Since the dawn of humanity, we (humans) have been creating innumerable ways to cheat our senses and our reality. To let our mind fly through our imagination with faraway places and stories, just to show to others our day by day, or to be able to see the reality under the artist point of view (cave paintings, hieroglyphics, paintings, sculptures, illustration, photo-manipulation, and so on). And obviously because of our ego too (portraits, photo-shoots, etc..)
Cave painting - Laocoön and His Sons - Erik Johansson art
And for sure, nowadays the great cheaters of reality that can transport us to far away realities to immerse ourselves in stunning worlds, are the 3D designers. With almost 60 years ago since William Fetter coined the term "computer graphics", since the first appearance in a movie "FutureWorld" in 1976, and more since John Whitney (considered one of the fathers of computer animation) started to work on the concept, astonishing advances have been achieved since then.
FutureWorld - Polar Express - Avatar
The 3D modeling is achieving amazing popularity in our usual live, more than the people can think, even more than it´s to come. We see it in movies, advertising, and with the new trends in medicine with VR, manufacturing also, it will become something that we will deal with it every day as a natural part of our life.
Nowadays nobody can deny that the video-games are a fantastic part of what we are living in the 3D revolution, becoming an essential part of developing VR, and other achievements. Video-games are becoming much more popular than some years ago, and a significant portion of our day by day. It´s one of the pioneers and growing industries, generating around 109 billion dollars in 2017 (obviously I´m not a specialist on this that´s the info that I found after simple research), with a significant percentage of the cake for mobile devices.
Space Invaders - Sonic the Hedgehog - Horizon Zero Dawn
And as it is always interesting to put a name to someone that is contributing to this development. You know when you ask yourself, who designed that fucking badass that killed me when I was almost to finalize the quest, in a random encounter, or the final boss?. Well, I will give some answers, and you will know who is behind of such kindly guys. I had the pleasure to talk with a friend of mine, a great 3D artist that have been contributing to great games as is DarkSouls III. Daniel Santos, from Valencia, settled nowadays in Tokyo, you can check some of his works here.
What made you dedicate to 3D modeling?
It started as a hobby. I think my first experience with games was back in 2002, making a few tank models for a game about the Spanish civil war my brother was doing with a bunch of friends. It was a mod for the original Medal of Honor, and that's how I started to gather a first humble portfolio. I just loved tanks and aircraft and always thought computer design was super cool, so it kind of got mixed naturally.
Why video games? Any particular reason or it just came up?
I always loved computer games, especially flight simulators. When I was like 12, I was absolutely obsessed with combat aircraft and ww2 stories of aces, Yakovlevs, and Spitfires. Well, I still am! And in the early/mid 90s there were some awesome game companies working on mind-blowing air combat games. The old great Microprose, Origin and Lucasfilms games with big boxes and detailed manuals. An aircraft nerd paradise. But back then I never thought like I would want to work on games as an adult. Of course, I wanted to be a pilot with my big thick glasses didn't agree and to be honest I just found myself one day getting paid to work on games, I didn't foresee it.
What part of 3D modeling are you most passionate about?
Right now I do characters, and I love it. Of course, it depends on which project you are working on, but overall I think it's a lot more varied and exciting than making vehicles or scenery elements. But working on video games of course what I enjoy the most is finally getting to see my models on the final published game and to know that a few guys out there are gonna have fun with them.
Your weapons? 3DStudio, Cinema4D, Z-Brush, Blender
The software does not matter much. I prefer 3ds Max just because I'm used to it. Of course, Zbrush is almost mandatory, especially for character work. And Photoshop, although lately more and more texture and material work are done on Substance Painter, for example.
Talking directly about video games, the sector you work for, what would you say is the trend today? Where does 3D modeling go, what do the companies look for the most?
You know, the funny thing is that in the last years more and greater games are done by small indie studios, with a lot of old-school pixel art instead of hyper-realistic graphics or anything. Two of my favorite games from the last years are Papers, please and Risk of Rain, two pixelated masterpieces that have nothing to do with what I'm doing. But if you are referring to more or less realistic looking games, there are a few things that are drastically changing the graphics and techniques. First of all, the current generation of consoles brought a huge amount of processing power. That allows for a lot more complex game engines, able to deliver movie-like quality and render models based on real physics. It's hard to explain, but let's say that before you had to fake the materials of an object, like the metal color and the dust shininess of a piece of knight armor, while now the graphic engine, with simpler information, is computing a lot of variables in order to produce a realistic image. Another thing that is being used a lot lately is photogrammetry, which is using cameras to scan real objects with their current colors too. So, for example, you can scan an actor's face instead of being modeling his face from scratch. Some games are using it to make impressive looking vehicles or terrain too, and of course it has become imperative in a lot of other are beside games or films, from architecture to archaeology.
Obviously for 3D modeling of characters you need a knowledge of anatomy, proportionality, lighting, etc. Would you say that is related to sculpture or even painting?
Absolutely! I really think character 3D modeling is one of the modern versions of the old wood carving or clay modeling. Indeed, with the new, affordable and precise 3D printers on the market, lately digital modelers are replacing classic sculptors when it comes to collectible figures or even art. It's basically the opposite of what I was telling you about photogrammetry! It's funny because it's like two opposite tendencies. Either scanning real models or 3D modeling physical objects, happening at the same time and I can imagine several scenarios where both techniques can be used in the same project, like scanning an actor's face and then editing or 3d modeling his body in order to print an accurate scale figure.
It is true that today thanks to the VR, augmented reality, is expanding more and more to other types of experiences, medicine, psychology studies to treat phobias, engineering, today is becoming popular for Industry 4.0 concerning "Smart Manufacturing" etc. How do you see the future of 3D modeling?
Well, I think it' just another side of the same coin. Basically, VR is just a pair of screens instead of one. Of course, it might bring new markets for 3D models and new techniques and tricks but I don't think is gonna bring 3D to masses or anything, more that it's already happening without VR. You know my own crazy 3D future vision? 3D piracy. I think in 20-30 years everybody will have a 3D printer at home to print their own… dunno, cups, and tableware. But the time will come when you could illegally download the model of a pair of Nikes, or maybe a PlayStation 2050 and print it with their correct materials, metals or whatever. One day everybody will be able to print their own Rolls-Roice. And a bit later their own bunch of Nexus-6 servants. I should write a sci-fi bestseller...
I can safely say that various sectors I see companies that for advertisements, catalogs, etc. use 3D models instead of real photos. Do you think that the 3D modeling can even replace the product photography completely?
I think it already did! I believe most of the car advertisements you see on magazines are already 3D. Makes sense because a picture, even if you have the best photo editors in the world, can not offer you even a pint of what you can do if the “photo” is a 3D fake. And probably the bigger the industry, the less they are gonna use real pictures anymore.
Something that you would like to add?
I feel so lucky doing what I do. It has given me the chance to work on exciting projects for years and be able to move wherever I wanted every time I felt like moving to a new country. If you are lucky enough it's a really a job with a lot of fun, and I love the way every time new techniques are being developed and the feeling that in a few years, with printers and new hardware and software, things will be even cooler. I still think I would have been an awesome fighter pilot though...
Well, I hope that you liked it, if not, as you know I will sleep tightly.
With the non-stop growth of new technologies, the communication trends, and the highly demanding requirements of the nowadays society. It´s evident that a discipline like the "Art" has been changing, evolving, and adapting itself to the modern days. But it truly means that the traditional way of the "Art" itself has changed, or it has been developed to these new requirements too, in one way or another?
It´s true that for an artist nowadays is quite more straightforward to have a digital tablet and paint and draw on the computer. That to have the chance of a studio and get higher costs for materials and space. But, where is the line between passion, goals, self-realization, and even maybe profitability?
As not all that glitters is gold, I will try to bring some light to this topic. I have been talking with two great artists, each one of them high-skilled professionals in their field, Digital Art & Traditional Art, let´s understand for this entrance when I talk about Digital Art (made with digital tools) and Traditional Art (on this case hand, painting and drawing)
In one hand, we have Nacho Puerto a fantastic "Traditional Artist" settled in Spain in my hometown (Castellón, a small city on the Mediterranean shore), with an in-depth knowledge of the traditional arts and with a complete understanding of the nowadays directions of the art, check his work here.
On the other hand, we have Marga F. Donaire a high-skilled "Digital Artist" settled in Tokyo, from Cartagena Spain, with a considerable background having related illustrations even for Blizzard (Heroes of the storm), check her work here.
What made you dedicated to art?
From an early stage of my life, I had an interest in drawing and painting like many other children. Honestly, even at that moment, I knew that my interested in the art was higher than the average, objectively talking I was more skilled for those things. I suppose its something that was always in my life and that surfaced again in adolescence, and it was when I decided to study Fine Arts. The fact that I have dedicated myself professionally is a bunch of situations, some personal, other external. I do not believe in the absolute free will, so I suppose there are many circumstances besides a vocational decision.
I dedicate myself to my art since I have use of memory. I have always felt the need to express my inner world through drawings and paintings.
An art movement that impressed you the most?
I would find myself more comfortable citing directly about some authors that are relevant to me, although it is true that there is always something to highlight in each artistic movement, whether of a plastic or conceptual or narrative nature. Perhaps I would highlight metaphysical painting, not so much because of its plastic appearance but rather because of its philosophical and existentialist characteristics. I always liked that art had that intellectual component. On the other hand, there are other characteristics that attract me from other currents: from romanticism I am interested in their exaltation of the passionate and the concept of death. Of the classics and of contemporary figurative painting, I am more interested in his mastery of technique and purely plastic aspects.
Without no doubts I will say Art nouveau and Impressionism, that for me are the movements that more impressed me from the first time that I experienced them, and I would say that I fell in love with them.
I could quote thousands. Among them are for example Dürer, Goya, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Sorolla, Sargent, etc. Dalí marked me especially. And currently many authors of figurative painting. Especially Benjamin Björklund, an emerging painter and brilliant in my view.
Gustav Klimp, Alphons Mucha, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Contemporaries: Ayami Kojima, Akihito Yoshida, and James Jean are some of my favorites.
A workpiece that you would highlight?
Where do your motivation and inspiration come from?
Inspiration is not frequent and occurs unconsciously, so I do not value it much. The motivation is self-discipline, this aspect I consider fundamental. Although what I feel instead is a drive. Something that I need to express. And as such, anything that happens in my life, that I see in a movie, that I listen to in a song, that interests me at the end of the day, in some way it may end up in the form of a painting.
I used to get inspiration from books, music or movies. Now I guess life experiences are enough for me; you work better on a concept when you have a previous experience.
nowadays, what is your opinion on Traditional Art and Digital Art?
First of all, I would like to do a distinguishing between, "Art" and "the Art market." Both often antagonistic.
Contemporary art, or at least painting, is rediscovering itself after years of conceptual and technical rupture. In that sense, I feel very hopeful. I have never been very fond of performance and installations, or at least not in the context of the Fine Arts. I would not have any qualms about understanding performance in the context of dramatic art, but I still do not understand what links it has with the plastic. Apart from that, figurative painting is experiencing a boom that I know, was necessary. In this sense, digital painting has a great future, and I perceive it as another tool to try to master. It is true that we could talk about the concept of uniqueness as opposed to the traditional work, always unique in essence. But digital painting fulfills its role correctly, and I consider it a fascinating tool for visual artists.
As for the art market, I do not want to expand. Public opinion is not foolish, even if you're going to see it that way. We all know the topics about it, and the truth is that many times they adjust to reality. In fact, I think you have to consider painting outside of these guidelines, apparently taking into account that you have to survive in this world. It is a complex issue. That's why I understand that we have to differentiate it from the concept of Art itself.
I work using traditional and digital tools, so I feel confortable using both. I find interesting to experiment with new techniques.
Let´s talk about some artists, what is your opinion about "El Greco", "El Bosco", and "HR Giger"?
When seeing them together, I see a common nexus between them. In some way, all altered the reality in their pictures of conscious form. With different concerns, language and historical context. But none worked naturalism as an inherent message of his work. Each of them has a rhetorical and plastic universe in which immerse to tell a story. Of the three maybe, I would highlight HR Giger. I could not say precisely why, but it is the one that has most influenced me without doubts.
El Greco: Exceptional artist. Probably too gloomy for my taste, but still exceptional. El Bosco: There are so many details to pay attention to that it is definitely worth dedicating your time looking at his masterpieces. H.R. Giger: His interior designs fascinate me. Absolutely unique.
Do you think that exists a difference between the "Digital Art" and the "Traditional Art", if so, why?
Actually, I do not see the difference except for the concept of uniqueness that Walter Benjamin coined. In the digital world, a work can be reproduced infinitely without any variation. However, in the traditional world, even a series engraving presents inherent differences in the chaos of reality. Except for this feature, I do not see any problem. Also, it is true that digital art exists in a socio-technological context in which reproducibility is a must. Each screen of each user would be, for example, a practically exact reproduction. The truth is that I consider it a just born topic, the internet doesn´t have more than 20 years, and we are entirely used to that.
Everything has its good points and its bad points. For me, digital art is dynamic and much faster to elaborate. But traditional art has the magic of the antique, and it is the kind of thing you can touch or smell. It relaxes me way more and also allows me to work in a completely different way.
The mix of techniques today is quite standard and increasingly used, photo-manipulation, traditional art mixed with digital retouching, digital art using realistic parts, etc. What is your opinion?
Any tool that facilitates, improves or contributes some creative particularity in pictorial praxis is, in my view, something positive for it. In this sense, the possibilities are endless. In fact, I have mixed these techniques many times: using textures or coloring digitally on a previously scanned traditional drawing. The problem will always be in the way of presenting it in reality: if it is an ephemeral and digital work, or on the contrary, you want to print it in physical format, or directly made it.
I think is great. I get bored of doing always the same thing, and novelty stimulates my creativity. There are so many ways that it would be a shame not to be curious enough.
Well, I have to say that was so interesting to see their answers, talk with them, and to be able to understand their points. Honestly, there are some points where I felt a difference between both understandings of the "Art," may be due to their experiences, due to the previous knowledge, due to the current trends, it is your business to make conclusions, not mine. And obviously exists a common point too, that was the interesting thing, where we were able to see that the "Art" is something that's alive and in constant evolution, always. Wider the understanding, wiser knowledge, and better compression of the past/current/future situations, better artistic professionals will come, nowadays and forever. We don´t have to forget from where we came from, and what is going on right now, keep your mind open!