Who is 'DreamlandModels'?
Dreamland Models is a one man show that started in 2006 under a different name. Tom Mitchell, my given name. Dreamland Models came about when I started selling at Renderosity in 2009.
How long have you been involved in digital art?
I started drafting in 7th grade and really enjoyed it. Also liked art class a lot, so I would have to say I have been involved in graphics for about 45 years.
Since around 1993, my hobby was 3D Modeling and texturing with a free version of 3D Studio Max 3 and was starting to get the hang of it a little, and really liking it a lot. In 93 I got a copy of a drafting program called Drafix made by Softdesk. That was when I gave up my drafting table. No more eraser crumbs on the floor. :-) I was communicating with one of the programmers for suggestions for tools in the software and sent him a disk of drawings to use for whatever purpose they desired. Well, as life goes, I lost touch with him. About a year later he sent me an e-mail saying, in short, that he had good news and bad news. The bad news was that Autodesk had bought the company and they were going out of business. The good news was that Autodesk incorporated Drafix into AutoSketch and they were using my drawing on the cover of the software box. That was pretty cool. That is how I got involved with Autodesk. I was given a few copies of AutoSketch along with 3D Studio Max version 3, a Not For Resale version.
A few years later, I was in a store here in town and saw that Autodesk had used one of my drawings on another version of that software without asking me, so I took my shot. I called the vice president of Autodesk on the phone (he had the friendliest face on their web site), and to make a long story even longer, asked nicely and with his kindness I ended up with a full version of 3D Studio Max and a copy of Architectural Desktop. About 10 grand worth of software. I was, as they say, a very happy camper. Have been on subscription ever since. Also, started using Poser at about version 4 right around that time, but never really took it seriously until I started to build products for it. I am still learning both programs.
As I was a master Cabinet Maker and master Carpenter for my means for making a living, those programs came in very handy for job drawings and renderings. Well, after working in construction for almost 40 years, construction started to die off here in my home state. When I started building graphic stuff that was good enough to sell, my son James would say to me "Just do it, Dad!" Meaning that I should start selling things online. Being the stubborn old fart that I am, I kept on doing construction for a few more years until one day I decided to try selling a few small, simple products at a little site in France that sells products for Vue. Things like a Mail Box, Old Farm Milk Bottle, some texture sets, etc. After a while, I started to sell on a couple other sites, a few things here and there. Finally, one day I stumbled across Renderosity and the woman that was running the MarketPlace at the time, Debbie (Man, what a sweetheart), basically made me come to Renderosity, and I decided to go exclusive on this site. She, for some unknown reason, really liked me and my work. Go figure. Anyway, I was very happy to do so, as selling on 3 different sites was simply way too much work for a guy with a severe case of Attention Deficit Disorder. I have never regretted that decision, because not long after that I sold all my tools (just so I would not chicken out) and took the plunge by going full time as a freelance artist, and have never looked back. That was in 2009.
So, this is what made you decide to become a full-time Vendor?
I had been doing this stuff part time for a while, but when the economy started to die it pretty much pushed me into making the change. It was a tough decision at 54 years old to start a new career, but with my son cheering me on I decided to give it a go. One does have to eat. It was very hard to figure out what to build for a while there, but somehow I survived, and here I am 5 years later. :-)
What are you currently working on?
Well, let's see, I have about 15 cars in various stages of completion and a bunch of other stuff started, but right now I am working on City Block sets. City Block Fourteen is just about done.
What software is currently in your digital toolset and why?
I have used many software packages over the years. Owned Maya, Cinema 4D, LightWave, but I mainly use 3D Studio Max as my modeling program because I learned on that one and feel the most comfortable in it. And, of course, Poser 2014 Pro.
Could you list any current favorites among the products you've created and tell us a bit about their creation?
I had a lot of fun building some cars as they were a real challenge to me. Even assisted a guy in Hungary (via suggestions and testing) to re-write a program (Polygon Creator: a spline modeling script for 3D Studio Max) for modeling my cars. Got the interface the way I wanted out of the deal. :-) Brilliant man. That allowed me to build cars that are quad models, 4 sided polygons.
Have to say my real love, though, is these City Block Sets. I mean, after all, I was a carpenter for almost 40 years. It is what I know. So, when I am designing these homes, the doors are the right height and width, etc., etc. I start with the blank center block. I add some boxes to the block and basically layout the whole product. Then, I take one box and modify it into a home or a building and fiddle, whittle and dittle until it is the look I am going for, keeping in mind the theme of my city blocks. 1950's era. Once I have gone over all the different parts of the model with a fine-tooth comb about 3 or 4 hundred times, I start to export to Poser as .obj files. One model had 1005 incremental saved scene files. All along doing test render after test render to make sure the materials were the right scale and the color scheme was the way I wanted. Finish the texture process in Poser and then rigging and grouping setting pivots, etc. And presto change-o, there is a city block. It's just that easy. :-)
Do you have any advice for aspiring Digital Content Developers?
If you have a hint of talent, try with all your might, heart and soul, as you can develop those skills. Just takes a lot of hard work, along with a lot of trials and many more errors. Remember: The light bulb was not a case of genius, it was a case of 999 failing efforts and one passing effort. :-) Work long, hard hours, but make sure you are building what you like, and know well. Also, pay attention to the small details, as customers are not dumb. They do have eyes and will see if you are trying to cut corners. Makes me crazy when I see someone add a texture to a whole wall that runs the wrong direction, let alone it is applied to the whole wall!
I take a camera with me when I am traveling, so I can capture details from different buildings to incorporate into these models. When I am modeling, if I am not sure if a part of the model looks right, I stop working and walk away. If it does not look right, trash it, and go a different direction. Sleeping on a design is always a good idea! Pay attention to scale. Look at things in the real world and try to make them the same scale or size and proportional. Compare one to another and all that. And, for the love of Pete, do not try and rush the process, as it will always go badly if you do. Creating one masterpiece is way better than creating 10 mess tear pieces.
How has this online Community (Renderosity) enhanced your work, relationships, and learning?
There are different ones that have really helped me learn a lot along the way. Have to Start with Phil C, as he was first to help me so many times to get my head straight. Taught me a lot about rigging. Thanks Phil! And, of course, I can never forget bagginsbill, as Ted is really a talented man. He really makes me crazy though, sometimes making me build things over and over again until he is happy with it. Ted, you are the man. :-) Then there is BionicRooster, Jeff Nagy. He has helped me so many times with building materials and waiting patiently while I get it through my thick skull. He helped me make the grass more realistic on the city blocks. That was a big help to me. Also helped me make the wet roads and puddled grasses, and he builds all my banners for me. A really nice man.
I always pay attention to what people say in the forums. Don't always do the things suggested, but I do write them down to think about, and maybe use later.
Do you have any final words or advice for other digital artists?
Always take the time to be kind to your customer. Answer every site mail as soon as you can. No one likes to wait. Remember, that not everyone does graphics for a living, so be patient, and try to explain things in as simple of terms as possible. Never down a customer that is needing help, as you may need the same some day. There is a lot of knowledge in the forums, so don't be afraid to ask for help.
Most importantly, I would like to say thanks to all who support me in my efforts.
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