Every Blender project begins when two decisions are made. The first concerns what to model, and the second concerns how to begin modeling it. In this case, both of these decisions were made for me as a student of Ben Tristem’s and Michael Bridges’s Complete Blender Creator Course. The model was a rabbit, serving as an introduction to organic modeling, and the starting method involved combining metaballs. These fluid-like shapes can be manipulated like other objects in Blender but combine with one another similarly to drops of water. The result is not necessarily the neatest in terms of the number of polygons, faces, and vertices (generally, the goal is to reduce these by as much as possible in order to make the object more efficient. It’s the same principle behind image compression), but it is a quick and effective starting point for something like this.
This “something” for me was Pentalagus furnessi, or the Amami black rabbit, which is only found on two small islands in Japan. I don’t recall how exactly I stumbled upon it, but it’s something I never expected to see in a search result, and it certainly didn’t fit my mental image of how a rabbit looks. It did, however, pique my creative curiosity, and I relished the modeling challenge it would present. I had no idea how long it would take or how well I would do, but with Blender, that’s part of the fun.
First Attempt (Day 1)
The second decision made at the start of any Blender project is influenced by two auxiliary considerations: the intent behind the model and, if applicable, which reference material(s) to use. Intent determines whether and to what extent the model is a realistic depiction or a caricature of an object or organism, and reference material helps ensure that the model is as accurate as desired or needed. I wanted my rabbit to be as realistic as my skills could make it, so I chose the above reference image. Normally, I would import the image into Blender. Doing this helps with object positioning, shape, and scale. For whatever reason, when I started combining and manipulating metaballs to create a rough head and body, I didn’t import the image. I instead had the image open in a browser tab and alternated between it and Blender. This was the result:
For what it was, it wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t what I wanted. Since I had already converted the metaballs into a single mesh object (a mesh object is anything with faces, edges, and vertices) to perform more complex modifications, it would have been more difficult and time-consuming to fix the issues I had with the model than it was to simply scrap it and try again.
Second Attempt (Day 2)
After I imported the reference image, I achieved the below result within a few minutes (the black circles identify individual metaballs because they hadn’t been converted into a mesh yet):
I proceeded to use a sculpting brush to add detail to the rabbit’s head. Using my imported reference image and a few others, I approximated the size and positions of the nose and mouth. It took several methodical attempts to define their shapes. Ensuring they were visible was easy. Ensuring that they didn’t appear forcefully chiseled into the rabbit’s flesh was not. When I was satisfied, I used the same brush to bore holes into the sides of the rabbit’s head. These were filled with appropriately scaled spheres that served as eyes. I applied a Boolean modifier to each and performed the difference operation (one of three the modifier allows), which deleted the portions of the spheres that were inside the head and left only what was visible from the outside.
Embattled with Ears (Day 3)
At Michael’s suggestion, I modeled the ears as separate objects rather than attempting to sculpt them. I chose a cube as a starting point and ended up with a passable ear shape after a lot of scaling, moving, deletion, addition, merging, and subdivision. I then duplicated it to create the other ear. This other ear got deleted (and not for the first time) when I suddenly decided to improve the original. When the needs and guidelines I am trying to meet are my own, modeling is a somewhat spontaneous process. It’s incredibly easy to lose track of time and to go beyond the original scope of the model because of how quickly and easily changes can be made, so it helps to know when to leave well enough alone, even temporarily. For me, that point was after I inset the outer face slightly and extruded it inward. I beveled the outermost edges of the ear, and then I scaled the inset face down, which created the pattern depicted in the picture below. Finally, I duplicated and rotated it before applying a Boolean modifier to both and performing the same operation I had on the spheres.