The Zikia Water Carrier: Maury Weiss’ Sculpting Process

Hi everyone,

Earlier this month we had the opportunity to take a look at Joel DuQue’s process behind the paintings in Golem Arcana. Now that all the Wave 3 sculpts are complete and ready for production, we asked our in-house sculptor, Maury Weiss, to share his process of creating Golem Arcana’s sculpts.  We have had a number of very talented sculptors create figures for Golem Arcana, but Maury has been responsible for the majority of GA’s figs.

Maury and I had spoken about the idea that Golems are used for peaceful purposes earlier this year. Within the lore, Eretsu’s constant wars mean that such creations are rare; Golems are just too difficult to create to be able to spare the resources for anything other than war. With the Zikia Water Carrier, we thought we would explore what a Golem built for labor might look like.

Here’s Maury to discuss what goes into creating a sculpt for Golem Arcana.




MW: To create a Golem Arcana figure, I use a program called Zbrush. Zbrush is used to emulate a natural, soft-surface sculpting process similar to clay or sculpey. You can use brushes to push, pull, slash, flatten, pinch and build up digital “clay” made of geometry.

To start, I do a quick block-in of the character using the Zsphere tool which allows for quick manipulation of basic cylindrical shapes to create an object.  I think of it as an armature that I can bend into shape as a base for my clay sculptures. With the symmetry option on, any adjustments made to one side is directly translated to opposite.  For other objects you can start with basic geometric shapes. For example, the barrels and wood beam that carries them are made from cylinders and cubes that have been stretched and re-worked.



MW:  Zspheres are then converted into geometry. In the beginning stages of creating a figure, I work as simply as possible with a low density/low polygon mesh since it makes it easier to move the geometry around and focus on big shapes and proportions.  Other details are added using more Zspheres and cubes to block out parts like the toes and horns. These are added as different layers so they can be easily selected and worked on separately.  I want  to get all of these pieces of the puzzle in place as soon as possible to get a better idea if the proportions of the character are working.



MW: Next, I subdivide the geometry of the figure to continue to define its overall form and silhouette further. Subdividing increases the resolution so I can add more details. Often, parts of a golem are made as a separate piece and then later moved into position, replacing old blocked in pieces.

For example, for this character, I worked on the barrels separately. This allows the piece to be centered so I can use the symmetry options. Here I am using 12 sided radial symmetry to sculpt all the planks of the barrel at once. The metal rings are made from squishing cylinders.




MW: Since I’m am fairly happy with my big shapes at this point, I can really begin some sculpting. Before, I was mostly pushing and pulling large portions of geometry. Now, I begin to use different brushes to build up and cut into the clay to define its detail. As the golem becomes more detailed, I continue to catch and correct any other proportional issues I have with the character. I also use a technique called masking. This will allow me to define an area I do not want to be sculpted on or to even extract parts of my sculpt to be made into other pieces.


MW: As I continue to add more detail to the sculpt and define detail until it becomes clean and sharp, the character is really starting to take shape. The overall form and silhouette is where I want it and the detail is filling out nicely. Now it  just needs the final touches.  I start working on the textures and believability of the materials the golem is made from – imagining that he is full of ancient creaking roots, protected by an outer shell of thick bark overgrown with moss and lichen.

Separating parts of the golem into different pieces makes it easier to detail each part individually and pose the character later. I can also increase the resolution of each piece as needed without affecting the rest of the sculpt. This can save on computer performance because, by this point, the geometry is becoming very dense and now only small parts of the sculpt are selected at one time.

MW: Here you can see that all the finishing touches are added to the sculpt and the final detailing is complete.  I had some fun adding a moss texture in the cracks between the vines, bark and smoother surfaces of the model.  I also created a  pattern by painting in and erasing away a mask. By inverting the mask and then using a brush, inflate tool or move tool, the pattern is easily pulled out. Finally, I created some other details like vines and a tree stump to add asymmetry, making the golem more organic and interesting.


MW: After some feedback and revisions from Jordan and Chris, the sculpt is finally ready to pose. My main method is to mask off everything except the section I want to pose, then rotating that section. For example, like bending an arm at the elbow. While doing this I need to make sure that the golem can fit on his base. I also need to leave room for the flag post and align the feet over an area of the base where a peg can be inserted for attaching the sculpt.

For this pose, we went with a look similar to the concept. It was very important that the golem felt like it was carrying a lot of weight. His back is bent far over and the body is in a low crouch with one arm forward on the ground to help with balance and the other reaching up to hold onto its water carrier. After a lot of tweaks to the pose, we had something we were happy with.


Here’s the final Sculpt.  We don’t have any concrete plans to produce the Zikia Water Carrier right now, but we hope you enjoyed this look into the process behind creating the sculpts of Golem Arcana!



Joel DuQue and the Process behind Golem Arcana’s Paintings (Spoiler Alert!)

Hi everyone,

Today I want to introduce you to Joel DuQue. Joel handles the key illustration duties on Golem Arcana, including the map tiles and many of the Knight and Ancient One portraits.

When it came time for Joel to create a piece to accompany our new story, I asked him if he would be willing to share some thoughts about his process and he graciously agreed!  So here is Joel’s breakdown of his process in creating the illustration for  “Forsaken” in his own words. (click on an image for a larger slideshow)



JD: For this illustration, I was given a rough sketch from Chris for the basic idea we wanted to convey. The key directions were rough around the edges warrior, an ethereal older spirit that is fused into him, and a swirling motion with his two blades. Generally, before I even begin sketching I get some good reference images. Even if they turn out to be unrelated in the final piece it always helps me to have something to jump off from. I was also given a short story that introduces the characters and that helped quite a bit in getting a feel for who they are.


JD: Designs for what an Urugal Knight looks like had already been established so while working within those constraints I sketched him out in various outfits and poses.



JD: The initial sketch is all about posing and general composition. The sketch is really loose and helps give it as much life as possible.



JD: Now I refine the sketch a bit and play with the Spectre’s posing. I worked in the details for Kitra to make sure I knew how his armor and gear would play into the movement of the piece. However, I don’t worry too much about small details at this point in the process since things will likely change moving forward.



JD: After the sketch is at a good place, I begin toning the image in grayscale. It’s sort of like an underpainting which is a traditional painting process that provides a good base to build up from. I use grayscale to keep myself focusing on Tone. Once I have that correct the rest falls into place relatively easily. 



JD: More toning, enriching the image with a variance of soft and rough brushstrokes.



JD: This is when I begin adding color. Frank Frazetta’s images were my initial inspiration so it was fun to try and emulate his vibrant colors. In Photoshop, there are various layer styles that yield different results based on how they’re used.  I used a layer style called Overlay and another called Gradient Maps to infuse the tones with a color of my choosing. It’s a lot of push and pull but I feel it’s a really exciting way to work, and it can have some happy accidents. 



JD: After reading more into the character’s story, I decided that the red hues weren’t going to cut it so I went for a cool color scheme of greens and blues.



JD: More color adjustments and painting details of the characters. I also added more lighting.



JD: Looking at the image it was decided that the Spectre’s pose wasn’t working for our story so I scrapped it and went with something new. They looked too much like they were fighting each other so I also changed where Kitra was looking so it makes more sense contextually. With these changes, the composition began to feel pretty contained so I opened up the top half of the image to add in some architecture. 


JD: Finally, I finished rendering out the image and put the final touches on it. I decided to add a lot of smokey effects to really show how powerful the Spectre is as she emerges out of Vhal. 

Golem Arcana is a really exciting project for me. The world is so rich and diverse! Everytime I hear about a new character I want to read their story and find out how they connect to the others. This is an evolving world and it’s going to be really fun to see it grow. 

Thanks Joel!

Click here for a larger version of the final painting, and click here to read more about the enigmatic Vhal Kitra.