“Get the head start on everyone else and develop your art!”
Featured Artist: Daniel Eskridge
He has dual degrees from the University of Georgia, one in Computer Science, the other in Fine Art. He writes that, “It seems only natural that I attempt to combine the two by producing art using a computer.” He adds, “Plus, I find that it’s a bit more practical than painting as it doesn’t require all of the clean up, harsh chemicals, or expensive supplies. In fact, I have been a render artist since some of the first ray-tracing programs were made publicly available in the mid-1980s”.
Dreamlight features this outstanding artist ….
Dreamlight: What inspires you?
Daniel writes: My initial inspiration for making art came when I was very young. I was lucky in that my family had a rather extensive library of old books. Among them was a rather thick tome on ancient mythology (mostly Greek) that was illustrated with classical paintings from the Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical periods. This was where I picked up a fascination with classical styles of art.
Later, when I was a teenager, I developed a love of science fiction and fantasy novels. I became interested in why I chose certain novels to read, those which caught my attention, in other words, the cover art. I became more interested in the illustration, than the novels themselves. So, the ability to tell stories with pictures also inspires me.
However, for the most part, my largest inspiration comes from the environment that I grew up in. That is, North Georgia. The area lies in the foothills of the southernmost of the Appalachian Mountains. Everywhere you look, you find forests, hills, and streams. Everything has organic form, and nature is everywhere.
Daniel writes: This is another artwork set in my favorite kind of environment: the deep forest. For this one, I was inspired by classic hunting themed paintings that I saw in a man’s study while touring a historic mansion. I rather enjoyed the strong earth tones of the art I saw there.
Tools used: Sculptris, Daz Studio, LookAtMyHair, Vue, GIMP, Photomatix
Dreamlight: Do you have a preferred way of working on your images?
Daniel writes: I generally start any image with a quick gesture drawing on paper. This is just to get the layout down.
Next, I usually create the environment for the scene in Vue. Here, I layout the landscape and flora for the scene, then set the lighting and atmosphere. Sometimes I will build the characters for a scene first if I have a particular one in mind, but generally I let the environment dictate what characters I will populate it with.
For the next step, I do the character work. By “character”, I mean any human figures, animals, fantasy creatures, and paleo animals. In some cases this may also include other special objects, like highly detailed tree trunks, vehicles, and buildings. Sometimes, I sculpt these things from scratch using digital sculpting software. Other times, I use pre-made figures from Poser. It just depends on what I need to finish the scene.
After importing the characters into the environment, I render the scene. Usually, I render very large images to allow for large print sizes. So it can take several days for a render to complete.
For the final stage, post-production, I use image editing software to do something more akin to traditional painting work to add and touch up details, fix render errors, add more atmosphere, adjust colors, etc.
Daniel writes: For this frog themed artwork, I wanted a rather detailed close-up of the amphibian. However, I didn’t like any of the existing frog models in my library. They just didn’t hold up when the frog was so prominent in the art. So, I created my own frog model by constructing a virtual sculpture of the frog using Sculptris – a free but rather powerful computer application for creating and painting virtual 3d models.
Dreamlight: Do you have a favorite software / hardware combination and why?
Daniel writes: I use several computers, all PCs. I prefer the PC as it is easier to find software for them and also easier to customize things like processors and memory. For post-production, I use a Wacom Bamboo tablet as it is easier to do brushstroke-like movements than it would be with a mouse.
For software I use mostly Vue. I like the way it handles lights and atmospheres. For sculpting models, I prefer Sculptris, as it really does a great job of emulating clay and I don’t need to be concerned with the underlying mesh. For posing pre-made characters, I prefer to use Poser as I can pose models with it quickly, plus it has a good cloth simulator. Though for fur, I use Daz Studio as it has a plugin called LookAtMyHair, which is the best system I’ve found for doing hair and fur so far. For post-production, I pretty much always use GIMP, mostly because it’s free and I’m used to it.
Polar bear underwater
Daniel writes: With winter officially under way, I was in the mood to make a freezing cold artwork that was heavy with blue and white tones. So I decided that adding polar bear to my series of mammals
Dreamlight: What do you find the most difficult?
Daniel writes: In a word, illustration. Realizing my own visions is not so hard, but when I have to realize someone else’s, I often struggle. The quality of my work is always better when I have complete freedom to create art as I see fit. When I’m working on a contract though, I have to work within my client’s constraints, and sometimes what they see in their head, just does not translate easily to an actual image.
Dreamlight: Do you have any advice about selling 3D images?
Daniel writes: Nothing specific about 3D, but since it is a form of art that lends itself to mostly online sales, I can speak to selling online. The best advice I can give about selling ANY kind of art online is that you need to be a good writer as well as an artist. By and large, patrons are going to find your art using search engines. Without good titles, descriptions, and keywords attached to your images, they will be virtually invisible to the Googles and Bings of the world.
Daniel writes: While I’ve done a number of artworks featuring mammoths, this is my first piece of elephant art. All in all, I’m rather happy with the way the image turned out. I wanted a sense of action and danger. So, I used a composition that I like for this which I call the “eye”, that is, the subjects (in this case, elephants) taken together, roughly form the shape of an eye staring back at the viewer.
Software I use includes: Sculptris, ZBrush, Blender3d, Vue, Daz Studio, and GIMP.
Dreamlight: Any advice about protecting copyright?
Daniel writes:It’s pretty much impossible to put images online and totally protect them from art thieves. Hidden watermarks can help, but blatant watermarks hurt sales. The best advice I have, is to the keep the resolution of online-viewable images low. I try and keep it so that no one in the public has access to any of my images with a resolution higher than 1 megapixel.
Occasionally, I come across a blog, website, Facebook page, etc. that is using one of my images without permission. As long as they are using it respectfully, I usually let it go and just post a comment saying something like “Thanks for sharing my art, more at DanielEskridge.com”. Besides, I’ve both run websites and sold art for years. I know that they are likely not profiting significantly using art stolen from me, nor cutting into my sales.
Dreamlight: Where can we find out about you and your work?
Daniel writes:The best places are my gallery site: DanielEskridge.com and my rather recently started blog: http://renderscapes.blogspot.com/. I’m on Facebook too: http://www.facebook.com/TheArtOfDanielEskridge and I have a few videos on Youtube as well: https://www.youtube.com/user/danieleskridge
Dreamlight: If you have any inspiring words to pass on to the 3D CG community we would love to know!
Daniel writes:For artists in general: Art is important and it will become more so in the future. Progress and technology are constantly eliminating jobs, and not just menial labor either. Half the things you once needed a lawyer for can be done online for minimal cost, IBM’s Watson is prepped to take over the diagnosis of many diseases from the Doctor, administrative assistants are being replaced by mobile phones with SIRI, the list goes on. Just imagine the number of jobs that will disappear when the self-driving cars go mainstream: taxi drivers and truckers will become obsolete almost overnight. More and more the human currency of the future is going to be creativity, not labor. Now is the time to get the head start on everyone else and develop your art.
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