Lon Chaney ~ January's Artist Of The Month!

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Lon Chaney ~ January's Artist Of The Month!
Who is 'Lon Chaney'?

Well, I'm still working on that question myself. I'm a single dad in my mid-40s. I live in Fernley, Nevada, with my daughter. I've been into arts and crafts since my teens. I started with silversmithing and lapadary. I actually didn't really make any art until I got multiple sclerosis and had to quit working. Well, I guess you could say I was making art, I painted billboards for a living.

After painting all day at work I had no desire to paint at home. I was really more into music and spent most of my spare time fishing and playing the blues on my guitars. If it weren't for the MS I most likely wouldn't be doing this now. My real love is music. Not one to sit around crying in my beer when I couldn't play anymore, I bought a computer and soon after discovered Bryce. I was soon hooked on 3d art. I have lots of time on my hands so I rock out all day, take care of Jasmine (8), work on my house, and make pictures on the computer.


How long have you have you been rendering/doing computer graphics?

I got my first computer in 1997 and discovered Bryce a year or so after that. I mostly just played around with it, you know the classic sphere over water thing, until I saw an image by Darrin Chapman called "Midnight Swim". That image made me realize the power of 3d.


Do you have traditional art experience?

Actually billboard painting is just one big oil painting. You just have a very large canvas. And you buy your oils by the quart :) Other than that and the silversmithing, no.


Much of your work is architectural in subject matter; do you have any formal architectural training?

None at all. If you tried to build one of these in real life it would collapse instantly. I've just always been fascinated by old architecture.


Many of your images are flourishing with vegetation. What techniques do you use to create your plants? Opacity (trans) mapping, actual geometry or post production?

I use all three methods for plants. Usually the plants way back are 2d trans-mapped. To make fit the scene I make trees and then render single 3d trees using the same lighting as the final scene is using. I then use those renderings for my background trees using alpha channels. Up close you need 3d plants. Throw a few 3d trees in with the 2d trees, it helps blend them in. I layer the image up in PhotoShop and paint in a lot of the ground cover.


What software/equipment do you use and why?

I love Max. And a good working knowledge of PhotoShop is a must. I spend more time using PhotoShop tweaking textures than I spend modeling the scene. I use Xfrog. I have the new version, but I actually use an alpha version I got from greenworks when they were first developing it. Plant Studio is fantastic and it free. Tree Pro is another great plant modeler.

My hardware is due for an upgrade. Three year old Pentium4 1.3ghz with a gig of ram and a Quadro4 xgl900. I use the Maxtreem drivers when I model things for the game Duel of Ages because I can get over 4000x4000 textures in the viewports. That helps when modeling from drawing and images. I use openGL most of the time though.


Lighting seems to be a big part of your final images; which lighting solutions do you prefer to use within 3DS Max, and what sort of post work is involved with your images?

I use the light tracer sometimes, but I use fake GI most of the time. I'm letting out one of my secrets here. I really hate the long render times GI takes, so I render the image once with lights and once without lights (just using default lighting) and combine the 2 in PhotoShop. I usually do some post on all my images. I like to give them a little blur to make them kind of dreamy looking. I have never been a purist. I say use whatever you need to get the image that pleases you.


What do you think your best piece of work is and why?

This is a hard one. I always like the one I'm working on best. One of my favorites has to be the "Temple of Naroo". I have that one printed 18x24 on textured matted with a 5" dual mat in a cherrywood frame hanging in my dining room. I like the colors and it looks like it just might be a real place.


Why do you like to work with 3D software?

Well, for me it was one of the only choices. I can't paint anymore because MS is effecting my hands but I can still use a trackerball. I also really enjoy starting with a basic shape and molding it like digital clay to get a multitude of objects.


What 'formula' do you use for your architectural compositions? Do many of your scenes actually exist or are they pulled from your imagination?

I only made 2 buildings that actually exist. The Taj Mahal and the railroad station in my town. All the other buildings are just made up, it's easier :) Sometimes I have a general idea of what I'm going to make most of the time I make it up as I go. I just make a wall or window and take it from there.


The rich use of texturing in your images really makes your work stand out. What sort of texturing techniques to you swear by? Do you work much with procedural materials? Do you shoot much of your textures with a digital camera? Do you paint them in Photoshop?

Most all of my texture work is done in PhotoShop. I've gotten memory errors from Max because the big textures I use. Dean and I both shoot pictures for textures and then lots of layers in PhotoShop to make bricks and pavers out of them. I use procedural textures for bump mostly.


Who / what inspires you?

There are so many great artists here it's hard to choose. I've always been a big fan of feri's work. Most of my inspiration comes from the blues. I have an extensive CD collection and I listen to music from morning till night. I just start up Max and rock out until I get an idea for a picture. Some of the musicians that really get me going: Ana Popovic, Julian Sas, Mimi and the Snakes, Jay Hooks, Susan Tendeschi, and SRV of course to name a few.


How has this online community (Renderosity) enhanced your work, relationships, and learning?

I've been a member for a long time. I was even the Artist of the Month for July 2000. The encouragement I have received has meant a lot to me. Being disabled has kind of hindered my social life and the online community has been a way for me to meet people from all over the world. All of the free stuff here is such a help to somebody just starting out. Before I learned to model my own objects I used many free mashes from here. The forums are a great source of information although I don't have as much time to spend on them as I used too.


Parting Comments / Advice to other Artists?

Don't let life get you down no matter what it throws at you and rock on.




Be sure to check out Lon Chaney's gallery!

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