If you take the time to carefully examine all of the images the German artist Markus Vogt has in his Renderosity gallery, you will no doubt have a strong reaction to them. You should, because his “in your face” style is meant to create an emotional response in the viewer. Very much in the tradition of great Romantic artists like Casper David Friedrich, J.M.W. Turner and Thomas Cole, Vogt's images are not so much ideas, as representations of spectacle, horror, and awe. Alternating from depictions of freakish men and women, to scenes of powerful machines and cityscapes of such epic scale that the human figures in them are dwarfed and powerless. Gazing at Markus Vogt's work is at times like standing in a gale on some lost, broken heath. Or, if instead of Virgil, Mr. Vogt was your guide through the Inferno of Dante. His work has that kind of power.
My pictures are meant for all persons who are interested in real or
idealistic graphics art and for those who are open-minded for various
styles and do not want to see the same kind of creation over and over
again. I do not want to follow certain "up to date" trends or making
images just for a lot of meaningless comments or expectations of others
- unfortunately you can often find exactly this behaviour in many online
communities and forums.
Markus Vogt has been pushing the boundaries and rebelling against the standard trends both online and in the digital art world for about 6 years now. He's been a member of Renderosity.com for 5 of those years and has an impressive following. With titles like “Captured,” “Unknown Civilization ” and “Spider Guard” you immediately know that his work is not going to be like most of the art you'll find at Renderosity (or anywhere else, for that matter). And words like “brilliant” and “amazing” appear with regularity in the comments section of all of his images. Mostly, because his images are not only dark and, at times, disturbing, but it's because they are crafted with such incredible technical skill.
It's clear that Markus is an intense and serious artist who at his well designed website (he did it himself) states that although his art is dark,
“...it is never intended to support and associate terms like pure violence, satanism, extreme right-wing or any other similar tendencies! I never want to bring my art in relationship with those ideologies - so please keep this in mind.”
Smart of him to provide this reminder even though most of us understand that the artist who creates disturbing imagery is not himself disturbed. On the contrary, I was fortunate to interview Markus by email and he is focused like a laser on what he's trying to do with his work. Our conversation which spread over two longish emails was surprising to me and very different than other interviews I've conducted. You have to put aside any expectations in encountering both Markus Vogt and his art work.
I talked to Markus about specific works, his working methods and tools, and about his experience showing at Renderosity.com (among other topics). You can see his full Renderosity gallery here. His personal website has 4 large picture galleries in high quality, plus news and contact info.
Interview with Artist Markus Vogt
Ricky Grove: Why don't we start with some of your work, Markus? At Renderosity, "Forced Landing" is one of your works with the most comments. Where did the idea come for this work? How long did you work on the piece? What were you trying to accomplish with the image?
Markus Vogt: Yes, "Forced Landing" is still one of my personal favourites too. Well, the idea came more or less from a DVD by a french artist called Rainart. On his DVD "From Speedpainting to Mattepainting" he shows the creation of a huge complex building in a very moody and atmospheric environment. So, the idea came in mind to adapt something like this to 3d and I came up with a very large and heavy spacecraft in conjunction with some people in front of it making the scale understandable. I have combined several different meshes to achieve a more complex and detailed look on the ship and did a lot of Photoshop postwork to get rid of the typical clean and lifeless 3d rendered look. The working time was about 2-3 days, including breaks of course.
Ricky Grove: An image I find extremely evocative is "Unknown Civilization." What was it like creating this particular image? In an interview I read on the net you mention that you like to work at the fringes of your digital tools, is this an image where you did that? It reminds me a lot of science fiction covers of books I read in the fifties by Murray Leinster and Philip K. Dick. Is written science fiction an influence? Or is it more the cinema and artists like Edward Miller?
Markus Vogt: No, written science fiction is not an influence. More cinema and the classic sci-fi or dark surrealists like Giger and Beksinski. To be honest I do not know those artists you´ve mentioned. "Unknown Civilization" was more or less intended as a follow up to one of my previous images called "Toxic City." It contains already the same kind of buildings and dramatic environment. I really love those huge and gigantic sci-fi cityscapes in an unknown future. Leaving those images without any characters in it gives a lot more room for atmosphere, imagination or the fantasy of the viewer in my opinion. Who and how could those types of environments be built? That´s probably one of those questions the viewer might ask or become curious about. And this makes it interesting I guess.
Ricky Grove: I've also read that you started with 2D art about 6 years ago; what was it that caused you to start creating 2D art? A gallery visit? A book? And when you started with 3D what was the catalyst? And are you entirely self-taught? What were you interested in before you started creating art?
Markus Vogt: I always enjoyed drawing or painting since my childhood. Since the computer age, creating art became very versatile and fascinating, giving options that are never possible achieving traditionally. I have to say that I am not a very patient person so I do not want to spend many weeks or months just for creating one single image. So digital work is perfect! First of all, I started with some simple vector based 2d programs like CorelDraw, but that was not really sufficient for me. Shortly later I became interested in the fantastic possibilities 2d image editing and 3d animation programs had to offer. It is indeed a neverending story.
And yes, I am completely self-taught via many different books, video tutorials and lots of practical experimentation of course. I was always interested in music as well, especially in the experimental electronic genre. Nowadays, I am very versatile when it comes to my personal taste. I hear almost everything that sounds good to me and I do not care about certain genres, band names or styles. It is the same sort of thing like in graphics, every style has good and outstanding examples, and each has very bad and meaningless examples. So, thinking in those categories is not a good idea in my experience.
Ricky Grove: It looks like the main tools you use to create your artworks are Poser, Photoshop, Vue, CINEMA 4D and Bryce. What led you to these tools? And why CINEMA 4D in particular? I 'm just starting to use C4D myself and am curious about your experience.
Markus Vogt: My main tools nowadays are Photoshop, CINEMA 4D and ZBrush. Those are the most powerful applications in my opinion, and the combination of these really gives endless possibilites. In the past I used Bryce and Vue as well, but today not very often. I think using so many different programs is too confusing for the artist´s work, so concentrating on just a few makes more sense to me.
About CINEMA 4D: this program has the most benefits. It has a very good and fair license policy, a very logical and clear interface and simply all the tools a 3d artist needs - and many more of course. It is also very fast and stable. I have tested a lot of other programs like Maya, Rhino or Modo, but C4D is the tool of choice. But often most of the work is done in Photoshop, so I use the 3d tools more or less as just a pre-stage for the final work or just as a basis for the image.
Ricky Grove: How long does it take you to create one of your pieces? Do you have a workshop or Studio you work out of? Do you use a single computer or multiple ones? PC/Mac?
Markus Vogt: I always give my pieces some breaks and take a look at them after a day or two with fresh eyes. So I can see the mistakes I made, bringing in some new ideas as well. So, all in all I work 4 to 5 days on one image, sometimes shorter or longer. This cannot be said in general. I mostly work from my home "studio" on a single PC.
Ricky Grove: Can you tell me a bit about your background? I know you live in Germany, did you grow up there? What did you study in school? I'm also curious if you are much of a video game player? Does the art in video games influence you at all?
Markus Vogt: There is not much to say about my background. Yes, I grew up in Germany and still live there. In a small town near Frankfurt/Main. I have to say that I was never a video gamer, I do not know certain video games and, to be honest, I am not interested in such things. As I spend a lot of time in front of my computer I always want to take a break and make some alternative physical activities like swimming, cycling or tennis. So, sitting in my room and playing any video games over and over in addition to my already time consuming other computer work sounds horrific to me. No, thanks!
Ricky Grove: Some of the influences you have mentioned in other interviews include H.R. Giger, Zdzislaw Beksinski, M. C. Escher, Paul Gerrard and David Ho. What about these artists is important to you?
Markus Vogt: Yes, those people are real masters and they are the greatest influence for me! What I appreciate is the originality and quality in their pieces. They do not follow any trends, they have found really their own and unique styles by combining many different other styles or medias. In addition to this they have the knowledge and ability to tell some kind of stories via their pictures. So, often their pieces could be stills from films as well. That is not seen very often and makes it still interesting no matter how many similar images are previously made.
Ricky Grove: Creating work like yours must be quite an effort to get through all of the technical work to the feeling or poetry of your imagery; do you set aside works sometimes? Images that just don't work? And how much do you pay attention to technical matters in a program like Poser? Do you find yourself spending a lot of time in a certain area like rendering, more than other areas?
Markus Vogt: Yes, of course, there are always images or steps that don't work. I guess the same goes for nearly all other artists. Sometimes it´s the best to start completely fresh and over the years you develop an eye for what could work and what will never work - no matter how much time you will spend on it. It has simply the wrong path or starting point.
In Poser I do not pay attention to technical matters as most of my work was done later in Photoshop. So, I do not spend too much time in rendering for hours and hours with a probably (and often) insufficient result. That is annoying to me. I like to do all the atmospheric effects and detailing in Photoshop with straight "eye-control." So, as already said, I would not consider myself as a pure 3d artist, my work is always a mixture of 2d and 3d.
Ricky Grove: What sort of research do you do for your creations (if any)? Do you draw or sketch anything at the start? Do photographs or sections of photographs play a role in your process? You know, Francis Bacon, the great painter always tried to encourage accidents to happen in his paintings so he could use them to re-imagine his work; does accident play any role in the creation of your imagery.
Markus Vogt: Yes, working with accidents or randomness during the creation process is a very clever and effective approach. That is one of the most interesting aspects in art in general. Sometimes I study film screenshots for reference, regarding certain camera point of views or light setups. I do not always draw any sketches before starting. Often I sketch something on top of an already existing character or base image to see in which direction I could go with the piece.
Cabinet of Madness
Ricky Grove: You have a statement at your website (markusvogt.eu) describing your work:
"My pictures are meant for all persons who are interested in real or idealistic graphic art and for those who are open-minded for various styles and do not want to see the same kind of creation over and over again. I do not want to follow certain "up to date" trends or making images just for a lot of meaningless comments or expectations of others - unfortunately you can often find exactly this behaviour in many online communities and forums."
I find this statement to be refreshing as it tells people that they should not expect to see the same mediocre art at your website. Was this your intention? What kind of art are you trying to create? Do you have more respect for art that is creative than simply re-working previous ideas and themes?
Markus Vogt: Yes, that was my intention. I´ve joined various online graphic communites a long time ago and saw exactly this behaviour over and over again. Lots of people who comment on other works and vice versa only. Only publicity and exposure works, unknown artists are often ignored even if they produce good quality work. That´s not the way art should be in my opinion. So, originality and versatility are definitely key. Why create always the same kind of thing over and over when you have endless possibilites with today´s programs?
And yes, I have much more respect for creative and imaginative kind of art which is not already seen a thousand times before. Although often it could be difficult and time consuming to achieve such a result.
Ricky Grove: Your imagery is so strong and poetic, have you ever considered creating an animated film? Where do you hope to take your artwork in the future?
Markus Vogt: A few years ago I experimented with some smaller motion graphics animation projects in CINEMA 4D, but nowadays I am concentrating on stills only. I do not really want to tell too much about what could happens in the future. That is too unsure and does not really make sense to me...or it is simply impossible. Considering myself, I would hope to achieve even more individual, unique and imaginative design work.
Ricky Grove: You've been at Renderosity.com since 2004; have you found it an interesting place to display your art? What do you think of the community here?
Markus Vogt: Yes, Renderosity is okay, although I would wish to receive a little bit more constructive critiques. Every artist should be interested in critiques as this is the only way to improve their own skills. I think this could be improved at Renderosity, as well as the opportunity to respond to comments directly under the original comment. This would simplify the communication with the members.
Ricky Grove: Your website is really well designed and displays your art very effectively; did you design the site yourself?
Markus Vogt: Yes I made the site by myself, although I have to say that I am really not a web designer and do not program html code. For this site I wanted the design as minimalistic and clean as possible. So simplicity was my intention.
Be sure to have a further look at MarkusVogt's Renderosity Gallery, and also check out his background collection in the Renderosity MarketPlace:
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Editor's Note: Be sure to check out all the valuable resources available right here on Renderosity, for all your artistic endeavors, starting with the following related links:
Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.
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