Blackhearted is our March Vendor of the Month. He was on the development team that created "La Femme" and has an active Renderosity store. His work speaks for itself. We spoke to Blackhearted recently about his work on the "La Femme" project, his background and working methods. We thank him for taking the time to talk with us and congratulate him for being chosen VOM for March!
Interview with Blackhearted
Renderosity: You mention in your bio that you started CG in 1999; how did you learn more about creating digital art? Are you self taught?
Blackhearted: I used to work a high-pressure office job and the stress got to be too much and one day I just got up from my desk and left. I didn't say anything and just left all of my belongings in the office. They kept sending me a paycheque for a few months, and in the meantime I set out to learn 3D. I've never looked back.
I am self-taught but I believe to some degree every 3D artist has to be in this day and age where software and the industry is evolving on a daily basis. You have to be constantly evolving with it and actively learning every day or you'll get left behind.
Blackhearted: You were a part of the La Femme development team; what did you do on the team? What was the experience like?
Blackhearted: It initially started out as a volunteer project between me, Denise (Deecey), Charles (Nerd3D), Lorraine (Rhiannon) and Mike (Letterworks). Poser desperately needed a solid base figure that makes use of the new Poser features and rigging features from the last decade. That was the goal: a clean base mesh, UVs, rigging, and a very liberal redistribution license -- let the community take that and run with it and make all the fluff content. We'd considered the idea of making the entire thing open source but decided that the current licensing would keep things centralized and a little more organized -- but basically people are free to redistribute the base textures and base morphs in their add-on products.
So at the beginning we were working on a figure for free for the community. After awhile it came to the notice of Renderosity and SM and they offered to sponsor it, which was enough to keep the lights on until it was finished. There are thousands of man-hours in creating a complete figure and all of us worked some crazy overtime hours making refinements and adding features.
La Femme is an excellent Poser figure; what do you like about her most?
Blackhearted: The flexibility. We all went in with a list of what we hated about working with Poser figures and set out to solve them. I loved V4 but my workflow with her was always load V4, pose her (making sure to avoid any arms up or hip side-side poses), then take her into ZBrush and start fixing her joints. In Zbrush I'd also adjust things like breasts for gravity and make tweaks on small joints like toes and fingers. Expressions were also a bit of a pain since traditionally you had to hunt through lists of dials and try to dial something acceptable. All of this can now be done in Poser easily with her body/face handles, extra bones and improved rigging. The handles make things so much easier: you can just grab a corner of a lip and drag it around to make the figure smile, bite her lip, etc. A surprised expression can be done in seconds by just dragging the brow and jaw handles around.
No 3D figure is perfect but I find myself spending far less time struggling with poses and joints and expressions and have more time being creative. The goal of LaFemme wasn't to provide a 'do it all' figure but rather to focus all effort on providing a quality, modern base figure that the community could then build on and customize. To stimulate some vendors to create Poser products again, get the community sharing morphs and characters and add-ons and ideas, etc. I think it's succeeded in that goal.
One of my favorite pieces in your store is the La Femme Fatale HD morphs. Can you tell us about your creation of this product?
Blackhearted: Most people expect a Girl Next Door type character from me, which traditionally was one morph you dialed to get a pretty sculpted/idealized figure. But some may have noticed that for the past few years I've been adding more sub-morphs into the GND products that allow people to customize them more. So the Femme Fatale HD Morphs is the next evolution in that direction: there is no 'character morph', rather it is a collection of 58 diferent morphs that let you create your own stylized figure (yet with very much a 'GND' feel).
An efficient low-poly subdivided base mesh (in this case ~24,000 polygons) sculpted with HD morphs (which are nearly half a million polygons) is an excellent way to get a lot of detail in a figure yet still keep things responsive and efficient in Poser. The extra detail is loaded during rendering and actually barely affects rendertime. Working with a half-million polygon figure in Poser would reduce your workspace to a crawl.
You can get extra detail with normal and displacement maps but the disadvantage of those is that they're 'baked' in a certain configuration. With HD morphs you can mix and match morphs to add detail exactly where you want it: for example you could make a curvy voluptuous character with really defined calves. There would be no way to do that with normal/displacement maps unless the creator baked out maps for that specific scenario.
HD morphs are great for adding detail but you don't always need them for basic figure shaping: which is why the Femme Fatale HD Morphs actually include normal morphs (we may as well call them 'SD Morphs') for basic shaping of things like thighs, hips, eyelashes, a range of breast sizes, etc.
This is the type of content you'll be seeing from me going forward. Rather than a premade character I'd like to provide people with a 'construction kit' of sorts to let their creativity run wild. I have another such kit in the works for LaFemme, and everything will be compatible and mixable so that people have even more freedom to create something according to their personal tastes.
What is your workflow as an artist and what tools do you use regularly?
Blackhearted: 3D software is evolving constantly and utilities and flavor of the month software come and go, but at the core of just about anything I do you'll always find Photoshop, ZBrush and Silo. After years of frustration with Silo crashes I'm currently transitioning from modeling in Silo to Blender 2.8, which is shaping up to be an industry-changing release. If anyone is looking to get started in 3D I wouldn't hesitate to point them towards Blender (*2.8 - no point learning the 2.79 interface now). Not everyone can afford ZBrush, Photoshop, etc so going forward I plan on making as many tutorials as I can using completely free software like Blender, Krita, etc so that they're accessible to everyone.
Who are the artists (both digital and traditional) that inspire you?
Blackhearted: I used to have a long list of artists, photographers, etc that inspired me but lately I try not to let other artists influence my work. I think it's important to develop your own recognizable style in 3D or any other type of art.
I work in kind of a bubble, I have very little idea what other content creators are doing or what's currently trending. Naturally things I see while walking around, or in the media can inspire me: I'll see a pair of shoes or a really cool swimsuit and think that would look great in Poser/DS.
How has Renderosity made a difference in your life as an artist?
Blackhearted: I've been in the community for a long time and have seen more than my share of drama and scandals and dubious practices. The Poser/DS community seems like a magnet for drama and Renderosity is by no means immune, but in the past twenty years the Rendo staff have consistently conducted themselves with solid integrity. It's reassuring to be able to put your complete faith in a site and the hardworking people behind it: in an evolving and ever-changing 3D landscape Rendo has been a constant.
A heartfelt thanks to the Renderosity staff and community for letting me keep doing what I love.
Be sure to visit Blackhearted's gallery for more of this talented artists work.
- Interview with May VOM - Rhiannon
- Vendor of the Month for May is Rhiannon
- April VOM Interview: Outoftouch
- Introducing La Femme 1 for Poser
- Vendor of the Month for March is Blackhearted
- Remembering Renderosity Artist Syltermermaid (Ute Mulrooney)
- Interview with Sangriart, February Vendor of the Month
- Vendor of the Month for February - Sangriart
- Vendor of the Month for February is Sangriart
- Faces of Renderosity for January - Andy Boys
Congrats and many thanks. Enjoying LaFemme. It seems like a new version of Poser just having an excellent figure that finally uses that built-in power. I dub this "new" product; Poser Pro v.LF!
Long time fan/customer; it's nice to put a face and voice to the avatar :)
Looking forward to more from you and all the artists your work enables!