Welcome to our ‘Creature Creators’ themed issue, in which we meet several people known for making creatures and/or rigging them for animation. We’re pleased to interview a veteran of the Poser/DAZ 3D scene, Ken Gilliland. Many readers will have Ken’s superb 3D work in their runtimes in the form of his ‘Songbird ReMix’ bird packs or the realistic insects, reptiles and frogs of his ‘Nature’s Wonders’ series. We also interview one of the movie industry’s leading young 3D creature riggers and rig-builders.
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Inside this issue
Ken is an experienced veteran designer of superb 3D creatures for Poser and DAZ Studio, making birds and more.
POSER | DAZ | PAINTER
“I’ve always used Painter, as it emulates traditional art tools I’m familiar with. Many people ask why I ‘paint’ my models rather than use photographic sources. It’s pretty simple… painting them adds personality, life, and they actually seem more real in renders.”
When you see a Minion animate, it’s probably Nims’s rig. Nims has worked on rigs for many other major movies.
3D CREATURE RIGGING
“… imagine me, being a true fan of the Final Fantasy franchise, being told in a meeting ‘we will work on a big Final Fantasy movie’. I stopped them and asked ‘WAIT, the real Final Fantasy??.’ I was then the Lead Character TD on Final Fantasy XV.”
A new interview with HPL — one of the greatest creature creators of all time — on making monsters and aliens.
“… as a boy I began to have nightmares of the most hideous description, of things I called ‘night-gaunts’. I used to draw them after waking. Black, lean, rubbery things with bat-wings, and no faces at all. They would carry me off over the towers of dead and horrible cities.”
Also find inside…
- SURVEY OF UNUSUAL K4 MAKEOVERS
- BACK ISSUES
- PAPERBACK COVERS
Interview Snippet from Issue 68
We’re pleased to talk with one of the finest makers of realistic 3D birds and creatures. Many readers will know Ken Gilliland via his superb Songbird ReMix and Nature’s Wonders retail packs for Poser and DAZ.
DAL: Ken, welcome, it’s an honour to have to you here, and many thanks for taking the time for a long interview.
KG: Thank-you, being a fan of your magazine, the honour is all mine.
DAL: Great. Let’s start way back… what kinds of birds did you encounter in your childhood, and in what circumstances? Did they have any special meaning for you, back then?
KG: As a child, I didn’t have any particular interest in birds. My father was a middle-school biology teacher and he did a lot of weekend field trips with his students. He and a fellow Chemistry teacher were both ‘birders’ — keen bird-watchers — so on these field trips which I tagged along, I was definitely exposed to ‘birding’. I was also in the Boy Scouts and an avid backpacking hiker with them. This really gave me a deep appreciation of wild nature. Both of those influences definitely helped, but it wasn’t until I purchased my own home that I became truly became a ‘birder’. My house was located in the suburbs of the Californian city of Los Angeles, in a district which still had ‘wild’ places. I began wondering what birds were showing up in my front yard, which led me to obtain a bird ‘field guide’. That, in turn, led to binoculars and bird feeders, and before I knew, I was making a living creating 3D birds!
DAL: Great, well that’s a pretty good set of moves. I hadn’t realised how close you must be to Hollywood then. I mean Los Angeles is a ‘movie town’. How did you then train in art, and where? And what memories do you cherish from that time of training?
KG: It was fairly clear to my parents from an early age that I had some talent when it came to art. So at 14, I was enrolled in private oil painting classes, taught by a noted local artist. For the next few years, I developed as a fine artist and started showing work on the local art show circuit. One of the most important moments in my growth as an artist happened at one of those local shows. I often played a game in which I pretended to be ‘a customer looking at the art’, so I was in earshot of what people were saying. A particular couple really liked a landscape I had painted, but they felt it wouldn’t quite work in their living room — it would clash too much with the sofa. They began looking around for me, to see if I would recreate the same painting in a more pleasing colour for their living room. I was appalled — from that moment on,swore I’d never paint ‘furniture’, and thus ended my profitable ‘Sunday Painter’ career.
Looking towards college — university as the British would say — I received a scholarship and went to the brand new prestigious ‘Art Center College of Design’. That enrollment lasted one semester, though, because they really didn’t have a good Fine Arts program in place at that time. Several of my Art Center professors suggested I transfer to California State University, Northridge, so I did. During my time there, I met several influential teachers, but D.J. Hall — one of the most noted artists in Los Angeles at the time — clearly inspired me to be the painter I am today. My oil paintings are quite a departure from my 3D work — I paint social commentary in a ‘loose’ realistic style, with my smallest canvases measuring 40” x 40”. From that point on, I became ‘gallery represented’, had a number of one-man shows, and even a catalogued show. I still draw and paint to this day.
DAL: Great, that’s good to hear. So it’s not all digital, all the time. But you did ‘get into digital’ early I think?
KG: Yes, during the 1980’s I also learned to program, purchasing one of the first home computers which was a TI-99/4a. I programmed primarily educational and game software and I began to get noticed. I was signed by a small software company called Asgard Software, adding clip-art to my repertoire. Eventually, I formed my own TI-99 software company called Notung Software.
At that time — besides self-publishing — I actually had five other artists working under my label. When the TI world began to wane in the late 1990s, I moved transitioned to a PC and found 3D art. In 2011, I was inducted into the TI-99 Hall of Fame.
DAL: Brilliant. And so you found a living could be made in 3D models. In Poser models at first, and later also dual-use Poser / DAZ. What sort of places did renders of your birds end up being seen, in the earlier days of your 3D bird work? Say from 2000-2010?
KG: Some of my earliest bird renders from 2001 ended up being seen in a short film, The Parlor, which had an ‘Honorable Mention’ at the Sundance Film Festival. That was as set scenery. There was a TV series called Roswell where again, my art was hanging on the walls of the set. The first real notable usage of my 3D bird models was from Omaha Reads in which a library organisation was promoting the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. My mockingbird model ended up being plastered on everything across the U.S. mid-west, from t-shirts and coffee cups to bus bench and billboards.
Another couple of surprising moments came when I was watching one of the special features on I Am Legend movie disc and saw my songbird fly by… in a feature about the bird flu disease. I also opened an email from my favourite bird-seed vendor on day, and saw a bunch of my 3D songbirds advertising their specials from the month.