Fox on a Log

ZBrush, Photoshop (2014 - 2015)

(Photo reference by Francois Ribeaudeau)

After graduating, I explored sculpting through a series of projects driven by my own interests . In hindsight, my tendency towards natural realism is evident in almost all of my work and I’m glad to have had the time to discover it organically.

This sculpture was, from the start, intended to be 3D printable, meaning that I had to approach my forms in a more solid manner than the medium allows for. After sitting on the sculpt for awhile, I did finally end up printing it and giving it as a gift to a relative.

Once I landed on a fox as my subject, I started with a series of sketches to get the important forms in my mind. I considered various compositions, eventually choosing a that of a curious fox staring into a shallow river. I blocked out the more apparent and visibly elements of the photo using other shots from the photo set I used as reference. I sketched over top of a set of quick renders to help guide the design of the final piece.

I found the water ripples to be the most interesting and unusual part of the sculpt, in part because they actually worked out which I wasn’t expecting. I used radial symmetry and a few reference images to create a drop pattern which I then layered in several places near where the water contacts the various objects in the sculpt. You can see some secondary ripples cast from the rocks, for example. Beneath these was a basic ZBrush noise pattern.

As always, I found the fur to be difficult. The thick, long fur of a fox would have required deep carved edges which just wouldn’t balance when I tried them. The deeper the edges, the larger the fut patterns and the more stylized the result often is. The tail in particular was hard to work on, though after many tries I managed to get the entire fox looking and feeling right. Starting with a strong silhouette and sticking to it was what inevitably held the piece together through all of my attempts.

The 3D print, like most of my prints at the time, had a strange marred surface that was a result of the contact points used during the printing process which were later cut off. At the time I thought trying different methods for cleaning the surface might fix it but, in hindsight, correcting the necessary contact points was what I should have looked into. An alternate solution would be use the print to make a mold, then use the mold to cast duplicates in a material of my choice.