In Maya I posed a rigged tiger and applied its texture. Using MASH I Instanced blocks onto the model and figured out how to pull the block color from the texture.
I recently built a computer with a 2990wx Threadripper 2 and did a quick test to test the cpu render time. This frame renders in 1 min in Arnold at 1920x1080. (Please ignore the odd distortion on the window)
I’m using stock settings clocked at about 3.2 ghz per thread at render time. With a proper motherboard and water cooler you can overclock to 4 ghz per thread which is pretty amazing with the 64 threads. I highly recommend the 2990wx.
In ZBrush you can split the GEO of a model and give it thickness using Panel Loops. You can even feed it a custom map and it will split your model based on that. Below is a quick test.
Blending a displacement gives you a lot of control. You could paint a map that controls the amount of displacement or even animate it growing on or off. The possibilities are endless.