Sculpting and 3D Prints with Jesse Sandifer

Posted by Fianna, 26 July 2012 4:49 pm

Hey Jesse! So most of us know you from the killer "Turtle Barbarian" image, a winning entry of the CGHUB Warriors contest challenge. Recently you've published a new image, albeit a much softer and gentler one, of two lovers in the moonlight. As you've mentioned across numerous forums, this was a commissioned piece by Autodesk. Can you talk a bit about that?

Sure! Yeah, it’s definitely a different kind of genre for me but I’ve always had a sensitive side too. And yes, Autodesk asked me to create a couple characters in a classical period using Mudbox. I was given a little reference and inspiration that consisted of the 16th-18th centuries and the movie, Casanova, with Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller. You’ll notice that I pretty much ripped the outfits from their characters because I’m no style expert! The idea here was to show off what Mudbox can do for the digital artist whether you are creating the beauty or the beast.

As I understand it, you were exclusively using ZBrush prior to Turtle Barbarian. Participating in the challenge gave you the chance to try out Mudbox for your work -- what are your thoughts on Mudbox prior to and after, and do you continue to use Mudbox in your daily work?

I figured if I was going to be taken seriously in the digital sculpting world, I needed to have knowledge in both ZBrush and Mudbox. I didn’t know much about Mud beforehand so the challenge was a great way to force myself to learn. I was pleasantly surprised on how well Mudbox held up during the challenge and at that point I knew I was going to keep Mudbox in my arsenal. I like how well it plays with my 3D software of choice, 3ds Max. The intuitive interface, the sculpting ease, and the straightforward painting were also appealing to me. I continue to use Mudbox in my daily work for sure.

A bit about your background, what are some projects/gigs that you've worked on in the past?

My background is kind of different than most character artists. I do have a degree but not in character art but rather in architecture. So twelve years ago, I started my career doing architectural 3D modeling and rendering. After a few years of doing well in that genre, I really felt a tugging to explore character art instead. So as I did architecture work during the day, I was working on learning how to do poly modeling and sub-d modeling from online tutorials and personal projects. It was a fascinating world to me and I just kept working through lunches and late nights to hone my new craft in hopes that my hobby would become a new career path. I started a boutique studio called Green Grass Studios in 2003 with two other guys and we worked on all kinds of things like commercials, game cinematics, straight-to-DVDs, and of course some fun stuff like medical videos showing how the urinary tract in cats work. We all have to do those kinds of projects at some point! I will say a professional highlight while at Green Grass was working on the digital Lake Monster in Scooby Doo: Curse of the Lake Monster, a Warner Bros live-action tv movie on Cartoon Network. I was responsible for designing, modeling, sculpting, texturing, rigging, skinning, and dynamics setup for the character. I worked with Matt Von Brock over at FuseFX and had a great time working with him. I also have experience in the whole gamut of the cg pipeline since I was in charge of a lot of productions in a boutique studio so I had to know how to animate, light, render, storyboard, etc. But my focus now is on character-related art and it’s my true passion. You can see my work at

That's changed now, and you've started up your own company to provide professional services. Tell us more about this and why you decided to go on your own. How has it been so far?

Yes, change is inevitable and just this year I left Green Grass after 9 years to start freelancing under the name Chickwalker. The name might confuse some people so let me quickly explain. The name pays homage to one of the first creations I made that caught notice in the cg industry almost a decade ago. I had written a story about a young rooster chick that invented this tall, long-legged egg-shaped robot and he protected his farm with it when they were under attack by a bunch of menacing wolves. It was a coming of age story about a boy and the struggles with impressing his father. Then of course, movies like Chicken Little and Barnyard came out and the rest is history. So the launching of my new company, Chickwalker, is basically my way of getting back to what I’ve always wanted to do, creating character art. It’s going well so far and I’m very excited to be working with cool people and great clients so far!

I’m really looking forward to getting some of my existing work made into custom prints with Offload Studios and offering them to the collectibles community in the next year or so.

CGNuggets and Chickwalker are two companies you are running… why two?

Well, the two companies have two different purposes. CGNuggets actually came before Chickwalker and it’s my tutorial site for the character creation process. It’s kind of my way of giving back to the teaching community after I had learned via online tutorials early in my career. Chickwalker is strictly my professional art, whether it be for-hire or creating my own original work.

What are you working on these days, commercial contracts or otherwise...

Right now, I’m working pretty heavily with Hasbro Toys in creating some exciting toy lines. They require secrecy of course when working on their projects but I will say that I can’t wait to have these toys on my desk one day! I’ve also had the chance recently to work with Shadows in Darkness in creating some high-poly game bosses and creatures. I’m looking forward to showing those off when the games come out. Another big thing that I’m excited to announce is that I’m getting some of my existing work made into custom prints with Offload Studios and offering them to the collectibles community in the next year or so. I’ll also have some new creations to offer so stay tuned for that!

Going over the Chickwalker portfolio of work, there is a great variation in styles. Certainly, clients will have a specific preference in mind in what they are looking for but overall, who would you say have influenced you in your artistic journey to date?

Yes, it’s definitely diverse. And on purpose. Since I’m a new freelancer in the industry, I’m trying to be as attractive to as many genres as I can. So whether it be realistic monsters or humans, exaggerated cartoons, or just some cool toys and statues, I want to show that I can handle it all. I’ve been heavily influenced by Feng Zhu, Neville Page, Ryan Church, Ian Joyner, Weta, Pixar, and ILM. Movies like Avatar, Star Wars, Predator, District 9, Minority Report, Super 8, Jurassic Park (and more) have been a big part of me getting interested in this industry.

Well Jesse, thanks for the quick chat. For those of you who want to see how Jesse made "Just Before the Kiss", check out the first part of the tutorial here. Stay tuned for the upcoming chapters as they roll out each week!

Links: Jesse Sandifer | Chickwalker | CGNuggets



Posted 3 September 2012 7:58 am

wow, this guys is amazing! Nice read.


Posted 8 September 2012 8:03 am


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