12. Total Immersion: Illustration & Music



More to Learn

I was using an Apple computer and the world of 3D was mostly divided by software that could be used on the Macintosh platform or the PC platform. Mac people often used Electric Image as a renderer with a 3D “modeler” called Form•Z. The two programs worked well together. In 3D you had to build shapes. If you wanted a microscope, or a birdcage, you had to build it. For that you needed a software with the tools that would allow you to make these things. Once those shapes were built you would add colors, textures and even labels to the surfaces of the model. I needed a better modeler, or model maker, software, so I got Form•Z. It wasn’t cheap and the learning curve was vertical. I made a deal with myself: I would carry the modeling manual wherever I went until I finished reading it (there were several manuals that came with the software. It was like having a whole new library). I read it on subways and buses and, of course, sitting down in places where you’re supposed to read. I think it took me a year to finish the modeling manual and I probably only understood half of what they were trying to explain. It was very technical stuff.

Eine Kliene Nachtmusic, or A Little Night Music

I spent every day at my studio marketing, making images and working to improve my 3D skills. Staring at a monitor for so many hours was new for me and the days were long. I would get home late, make dinner and try to unwind. Reading wouldn’t do it because my eyes were so tired. Instead, I took out my steel string guitar, sat on a comfortable chair with my feet on the guitar case and played. I had composed a number of songs in the past, but this style was different. I was flat picking and improvising with my eyes closed. Eventually musical themes began to emerge and I would repeat them until I could find phrases which worked well together. In time whole pieces formed. My technique needed to improve for me to play them, but every night I progressed a little more. I wondered how my cat was taking all this and whenever I looked for her she was usually on the rug to my left, lying on her back with her feet up in the air. She seemed happy.

I did this almost every night and after about three years I had put together thirteen pieces. I even gave a solo concert at a gallery. I just stood up in front of about 30 friends and acquaintances and played for an hour straight. I barely spoke and there was no intermission. I planned to do it differently next time, but the next time hasn’t happened yet.  Then one day the composing stopped. I had dinner with an art director I used to work with and told him I couldn’t understand why my music had suddenly stalled.  His answer was interesting:

”You were probably mourning the loss of your mother and now the mourning period is over.” Given that I called the first piece: “Song for my Mother”, I believe he was right.


I started a marketing campaign to stay in touch with clients and friends. Every month I emailed them a new image. It usually took a few weeks for me to complete one because I always wanted to come up with something more interesting and more complex than the previous illustration. The irony is that the goal was to attract art directors at magazines, but the scenes I was creating were anything but commercial. They were whimsical and more like children’s book illustrations. Amazingly, I still got jobs.

“Birdcage” (above) was an idea that wouldn’t go away. The concept was this: a model builder decides to make a birdcage he hopes will interest a Cardinal to occupy. It has a comfy chair, a rug, a TV, a potted tree and a tree painting. The model builder even has Cardinal Bird Food. What more could a bird want? (answer: freedom!) The Bird, while hardly an accurate model of one, is interested. That was the concept. It even gave me the opportunity to shamelessly add one of my Barn photographs to the wall. I never had a Cardinal come to my apartment window until I made this scene. Cardinals have visited me several times since. Who knows what that’s about?

I wrote about Raytracing software before and Birdcage was rendered using one. With so many objects, patterns, labels and colors the scene took forever to render before I could see what I was doing. I would let the computer render all night, find things that needed to be corrected the next day and then have my computer render it all night again. This took a few weeks to complete.

Let’s See A Real Assignment

Ok. The one below was my first cover for “Electronic Musician Magazine”. The theme was: “Burning Your Own CD’s”. Remember, this was the 1990’s. Burning your own CD’s was kind of a big deal then. The models were made in Form•Z and then brought into Electric Image to be rendered. I think the glow was done in Photoshop. Not sure about the flames, but they were probably done in Photoshop too.


                  Burning Your Own CD’s



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