13. Interviews and a New Way of Seeing

Earth Highway

                                                              Earth Highway

My First Interview

One day I got a call from someone at the Japanese, “iMagazine”. She wanted to interview me about my 3D work and bring a photographer along to take my picture. I was pretty excited. The appointed day arrived and the woman who did the interviewing sat on the couch in my studio while I sat at my desk and faced her. I tried to be as interesting and informative as I could be and we spoke for a while. Then it came time for my portrait. Having done what the photographer was doing many times myself, I enjoyed watching him set up. I basked, feeling very much like a pampered pet, and then it was over. It would be a few weeks before samples of the magazine arrived.

I walked a little taller and was very proud. Time passed and the package from iMagazine finally came. I couldn’t wait to see what the article said about me and proceeded to tear the carton open. Surprise! It was all in Japanese and I couldn’t understand a word of it, save my name on the content’s page. They printed several of my illustrations, along with my portrait, but that was it.

It didn’t stop there, however. That was just the beginning. Other trade magazines began contacting me too. Over the next couple of years the total came to eight. Some just had a few paragraphs and others, like “PEI Magazine” (Photo Electronic Imaging), had more. It was one of my favorite magazines because it offered great articles about software and technique. They wanted to inteirview me and use one of my images for their cover. They also asked me to write a tutorial on what went into making the cover. I had never written a tutorial before.

”Earth Highway” is what I called the cover illustration (see above). The broken ends of the highway were built in Form•Z and the rest was made in Electric Image, where the scene was also rendered. It was a bit daunting to create and it was even more challenging to write the tutorial. There is a tendency to gloss over stuff you know, but I knew it would be chaos if I messed the tutorial up.

The longest and most thorough interview was done by “Photo Insider Magazine” several years later. Now on my website, it showed my still life photographs and my 3D illustrations. What I find interesting is how much alike the images are, either because I am so familiar with them, or because they came from the same person with the same way of seeing things, namely me. By then my 3D work had grown more sophisticated. I had improved my model making skills and had a better feel for setting up lights in a virtual environment. I also learned which software to render my images with. Each renderer had a different look, like film. For a lush look, with rich saturated colors I used Electric Image. For a crisper look I usually chose a ray tracer, like Form•Z. I used other 3D programs too and consequently I was always reading manuals and learning new software.

One of my favorite software programs was the least expensive and on the surface the easiest to use. It was called Bryce and it was deceptively simple. Under the hood, though, it was capable of creating amazing scenes. Its quality of light – a major distinction between all these programs – was exquisite. It offered the feel of natural light. Technically it was a landscape software, with horizons and skies, but you could do a lot more with it.

3D: Learning to See

In simple (and risky) terms, to take a photograph you find a subject and press the shutter button. 3D was different. To create a scene you had to build every model  from scratch and give it attributes to make it look realistic. Dirt, dents and endless miscellaneous things went into making objects look believable. I began to look at the world differently. I observed the way things were constructed. I looked at textures and things like layers of rust on metal pipes the way painters do. I went to animated 3D children’s movies to see they way scenes were lit. In short, I began looking at the world with a thirst for detail I never had before.

Now I Can Finally Leave The City: Not Really

As I progressed in making illustrations I thought I would be able to leave the city and move to  place in the country where I’d be able to shoot landscapes and also illustrate for magazines. The only problem was that software companies were constantly upgrading their tools and the learning curve just never stopped.

I had several friends who were also working with 3D. We were always in touch and gave each other moral support. We also attended software user groups together and shared news and tips about programs and upgrades. It was apparent before long that I needed this support. I couldn’t leave the city and my cadre of buddies if I expected to keep up. Once again, I stayed.

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