Meet the Artist: Zack Petroc

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  05 May 2005
Hello Zack!

I just wanted to take the time and thank you for providing such an amazing resource as you have done with your Human Anatomy DVD. It has bumped my skill level way up, which in my opinion speaks volumes of how much your DVD has helped me. I'm indebted to you for that, and coming from a more traditional background where a lot of artists "hide" their secrets I find your willingness to share your knowledge very forthcoming about your character.

Your work is an inspiration, and I'm honored that you took the time to expose the mysteries of sculpting on the computer. Any digital modeler, or even traditional sculptor should see your DVD.

Hopefully you have plans to do another DVD, because I'll be first in line to buy it!

Take care,

Chad Hamlet

PS: I guess a question wouldn't hurt.

Being that there is such an amazing way to sculpt with Zbrush, what is your take on putting 3D digital concepts on a demo reel? I know that in the old days Disney, and other studios, wanted to see artists sketches, and life drawings etc... Do you think that the time has come to start adding those types of "sketches" to 3D demo reels?

The reason I ask is I am going to put some on my demo reel. Just a few though, along with more complete models with proper topology which will be the main focus of my demo reel. Personally I think it is a good idea. But I haven't seen anything like that before, hence my question.
Online Portfolio
  05 May 2005

Awesome work! I'm just getting started in Character modeling, and to see work of this quality is very inspiring.

1) How long have you been modeling and what inspired you to start?
2) Is there a specific form you enjoy modeling more than others?
3) How would you rate the quality of a program like Zbrush against something like Maya which is a full service program?
4) What advice could you offer to someone thats just getting started?
5) Do you feel the modeling field is extremely competitive?

All I can think of at this point. Again awesome work!


Rick Klein
Full Sail Academy Student
  05 May 2005
Hi Zack,

There have been a few posts where people have expressed an opinion that using Zbrush is almost like cheating as they claim it's easy to get great results and that Zbrush is like a magic wand that can make a bad or average artist great. What's you're take on this? Also, will you be creating any more DVD's for Gnomon?

  05 May 2005
hey Zack, I thought your work was great in sky captain, and remember reading somewhere that you guys used a new modelling tool...kinda like a scanning stylis or something that allowed you to sculpt an a more traditional way. If that's so, could you give us a little info on what it was like.

  05 May 2005
Hi Zack - your work is indeed great and inspiring...after watching
your DVD, which is one of the best i bought from gnomon, i remained with a few
unanswered questions about your if it's ok I'll ask
these questions here...

1. after you have built a mesh in zbrush and created another one in
maya, with good topology, you kept subdividing it and using shrinkwrap
to transfer the detail from the high-res z brush model to the new one...

the question is - do you end up with a dense mesh and leave it as it
is or somehow extract the displacement map and apply it to the original
mesh constructed on top of the zbrush one in maya?

2. one more question that was given before - if you don't mind is about the Haptic device and if it's a good thing to invest - does it really make a difference comparing to a wacom and Zbrush - or it's good for starting a model and then switching to Zbrush...and does it have a future or it will be soon replaced by other technologies?

Thanks a lot for your contribution to this community

Andrei Coval
  05 May 2005
Hi, love you work.

So, have you been intrested in art all your life? When did you start, and what made you start? And special reason? Oh, and how did you get into CG?
Yep, I might be asking for your whole life story, but just shorten it down as much as you want.

Thanks for answering everyones question, it's kind of you.

Best regards, Øystein Sollesnes.
The tool doesnt make a good artist. If you gave me Leonardos pencil, I still wouldnt be able to paint Mona Lisa.
  05 May 2005
Hello Zack,

As many others have stated, I am a fan of your work and workflow as featured on the Gnomon DVD.

Here are my questions, and thanks again for taking the time to do this:

#1: Mortuary assistant?
On the DVD, I thought I heard you say you spent some time as a mortuary assistant. Is this correct? If so, did you do it with the intent of increasing your anatomical knowledge?

#2: What other resources would you recommend to sculptors (digital and traditional alike)? Books, DVDs, Artists, etc.

#3: What advice would you give to people learning to sculpt related to approaching their work. I work with some amazing sculptors who have been at it for a while, and they always give me tips and hints on how to approach things that help me get faster and improve the quality of my work. What insight can you provide related to this topic?

#4: Finally, are there any Mel or Z scripts that you use a lot(non-proprietary of course)?

Again, thanks tons for doing this.
  05 May 2005
Ten at a time (thanks for the props yo)

1. #(2) Novikov Stepan

  1. do you think that this type of work flow will soon completely replace hardcore poly by poly or any modeling?

1- It won't be soon, but if the technical aspects of digital mediums continue to develop to “serve” the creative aspects, then its only a matter of time.

2. #(6) Leonardo davi

  1. 1- Can you tell Us a little bit of your tradiotional's background ? ( drawing,sculputure..etc...)
    2- Do you think that anyone can draw or sculpt ? i mean.. do you belive in talented and non-talented person or is just a daaily practise to draw shapes and forms?
    3- Can you tell us how it was your experience at fine art school ?
    4-Can you tell us some future project ? new dvd's etc...

1- BFA of Sculpture with a dual minor in Drawing and Digital Medias. Did a bit of everything in undergrad, woodworking, welding, clay, marble, and mixed medias.

2- I believe some people have more natural potential then others to be great artists. I also believe the DESIRE to be a great artist is almost more important then having natural talent. The desire, and persistence it takes to succeed are the true gifts. Not many people are willing to fail over, and over, and over, and over again to finally achieve their goals.

3-The Cleveland Institute of Art was a great experience for me, although I have to admit I felt a bit alienated at first. Being the offspring of country folk and someone who actually played a few sports, I visually personified the kid in High School that every other art school student hated. It was an entertaining start to my education. As the years went by, it was interesting to watch as the best artists emerged and evolved. Without fail, the best in our class, of all disciplines, made no attempt to distinguish themselves, to the rest of the world, as artists. No green hair, no out of the ordinary cloths or makeup. Not that any of those things are bad, but I think the students that were really passionate about their art put their art first. Even in front of how they were currently being perceived by the rest of the world. When it was all said and done, it was really an interesting experience to live through those stereotypes and see how it affected my personality and art.

4- I do plan on creating another DVD but I was hoping to use the next version of ZBrush as a platform. I'm currently developing a lecture on character design, and critiquing that I'd like to use as my next topic release. One of the best lectures I had was titled “Good painting, Bad painting” by my first year design teacher. Listening to someone critique a design, then watching them “fix” it is a great way to learn. You can directly compare the before and after to truly understand the changes.

3. #(7) Yarlagadda.nagavamsi

  1. good work...........damn good.......... particularly charecter posings
    could u explain u r charecter modeling work flow in maya

1- Currently, I create a very low-rez model in Maya, almost ignoring the topology, then take that mesh into ZBrush to develop the forms. Next I create an organized mesh by painting the curve network (topology) onto the surface of the model in ZBrush. Then I use that curve network as a template to re-create the mesh in Maya. Maybe someone would be nice enough to lend you the DVD.

4. #(8) Capirossi

  1. I have few question.

    1) Do you have any rules before you start designing or sculpting?

    2) What advice would you give to ZBrush beginner,I am an intermediate maya user.

    3) Do you think a single person doing a short will be able to do everything right from designing, modeling, animation to compositing till the last step?
    Do you have any advice for them technically or production pipeline?

    4) Lastly,Visual art or story telling is more important?

1-I've come across two main approaches artists use when starting a piece. The first is to just begin. The second is to have a fairly clear idea of what you are doing and why. Everything else falls somewhere in between. It sounds simple, but I typically use a variation of the second approach. I have found that having a general idea of what I'd like to create makes it easier for me to make creative decisions as I refine the piece. If you don't know what you are creating, or why, then it also becomes much harder to critique. If you are making a generic alien and have no context to put it in, then when you have two different design solutions it can be very difficult to decide which is truly the best choice.

2-Bare with the ZBrush interface. Many artists will tell you it gets better once you're accustom to it. They are full of shit. To be honest, I still can't stand it. I'm probably just not as technically adept as those who have gotten use to it. I'd also say you are better off approaching it in a similar way to how you would approach clay, as apposed to how you would approach Maya.

3-Its possible. I've just noticed that there are people that are more passionate about other artistic disciplines then I am, i.e. animation, compositing, and therefor, much better at those disciplines then I am. If I was doing a short, I would want the best quality I could get for every area of development. Try to define exactly what you want your short to convey, and why. Focus on that and build around it. If time and resources become limited take it out of areas that impact your main objective the least.

4-For me, the visual qualities of a piece are typically more important. But if you are creating a piece for a film, game, or other narrative based project, then the story telling qualities should be developed with that in mind.

5. #(9) Francesco Glavina

  1. What is the way for make this work? I have no school, just passion, and here in Italy there aren't good schools...
    Must I make a good modeling, or a short film and send to ILM?
    Do u have any suggestions?
    My dream since I was 1 year old was to work in films world, with the massive contribution of the mind, and over all the heart... With years I started with CG and now I feel that I wanna live making the modeller...or something like this
    What is the way for make this work? I have no school, just passion, and here in Italy there aren't good schools...
    Must I make a good modelling, or a short film and send to ILM?
    Do u have any suggestions?

    Good art man!!!

    PS.How do you made that perfect cloth's folds in your models? Are them zbrushed?

1- I would suggest using your passion, or energy, to create options. A great place to start trying to develop options is through making contacts. Try to find people that are doing what you want to be doing. Preferably geographically close to you. In other words look for a mentor. Try to find out what path they took to get where they are. Second, never, ever, stop. Ask yourself every morning when you get up, and every night when you go to bed, “How can I achieve my goals”. The more time you devote to asking the questions the more likely you are to finding the solutions.

2- Regarding the cloth- I cant' tell you how many times I have made crappy cloth. The point is that I just kept going. Technically speaking, the cloth was created in FreeForm, or ZBrush from a low rez mesh.

6. #(10) Julio C. Espada

  1. My question is , Is ZBrush really changing something up there in the big studios or it is just me ? Is really the philosopher's stone for the modeling and texturing.

1- I know of a few Studios that are starting to integrate ZBrush into their work flows. I don't think its being used as much for texturing as it is to add surface detail to digital models.

7. #(11) Andrew Browne

  1. How long do you spend on a project. I know everywhere is different but in a general 9-5 work day, say you needed to create one of those female statues (which are amazing by the way), how long would it take you and whats the lonest thing you have ever worked on?

    oh and do you rig your characters, maybe to put them in a different pose?

1- A typical character like the female figure will take about one week, on a ten hour work day. In school I'd spend about five weeks on a life size, practical figure, without casting. I think the longest I've ever spent on one digital character sculpt is about two and a half weeks.

2- I don't rig my characters.

8. #(12) Jeff Lohrius
1.Right now you redraw the animation cage topology in ZBrush then use it as a template in Maya to reconstruct- I noticed though that you use Silo so have you changed your work flow to include the topology brush now? Can you forsee doing all this in ZBrush when the next release comes out and you can use Zspheres to bulid new loops around the existing mesh?

2.How do you see yourself using the new rigging tools in ZBrush coming out? This seems like it will allow the artist to quickly reposition the mesh using Zspheres- seems like a good tool for morph targets etc.

3.I find UV mapping to be the one thing that frustrates and slows down the organic digital sculpting process- can you share some thoughts on how you approach it?

4.Any chance you can do a tutorial on the iguana animation that you showed @ the ZBrush user group meeting? I saw a clip of it but I would love to see the whole process from laying out the base mesh, refining, uv, texturing, and animating.

1-Actually, I don't use Silo, but I think we've seen the same ZBrush update movie previews and I can't wait to get a hold of the damn thing. I'd love to use ZBrush to re-draw the mesh.

2-I'd use the ZBrush rigging to pose a concept sculpt. As a digital concept designer you are competing with traditional artists that know how much a pose or expression can “sell” a character. It would be nice to be able to quickly compete with them in that respect.

3-I skip it. When I set up a team, I typically divide the UV mapping responsibility into the texture department. To visualize color on a concept sculpt, I'll just use the automatic mapping in ZBrush.

4-I only did the design and sculpt on that one. However, it was really straight forward. We wanted to see how low of a mesh we could displace and ended up with a poly mesh count of a couple hundred.

9. #(13) Jake Farrell Scotty Doesn't Know

  1. 1. How long did those take about?
    2. How much did you make on average for working in the sky captain?
    3. What made you want to be a artist?

1-Usually, I spend about a week to sculpt a high-rez full body character.

2-8.2 million dollars. My lawyer screwed my affairs badly though, and I lost most of it.

3-I think I am an artist, I don't think its something I can stop “being”

4-”Don't tell Jake that his girlfriend and me do it in my van on Sundays. She says she's goin to church, she's down on her knees, but she's not prayin', Jakey doesn't know, Jakey Doesn't know, Jakey doesn't know!”

10. #(14) The Pumpkin King

  1. First, I'd want to know if you can reccomend any books or media (besides your DVD, which I am planning to buy) on sculpting anatomy? My second question is what would you like to see added or improved in the next major version of ZBRUSH?

1-I'd recommend -Anatomy for the Artist by Sarah Simblet | The Human Machine, and Constructive Anatomy by George B. Bridgman, and any book you can buy from Andrew Loomis.

2-I'd like to see the ability to redraw a mesh, pose a character, and multiple pieces in the same session.
Zack petroc Studios

Last edited by zack petroc : 05 May 2005 at 02:30 AM.
  05 May 2005
Originally Posted by zack petroc:
2-8.2 million dollars. My lawyer screwed my affairs badly though, and I lost most of it.

that's still plenty left over..... you're buying lunch.
  05 May 2005
Hi Zack!

I wanna thank you for being with us in this forum. Its a total pleasure to talk with u.
and congratulations for your amazing work, is truly inspiring!!

1.What artist do u admire? Not only in CG but in general. Like painters, writers, musicians, etc.

2.How can i improved my comunication skills when i m working in a team? I have found that when i m selling my work to a client or director, most of the time i get a different idea of what they where thinking.

3.In order to be a good character modeller what do u recomend for a beginner? I mostly model cars, tanks, trains and machines in general. I have always been a little afraid of modelling humans. Any suggestions?

4.Can u give away just one of your CG secrets to success?
  05 May 2005
eh, exactly on what did you make 8.2 million dollars? What did you make on Sky Captain? Sorry, I am ignorant. Please enlighten me.
  05 May 2005
ZACK writed:I would suggest using your passion, or energy, to create options. A great place to start trying to develop options is through making contacts. Try to find people that are doing what you want to be doing. Preferably geographically close to you. In other words look for a mentor. Try to find out what path they took to get where they are. Second, never, ever, stop. Ask yourself every morning when you get up, and every night when you go to bed, “How can I achieve my goals”. The more time you devote to asking the questions the more likely you are to finding the solutions.

I write this word and I go on with them since the end...And the end don't exist...
Thank u!

| my demoreel on cgtalk | |

...... O L D F U T U R E d i g i t a l ......
  05 May 2005
Originally Posted by Zeicon: eh, exactly on what did you make 8.2 million dollars? What did you make on Sky Captain? Sorry, I am ignorant. Please enlighten me.

i think what jack meant to say was Sky Captain made 8.2 million dollars at the box office.

zhack, how much inspirations did you get from your modeling team during the making of Sky Captain?
  05 May 2005
Hi first of all, congrats for your beautyful work. your love for the human figure , and for sculpture art,is really noticeable and makes the difference.

i was wondering, since u use z brush as an important tool of your pipeline, if you use z spheres also to build your human figures sometimes, and if using a mesh built in maya makes the difference and why.

i am really amazed from the upcoming z brush features.forr redrawing topology. they will solve many probs related to modelling IMO.
surely for us traditional artist, is way more easy to build and texture figures using a process that simulates the hand work of an artist.

another thing i would ask, are some advice to how to understand better sculpting.drawing is good, but sculpting is a different process. how does a real sculptor works, and how he takes the right proportions? is there a method to follow to improve and understand better how shapes are in 3D?

thanx in advance.

p.s. btw sky captain rocks!!!
Nemoid | Illustrator | 3D artist
.::Creating for you::.
  05 May 2005
hi zack

its great you have taken the time to aswer questions here on cgtalk.
for me your work stands out from the crowd, taking a more classical approach and focusing on vital aspects like weight and form I believe they are important criteria for modellers to be conciously aware of.
i havent had the pleasure of your zbrush dvd - yet but that will be my first when i get zbrush, i actually came across the gallery and saw the models you had built and i have to admit i tried to match them because i wanted to see how my own skills matched against a quality modeller. that reminded me of the vital aspects of life drawing that i lost.

much of your work is humanoid, do you work on creatures and fantasy work?

i know you get asked this question and i apologize if it has already been asked but what would you like to see from someone who is applying for a modellers job in their showreeel?
1. is it vital to include drawings?
2. should models be created from a story concept?

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