Learning Digital Artwork and animation

Learning Digital Artwork and animation

I have been rather lax of late in updating my site, but you may notice a bit of a change in direction in how I tell stories.

My goal is still very much in creating and sharing narratives, but I have been working more in the space of 3D rendering and animation, rather than writing. I still love to write and will continue to do so, but I found a passion for creating animation and visual artwork I didn’t expect.

I never intended to go in this direction. It was when I started designing the ships in my latest story, science fiction in my own universe, I realized that I would need to (eventually) create cover art that didn’t rely on stock images or generic space-type theme. After a couple of failed attempts on paper, I downloaded Blender and then attempted to get a feel for how it worked.

After going through a bunch of tutorials, I attempted to make a model of the Constitution-class starships from Star Trek: The Original Series.

I chose it because it was a simple shape (or so I thought), and would be sufficiently challenging to force me to learn the ins and outs of Blender. I was proud of what I came up with, although at this early stage, my attempts at animating a camera fly around was sadly lacking.

Since we were all in the middle of our self-isolation at the time, and there was a standing joke that our bins got to go out more than we did, I used my Constitution model, textured it as the USS Enterprise, and took it out for a bin-run spin.

It was a bit of a laugh, and well-received. Benedict did the music and final edit and it turned out far better than I could have hoped for, given my complete lack of experience in the space, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Next, I turned my hand toward learning how to render photorealistic or semi-photorealistic objects. For some reason, I decided that our bright red toaster would be a good starting point. I believed (wrongly) that it was a simple shape and would be easy. In the end, I was really, really pleased with the result.

I made all of the textures for the toaster, including the labels on the toaster from scratch in Inkscape (the wall and benchtop are just photos of our kitchen), which was another new skill I found I needed to learn.

From here, I decided to make a model of a LEGO man, or minifig. In our living room, I have a LEGO X-Wing with a couple of figures set up around it, and I thought that a standard LEGO man would make a good subject.

I didn’t want to make him Star Wars-ish, so I just skinned him simply as the old yellow LEGO man from my childhood. I do, however, reserve the right to use him later with a Star Trek or Star Wars skin or two, just for fun.

My last let’s-see-what-I-can-make-models-of-from-around-the-house was inspired by seeing my glasses lying on my laptop on my desk when I was working. I thought that it would be an interesting subject.

When I made the Toaster model, I cheated making the bench top and tiles, and took photos of our kitchen. In this case, the wall and desk top are fully created in Blender using shading and textures. I was really, really happy with the wood texture in particular, and I would happily own a mug like the one I created here. I even put the meniscus on the top of the coffee, and LEGO man made a cameo.

So this was the start of my path of working with digital art and film making. I am still telling stories, but I’m now giving myself the option of doing that in multiple ways. One project I have in mind is to create an animated film based on “The Map in the Fortune Cookie.”

Irrespective of the medium, I definitely have stories I want to tell.

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