You may know the famous monkey king character Sun Wukong from the Chinese story "The Journey West". He has thousands of incarnations from the commercials from the Beijing Olyimpics to Goku's Dragon Ball Z.
I decided to take a shot at him for a 3d project from concept sketch to model.
I played around with a lot of different looks for his face. i wanted him to look both a traditional Asian style and still "cool" in a hip, current sort of way. I also used a lot of real old-world monkeys for some great face reference.
Monkeys faces are so expressive and similar to ours that they don't need much to become an acting character. I also decided to do square-ish fingers stylistically because it also economizes time spent modeling nice deformations.
Sun is such a charged, interesting character, i had to make sure he had the "spirited" look to him. He is full of folly, pride and foolishness, but is also clever and powerful. I wanted him youthful and boy-like in his playfulness and appeal, but also bestial and intense. I feel like anyone who spends enough time with monkeys feel anxious in this way.
I tapped into some Naruto and Calvin (and Hobbes) themes to try out a slightly more personable look, but ended up pulling back in the end. He mustn't be too generic. I like the drawing of him with his wife and child.
Monkeys often have black eyes (humans are strange among primates in having "whites" to their eyes, though gorillas almost do. Visible whites are useful in social signals.) and i tried that option out, but buckled because i needed him to not be scary.
This is the final design i settled on. He has your typical dude hairdoo, and a sort of balance of physical strength and cuteness. He has enormous hands and feet, because his special brand of Kung Fu* was an emphasis. Swirly designs on his ears, headpiece, tail and fingerprints are ambiguously mystical and ancient.
Here is the model with basic shaders and colors thrown on. I regrettably didn't ever do texture or bump maps for this guy before i lost all the Maya files. His pose is awkward. I modeled his head too small, his hands and feet a little too big. I also never got to really rig him. My hard drive crashed and i lost all my work from the program up until last September, so i can't go back and spruce this guy up. it makes me sad!
I'm a sucker for bright colors, and i feel like Sun was a perfect character to go all out on. His face is a little creepy, he looks like one of those area 52-hoax shaved monkeys to me. But i feel like with some texturing, a good shader, and some proper lighting i could get him to act and de-creepify a bit. He would be SO fun to see come to life! I am really sad i never got to rig and animate him. Oh well. Next time, i will do better!
*Just for the record: All of this was done before any announcement of Kung Fu Panda! So there. :)