CG artist Hadi Karimi has been creating remarkably photoreal 3D likenesses of celebrities for years but, so far, Adele, Taylor Swift, Drake and all of the others have yet to be in touch to say how they feel about his portrayals of them. Still, whether their feelings are positive or negative, he’d love to hear from one of his muses someday.
Karimi started out doing 2D digital painting, video editing, logo design and many other things before eventually moving into 3D. Based in Tehran, Iran, he is increasingly becoming known for the likenesses he creates, primarily using Cinema 4D, Maya, ZBrush and Arnold.
Read on to learn more about Karimi’s work and why he does what he does.
Tell us about yourself and your work. Did you study anatomy or art or both?
When I was a kid, I used to draw a lot; all sorts of different subjects like portraits, animals and even cars and architecture. Unfortunately, I've never been to art school. I didn't have enough motivation to convince the people around me, or even myself, that I could make a living out of my passion. After wasting a couple of years in college, I made up my mind and started to take things a little bit more seriously. But I'm struggling to find my way into the industry, mostly because of difficulties caused by politics. It’s hard to have a reliable career in art where I live.
What are the 3D/CG artist communities like there?
What do you do to earn a living?
Currently, I’m working as a freelance programmer, and I work on website and applications. Art has always been more of a passion than a profession for me because of the difficulties freelance artists have to deal with here. All of the portraits that I have shared so far are personal projects. I think I’m more interested in likeness portraits as personal projects, and commissioned work is more modeling different sorts of characters, like animals or creatures or generic faces.
Do the clients who hire you mostly find you because of your personal work?
Yes, mostly clients come across my portfolio on ArtStation and Instagram and send me a message or email. Art communities have been very kind to me. They have featured my work on so many occasions to let more people, and potential clients, see it and get in touch with me. Social media is a great opportunity for artists to spread their messages and let studios find new talent.
When did you start using Cinema 4D, and how do you usually use it in your work?
Cinema 4D was the first 3D software that I started to learn without feeling overwhelmed. Most of the 3D software packages are complex, but C4D was almost the opposite. I was so fascinated by how intuitive and easy it was to learn. Many of my recent portraits have been rendered in C4D but, as a character artist, most of my commissions require that I work in Maya.
What is your workflow for creating celebrity likenesses?
I start by studying references and, since they are celebrities, there are endless numbers of reference images online. Before I start working on the model, I search for references with different angles and lighting. Then, I begin sculpting the base in ZBrush before transferring the model to either Cinema 4D or Maya, depending on the project, so I can add hair and materials and then render it. I mostly use Arnold for rendering because of its capabilities.
You recently did a likeness of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. How do you choose your subjects?
It’s not like I always take a lot into consideration when I pick a new subject. Sometimes I just want to challenge myself to catch a likeness that is kind of new to my eyes. But most of the time my subjects are those who had any sort of impact in my life or career. This year I’m going to sculpt some other philosophers and historical figures as well.
What do you find most difficult when you’re working on these?
Hair is sometimes a pain, but it's usually the most enjoyable part of the process. The challenging part for me has always been getting the likeness itself right. Sometimes it only takes me an hour to get someone's face right, but other times it can take weeks. It varies from subject to subject and it’s hard to say why. Most of the time, when I’m working on a likeness, I feel like there’s something missing, even if others compliment it. Our faces are full of different expressions and subtle details, so figuring out what that missing link is, mostly just comes from experience.
What kinds of commissioned work would you most like to get in the future?
I'd really love to create the main character of a video game someday. Making realistic faces for movies and commercials would also be great but, to me, there's something about video games that helps the character works stand out. Especially if it's a triple A game with a great story behind it.