Maarten Verhoeven: My name is Maarten Verhoeven and I’m a freelance CG artist, with an expertise in Zbrush, living in Belgium and working in very different areas, from concept art to 3D print. Novedge: How did you get there? What is your background?
Maarten Verhoeven: As long as I can remember I drew and created things. Growing up as a kid in the eighties I was infected by the movies from that era: while the TV was running in the background with VHS tapes and cartoons, all I did was drawing creatures, Sci-Fi and scary things. A soon as I came of age, I choose Art education and, later on, I studied animation in Brussels, since this was the closest thing to VFX or creature design exposure. When I entered the ‘real’ world and worked at a local small post-production company, I was in charge of Color grading, small budget VFX and motion graphics, some of the stuff I still do today. After working at this company for a couple of years I felt I wanted to create again; that's when I discovered Zbrush in an article featuring the work of Rick Baker. Totally stunned by the images, I went looking for the program they were created in, and it was love at first sight. This was the moment that I decided to be a freelance artist. This was to follow my new found passion and develop myself as a CG artist and sculptor. Five years later this is still the best choice I’ve ever made. I have traveled the world and met so many nice people in the community.
Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?
Maarten Verhoeven: Two recent projects that also make me extremely proud of myself are a lecture I’ve done for The Gnomon Workshop, and the Release of Zbrush R7. It was only a couple of years ago that I used to buy the kind of tutorials I produced for the lecture. It felt great to be given the freedom to create something as a signature artist, just doing my thing sculpting a creature. The Lecture project was very straight forward, I proposed a few subjects and they told me what would be fun. I wrote up what I needed to sculpt, made a breakdown for the chapters. I was able to use the same workflow I always use, looking up some nice reference of dragon, reptiles and so on. I opened Zbrush and dove in. For my personal creations I don’t work with concepts any more. I decide what I want to create and I go for it, letting it grow while still working on it. The recordings took around 20 hours and I worked a bit slower than usual because I didn’t want to backtrack a lot of my work. Working slower also made it easier to divide my chapters and put in some breaks during sculpting . The final sculpt was created in one run until it was ready to be taken to Keyshot for rendering. Finally everything was cut done to 3-4 hours and dubbed, explaining my workflow and tricks to create this product. The nice thing of creating something like this is that you get a personal response from people.
The same goes for the the release of ZB4R7, where I I’ve had to chance to work on different images. This project went on for over a year and different versions where created. There was a lot of testing of the new tools, a lot of sculpting, and a hunt for possible bugs. It’s always great to see what all the other artists create and this quickly sparks you to work harder and try new things. Especially since keyshot has gotten a bridge. There was also a lot of testing on lighting and textures, to see what would work best on the sculpts that came straight out of ZBrush. The hard surface tools were excellent for trying new things. My creations that made the cut were the Space Chimp and Dogbot. Maarten Verhoeven's Space Chimp and Dogbot.
Novedge: You have worked on commercials, feature films and product design. How similar and how different is to work in these three fields?
Maarten Verhoeven: For me the workflow is very often the same, the only thing that differs is time and budget. It's the difference between going all the way or having to take shortcuts. A good pre-production is for me half the work, getting the right info from an employer. A clear communication from the start is very important.
Novedge: What software do you use?
Maarten Verhoeven: I use ZBrush from conception up to the final product. I’ll start working with a clear concept in my mind. I'll block out the basic shapes with Dynamesh or Zspheres. Then I'll punch in all the details as far as I can go and take it up the necessary subdivision. Normally I'll try to keep my polycount between 3 and 8 million polys per subtool. For final rendering and image editing I’ll use Keyshot and Photoshop. Keyshot is a great product for cranking out fast and good looking images. It’s all very straightforward and with the real-time render engine I’ll get fast updates on my changes. Once a render is done I might take it to Photoshop to adjust some minor details like brightness, color and contrast, I’ll try to change as little as possible to stay the closest from what I’ve gotten out of keyshot.
Novedge: What (or who ) inspires you?
Maarten Verhoeven: Many different kind of artists inspire me, from very different backgrounds: from current CG to practical VFX artists; furthermore I get inspired by a lot of old masters, painters and sculptors from classical eras. I think it’s important to learn how things are constructed, to study your object. This is why I use references; I’ll have a ton of reference pictures on all subjects going from rocks to anatomical studies. Real life and nature inspires and helps you close the gaps that are left open in your imagination.
Novedge: What are the rewards and challenges of working freelance?
Maarten Verhoeven: One of the rewards is that you can pick your own jobs and you can decide how you manage your time. Also you can find the time to develop yourself more as an artist. Self-dedication, self -management and no secure work can be challenging. You also might have to work nights and holidays.
Novedge: What does it really take to succeed in your field?
Maarten Verhoeven: Be critical on your own work and dare to destroy it if you have to: half of the things I create end up in the recycle bin. Try to raise your bar every time again. Fight your weaknesses and exploit your strong points. It’s not all about the software, it’s what you do with it as an artist that will count. Study your anatomy, art and use reference. Novedge: What is your dream project and who would you like to work for/with?
Maarten Verhoeven: I don’t have a real dream project at the moment, a lot of childhood dreams that keep popping up, all those movies and franchises that are getting a reboot, you know which ones I am talking about ..... Of course I would love to work on a lot projects and with all those great directors and other artists that have influenced and enriched me as an artist, there are just too many to choose from. So for now I’m happy and working on many different things and I’ll see what or who crosses my path in the future.
If you would like to cross path with Maarten Verhoeven check out his blog. And if you would like to cross path with ZBrush 4R7 register to our Novedge Webinar about What's New in ZBrush4 Release 7 coming up very soon!