Artist Spotlight – Mike Nash and Vitaly Bulgarov

In these short series of posts I will look at my favorite artists in a specific category and why I like them!

This time we will focus on my favorite hard surface people – Mike Nash and Vitaly Bulgarov. While their work is mistakenly different and the general style of either is quite different they both focus on creating extremely realistic sci-fi characters and props. After staring at their works across a million blogs, forums and portfolios I have gathered a handful of simple rules that I follow when making my hard surface designs.

  1. How is something attached – aside from sports cards and military aircraft (who go through much paint to hide any evidence of modularity) you can mostly guess how two pieces of say your laptop are attached to each other. Be it visible screws, hidden snap-on panels or wielding. Having some sort of access panels or assembly details give a ton of credibility to you designs as it automatically make them look like something that was actually made as well as how it was made and how it might work.
  2. How it was made – adding little texture details like casting impurities, marks from laser cutters or attachment points that were used in assembly only – can give some history behind you design without changing the overall shape or components.
  3. Physical Constraints – if your design moves, goes it have and engine, if it has an engine does it need fuel, what type of fuel, how does power get around it. Making something look too clean and futuristic can often result in an unrealistic design that few people can relate to as in everyone knows what an exhaust pipe looks like and if there is one then there must be and engine behind it as well. At this point making an amazing design for me it finding the balance between the possible and the impossible.
  4. How it moves – Details like hinges, joints, straps or bolts can instantly tell the audience how something is supposed (or not) to move – that combined with textures of wear and overlapping plates can show a history of motion behind your motionless design that even when stationary the will communicate how motion is achieved.
  5. Materials – nothing assembled from multiple parts looks quite them same – your phone for example has plastic, metal and glass all woven into one. In terms of hard surface this can be boiled down to reflections… having a modular design can mean that some pieces of your model can be new and shiny, while other older and rougher. This can also used to mix materials like rubber insulation, or plastic overs over an aluminum frame – almost nothing is made from a single material so do try to add some interesting variations with this.
  6. Scratches and dirt – adding a simple procedural layer of dust and scratches is a bit amateurish now, adding them according to areas of smoothness and occlusion is a bit better, but to really take this to the next level think of movement! Panels that slide over each other will leave wear and tear marks, while engine oil slips can be near hydraulic machines and dust and mud would settle around areas that don’t get much exposure or never move in relation to one another.

While there are a few more concepts like blending in organic shapes and industrial design principles that can feed into the overall shape of a model – they are often fields that are difficult to communicate and are left to individual tastes. However these are the 6 principles that I like to think about when making my hard surface models.

Some examples of the work mentioned above.


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