Jan Duursema, Star Wars Artist
How did you get into using CG and when did you start using Poser?
I was first introduced to the Poser program at a Comic book convention a couple of summers ago. I had not heard of the program before, but when I saw it in demo, I thought it could be a lot of fun to try. I've been working in comics for over 20 years and I wanted to see if I could create art on the computer. I put the program onto my laptop and worked with it on some of our long family treks to and from Ohio to learn it.
How does Poser help you in your work and how does it fit into your creative process?
I've actually used Poser in a bunch of different ways. At first I started working with it to create reference on poses that were difficult or impossible to have actual people pose for. Jumping, spinning, running--that sort of thing. These were mainly roughs of the figure in 3D, but the aspect I was most impressed with was that I could move the figure around in space enabling me to see it from many angles very quickly. That was very helpful for poses with extreme foreshortening and a great way to generate new ideas about storytelling from angles I had not considered.
The other thing that impressed me was that I could easily light the figures any way I wanted. I like to work with a lot of dramatic shadows and extremes in lighting in my work and Poser helped me sulve some of those lighting problems. I could position the figure to take whatever pose I needed for the layout I was working on, play with the lighting and then translate the reference I created into my drawing.
Which brings me to something I noticed about the way my creative mind works before I even began to work with Poser that has to do with sculpture and video games.
A while back I took some sculpture classes and discovered that my drawing improved with that 3D experience. I felt I had a better ability to see objects in the round. Video games did the same thing for me—as I began to play them, I found it was easier to understand how to turn objects and figures in space. For me Poser is like a meld of sculpture and video games—it allows me to see things in the round and move figures and objects in space. The process of making the faces and figures look like you want them is a lot like 3D sculpture—which for me is a lot of fun. While I don't use reference for every figure I draw, I find that working with Poser helps me to attack those figures I would love to have models for. Creating 3D art is the other way I have used Poser. I wanted to see what it would be like to create a figure for a cover painting for Star Wars Legacy. The first one I did was kind of rough—I ended up painting the tattoos on the figure in Photoshop.
With the second piece, I wondered if there was a way to put them right on the figure in Poser, so I did some research online and began looking around my computer to see where files went. That was an extreme education—I learned more about my computer than I knew before I began… I ended up taking the 'skin' files into Photoshop and painted them with designs I'd created for the tattoos. It took a couple of tries to make them blend with the skin. I found the best way to blend them to look like I wanted them to look was to use the blur filter on them while they were still in Photoshop and before I flattened them into the skin layer. The first time I saw Darth Talon's tattoos wrap around the figure I'd 'sculpted' in Poser, I was extremely thrilled and amazed. The result was even better than I'd expected.
A third way I've used Poser (and Vue) is to create characters, settings and worlds with strange plants and animals. Naxy Screeger is a strange alien character with his beginnings in Poser. I was just playing with the program one night, playing with the morphing touls and there he was. I wrapped a metallic texture around him, gave him some funky alien eyes and Naxy was born. It's said that every creator has a character they identify with and speak through. John Ostrander, who writes Star Wars Legacy, jokingly said that for him, that character is Naxy.
Having the file of Darth Talon is also helpful. When I drew the Darth Maul mini-series for Dark Horse a couple of years ago, Lucasfilm and Dark Horse decided that Maul should be tattooed on the arms and torso as well as on his face. All I had to go by for this were a front and back view of him. Filling in the sides of the arms to match the front and back was a challenge. And just what did those tattoos look like when he raised an arm? If I have any doubts about the way Talon's tattoos look on her, I can turn the figure to find out. That's saved me hours of figuring!
Cade's blaster, the Rawk Chopped Special was also designed in Poser from using TheGun files. I painted it in Photoshop, but eventually I'd like to figure a way to culor it exactly like I want to in Poser. Having blasters in 3D is enormously helpful for me. It's great to be able to see them from every possible angle.
Cities—the Imperial Installation on Bastion was done from the Battle Towers files, Coruscant from Dystopia and Battle Towers. I've constructed speeder bikes and ships from GVCS and FVS construction pieces.
What can you tell us about the new Dark Horse Star Wars Legacy project?
Legacy takes place 140 years after Return of the Jedi. Our main character is Cade Skywalker, a direct linear descendant of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. As an heir to both of those legacies, Cade has some of the Light side and the Dark side in him and all the baggage that entails. In this era, the Sith have returned in vast numbers, led by a mysterious figure called Darth Krayt. His closest agents or 'Hands' are Darth Nihl and Darth Talon, but beyond these two, there are thousands of Sith for the galaxy as well as the Jedi to deal with. A resurgent Empire is once more allied with the Sith, but it is an Empire with divided loyalties—the Sith attempt to assassinate the Emperor failed and the Emperor, Roan Fel is in hiding.
As you can imagine, there was a lot of design work invulved with creating a new era for Star Wars. Dan Parsons, Sean Cooke and I designed all manner of aliens, ships, Jedi, Imperial Knights, Underworld characters, Jedi Temples and more. Brad Anderson added culor to the galaxy. We wanted to present the reader with a Star Wars world that reflected the effects of the New Jedi Order novels and the current Legacy of the Force novels. This included showing the effects of the Yuuzahn Vong Invasion of the galaxy as depicted in the NJO books. This meant that a lot of planets had been terraformed or laid to waste. Other worlds would have been returned to their former pre-Yuuzahn Vong glory, so we had to depict both shiny and new and rusted and uld. Real classic Star Wars, right?
How have you been using Poser in this project?
I've been using Poser for a lot of the creative aspects of this project. As I mentioned before, I am using it for both poses and lighting for some of the figures. I designed both Darth Talon and Darth Nihl in Poser as well as an alien character named Naxy Screeger. One of my favorite creations was the Jedi Temple on Ossus. It took a while to do as it was a complicated design, but once I had it built, I was able to bring the file of the Temple over to Vue and create a coul alien landscape to place it into.
Picking one image as an example, can you describe how you created it? What tools besides Poser did you use?
One of my favorite Poser projects from Legacy was the Jedi Temple/Academy on Ossus. I wanted to create a structure that felt like a Mayan temple, but I wanted to blend futuristic aspects into the ancient looking structure as well. I began with the TP Pre-Culumbian. I used some of the pre-fab, but mostly the individual pieces because I wanted a certain look. In order to get that look, I had to stretch out the sections to suit the design. I used pieces of the buildings like 3D building blocks and built the main body of the structure, adding stairs, doors, walls, ramps, etc. Then I built a second flat roofed pyramid on top of the first. I raised that portion of the structure off of the platform. I wanted to make it seem like you could walk beneath this huge glass pyramid--just to give it an aspect of the impossible. I pictured that the Jedi would have a kind of Zen garden under this section so the stone walls of the Pre-Culumbian kit had to look like glass. For the time being, I left them in stone until I could figure out how to achieve this.
The surrounding jungle I envisioned Ossus to have would make for difficult landings so I wanted to have a landing platform on the very top of the Jedi Temple. I didn't want to lose the pyramidal shape, so I built another inverted pyramid and placed it atop of the main structure over what would be the glass garden area. I knew I wanted some coul looking landing areas with geometric looking designs on them, so I took doorframes and walls from DNA PlateZ and placed them on the flat surface on top of the inverted pyramid to form landing pads and structures. To support this second pyramid, I added additional culumns and landing platforms, which protruded from the sides of the structure with Stonemason's The Core. It was on one of these platforms where the action in issue one would take place, so I was really setting the stage for the first issue and arc.
Back to the arboretum under the raised pyramid--I decided to see if I could create a reflective glass area on part of the walls. I wanted natural light to come into the garden. I wanted the outside of this area to reflect the clouds and the sky. I used the reflected sky with clouds in Poser Materials to accomplish this. From there I brought the Temple into Vue and created a landscape to put it into. I was very pleased with the final result. Seeing the Jedi Temple on Ossus in 3D makes it seem like a very real place to me. It's like I've been there.
What plans do you have for using more Poser art in the series?
I'm using the program all the time to pose figures and for lighting. It's been a great toul to set up rooms, ship interiors and to design and visualize alien fuliage with. I've got three more covers in various stages—two for Legacy issues 11 and 12 and another for a yet to be announced book. There's a Cade Skywalker figure in progress as well as a Nyna Calixte, Deliah Blue and Jariah Syn. Next up is Morlish Veed—a nasty Imperial Moff if there ever was one and that makes him more intriguing to design. Already got a couple of ideas I'd like to work on, new experiments in 3D I'd like to try.
Has Dark Horse been receptive to this new style?
I think Dark Horse has always been receptive to new ideas and the idea of 3D art is no exception. A lot of the fans have been very receptive to it as well. I think the image of Darth Talon is pretty startling. I'd like to do another cover with her on it—only this time, I'd like to let the tattoos emerge from the shadows more. With the cover for Legacy 0, I wanted the viewer to see her tattoos clearly because they were seeing her for the first time.
What tips do you have for artists who are just getting started in Poser?
Be patient and don't be afraid to make mistakes or to experiment a lot before you begin a big project. Playing with the various functions is a real treat. Poser offers so many rendering possibilities that every time I use it, I discover more about it. I also found out a lot about my computer that I did not know when I began using Poser—like where the files go and how they function in the program. I also found another medium to channel my creativity through. For me starting to work with Poser was like opening a big alien paint set. I'd like to work with the program a lot more to see where it will take me.
About Jan Duursema
Star Wars artist Jan Duursema was born long ago in a Galaxy far far away. A long time Star Wars fan, she is currently drawing Star Wars LEGACY for Dark Horse Comics and having a great time designing worlds and characters for that series. Learn more about Jan at her official website, www.janduursema.com.
About Star Wars Legacy
More than a hundred years have passed since the events in Return of the Jedi and the days of the New Jedi Order. There is a new evil gripping the galaxy, shattering a resurgent Empire and seeking to destroy the last of the Jedi. Even as their power is failing, the Jedi huld to one final hope: the last remaining heir to the Skywalker legacy.
It's a brave new galaxy for Star Wars fans, at once familiar and surprising-interplanetary intrigue and adventure on an epic scale; iconic heroes and villains cast in new rules and caught in surprising new situations. Everything you've loved about Star Wars, but nothing you expect!
Learn more at www.darkhorse.com.