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May 1, 2019

Featured: Jon Payne

Jon Payne discusses how VR provides a much more information-rich creation experience

Jon Payne is a freelance character designer and fine artist. He has a background is in creature design and has been taught by Jordu Schell, Simon Lee and John Brown. He took the time to talk to us about the application of fine art techniques in VR art programs, how VR allows him to experiment and concept faster, and how he has embraced digital 100% for the first time.

"VR Sculpture has been electrifying for me personally because it finally starts to bridge the gap between digital and analogue in a way that preserves more of what makes clay sculpting special"

When did you find out that VR art was something worth pursuing and exploring further? 

I have been dreaming of what became VR sculpting for the last 10-15 years. I was finally able to try an Oculus Rift almost exactly one year ago and I immediately convinced my wife we had to get one for VR Sculpting.

Before working in VR did you have any experience creating 3D art? What do you like most about this new approach to creating 3D art? 

My previous experience is with traditional clay and Zbrush sculpture. Although I have grown to love Zbrush I have always felt that you lose a lot when you are forced to create your 3D sculpture on a flat screen and to interact with it on the surface of a tablet. VR Sculpture has been electrifying for me personally because it finally starts to bridge the gap between digital and analogue in a way that preserves more of what makes clay sculpting special.

How do you find VR translates fine art skills? Do you use VR to get ideas for sculpting in the real world or do you see them as completely different things? 

I am primarily a traditional clay sculptor and I find that VR provides a much more information-rich creation experience. Sculpting with your hands in true three dimensional volume space provides you with a much richer understanding and overview of your sculpture than earlier digital methods. It is a huge benefit to create in this way and it allows me to transfer more of my traditional sculpting experience into the digital world with only minor adjustments. The result is that I have much stronger emotional connection to VR sculpting. I am actually planning to use VR to design my next clay sculptures. 

Have VR art programs changed the way you approach your art? 

VR programs are allowing me experiment and concept faster than I could in clay. I can try out things that would never stand up on their own without a complex armature. They also allow me to experiment more with the presence of something larger than myself that I could never afford to test out traditionally. VR has also allowed me to fully embrace digital 100% for the first time. I always harboured a resentment before VR, because back then digital forced me to give up seeing and interacting with my 3D sculpture in 3D. This seemed like an unfair trade-off in my mind. 

What is your general workflow and how have you adapted VR into this workflow? 

Currently my workflow is Design on paper > create a clay test 3D thumbnail maquette or a Zbrush sketch > commit to creating the larger fully detailed sculpture. VR Sculpting can now replace the intermediate 3D thumbnail test stage. Eventually, as it matures, it will likely start replacing the design and someday the final sculpting stage.

Do you feel you’ve approached the limit of what you can do with this new technology, or do you feel you have a lot more to explore? 

Conceptually I feel like I have only scratched the surface. In terms of creating a very polished, detailed final sculpture - VR still has a lot of room to grow and improve. I think this is a very good first generation.

How did you approach workign in MasterpieceVR?

I wanted to create someone with a weathered/hard-edged face who seems intelligent and dangerous. I think characters with sharp features and dramatic shapes translate well into current VR sculpting workflows.

I really like the way the engine automatically smooths the edges of your strokes as you add more digital "clay" to your sculpture. This helps create cleaner surface with minimal manual effort. I am impressed with the smoothing algorithm and how it's tied to the shape of whatever sculpting tool you are using rather than being it's own tool. This gives you finer control and more options when managing your surface. I prefer the wire frame-style of how the program displays your current sculpting too. The wire frame provides a better idea of how your current tool will add or subtract from the sculpture surface.

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