Welcome to Issue 24!
Oh, that’s a bit too abstract…” is an idle put-down artists sometimes hear. But abstract is what all artists do, in one way or another. Great art selectively simplifies and stylises the parts of reality most important to our culture. Even a seemingly straightfoward photograph is a selection and framing of our world. Cultivating an ability to deftly ‘abstract’ is thus a tool we all need on our creative tool-belts.
An artist should also, at the least, have the ability to deftly abstract a nice line from there or a motif here, to lift it out its original context, re-work it a little and put into a new picture or story. The source might be nature, a past artwork, a dream, a bit of architecture, an image from poetry or myth, or some other inspiration. In the process of transfer and re-working, the abstracted element inevitably changes and adapts to its new setting. It becomes something different, and perhaps more relevant to the spirit of the times.
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We talk with one of Hollywood’s leading CG experts Andy Lomas (Matrix, Avatar) about his career and his fine art.
CG IN MOVIES | FINE ART
“I would try to think about how to create an effect if I was only allowed to use practical elements. That would often give an insight into alternative approaches, even if a shot was going to be completely CG.”
After a post-modernist art school, Erwin slowly recovered his delight in picture-making — and the big clients came flocking.
CINEMA 4D | PS
“My freeform organic objects are built ‘polygon by polygon’. I like drawing polygons and then pulling them along a 3rd axis. I guess I’m still a 2D person at heart. It’s quite an organic process. Much like painting I’d say.”
We talk with a young 3D artist who uses Cinema 4D and Photoshop to make superbly stylised abstracts.
CINEMA 4D | PS
“… I always start with a composition in mind, and a ‘feel’ that I want to try to represent. But what works and doesn’t work isn’t always quite what you expected to get at the start.”
Part of our interview with Erwin Kho
DAL: Erwin, welcome to this special ‘abstracts’ themed edition of Digital Art Live magazine. Many thanks for agreeing to this in-depth interview, and for your time on this.
EK: You’re welcome! Always nice to have someone interested in my work.
DAL: First, for orientation of our readers, can you say what software you use to create your stylized low-poly artworks? Your work is a little outside the usual range for Digital Art Live, and I’m sure it’ll be one of the first things puzzling our readers.
EK: Sure, I get that question asked a lot. I use Cinema 4D for my 3D modelling, though this low-poly stuff can easily be done with any 3D package. I also use some Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop for 2D details — if there are any in the piece — and postwork. I don’t paint textures, so if you see something in my work that looks like a texture it tends to be either a polygon selection with a different colour, or it’s had one of C4D’s built-in procedural noise shaders applied to it.
DAL: Ah, I see. Yes, I know that Cinema 4D has a lot of features which might appeal for the artist who is aiming for a more traditional look. Did you start off by using C4D, and if so how did it fit into the more general story of how your distinctive style first developed?
EK: The first 3D software I ever touched was Imagine, back in the mid 1990s. It came on just three (!) diskettes and ran on MS-DOS. I was so fascinated by it. I was already drawing spaceships and helped me bring them to life. Sadly all my renders from that time have been lost. Then I taught myself 3D Studio Max and in the early 2000s a classmate in art school introduced me to C4D. The low-poly style I work with now developed a bit out of necessity and a bit out of frustration. I never got the hang of making photorealistic renders. I really disliked UVW unwrapping, didn’t see much progress in painting good-looking textures. I had a pretty slow computer — a G3 iMac and then a G4 powerbook — so I felt I was just churning out crappy plastic-looking pictures all the time. Also, over time I came to appreciate the economy of the assets with which computer games had to work, and how they minimized/stylized their 3D models to work well with more detailed textures. I found I actually like just the bare grey ‘clay’ model renders, so I’d say that all those factors coaxed me into the direction I’m now working in.
DAL: You were born and grew up in the port city of Rotterdam. Do you think that city has influenced your work in some way? I’m thinking perhaps of the ‘containerised’ shipping-container block-building nature of the shipping in such a world-class port? And of the ships moving in and out across the empty waters. Is there perhaps some connection there, with the ‘cubi-zed’ and ‘hanging in space’ nature of much of your work?
EK: The port wasn’t actually visible from where I grew up, but yes I do love those vast industrial structures a lot, so it is one of my sources of inspiration. Also, at night all those pipes, girders and light structures, they look like a Borg ship, so my inner Star Trek fan is very happy to have them sort-of close-by.
DAL: How did you first come to realise that you were creative, and how did you then develop your talents in the early years? Was there a mentor or an influence, who became important to you at that time?
EK: I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. That, and playing with Lego, and working with clay. As a kid I watched a lot of sci-fi and still do. So I’d take the robots, aliens and spaceships I’d seen, and remake them in some way. No one else in my family comes from a creative background, but somehow my dad — an anaesthesiologist — had a keen eye and steady hand for drawing realistic rabbits and birds. So, while he’d rather had preferred I did something more ‘useful’, he did encourage me to observe objectively and be precise in execution. He also had a gorgeous hand-drawn medical anatomy collection by Dr. Frank Netter, and I was allowed to peek in to it. That really fascinated me a lot. We’re talking watercolour drawings of splayed open bodies, grossly infected wounds and bizarre mutations; not exactly what most parents would show their 8-year old. But I came out alright, though!