My advice for anyone new to character creation would be :
- study and understand what you wish to create -
Dont spend too
much time on learning the technical aspects of the tool [max/maya/etc] since
tools are there just to help you in creating art.
So,say you wish to create a human; the mistake that most of the people do [including me,until my Dinotaur] is to spend time on making a "model" in the "app" " rather creating a "Character" thats made of flesh. To put it short, learn Human Anatomy [and animal/bird/every living thing and nonliving thing's anatomy] ,its what you need to know to create characters. As you study the forms ,put them on paper,as much as you can. It really pays off when you are sculpting the same form in 3D. It helps to study dynamic poses too.
Technically,you should learn how to create good basemeshes that have uniform edgeflow and edgeloops that translate to musculature well.
Once you have a good basemesh,the rest is upto your sculpting skills+anatomy knowledge. You should checkout Mudbox as it has a very short learning curve.
Be sure to checkout Zack Petroc's Gnomon DVDs [Digital Sculpting Human Anatomy,Female Anatomy,Digital maquette] ,they are priceless.
I'd also suggest you to post up your work on as many forums as possible. Thats a good way to learn as you get multiple opinions. Subdivisionmodeling.com,Threedy Forums and 3dbuzz are a good start. And if you are into digital sculpting,the official Mudbox Forums/Zbrush Central are a great place.
And for a huge dose of inspiration,visit : Classical Paintings Database at ARC , The Sculptor's Corner , McFarlen's Toys
Blah Blah Blah thoughts >>>
When you are creating
an organic character, form is always more important than detail. So the first
thing you could concentrate on before moving to the skin detail/hair etc is
getting the basic proportions, musculature and a simple expression in place.
Having a good topology and uniform spacing of edges in your basemesh is very important when you are planning to sculpt. Your basemesh can be as simple as a cube or as complex as a head with all the major facial features polymodeled in, "how much" that one can take the basemesh is completely upto their comfort levels in sculpting. Personally I prefer to work more on "forms" than polygons ,so I make simple basemeshes and do the rest in the sculpting app [mudbox is what I feel comfortable with as its more transparent than zbrush,personal taste]
Once you start with the sculpt,never rush or try to get the final detail in your first division itself. A common mistake that many artists new to digital sculpting do is that they subdivide the mesh really quick just because "the amount of polys that they need to get the fine detail is not there in first division". This leads to the artist directly working on a 3rd or 4th division and its highly difficult to have control on "forms" in those hipoly divisions,this in turn leads to what I call the "blobby look". A lot of uneven topology which mars the feel of organic form/realism.
So, with your next sculpt,whether its a human head or any organic character, I suggest you concentrate completely on getting all your major forms[forms here mean musculature]. Do not subdivide your mesh until you feel that you have squeezedout as much form/shape from your current division as possible ! Once you really feel that you need more polys[in order to put more form],subdivide. Never get into minor detailing like skin detail/hair until you feel that you completely got your forms in place.
And oh,the most important thing to remember,at all times, is that you need to understand what you wish to create [lol,how many times did I say this ? :P ]. Lets say you are making an African Man, its a very extensive subject. So, before you go into an African,get into a normal human and see what he is made of,in other words,anatomy study is highly important because without knowing what you wish to create,there is really no way you could get the desired result. Its like trying to play football without knowing what the game is about. We just kick around the ball all day and never know what we are doing/what we are missing out.
Gather as much reference as you can, make sure that you get your proportions correctly in your basemesh itself. And as you move on to sculpting, you should be sculpting "forms" , not random strokes that add to the "mesh". And for this ,you should make yourself comfortable with the various major muscles of the human face and then the features of what exactly makes a human look "African". There is a lot of variety possible in life,and studying that really helps. And in the end, one should be aiming to create a "character" that has its own personality. Not a "3d mesh made in x application".
Art is about putting your heart in what you do, so let your passion drive you. The best way to start learning would be by starting on something that you are really passionate about because the love you have for that will be reflected in your art. Express your love, dont let the tool/technicalities get in your way. And keep looking at life ,other artists and your own personal passions for inspiration. Character creation is not just about blending a few different animals or making an existing one.A careful research on a small idea will really help you build upon ; you can see how the design works[imagine it in various "stages" of its life doing various actions, that really helps you decide what that character needs on its body[and what it doesnot need!]. Keep pouring love into it,and you will have a satisfying experience creating it. And all the while,keep posting it on communities and take opinions. They might find a flaw that you overlooked and it really helps you get better. At the same time, you dont have to consider every suggestion ; its your artwork,so go with your heart when you make a design decision.
Good luck and have fun !
- Sri Ram Chandra