10. Parnassus: 3D Software

gears

                              Gears

Learning 3D Software

I loved and still love Photoshop. Of the many things the software can do, drop shadows are really nice – that is if you are looking down or straight ahead at an object. If you tried to create a box on a table with natural shadows, at least in the early days of the software, the best you could do was fake it. One day a buddy of mine, named David Chalk, came to my studio and told me I should learn 3D. He suggested I start with Alias Sketch, so I got it and began the tutorials.

I had met someone at a Mac Expo who used 3D programs. He told me if I wanted to learn 3D, I had do the tutorials three times. I used that advice for every software program I tried to learn after that. He also said: “the wonderful thing about 3D is that when I wake up in the morning and think of an image I know I can create it. The only problem is whenever I look up at the clock it’s always 3 AM”. He wasn’t kidding.

I worked hard to learn Sketch. You would build shapes, or models, like box primitives or more complex things. Giving them a color was next. The default color was garishly shiny, but you could make the surface matte too. You could also add lights. When things were finally set up you had the software ”render” the image, which was analogous to dropping film off at a lab. Unfortunately, it took that long, or longer, to see a final image. Rendering, not to mention learning 3D software itself, was painfully slow.

One day when I was wrestling with a practice scene, I discovered that you could move lights in the 3D environment. I jumped out of my chair for joy. “This is just like still life! I know this.” I was so excited.  No need to leave the studio. No need to shop for props. Just build your own props and create natural backgrounds, or whatever you want, to make a scene. It was very exciting.

My First 3D Assignment

As my confidence began to build, along with blind courage, I decided to call one of my still life clients at Graphic Arts Monthly Magazine. I asked her if she would hire me to illustrate an article for her. She was very nice and said: “Sure, illustrate the rising cost of paper in the printing industry.”

Uh oh. What have I done? What kind of assignment is that? All my prior still life assignments were simple: here’s the layout, here’s the product, light it and send us the film. Now I had to come up with a visual to match an idea. It seemed like it was something very new, and yet I had done that many times whenever I thought up a still life set for my portfolio.

I left my studio, got home, had dinner and then sat on my bed with colored pencils and a big sketch pad. I had 5 or 6 illustration source books, like American Showcase, The Black Book and others strewn about and in the midst of this mayhem was my constant feline companion Pookie Louise Bear. She found it all very entertaining, even if it meant staying up late, which it did. I looked at many illustrations to get inspiration and ideas and was struck by how good the work of those illustrators was.  I was new at this. They had been making illustrations for years. Was I crazy? Yes, and determined. After a long time I had an idea I felt would work and the next day I sent some roughs to the art director. She picked one, I finished the image and it was published.

The image above was for a different assignment. Someone sent me a photograph of Gears and asked me to come up with a similar look in 3D.

 

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