Art Spotlight: Ganja Gavial

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In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.

Hello! I am Ovi aka hamsterspit, a mildly dyslexic self-taught 3D artist who likes to meow from time to time. Since I can remember, I have been passionate about visual arts. Eventually, after many years dabbling between drawings, paintings and sculptures (and even going to college for it), I chose to dedicate myself to 3D modeling, because this medium offers me a faster and more dynamic way of bringing ideas to life.

So far, it’s been almost four years since I have been working with 3D art and I have been loving every moment of it. Although I have been freelancing as a modeler, my dream is to find other people with whom I can collaborate to create indie games.

Actually, Sketchfab is a great medium for emerging artists to promote their work, and to connect with other people who share common interests. Personally speaking, I appreciate that there is a 3D viewer tool that allows its users to show the full potential of their 3D models. Not to mention the interesting contests, forum threads and art spotlights.


When it comes to my visual art preferences, they include a lot of different things, but if I had to point out my greatest influences, then they would be Yoshitomo Nara, Masaaki Yuasa, Henri Rousseau and Max Ernst – plus Cartoon Network. During the creative process, however, my only references are random thoughts, dreams (and nightmares!) and day-to-day experiences – a bizarre, surreal and colorful hotchpotch, a twisted alternative reality seen from a childlike perspective.

Yoshitomo Nara

This is how “Ganja Gavial” was born. After watching a documentary about strange rituals of tribes from Papua New Guinea, featuring mud men and crocodile people, I had a dream in which I saw crocodiles on top of high-tech termite mounds and there was smoke coming out from their mouths. Thus, the joint. Later on, I decided to add the ducky float in memory of an old plaster duck that I had modeled when I was younger, to give the gavial a more stable look and so that, if it forgets how to walk on water or swim, the duck will keep it afloat.

Creative Process

Sketching is usually the first step of the process. I always carry a notebook and my trusted 2mm mechanical pencil. But sometimes even napkins serve as canvas! Those simple doodles (hundreds or thousands of them) end up morphing into the low poly 3D models that you can find on my Sketchfab profile.

Here are some of the sketches that preceded the final version of “Ganja Gavial”:

The next step is opening ZBrush to create a rough sketch/model of the idea. Some people start with a simple sphere or with ZSpheres to build up the main body geometry. I prefer to use the Shadow Box as a starting point. Usually, I begin with the head shape and then continue modeling the body. On the body, I use InsertMesh brushes that I manipulate with various other brushes. Currently, these are the ones that I have on my customized UI:

After my models start to gain shape, I usually break them down into multiple DynaMesh’ed subtools, because like this it is easier for me to sculpt in a much more organized and clean way, and it has the advantage of not overloading the system. So, when I was modeling the gavial, I had separate subtools for most of the body parts – eyes, teeth, scales, limbs, tail, and so on.

Once I’m satisfied with how these subtools are looking like, I merge the different body parts together, DynaMesh’ing them and then using either Decimation Master or ZRemesher to make a more suitable mesh for retopologizing them into the low-poly version that you see in the finished product. Although it is possible to retopologize in ZBrush, personally I prefer using 3DS Max or Topogun. (No magic there. You just have to learn the ropes.)

Despite that, sometimes I use the ZSphere retopology method to create a local geometry with cleaner edges, for example when modeling armor pieces. I should mention that the ZRemesher can be very useful if you’re modeling for animation purposes, since your model will be higher in polygon count and you can also roughly specify where you would like to have the edge flow.

After I have the retopologized low poly version, I create UV sets for it using 3ds Max or UV Layout – the latter giving you greater control about the model’s seams and the texture’s layout. For a faster approach, if you’re tight on time and not so worried about the pixel count, you can also use the UV Master plug-in from ZBrush.

This brings me back to ZBrush where I start polypainting the model. I divide it a couple of times with the Smooth Modifier turned off and then I alternate between shadeless and basic materials on the models when painting them. For painting in ZBrush, I have a custom brush for which I set a -80 Focal Shift. Usually, I use no alphas or just a rectangle-shaped alpha, with a freehand stroke, and a smooth brush with just the RGB turned on.

Lately, I am interested in painting in 3D Coat, since it has much more control on painting with layers and it lets you paint directly on the low-poly models with good quality results. From this point onwards, it all depends on your painting style. I should also mention that I use a basic pen tablet for both drawing and modeling – the variable pressure sensitivity is a must-have for me.

This work process repeats itself for the fishes and the flowers, although for some assets like the flowers I really do prefer to box-model them even without references in 3ds Max and reimport them in ZBrush for painting. I also use 3ds Max for arranging the scenes, testing materials, rendering and basic rigging.

And that’s all folks! I hope this was helpful somehow.

If you appreciate my work, or if you want to collaborate in any projects, just let me know. You can send me a message through my Sketchfab profile.

Last, but not the least, I would like to send my thanks to the grammar police who had the patience to proofread my text. Meow meow!

Thanks, Ovi! Any dreams inspire your work? Questions you may have? Post them below! 

About the author


Seori Sachs

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