The Journey Begins Challenge (3D) Entry: Eric Machmer


Eric Machmer is entered in the “The Journey Begins Challenge” update: View Challenge Page

Latest Update: Final Image: Final Image


This sketch was drawn while waiting in the early morning hours at a rural bus station in central Brazil. It is a cloud sketch…a really fun, light-hearted way used to create meaningful work when mentally exhausted (especially). A person draws a few casual lines in interesting shapes with the thicknesses and other characteristics more typical to conscientious work, then, as if staring at a sky with a friend when pointing to identifiable shapes in clouds, the “artist” in you tries to see figures, characters, vehicles, and so forth in the lines, shapes, and forms of the cloud sketch. It helps to keep in mind what you need to draw – or feel compelled to convey by drawing – while deciphering your clouds. Normally this would have been rendered into a well-defined character concept after being scanned at a higher res but in this case the initial sketch spun completely out of control while still a thumbnail so I shelved it. Fortunately a vehicle was required for this challenge. So two days later, still on a bus, by rotating the sketch to see different shapes and dimensions a very strange, complicated, and hopefully atypical ship gradually formed. Cloud sketchings are useful in developing concepts distant from our subconsciously limited imagination. Cloud sketchings are particularly useful in forcing introverted personalities so frequently talented to trust their imaginative instincts and to continue drawing beyond the initial incoherent unpleasing stages any sketch may often pass through. --And, they are fun!

Good luck everyone! I hope this is a learning experience
please, brutally honest criticism positive or otherwise is very welcome.


This is a closeup of the current unshaded cockpit area. Throughout much of this modeling process extrudes were used in Maya, converting their output generally to polys. Touching up the craft with Maya’s Artisan sculpt tool, pushing, smoothing, and pulling verts as necessary, contributed to an organic look. The idea is to make this ship look as though it were grown – by cartoon “Bug’s Life-like” creatures – rather than hewen from wood or created using modern tools, metal materials, and so forth, by humans. Hope it is fun to check out – it IS fun to make! Enjoy!


This is a bit hard to see, but you definitely got the organic feel. It looks like the vehicle is grown like a plant instead of being build. The background is short of unclear in the sketch.


Since this is a fantasy world vehicle it is intended to disappear when viewed head-on…it only exists in two dimensions. (In that world.) If viewing characters in this vehicle head-on we would only see them, and their supplies, floating in mid-air…the ship itself would fade away as viewers approach a head-on perspective along its Z plane. (Just a fun idea which came to mind after rotating this odd shape through the Z in Maya.)

Well…back to modeling…good luck everyone!


Fortunately Maya 7 comes with a greatly enhanced reference editor which not only provides a viewpane for previewing individual referenced objects but allows for a variety of changes to be made directly to the referenced model itself.

The cockpit section is now referenced out to a separate file in order to reduce filesize and allow more efficient, quick, modeling. Likewise over the course of time quite a bit of equipment and detailed instruments will be referenced into this ship’s scene. In the end most of this scene will be referenced into a master set with other files.

Definitely worth checking out referencing. It can allow you to add quite a bit of detail to your personal aesthetics without slowing down your modeling.


 Posted to show the progressive modeling of this vehicle as it evolves following new quirks and follies...very much enjoy modeling on the fly, with a loose concept sketch, rather than feeling bound to a multi-person pipeline...very liberating...can't wait to get on a motorbike this summer so I think the cockpit of this vehicle will be capable of separating from its main ship to travel in a similar fashion. Intend to press this cockpit's evolution, to thereby allow its progression to determine the nature of everything else in the final scene. 78 days left...letting its hair out, clutch in, throttle up.  

Grateful not to be in the mountains of Afghanistan stranded following an earthquake, trying to feed our families, or, scrambling for food in Guatemala City without a family. So lucky to have the opportunity to work in 3D…hopefully our skills will help those less fortunate at the same time, ideally bringing a new perspective to old problems. Anyhow, hope you enjoy this image!


That looks really interesting. :thumbsup:

Good luck.



I love your details, I’m looking forward to more updates. Good luck :cool: :smiley:


Hey thanks Russel and Kanokporn, appreciate your encouraging comments. Brutally honest criticism – positive or otherwise – always welcome!


Churned out a couple of organic looking pulleys, ropes, ladders, and such for the ship…just enough completed to continue building out once referenced into the main scene or imported into other sets. One of the more tedious but necessary steps to the end.


Just another piece of the set, detailed, hopefully fun and somewhat organic.

–EDITED NOTE: Oh! I’m a self-taught web-designer who had been dying to get into 3D and this is my first Challenge – sooooo – the little acorn here is the very first completed 3D image I’ve ever shown to anyone (except for the single-material untextured splash model on my website and the W.I.P. ship above)…forgive me but I was – haahahaha!! I can’t believe it! – extremely excited! Just to get a glow texture!! And bump maps? – don’t even get me started! The original file for the single acorn with a converted displacement map was something like 120 MB. One acorn. Very funny how much of a learning experience participating in this Challenge has been. So, I thought I’d explain why this silly little acorn is sitting here all lonesome, bright and cheerful. (In my amature state-of-mind I couldn’t believe I had made something so freakin’ neat (to me!)…hope that brings a laugh.)

Likewise for the leaves below…guess what…they are m o d e l e d. Not alpha-masked textures of maple leaves on poly planes – they are actually 3D poly objects with painted textures. Even their viens are modeled polys…not bump or displacement maps. Why?? Why you might ask would a person model rather than mask background leaves??? --Because I didn’t know any better! A bump map?? Very funny. What a waste of time ignorance is…it took days to make those dang viens. And now masking leaves is a 10 minute exercise – which I learned from reading a thread on the pages of this Society. (Thank you all for the wonderful quick tutorials!!)

Thought I’d share these learning experiences. Perhaps you’ll find them funny too.



A bunch of leaves lit to set color tone to background: bright, cheerful, strong. Hope you enjoy them!


Detailed musical instrument with fur collar. Progression of modeling shown along bottom; render tests of flag colors along side. Could be instructive – to myself as much as anyone – that most of the time spent in creating this instrument involved details (such as fur, pearl inlays, flags, etc.). Perhaps such detailing will be a trend in 3D as our tools and machines become more powerful. It is a nice touch I look forward to developing as a personal style. Hope you like it.


will post main character soon


Interesting. I haven’t seen your thread before. I like the colors and I hope to see more updates soon! :smiley:


This looks very intriguing -I’m liking your modelling so far -lots of exciting details to it. But i’d still really like to see a concept sketch as the earlier one is so small its very unclear what it is -and i’d really like to see roughly where you are headed with this!


Hi Selina! Thanks for your encouraging comments…sorry about having piecemeal concept sketches for the moment…I’m extremely busy with family issues and would like to devote more time to this…I’ll post model sheets with the characters in the future and should have a full scene rough shortly thereafter. Can never underestimate the value of a sketchbook which fits in your back pocket though…thanks again, good luck!


Hey thanks for stopping by…your encouragement is much appreciated. Good luck!


WARNING: I bought a Wacom pad two days ago. Oh man what have I been missing! This is a way over saturated color concept for the scene created in less than 45 minutes (virtually one of my first digital sketches but I am so excited by the process I’m going to post this concept of a concept sketch anyway)…the ship is quite large, so, it is tilted on its side and entirely reflected on the dark liquid surface far below (to enable it to be seen in its entirety)…several creatures are on a branch to the right midground, while the foreground is out of focus. Importantly most of the colors are in their own layers to allow maximum experimentation using CTRL+U and CTRL+B in Photoshop. Back to work in Maya…hope this serves to orient future crits…one of the joys of working on a CG Challenge is following an idea without regard to a restrictive team necessated workflow or a hierarchical model-to-concept pipeline…just kind of riffing with this, keeping it light, having fun, seeing where it goes…


WARNING: I bought a Wacom pad two days ago.

Hehehe, I think that says it all. Gosh was I impressed to do anything with that pad. I LOVE it!! Hoh! The funny thing is I think if I had the choice to keep my computer or just my Wacom pad I’d choose the Wacom pad – I don’t know what I’d do with it, maybe pretend it is plugged into something and practice fooling around on it with imaginary pictures projected on a non-existant screen, while walking down the street or sitting by a river – or just sleep with it under my pillow. Dang I love it!

They can be bought for about 10 to 15 percent less on eBay and you definitely don’t need a big one – the smaller actually is probably the better…stroke size really determines your need for pad size, rather than anything else. Try one out at a store, then purchase the size you like on eBay. If you draw with a small stroke, a small pad would be fine…and less costly. Definitely worth saving money for though if you can…

Anyhow, I hope this note discourages anyone from putting off such a purchase like I had. It is well worth the investment, if possible.

Also hope these ridiculous images don’t give the wrong impression to anyone – I (very humbly) think I can draw (with a pencil)…just had a lot of fun getting to know the Wacom pad.