I have found a lot of external motivation by entering the Blender Guru competitions over the past year. The current “What Really Happened” competition is my third, and in my opinion, one of the more fun topics. My entry is below, and then a little bit of technical detail for those who are interested:
“Nessie Prefers No Fishing” - The real story of the Loch Ness monster.
I tend to get carried away in the micro detailing of models and textures, so I told myself this one would be a simple composition and use textures for the bulk of the effect. I think I somewhat succeeded in that goal. Most of the modelling work went very quickly, as I stuck to simple shapes to build Nessie. I garnished him (or her) with details like the net (cloth simulated), seaweed, and falling water (texture not fluid sim) to mask the simple base geometry.
The water is an absorption volume with some node work to create variation in color. The surface of the water is a plane with a glassy material. I used a white emission plane behind the water to give it the glow. The streaks of light through the water are a hair particle system with a translucent material.
I painted the background in Photoshop using my new(ish) Wacom tablet. I’m having a lot of fun with the tablet, by the way. I experimented with geometry backgrounds, but I could not achieve the non-intrusive style that I could get with a simple image plane.
As always, thanks for looking!