I tried to do as much as possible in the final render, so I didn’t have loads to do in post-production. Overall, it took me a week to finish the character.
How do you come up with new ideas? Do any other artists inspire you?
I’m inspired by other artists and daily feeds on my Pinterest. I spend most of my time on Pinterest getting references and ideas for new characters. Many other artists inspire me too, particularly the likes of Guzz Soares, Carlos Ortega, and Nazar Noschenko.
Can you give us your three top tips?
- Always work with a reference. I always have multiple references when starting a new project.
- Take little breaks while working. It helps clear your head and stop you from getting burned out.
- Start with simple shapes, and get the basic form blocked out before detailing.
What advice would you give to new artists who aspire to get to your level?
The most important thing is to spend enough time learning the basics and practicing regularly. I think internships are a great way of starting a career so you can work on actual projects and get familiar with the pipeline. It also helps to be disciplined and a good mentor can help you save a lot of time.
But most importantly, just enjoy your journey. It’s not only about finding your voice but finding yourself along the way.
What do you feel is most exciting about the 3D industry’s future?
3D is an exponentially growing, promising industry. As technology evolves, the work being done and the skills needed by studios evolve too. The 3D industry is vast and there’s so much opportunity, from movies and games to AR, VR, and the metaverse.
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