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Meet the Artist: Kfir Merlaub

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Personal Origins

Ever since I can remember I loved to draw and create. I was fascinated by the world of animation, comics, video games and iconic feature films. I was always trying to recreate these moments in my art.

Growing up I acquired many skills along the way, majoring in art and art history, and later architecture and design before my army service. Eventually I pursued an education in 3D animation and digital sculpting at the Israeli Animation College.

Most of the skills that I have highlighted here were independently developed by learning from books that focused on drawing, human anatomy and advanced digital sculpting techniques focusing on characters, figural art, 3D printing, and collectible production.

To this day I see myself as having a long way to go for advancing my art, finding inspiration from the great talented artists and their artworks, as I regularly visit the top art forums such as Blenderartists, ZBrush Central and ArtStation.

Recent Projects

All of these projects were created as digital statues for the toy / statue collectible world.

Batman Who Laughs - video rendered with Cycles

My greatest achievement so far, working with my dream client, Prime 1 Studios, and being published by Sideshow. It is currently one of the best selling statues of Prime 1 Studio. It was reviewed and displayed in the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con. Definitely a dream come true for all the hard work I am putting into advancing my art and an encouragement to do even more!

He-Man - video rendered with EEVEE

He-Man personal concept art.

Spawn - video rendered with Cycles

Spawn personal concept art.

Deadpool - video rendered with Cycles

Deadpool personal concept art.

Rambo - video rendered with EEVEE

The Joker - render tests from EEVEE

Wonder Woman

This is a Neca Toys life-size statue production. My job was likeness sculpting.

This work was commissioned after I published a video of my personal Wonder Woman Project, rendered in the old Realtime GLSL viewport render.

Blender

I am a veteran Blender user for over 10 years now. I discovered it by searching for a free source 3D application to play around with.

I am very glad that it has proved a worthwhile investment of my time, finding many animation studios working with Blender as their main 3D app. And I appreciate flexible companies allowing me to use any 3D app I desire.

I fell in love with Blender’s interface and how the software modalities cover most / all my artistic needs from modeling and sculpting to drawing, animating and video editing all in one production space.

And I am very happy to see how the next Blender 2.8 release is shaping up.

One of my contributions to Blender that I am very proud of is designing and Co-Scripting the Pitchipoy rig together with the great help of Nathan Vegdahl and Tamir Lousky.

Although rigging is not my focus now, maybe I will visit it once again at some point should I venture into character VFX.

ZBrush

Despite Blender having technically all the tools needed to create top quality statues, still, for the fine details and high definition sculptural quality, I rely much on ZBrush. The fine-tuned brush system and the high poly count reached with ease of performance is yet to be matched by Blender for my creative process.

However, I am constantly checking the updates and comparing, so that soon one day all my workflow will be created smoothly in one software alone.

My Current Workflow

As for my workflow, it truly changes from project to project but in general I have come to an overarching formula that currently works for me:

  1. Sketchbook Pro - Drawing the concept
  2. Blender - Creating the maquette or general forms and objects, testing the figural composition, lighting and impression.
    In sculpting I usually do not start from a T-pose and then pose the figure. I sculpt the figure directly into the pose being mindful of the proportions.
  3. ZBrush - As the need for higher detail emerges I use the GoB addon for Blender to switch to high definition sculpting in Zbrush.
  4. Blender - Once I have completed the statue and baked the textures, I move back to Blender for lighting, shading, camera animations and rendering using Cycles. And for my latest projects, I have been exploring the new powers found in Blender 2.8’s EEVEE.

Tips for artists

For me, art has to be a major passion for the artist because there truly are no shortcuts, only serious hard work. I still have a lot to learn and struggle to advance every day. It’s a lifestyle.

Try to learn as much as you can, focusing on the fundamentals of art. An artist who did not sufficiently spent time in perfecting these skills, the evidence will show.

Everyone has his own way of learning and viewing the world; mine was that of reading and practicing endlessly from books for a couple of years or so before continuing forward. E.g., for anatomy: memorizing by heart all the proper anatomical muscles, layers, bones, features, etc. by their respective scientific name, copying each illustration in the books until it matches the original. Gaining the sense that I can draw the human figure from imagination from any angle and any pose.

I found for me that the fundamental artistic skills do tend to translate fairly well to any medium, including digital.

Here are examples of my 2011 (Ages 22-23) portfolio before learning digital sculpting.

Personal Anatomy Studies Example (Ages 18-19):

The most notable books I have been influenced by are:

Workspace

Currently I sport quite a humble setup of a gaming laptop computer, together with an Intuos Wacom tablet. Will expand soon :-)

A special thanks from the heart to BlenderNation for being encouraging to all Blender artists, including myself, and for always being happy to feature my works, and encouraging me to continue and develop in this path.

My first post here was only a personal test in Sculpting around 4 years ago:

I was very surprised by the support I got back then. This was my first attempt in my own style of sculpting. And I am very grateful to you, the Blender community, for encouraging me to further develop in this way.

I am looking forward to sharing more works, news and personal progress.
For more info:

Thank you!!!
Kfir

About the Author

Kfir Merlaub, highly talented artist with over 7 years of experience as a digital sculptor, specializing and focusing on creating first class figural art.To date Kfir has worked with a large number of top clients in the collectibles, entertainment and gaming industries: Prime 1 Studio, Neca Toys, Hasbro, Ubisoft, Microsoft and others. Extremely passionate about his art, Kfir is constantly striving to reach new heights and the mastery of his craft.

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