Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Jaded with the 3d industry

There are days in my life when I wake up and want to give it all up. 3D, Digital sculpting the whole damn lot and go and do normal things that let’s face it are much less hassle. I got asked a question by a guy from Take 2 games today and I don’t think he got the response he wanted. Basically he asked what it was like to have some sort of name in 3d and do DVD’s etc... My answer was it was 80% of putting up with various crap and 20% good stuff.

Before I released my DVD’s and wrote my articles I was a no one, a nobody who very few people had heard of unless they hung around in a couple of forums on the net. People respected my work and me as a person and I was staring to gain ground after battling long and hard in the industry. At the risk of offending many, it’s far easier to get somewhere if you live in one of the big epicentres of games and films. If you don’t then unless you are prepared to uproot you are basically pissing against the wind.

You see it’s a basic human thing that people will always be more impressed by people who have worked on a big name project, than a guy who while at the same skill level hasn’t. It’s an extension of human nature that if someone has created something for a game or film you loved then they must be ‘great’. That’s the sort of thing that bugs me as someone who lives in a remote area well away from the 3d world as such as there is no chance of me working on a big name project where I live. But I don’t really want to move house to somewhere I may not like either. I like living in the middle of nowhere, its quiet, there are no guns or riots and definitely no earthquakes.

So I made a choice long ago when I started out that I would make it about ‘the art’ and not what I did and for whom. The thing is most times people do not judge art on the art itself but by the artist and what and where he works and if they 'like him as a person'. As I rarely tell people who I am doing work for outside of the DVD’s and articles etc, this will always put me as second fiddle to guys born in another country. This to some degree I can live with, although like life itself, it isn’t fair. (But yet again no one said it would be right?)

Since I started doing DVD’s writing lots of articles etc, things have taken a darker turn. Suddenly I get people sending emails to me telling me I'm one step away from Adolph Hitler for daring to try and break the mould a bit in the 3d world. I’ve had threats of all sort of stuff, been the subject of dirty tricks campaigns from rival companies and artists that I never would have had if I hadn’t started doing what I do. Yes, I do realise that sounds paranoid, but trust me the DVD business is not ‘nice’ on a business footing. But it’s actually 2 sided as well. While it is apparently ‘OK’ for big companies to do dirty tricks on other companies, it’s not deemed ok for companies to do it back to them. But the news is, that’s not how business works. Let’s not forget the moment someone pays you for something you are in business whether you like it or not.

So now I try to play business as I was taught to by my father, who has run several large companies before retiring. His advice is to ‘take no prisoners, because the moment you do you’re fucked’. But the trouble is I can’t actually make myself do that, it’s not ‘right’ in my eyes. I play by my own rules which are no doubt old fashioned to most. I believe in fair play for everyone and making sure everyone gets the same chancewithout favoritism. But still I get all sorts of insults including bizarrely from people who do not speak much English complaining that they cannot understand me on my DVD’s. Now you see if I was buying a DVD from a country where English is not the 1st language I wouldn’t expect to be able to understand more than 20% of it! But hey, maybe I’m just crazy like that eh?

So it’s fair to say that the negative shift I see in people in the industry is getting me down. Whereas a couple of years back everyone got on with everyone else and helped each other regardless of position or placement, now it’s suddenly every man for himself. Maybe this is due to the fact that now there are much less jobs around than artists to fill them. All of a sudden you are not guaranteed a job even if you have the talent, as a company probably will go for someone with less talent and ability that lives closer than you. The industry can afford to pick and choose now. With 3D not being exactly cheap to get into, more and more people are getting into debt with no chance of getting their money back. So it’s no wonder suddenly there are whispering campaigns and people being nasty, as they feel their future lively hood is threatened.

So what will I do...will I give it all up and do one of the other things I’m good at? Or do I persevere and try and work through it? I have no idea but right now the fact that I will always be an outsider and never treated as equal to others who work for big firms (even though I taught some of them in the first place) and always be seen as 2nd best doesn’t appeal to me. If I am truly 'pissing against the wind' and there is no way to keep going then I may well just keep doing my art for me and no one else. As right now the fact that a great many industry names have learnt from my tutorials over the years and never even post in a thread of mine as a simple show of thanks is starting to make me think why should I bother sharing my knowledge at all if people are only out for themselves. I’m not in this to make other people rich and be successful or play 2nd fiddle to those I taught (harsh as that sounds.) Come what may I value my honesty above all else.

It comes down to the basic fact that I am sick and tired of being used by others as a means to get rich or get further in their careers with little or no thanks. I can name 2 or 3 very big names who have came to me for advice how to do things over the last few months alone, yet these same people never say a dicky bird about it in public as it would shatter their image as ‘top dudes’. I say nothing as it’s my own damn fault for allowing myself to be taken advantage of by guys who worked together, have been to the same colleges together, and so it’s no surprise they will favour each other over everyone else. That’s fine as long as they don’t expect me to help them to do it. So what does the future hold? Probably more of the same with an increase in the amount of crap I get as I release more and more. For every step up the ladder I take I will get 3 rungs kicked out from under me, but as I’m a pig headed old bastard it won’t stop me. In fact it may well make me only more detirmined to keep on getting as good as I can be.

When the time does come for me to call it a day on the 3D world I will go out with a bang and not a whimper. After all at heart I’m still a performer, and a true performer never lets go a chance like that. ;)

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Current WIP's

There are two digital sculpts I’m working on at the moment, the first of Ming the Merciless from flash Gordon, is another one of my ‘famous movie character redesigns’. Whereas the 2nd is a project trying to do a digital replica of Davros from the TV series Doctor Who. The Ming one I’m trying to make a little less ‘cartoon evil villain’ looking and more realistic for a planetary dictator. He’s without facial hair at the moment and I’m just trying to get the forms lifelike before I move onto any of the heavy detailing stuff. Now as I’m going to be giving it the old black and white film look of the original movie serial I don’t have to go too mad, as a lot of details will get washed out.

It is of course a great way to make sure that your main forms are correct as you have no uber wrinkles to help ‘sell it’ as realistic. But by far the more difficult of the two is the one of Davros.

The reason for this is many fold, part of it being due to there being about 4 different designs for him that I’m trying to fit together into a archetypal ‘Davros’, and partly due to having to replicate a bad 70’s latex mask. Getting that bad makeup job looking right is actually proving to be a bit of a challenge, as to be honest I’m not used to having to make something look ropey on purpose lol.

Will either of them make it to final? Well that really depends on how much work I have to do really. Paid work always comes before personal projects for me, so as I’m rather busy they may get mothballed if time is tight. But fingers crossed I’ll manage to get both done.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

The escapology years (for those that requested more info)

OK, I’ve had a few requests of late to expand somewhat on my ‘back history’ as an escape artist and with people wanting details of the world record I still hold after all this time. It’s not something I was going to go into details about as it has nothing to do with 3d really, but if it fulfils people’s curiosity then it’s worth it.

I was lucky enough up till about 1993 to travel the world as a professional escape artist, it’s something that I enjoyed and made me a shed load of money at the time. I was lucky enough to appear on TV, radio and in national newspapers on a regular basis for some time until a health problem meant I had to give it up. This wasn’t a decision that I took lightly. I started as a professional escapologist aged 13and no it wasn’t a ‘family thing’ it was just something that as a child I’d always wanted to be.

In fact my career as a professional writer started aged about 16 as a main feature writer for a trade magazine at the time. I managed to somehow receive a whole host of awards and was the only person before or since to hold the ‘Escape master’ award, the ‘Masters Master’ Award and be given title goodwill ambassador.

In my time there weren’t a whole lot of things I didn’t get out of in the name of escapology lol. (You name it, and I’ve probably done it at some point.) The world record I hold is for getting out of a regulation mailbag locked tied and sealed and the record stands unbroken for more than a decade and a half at 3.37 seconds. It involved escaping from wrist restraints and the mailbag in that time and leaving everything untouched and still sealed.

The mailbag was examined afterwards to make sure no nefarious stuff had gone on by the representative of the Guinness book of records and professional bodies. So far it’s been tried to be broken on at least 5 occasions I know of, and no one has beaten it. Guinness eventually removed all escapology records from the book as they preferred things that were more ‘competitive’ and could be broken more easily.

I was forced to give this up at a time when things were going amazingly well due to a serious health issue that meant I would have put my life in danger should I do it again. (Well no more than usual anyway!) So there you have it, that’s the broad outline of what I did an achieved in my time before I was forced to quit. It’s something I’m immensely proud of and still amazed how much I achieved at such a relatively young age. There are many things I’ve missed out, b simply because if I listed everything I did no doubt someone would have a go accusing me of making stuff up. But I can assure you that next time I track some of the articles, new clippings and TV spots down I’ll put them to one side for those who crave proof. LOL

I’m also lucky that these were the days before the internet as a mainstream phenomenon, so the only pictures of me as an escape artist online are those I put there luckily. Otherwise it could have got embarrassing lol. I still pick up the handcuffs etc from time to time when I’m in the house on my own to make sure I’ve still got the ‘skillz’ lol... something’s don’t leave you and are like riding a bike. So that’s one of the many things I did before I hit the world of 3d. In fact without it I’d probably not write professionally now, and had I not been forced to leave it behind no doubt I would never have begun in 3D. I hope that’s enough information for those that wanted it.

I know some will say I’m only putting this here as some sort of big headed ego trip, but to those people I say this...firstly this is put here to fulfil a promise I made to a few people over the last year, and in particularly ‘Aminuts’ from SubD and Zbrush central. Secondly I am proud of what I achieved (even if my health problem meant leaving the field I loved and costing me every penny I ever made in specialist bills.) I see no reason to hide what I’ve done or achieved when I was younger to behonest.

You could say I've had an 'interesting life', and you may well be right, although not always in a good way. Its not something I talk about often as it usualy solicits one of a handfull of reactions. Ranging from disbelief and a zillion questions to more postive and more negative ones. So as a rule I keep quiet about it.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Old School V’s New School

In digital sculpting at the moment there are two main schools of style. The old school and the new school. Old school style is typically signified by the wrinkly old men, orc’s and various types of semi naked females. While the new school style has gone past the pursuit of ‘detail’ in favour of realism, or an understated realism. So which school is ‘right’?

Well to be honest both are fine, as this is art after all and it is down to the particular artist which he likes doing more. I personally am always a sucker for the old school style. ‘Clichés’ are clichés for a reason, it’s because they are popular and work well, although the fact that they are seen so often is reason enough for some to hate it. Plus more times than enough they are much more fun to do. While the new understated realism is really a pursuit not of style, but of an acceptance of the mainstream art world. A lot of 3d guys think that because they can stick a naked female or male in a attractive pose that this makes them ‘better’ that Leonardo da Vinci etc… It is worth remembering that while we have the benefit of modern understanding of anatomy etc. The old sculptors and painters didn’t.

They had to work it all out for themselves, without the help of textbooks, forums, DVD’s or online help. It dismays me when I see artists with an attitude that they are ‘better’ because of the style within they choose to work. No art is truly ‘better’ … only different. The painting of a 3 year old is no ‘better’ than a Da Vinci. As both are ‘art’ and both are from the heart and soul of the artist and hence equal as ‘art’.

No artist ever stops learning, and the day we think we know everything is the day we should give it all up and wash toilets for living, as it means we are then beyond hope. I like old school stuff. It’s technically no easier or harder than new school to be frank. I’ve done both and to me there is no difference in skill levels needed. We make the sculpts that we do either because a client demands it, or simply because we like them. In the same way that the songs and albums I recorded were recorded so I had something to listen to that I myself wanted to hear, my personal art are things I want to look at.

I imagine many artists feel the same about their personal work. So while others want to create one type of art that is currently in vogue, I create what I like for all its positive and negative points. I refuse to follow a fashion of any type, let alone a 3d industry one. The reason for this is because the moment you start to ‘chase’ something is the moment it starts to slip through your fingers.

Sometimes it is worth baring in mind that there are in fact two reasons to do any digital sculpt. As a piece of ‘art’, or as a technical piece. Neither has any more merit than the other really, although purely technical sculpts are getting a bit of a bad rep of late. Does this mean we need not study technique? I’d like to think that this wouldn’t be the case as then the standard of artists themselves would drop. If digital art is to ever be truly accepted, then we must learn to love all of the facets of it, both the cliche’s and technical pieces as well as the more ‘arty’ things. To deny one or the other denies the world of 3D the breadth it needs for the future.

Thus end’s the sermon for today.