Hi, I’m Geoff and I have worked in 3D since 2008 when I was in middle school, but only recently came back into the field as a hobby in 2020 when I began learning Blender. I’m a programmer by trade in New England, and work on projects in my free time mostly over weekends. I would consider myself a generalist, and focus almost entirely on creating things that inspire me and hopefully others!
For people who haven’t seen the original, my piece is inspired by Francisco Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son, and of course Cookie Monster from Sesame Street to complete this funny mash-up. I had this idea kicking around for a while, but didn’t feel any strong motivation to realize it. In a lull after finishing a previous piece, I decided to play around with the new Blender geometry nodes’ hair system with a small project, and this seemed like as good an excuse as any to finally make this work happen!
This was probably one of my fastest projects, being done just over a weekend, so expect some cleverly hidden jank!
My first part of the process in Blender was getting the camera correct to the inspiration. There’s little chance of getting perspective information from the painting, so I assumed 50 mm focal length since that’s the closest to a natural perspective that I assume Goya would have used.Then, I set the resolution and background texture of the camera to the inspiration image.
After that, I used one of the new Blender Foundation’s base meshes found here to block out the main character with a quick rig. Ultimately, I did use this mesh as the character, with the key to getting the inhuman proportions correct by tweaking the rig’s controls.
The main inspiration for Cookie Monster’s look is this image here. It’s a rare, official, full body shot of Cookie Monster that isn’t a toy or 2D cartoon. Later during the hair grooming process, I used this image to determine the fur flow which can be seen in the revisions of the breakdown video at the end.
I did a (very) rough drawing of a gingerbread man as part of my testing in ProCreate on my iPad, but it made my Cookie Monster draft look way too small! But by switching to a chocolate chip cookie, suddenly the visual interest of the work was weighed too heavily on the head which is the wrong flow from the original artwork with the central corpse. I would solve this later on as part of the revision process.
Hair and Fur
Next, I worked with the hair system. I started with trying to just use the new geometry nodes hair system. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be at a point where I would use it as a full replacement of the existing particle system. The modifier stack for the curves is a great concept, and I used it to great effect for the frizzy body and mouth coverage hairs on the body.
But there is a good reason I didn’t use them to fully fur Cookie Monster. When I was trying to sculpt the hair, Blender 3.5 seemed to only want to use the rest pose for the mesh rather than the active pose! This is in contrast to the existing particle hair system, and was a small source of frustration when I learned about this. Since this is just a render, I could just set the rest pose for the character, but it’s not really tenable if I’m changing both the pose and hair system. The original painting is simple, and conveying the character is all about the character’s silhouette. So if I need to adjust the model, I know I would need to set a new rest pose for editing the hair and repeat this process until I’m happy. This doesn’t make sense for a weekend project when there’s a viable alternative. At the very least, I got an excellent needle felt hair system on the mouth which would form a great base layer.
For the rest of the hair, I used separate particle systems with vertex density maps for the hands, body, and head. This was paired with the large hairs, which wasn’t a special process—just playing with clump and roughness settings here. The grooming to match the inspiration was the big factor here; getting the facial hairs to sweep back and the silhouette to look defined while keeping the hairs looking wild. Below you can see how the layered hair forms the final look.
Props and Polish
One important part of Goya’s painting was a sense of motion—with Saturn ripping the corpse apart with his mouth. Cookie Monster can’t really pull apart a crumbly cookie, but I wanted to keep a dynamism and wildness that is true to both inspirations. I used large chunks of cookie in the mouth to recreate the frantic eating Cookie Monster does, with a particle system spewing some crumbs as well. I used the same method for the crumbs falling from the hands and pooling on the floor.
Going back to the start, this helped pull some of the visual weight that was missing in the center of the image in comparison to Goya’s. I key-framed the large chunks with a couple frames of movement so I could use Blender’s motion blur. I did this to not only imply motion in the render, but obscure the pieces so they wouldn’t distract from the main focus. To that end, I added a lighting flag to cast the lower crumbs in shadow, since their brightness was distracting.
The final part of this project was post-processing. I didn’t do anything special—just some color adjustment and some painted blur to get the final result. Below you’ll see the final render, the clay render, and a short animation for making it to the end.
RENDER - Monster Devouring His Cookie
Here is a breakdown animation of the project:
I hope this project inspires you in some way, and thank you for reading!
Geoff (Geowulf) is a hobbyist and Blender artist from Vermont, United States.