[Artist in Residence] - Nihm Lexica

(Cliff Schonewill) #1

Hello and well met! My name is Cliff Schonewill, and I am 3D artist who simply enjoys conjuring things into reality - be it a virtual one or a physical one. Creation in general, and the processes that make it happen, are right near the top of the coolest things our species can do. I am sure there are many of you in this community that can agree in some way with that.

I was pleased when Sketchfab reached out to me about producing a personal project for them, and that is what I am here to introduce!

Before I get started, it’s important for me to point out that I’m aware of my own tendency to over complicate things when it comes to a creative project. A thing is never just a thing to me, it is something with reason connected to a story that I often want to create at least some of. My mind works in very non-linear ways when I am making art of some kind, and I have come to recognize that like anything this is both a strength and a weakness. Whatever might be the way you think or do something, it is not bad - but over time it is important to see what the gifts are in your method as well as the drawbacks.

Typically when doing a personal project, I end up at something over ambitious which ultimately ends up cryogenically frozen since skills and artistic eye move ever forward. For those projects, this is a sort of death sentence. I think this is a neat opportunity to try something simpler that I can execute on in a reasonable amount of time. More than that, it is somewhat imperative that I do, because I know how I will ultimately layer on top of it many things creating something less simple than before. Personally, I like this - its how I end up beyond what I would ever have originally thought of, but it involves evolution through the process of production. Rather than designing A and working towards producing A, I tend to bounce my way through a whole alphabet and end up somewhere close to Z, if you’ll pardon the analogy.

Due to a very busy work schedule and a 13 month old child, time is extra hard to come by. I’ve decided to start from a simple place so that layers of uniqueness I layer on top are of a more manageable degree.

I have bits and pieces of a whole fantasy world I am building over time in my mind, and as I build it there are heaps of things that need to be named. Without a name, something just doesn’t seem solid, and I like to (even if it is just temporary) name something that I make to give my mind some things to jump off of when imagining ever widening spirals of things that are involved in it somehow. I have a list I grow over time I call the book of names, and it’s essentially just a document where I add names that I create for things or just try to sound out interesting names that I can later use. That started me thinking that the creation of a very cool looking book could be a great way to do a manageable project. As mentioned above though, of course I can’t let myself make just any ordinary book!

Since I am already long winded, I’ll aim to give a concise idea behind this. The idea is that, just as I have started my little “book of names”, so to in this world has a long standing order who’s aim it is to gather information across time and places into a place where it can be put together in ways not otherwise possible. For centuries through the multitudinous journeys their scholars and seekers undertake, they also keep ledgers of every name they encounter - be it a person, place, or thing, and make notes where possible about origins or meanings of names when they are able to discern either. These are collected into a lexicon per letter in the common language. There are but a few volumes in existence which bring together all of these into one single volume - the Nihm Lexica. Being a compendium of all the characters it represents the best list ever created of names the world over with some notes here and there on them.

Due to its size and rarity I have some license to make it unique and cool, which is what I’m after. There are awesome books in our real world, but I’m not interested in replicated reality - I’m interested in creating something interesting and mysterious then breathing its OWN reality into it. With the sheer amount of pages, this book can not have a typical binding. Working that out and accommodating its heft will be the design challenges out of which other things can flow.

I’ll look forward to sharing bits of progress and thoughts with you as I create Nihm Lexica. Thanks for reading (I know that was overly long)!

(Paulchambers3d) pinned globally #2

(Paulchambers3d) #3

Welcome aboard Cliff! Can't wait to see what you'll share with our community.

(Cliff Schonewill) #4

We’ve likely all heard the expression “Don’t put the cart before the horse.” - Which is a sturdy saying with a wisdom often worth following. For me, the creative process does not work like that precisely. Sometimes it does - but it hops around from horse before the cart, cart before the horse, horse walking alongside the cart, horse in the cart, cart on top of the horse, and all ends up organizing itself as I go along.

I’ve come up with an overall idea of what I’d like to do, done a few quick tests and adjusted my idea a tad. I’ve also sketched out some things that generated the initial idea of how I want to make it unique and mentally determined that I want to use wood, metal, and leather together across this book for surface variation, fun in texturing, and helping to establish some primary, secondary, and tertiary details. With that in place, the logical step would be to sort of chisel things out from large to small, but that’s not where I’m at with this in my mind. Now more than ever is the time to play - its time to find things and shapes that spark my imagination and develop for me a bouquet of things to choose from and swirl into the soup of my design. Much of this will evaporate as this soup boils, but they’ll leave their mark on it somehow.

I sketched out something for fun to make my own Launchy skin - and decided that I enjoyed some of the shapes in that enough that I would utilize that as a way to aid this process. It's very much on the tertiary side of the details I am looking to create, but can spark ideas I would never have otherwise arrived at with experimentation that can flow up stream, rather than the typical downstream, if you follow.

For 2 minutes I began modeling it out but then stopped myself, used the drawing I already had as an alpha in zbrush to create an extraction which I then deleted all but the front polygroup of and zremeshed. After a little cleanup, I have great mesh to work with for this and a few other purposes. I am not planning on having any of these details be represented with polys in my final result, so I am less concerned about them being optimized. Taking this then, I play with symmetry/mirror cut in maya with multiple cuts stacked on top of eachother and move them around until I go “OOoooohh” - which happens quite frequently. Just duplicate it off and keep going. In no time at all I’ll have this all I can eat Buffet of surprising shapes and details I would never have straight up designed, all originating from one piece so they share in a style. This is essentially bringing a 2d design into a fast, non destructive, iterative design process in 3D - and if that wasn’t enough, I will later take the chosen results and get a large amount of sculpting done using these smartly made shapes as boolean meshes in zbrush.

I’ll have some more fun with this and a few more design elements, then begin seeing how I can put them together and cull the weeds that sprout as something more cohesive solidifies.

(Cliff Schonewill) #5

Apologies for the lack of a recent update. I've been more than swamped, but plan on having at least something more this weekend. This is a nebulous stage where its not just a straight shot of producing something. Bear with me! :slight_smile:

(Cliff Schonewill) #6

In addition to the aforementioned things, there was a minor emergency that I am dealing with that has taken all of the time I was slotting to work on this. Apologies, I don't wish to make excuses for a lack of things to show to you regarding this project yet, but the reality is that this has derailed me for a bit and is something that can not be ignored. Thanks for your patience and bear with me!

(Chaitanyak) #7

hope everything is alright. take care

(Cliff Schonewill) #8

Hello! Things are starting to normalize and I'll be able to get back on track with this project now and should post an update this coming weekend. Thank you to anyone who was interested and to Sketchfab for your patience. Life is somewhat unpredictable sometimes.

I've got the mechanics of the lock on the front of the book worked out, which was something that took a little experimentation to design. I'll show how that works in the near future.


(Kerinsara) #9

interesting project! thanks for sharing your process.

(Cliff Schonewill) #10

Alright everyone. Phew, life! I typically don't like to show things until I have a finished product, however this is a bit different as the idea is to share progress and thought processes as I go along. With what time I have had to work on this, I have been putting it where it is currently most important, which is figuring out the mechanics I wanted for a book this size and a unique locked cover. The lock is not meant to serve as a security feature for the book (as in under lock and key) - but to basically have a closed state where it needs to be deliberately opened which helps to protect the contents from events like falling off of something where the sheer weight would likely harm the binding.

There is not much to see right now, however this a 5 minute careless animation just testing how I want the books covering to work out. Key points:

  • It has 5 (or 6 if you count the cover "lock") points of articulation - however the design of the lock side presents some challenges

  • The "spine" of the book, which is the bottom in this test example, is split in two and will have half of the book bound to either side. As the book opens and lays flat, the weight of the pages steeples the spine which then splays each half of the book to either side. My thinking here is that this is something practical which also makes the book unique from others everyone has seen. The sheer volume of pages is prohibitive to work with when at certain points (like reading around a bent page as it disappears down the binding seam in some huge books, if you've ever done that). Also, the binding would be strained considerably with the majority of the book weighing on a given side. This splits the difference, makes it do something unique, and hopefully has a spine unlike others.

  • The cover "lock" is two half circles who's disc widens under the cover into a groove cut into each side. When rotated correctly, the seams between them align with the seams in the cover and allow it to be opened. I'm thinking of perhaps sculpting some sort of scene matching (for example one part of the cover could be the ground while the other could be the sky, and you line this up with what is depicted in the center. I may do this in a more subtle way - not decided as yet. The way this cover is split into a symmetrical a-symmetrical design makes the rotation of this point and balancing of the hinge points with the rest of the book which is square a unique challenge that I've got to work out next.

I know it looks like a boring brown box right now - but I hope you'll have some faith and bear with me as I create this, though it is unfortunately a slow going process right now with everything going on for me currently.

For the next update I'll hope to show the hinges worked out and begin taking it into sculpting land.

(Paulchambers3d) #11

"We have such sights to show you." Memories of one of my favorite movies. Can't wait to see where this takes us all!

(Nomadking) #12

Great to read some of the thoughts behind the process so far!


Belated welcome, Cliff, and loving the WIP so far, explanations and Sketchfab embed!

(Simon Kratz) #14

Hi and welcome as an Artist in Residence @figmentpigment!
I really love the style of your sketches! Looking forward to see your progress with translating it into 3D :slight_smile:

(Paulchambers3d) pinned globally #15

(Cliff Schonewill) #16

Hello! As will have been painfully obvious to anyone viewing this thread, there has been almost no real work done in a long time, for which I apologize. A number of factors have added up which have made it exceedingly difficult to have any time to do something on the side at the moment.

So as not to drag that on further, I've talked to Sketchfab about putting this project in the freezer until that clears up. I do intend to finish it, but want to be honest with the community here and myself by saying that its just not in the cards currently. I'll look forward to returning to in the future and when I do so we can resurrect this thread.

Thanks for your patience in the mean time and see you a little ways down the road! Happy upcoming holidays and a new year to all, see you then!

(Bart) unpinned #17