The Hobbit Artist, Steven Saunders, Brings New Orcs to Daz

a photo of Steven Saunders with Ian McKellen and the 2 orc figures he created for Daz

Orc characters may not be new to the Daz store, but we’ve never had orcs created by an artist from the revered The Lord of the Rings franchise. Now, we do.

Steven Saunders, creator of Grugmar the Orc HD for Genesis 9 and Norba the Orc HD for Genesis 9, took the time to sit down and tell us more about these incredible characters, his career, and more.

About Grugmar and Norba HD

Steven, your male and female orc figures are amazing. Tell us about your process in bringing these iconic fantasy creatures to Daz.

When I started to talk to the team at Daz, I made the orc as a test to familiarise myself with Daz Studio. I used the shaping tools and deformation sliders to get my basic shapes and developed the character further in ZBrush. They liked him so much that he became one of my first characters.

There are so many orc styles now, so what key features make these ones unique?

I have designed and modeled orcs before for some pretty well-known franchises. For Daz, I tried to combine my sensibilities with an interpretation of what I think a Daz orc could be. 

I call him Handsome Orc, I tried to style him as a runway model but still retain some of those brutish features we like to see in orcs. The female character was a fun adaptation with the same approach directly developed from the male counterpart.

Steven Saunders sculpting an orc

Anyone who looks at these characters will definitely agree that Handsome Orc is the perfect nickname. What was the easiest part of creating the products, and what was the most challenging?

Daz is an incredibly versatile program, with shaping, rigging, and rendering all possible in one place. I had used Daz before in blocking out poses and dimensions for collectible statues, but never to the level I went to with these orcs. There was a lot to learn.

From Physical to Digital Sculpting

You’ve had an incredible artistic journey, spanning an array of mediums. Tell us about your career and how you got into this industry.

I started working in film and public art sculpture around 2003 in Cape Town, South Africa. I was always interested in getting involved with a fairly wide range of creative fabrication fields. Over the last 20 years, I have worked as a props fabricator, sculptor, makeup artist, designer, Art Director, and miniatures fx modelmaker. 

Around five years ago, I started retraining from a traditional sculptor and model maker to going primarily digital.

Steven Saunders sculpting a figure from The Lord of the Rings

Many of us are huge fans of the world of The Lord of the Rings. Can you tell us more about your experience with the franchise?

The Fellowship of The Ring came out right at the time I started film school, and I was blown away by the worldbuilding. I simply knew I wanted to work on projects that good! I just took it literally, so when the opportunity came up to work on The Hobbit films, I was there in a flash. 

Since then, I have continued to work on the franchise through collectible statues and the recent Rings of Power series.

That’s so cool. And where else can we see your artwork?

Oh yes, here are a couple of places. Artstation is my main professional portfolio, and then on Instagram, I tend to post a lot of experimental little projects and some behind the scenes from my film work.

Steven Saunders with actor Sir Ian McKellen and one of his figures

Behind the Art

Steven, we’re inspired by your work. But we also know that there’s a real person behind the art. When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I recall seeing E.T. very young and thinking about how much I believed E.T. was real despite knowing he is a puppet. It then occurred to me that it was someone’s job to make him, and I knew I wanted to do that for a living.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like what I do so much that I don’t really need hobbies. This can be dangerous, as I will spend too much time in the office or the workshop, so I am trying to do some gardening and exploratory walks at least once a day.

Literally living the dream! What’s your favorite travel destination?

I travel between New Zealand and Cape Town fairly often, so I don’t get to the rest of the world as much as I would like. The mountains in both these countries are pretty epic though.

That sounds incredible. Steven, thanks so much for talking with us, and we look forward to seeing what you do next!

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