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This issue is a special tribute to a special man, Elon Musk. He too is an artist of a kind, a visionary who paints on a grand scale — his brushes are minds, machines, money and… a touch of well-earned showmanship. His artistic canvas stretches from deep tunnels to deep space, from the human mind to A.I. On this immense canvas his vision is every day being made real, and is reaching further into the future — giving hope to young talent and restoring a gleam to the eyes of those who recall the Space Race of the 1960s and early 70s. What can digital artists learn from Elon Musk? Many words have been run on such matters, but usually for business leaders. Yet some of these approaches transfer to artists, and could be stated as follows…
Learn as much as you can about your field of work. Keep pace with it, and even learn how to anticipate it, to the extent that you are “out in front” and become the expert on at least a part of your field. In digital art tools that could something as simple as being the expert on how to create and render 3D fur, or as ambitious as making a marvellous rendering plugin such as Reality. In workflows, it could be doggedly discovering the best ways to have 3D emulate comic art, or pioneering a new form of digital interactivity. Share your work and ideas generously, with people who can carry them forward, as Elon did with the Hyperloop.
Find time to work harder and more consistently. Time can be found. For instance, if each time you leave your desk to make a drink it takes ten minutes to get back, and you do that ten times a day, that’s an hour and a half gone. Could you get an advanced quick-brew kettle that boils in just one minute instead of four, or even have a stock of cans in a mini-fridge located right by your desk? Congratulations, you found yourself an extra six hours a week! Want another ten hours per week on top of that? Throw your TV in the nearest dumpster.
If your goals are complex, complex as in “how do we get humanity living and thriving on Mars”, you need access to very smart minds. While making digital art isn’t quite that kind of rocket science, it is still highly technical for the most part and you thus need to find the best support — which for artists means software, tutorials, coaching, webinars, news and insight.
We present a short interview with the man himself, discussing space aesthetics, the future of Mars, and much more.
PIONEER | VISIONARY
“… if you optimize for aesthetics it… doesn’t work … how do we make something that looks cool and works, and with a key goal here of… when people see that spacesuit you want them to think ‘Yeah, I want to wear that thing one day. Yeah, that looks awesome!’”
Darya is a digital sculptor, and she talks with us about how she crafted a fine and detailed new sculpt of Elon Musk.
ZBRUSH | MARVELOUS
“I spent a long time working on the Elon sculpture. … constantly coming back to and clarifying something. … I wanted to express a lot in his face and figure… precisely because the personality of Elon Musk is comprehensive and multifaceted.”
Luca is an Italian sci-fi artist in the Chris Foss and Syd Mead tradition, using 3D to make impressive book covers.
POSER | BRYCE
“For many years I made physical models and dioramas of the things I imagined — but over time this form of creativity seemed limited. When I found 3D graphics, finally, I could materialize all the spaceships, aliens, tech and worlds I wanted and let others enjoy them.”
OUR LIVE WEBINARS!
THE NASA MARS HABITAT CHALLENGE
BACK ISSUE INDEX
Excerpt from interview with Elon Musk
DAL: Elon, welcome, thanks so much for your time. Time is short, so straight to the first question. Why SpaceX and where is it going?
EM: I think that a future where we’re a space-faring civilization, and a multi-planet species, is a very exciting, inspiring, awesome future. And in order for that to happen we’ve got to dramatically improve the cost of spaceflight and that’s why SpaceX exists. The overarching goal of SpaceX is to try to advance the state of space transport — advanced space transport — technology, to the point where we get it as far along the path as we can do. To where space travel is a hopefully commonplace, at some point in the future, and where we can send large numbers of people and cargo to other planets.
That’s the sort of thing that that needs to happen for humanity to have a great future in space. So we want to keep pushing what I think it likely key to that future — which is reusability. The real key to opening up space is rapid and complete reusability — or near complete reusability. Like we have with our aircraft or cars, or almost any form of transport. But it’s super hard with space, because we’re developing on a planet with pretty high gravity. It’d be pretty easy on Mars, but Earth’s gravity is really pretty high and we got the atmosphere and that’s tough — you’re going through vacuum, hypersonic, supersonic, transonic, subsonic… that’s just a lot of regimes for any sort of flying object to go through.
But I mean it’s kind of like just any mode of transport — there’s a ‘before’. Before there was the Union Pacific [railroad] across the U.S. to California, people thought building the Union Pacific was just crazy. Because you know like… “nobody’s here, so why are we pulling a railroad to nowhere?” Now California is the most populous state in the country. If SpaceX and other companies can lower the cost of transport to orbit, and perhaps beyond, then there’s a lot of potential for entrepreneurship at the destination. Before there was the railway it was real hard to have commerce between the West Coast and the East Coast. They’d go by wagon [over the Great Plains] or on a really long sailing journey, but once there was the transport then they were opportunities.
Now look at all the industries that have been created in Silicon Valley, in Hollywood, but you’ve got to have that fundamental transport element. So we’re trying to establish that transport element, make it easier to get to low-earth orbit and hopefully in the future make it easier to get to the Moon or Mars. If there was an affordable transport ship to a place like Mars, I think the entrepreneurial opportunities would be phenomenal. Just an enormous amount of opportunity for people to create things on Mars, and then it’d be different things, some of the things would be so different they wouldn’t even imagine them on Earth.
DAL: Science-fiction tends to assume we need a warp-drive or anti-gravity to get to space…
EM: Well… I think we can get by with current physics. Rather than rely on a breakthrough. It’s difficult to envision what that breakthrough would exactly be… I’m quite confident that with what we know of current physics — where the standard model of physics is today — that there are dramatic improvements possible in spaceflight.
DAL: Great. That’s encouraging. That leads me back to my question about the technology, which was on your use of 3D. We’re rather interested in 3D here, and so are you… in a different way. You’re 3D printing your giant engines. There are significant advantages?
EM: Well, with 3D printing you can print something that you can’t make by any other means, so it actually ends up being lighter and cheaper than if we built it by traditional methods. So that actually helps us in speeding up the development. Instead of waiting for castings to be developed — which can take several months… Then, if the casting is wrong, you’ve got to iterate in the casting and each iteration can take several months. With printing we can have those iterations [and they] can be reduced to a matter of weeks or months.