|Each month we showcase a Renderosity Free Stuff Artist, in appreciation for their thoughtfulness, and countless hours spent creating free items for the Renderosity community. This month we are proud to showcase the works of Stephen Upham, better know to his Renderosity fellow artists as cybia.|
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Since an early age I have always been creative and am addicted to all things art-related. I enjoy drawing, painting, sculpting, woodwork, photography and computer graphics. I am happy enough as long as I'm doing something creative with my time. I graduated with a BA (Hons) in Design, and I have been running my own craft workshop for a living over the past 10 years. It certainly doesn't make me rich but at least I enjoy the work.
I am pretty much self-taught when it comes to computers, so my knowledge may certainly be lacking when compared to those who are formally trained. But I enjoy learning more as I go along and I guess that I haven't been doing too bad so far. I work on all the digital products and website projects during my limited spare time in the evenings and on weekends, so it's not a full-time job for me. I would like to dedicate more time to this side of things in the future though if I get the opportunity.
I setup my first website back in 1998 (if my memory serves me right), which enabled me to share some early freeware products with other graphics users online. The first downloads were Photoshop brushes and plug-in filters. I had absolutely no idea that my website would still be going all these years later though! It has always surprised me that the free resources continue to be so popular with visitors, so I will keep developing the site as long as there is still an interest by users.
The website is still just a "hobby" for me at the moment, but I have also started to release some low-cost commercial products in order to help pay for the ever-increasing running costs!
SpaceMaker © cybia
createrd with SpaceMaker © cybia
I will continue developing the freeware downloads though, as I really enjoy contributing to the online graphics community and hope to release many more resources over the coming years.
I also started a second website a while ago dedicated to my interest in fantasy, sci-fi and horror artwork. But lack of time has meant that I haven't been able to get this fully up and running yet as originally planned. I will get around to it eventually though.
You have such a wide variety of free stuff. Do you have a favorite type of item to make? Why is that your favorite?
I enjoy creating many different things, as I find I get bored too easily if I only stick with one type of product! The Photoshop plug-ins are always one of my favorites, as I find them quite a challenge and I use photo-editing effects a lot in my own work so they come in very handy. Plus, they seem to attract the most downloads on my website.
Although I originally started out with Photoshop add-ons, I have become very interested in 3D packages lately and would like to learn much more about 3D modeling in the future, in order to help me create better Poser props and other objects. I find this an exciting area to explore and it opens up lots of new possibilities for me. Of course there is a steep learning curve when it comes to 3D software, so I realize it's going to take me some time to progress further with this side of things.
Did you begin with modeling or Poser first?
I started with some basic modeling and rendering using various 3D apps over the years, including the old DOS version of 3D Studio in the early days. I then switched to Caligari Truespace for a while, and Bryce of course was a favorite of mine when it first came out. My preferred 3D program for modeling now is Maxon Cinema 4D, and I also like using Terragen, and Vue d'Esprit for landscape work.
When Poser was originally released it was an interesting program but I was always disappointed with the unrealistic models, even up to version 4, so I didn't do much with it to begin with. It's only after discovering the higher resolution Victoria and Michael figures from DAZ that I really started to use Poser and take it more seriously.
Poser has certainly come a long way thanks to the efforts of third-party developers like DAZ, and all the merchants at Renderosity! I find it amazing how much you can expand the original program with all the add-ons now available. You are no longer limited to just what you get in the original package.
What version of Poser do you use? Why do you like it best?
I'm still using version 4 at the moment. I know that it's lacking some of the advanced features of the newer releases, but it does everything I need for now. I like how easy it is to use, plus it's fast and stable on my current system so I've been reluctant to upgrade! Although I do plan on purchasing version 6 soon, as I realize I need to keep up-to-date with the program from a Merchant's point of view.
What was the first model you ever made? Did it come out the way you planned?
I think the first Poser freebie I released was the Waver Wall prop. At the time I had just found out that you could add "Morphs" to objects within Poser, and that was my first attempt at creating a prop that could change its shape using various dials. It's pretty basic, but I was quite surprised and pleased with the way it turned out. This inspired me to go on and make many other morphing props using the same technique!
How did you get started making your brushes? What about the filters?
Photoshop was one of the first programs that I used when starting with computer graphics. One of the things that appealed to me was the ability to expand it's features by installing extra brushes and plug-in filters, many of which I found on the web as freeware downloads. It didn't take me long before I wanted to start creating my own add-ons for this program, and so my first website was dedicated to sharing some of these with other users in the graphics community.
The brushes are easy enough to create but can be quite time-consuming when you are doing hundreds of them in one go. I will be releasing many more free brush packs over the coming months and will also be expanding my range of commercial versions. The brushes are not as popular as my plug-in filters, but I think users are starting to become more interested in them now and realizing their potential.
Creating plug-in filters is much more complicated, especially as I'm not a programmer, so I really struggle with this side of things! My filters are pretty basic compared with the ones available from other developers, but I do enjoy coming up with my own ideas and they continue to be the most popular downloads on my website.
I started out using Filter Factory and was part of the original FFDG (Filter Factory Discussion Group) where developers would share coding tips and ideas. It was an exciting time and many hundreds of freeware plug-in filters were generated during this period. The group eventually disappeared, but several of the original members still develop plug-ins today!
Now I use FilterMeister to create all my plug-ins, which is a much more advanced tool, and currently the best software available for anyone who is interested in developing their own filters.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Many of my freeware downloads and products originate from things that I've had to develop for my own needs. For example, I've always had a keen interest in traditional black & white photography, and when I moved over to using digital equipment I wanted to try and re-create that "classic" look in Photoshop, so I ended up making some of my own plug-ins to help me with that task. So I guess many ideas are born from the need to achieve a certain effect that I'm after.
Of course other products may be the result of being inspired by something I've seen elsewhere. I have a fair collection of fantasy, sci-fi and horror related art books at home, which I browse through on a regular basis when I want to stimulate my brain! I find these a very useful source of information and ideas. Although sometimes I may just be watching a sci-fi movie and spot something that I think will form the basis of an interesting prop, background object, texture or other product resource.
I make sure that I keep plenty of notebooks and pencils handy around the house so I can write down or sketch any ideas as they come to me, while they are still fresh in my mind. Then I can refer back to these notes when I'm ready to start working on anything new. I find this method very effective for making the most of your ideas because so many of them could get lost and forgotten otherwise!
Do you have a favorite free item? Do you have a favorite free stuff provider?
I use my own freeware Photoshop plug-ins all the time, so I guess they are still some of my favorite items, as they come in very useful on a regular basis.
I am a big fan of using freeware alternatives to some of the commercial software available. One free program that I couldn't do without now is IrfanView. It is fantastic for very quick browsing/viewing and batch-converting images.
I have a huge collection of freeware downloaded over the years, so it's too difficult to just pick one developer as there are so many of them to choose from! Every free stuff provider is important in my opinion, from the ones that create high quality models to those who make little low-res items. We need them all.
When you're creating something new and nothing is going right, what keeps you going?
If I find I'm getting nowhere with a particular product then I normally just switch to working on something else for a while and go back to it later with a fresh approach. I always have several different projects on the go at the same time, so I'm never stuck for something to work on. I have a very active and creative mind (despite what my old University teachers may have said to the contrary!) and so I'm forever thinking up new things to do.
If I do get stuck on anything in particular, I find it's always good to ask for advice from friends or the online forums. It never ceases to amaze me how helpful some people are and this can be just the break you need to aid your progress with a project.
I have a small team of regular beta-testers for my products, not only do they provide essential compatibility feedback and bug reports, but also help with suggestions for additional features that may not have occurred to me.
What is your favorite image created with your free stuff?
I made a very quick low-res promo image for my Freaky Hair SpikeCrown prop which turned out quite interesting, and I thought would make a nice cyber-punk style image. So later on I went back and made a higher-resolution version for a 10x8 inch print. I kept the composition very simple, as I didn't want to distract too much from the character.
Silent Tomorrow © cybia
createrd with FreakyHair - SpikeCrown © cybia
In fact I will be displaying this piece at this year's Worldcon Sci-Fi Convention in Glasgow, in August. I had 16 different images in the Art Show, all of which have been created using Photoshop, Poser and other 3D programs. It was my first time participating at a convention.
I'm not really familiar with what other users get up to with my free stuff, but later on I would like to add a gallery section where they could display some of their images that have been created using my resources. I think it would be interesting to share these examples with other users, so they can get a better idea of the possibilities.
How long have you been a member of the Renderosity Community?
When I first discovered that you could expand the Poser program with add-on products, like the excellent figures from DAZ, I was instantly addicted and amazed by the amount of content and support available online. I came across the Renderosity website about 3 years ago and it's been my favorite place to hang out ever since!
What I like about Renderosity, is that it has it all ... forums, free stuff, galleries and of course a huge marketplace with some of the best products available anywhere. It's a one-stop-shop for all Poser fans, plus it also covers many of the other programs I use. I spend a lot of time browsing here, certainly a few times a week. It's great for keeping up with the latest info in the forums and I enjoy checking the Free Stuff section for new goodies on a regular basis.
I also enjoy being a Merchant at Renderosity and have always been impressed with the level of service and support provided by the store staff. The money I make from my commercial products goes towards funding my addiction to graphics software, and I end up spending a lot of it back in the Marketplace. Other Poser sites that I find useful are DAZ, Runtime DNA, and Animotions.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out, and wanting to share free stuff items?
Sharing your resources with other users in the graphics community can be one of the most rewarding experiences, and I'd recommend it to anyone. If you have some add-ons that you think others will find useful — you should certainly release them and see what kind of response they get. Don't be put off if they don't get much interest at first, or even if you receive negative feedback (which is rare, but can happen sometimes). Remember that it's all part of the learning experience and you will get a better idea of what people want as you go along.
It doesn't really matter what sort of resources that you make because everyone needs different things, so the more add-ons available the better for everyone. Although try to develop items that are original if you can and don't just copy existing products.
Remember that you'll need your own web space to host the free downloads and be aware of possible bandwidth requirements, as if you hit on a popular product then it's surprising how much strain this will put on your site. Try to avoid free web space if you can, as normally the providers don't allow heavy traffic for downloads. Get your own domain and reliable commercial web space if you are serious about providing a quality service. I know this costs money but it's worth it in the long term.
Of course when you are first starting out using free web space may be your only option. This is fine to begin with and that's how I started out, but from my own experience you will soon outgrow this when demand increases and you will probably need your own domain eventually. So that's one thing to consider if you are thinking of getting into this.
Also I would recommend that you visit the forums and discuss your ideas to get important feedback. You can learn a lot from others who already have valuable experience, so take advantage of it. Most of all though you should enjoy developing your products and don't be afraid to give new things a try ... what have you got to loose, eh?!
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A special "thank you" to
contributing columnist, artist, Angel1,
for taking time out of her busy schedule
to conduct this month's
Free Stuff Artist Interview.
If you know of a Renderosity Free Stuff Artist that you would like to have us showcase, please drop Dee-Marie a note with the artist's Renderosity username, and keep checking the Front Page News, you never know who we will be showcasing next!
September 19, 2005