A frequent showcase artist, Adam Benton (better known on Renderosity as kromekat) has been a vital part of the Renderosity community since 2000. From the beginning, his artworks have won several site contests, including an image donning the cover of the premier issue of Renderosity’s printed magazine.Not only is Adam a freelance computer graphic artist, he also finds time to share his artistic expertise with the Renderosity community as moderator of both the Cinema 4D and the Macintosh forums.
In a word, Adam’s works of art are memorable; which is largely due to his master of light, color, and composition. As a professional illustrator and designer his art has appeared on; commercial advertisements, magazines, CDs, posters, as well as producing web and CD interactive content. Working as a member of the artistic team on an award winning film is his latest crowning achievement.
I was excited to sit down with Adam and explore how an artist from the UK became such a vital member of Renderosity.
Adam, your artistic fingerprints can be found throughout the Renderosity site ... how did you first discover Renderosity?
I think I first discovered Renderosity around the end of 1999, after resigning from my job as a designer/illustrator at a greeting card company in order to pursue a freelance career. I’d been introduced to Bryce and Poser during my employment, and I became quite addicted to the new possibilities it opened up for my artwork. In that time, I must have been doing some web searches for other work done using these tools, and stumbled upon Renderosity.
The Last Ark © Adam Benton (kromekat)
With such a busy schedule (family, commercial artwork, film projects), how do you divide your time and talent … and still find time to volunteer your artistic expertise to the Renderosity community?
Yeah, it has been pretty hectic over the last few years actually! I have had two children during that time, and my freelance work has been steadily increasing year by year, which has lessened my free time for browsing and chatting to others on the forums. The film projects with Panicstruck Productions have also been a real time eater. Juggling between those and the paying work has been a real challenge at times. As for the division of time — paying work takes precedence of course (have to pay the bills!), and whenever there was a gap, I just threw myself into the film work — it meant some very late nights at times!
I have email notifications set for the Macintosh and Cinema 4D forums of course, and do try to read every single post that is made (I am a self-confessed email addict, and spend way too much time looking at forum posts when I should be working). Wherever I can, I provide an answer, because I know how frustrating it can be when you are stuck at a certain point, unable to proceed without some little insight from elsewhere. I think that is what has kept me dedicated to Renderosity. It has been the prime site I have exhibited my work at, and been the most helpful, and friendly in all my own queries and questions over the years. We really have a great little community of talented artists in the C4D forum, and through the continual postings, discussions and queries, you create a bond and familiarity that doesn’t always happen elsewhere.
I am usually very adept at discovering the origin of usernames, but your username baffles me. Where did you come up with your nom de plume, kromekat?
Whilst at college, when I was a mere 18 years old, I was briefed to create a series of illustrations based on The Cat Sat on the Mat, amongst which, I decided to create a robotic feline using an airbrush (inspired by a famous Japanese airbrush artist of the time). That illustration turned out the best of the bunch, and subsequently made it into my portfolio.
Years later, when I first accessed the Internet, I needed a ‘handle’ or online identity for a chat program, and glanced around the room at some of my prints on the wall, and my chrome robot cat just stood out! As for the spelling — it was quite fashionable (at the time) to use alternate phonetic letters, so I went for Krome Kat, which soon became joined into the one name; kromekat.
Your images have that stick in your memory quality. I have to ask ... what drives you as an artist … what inspires your works … what feeds your creativity?
The sheer joy of creating something from nothing I think— it’s a kind of addiction! In my personal work, I have always been inspired by film, the work of other artists, the visualization of moods and certain cinematic visions. More often, a certain kind of light, or color relationship can inspire the creation of an image — just to utilize those lighting effects and demonstrate the contrasts that are pleasing to the eye.
The commercial work is ‘driven’ by deadlines of course. I have been very lucky with some of the tutorial work I have done for magazines over the last couple of years. Particularly with Imagine FX, as they have always given me an open brief, as long as it fulfilled certain software or subject criteria. This has allowed me to explore lots of old, previously unrealized ideas, using the digital tools available today.
As Evening Falls©Adam Benton (kromekat)
Without question, you are a Cinema 4D expert. What are some of the other software programs you use to create your commercial and personal art?
3D wise, Cinema 4D is the nerve centre of almost everything I do creatively. Additionally I still use Bryce and Poser, although most of my figures are now imported and posed within Cinema itself using interPoser Pro, which saves a lot of time and hassle for me. I bought ZBrush 2 a while back, and although I haven’t had a great deal of time to create a lot with it, I have taken to it’s slightly unusual workflow concept, and I am eager to explore it further, as it really does open up lots of great possibilities for organic modeling.
I have also recently bought Vue 6 Infinite, despite some hesitation due to my horrendous experiences with Vue 4 some years back (it never stayed upright for long). I need a proper landscape generation application and Vue still seems to be miles ahead in terms of what can be achieved now. I also use a number of Adobe applications; like After Effects for film compositing and motion graphics stuff, the Adobe CS2 suite alongside everything else, which I truly couldn’t be without — Photoshop being the single most useful application available in my opinion!
Your magazine cover images for 3D World and Renderosity are very impressive, how long have you worked as a commercial artist?
Thanks very much! As long as I have been freelance I guess — just over seven years now. I started out doing a lot of web/interface design, and used 3D wherever possible. Whilst pitching for one of these web jobs in London, I chanced upon some designers discussing how they could achieve the effect of some ‘chrome winter athletes’ for an advertising campaign related to the Winter Olympics, I immediately put myself forward, and my first commissioned 3D illustration was instigated.
Various Magazine Covers ©Adam Benton (kromekat)
Original art for covers can be found in Adams Renderosity Gallery
The cover commissions and tutorials for 3D World, and a number of other Future Publications. All started in the summer of 2005, when Jim Thacker (the editor of 3DWorld) phoned me out of the blue, remembering the ‘AI Critic’ illustration they had used (via renderosity!) on the cover of issue 32 ( I think), and asked if I was up for doing a Poser related tutorial. The subsequent tutorial character and image I created for that then evolved into a second image they commissioned for the cover. That in itself opened up a lot of new work with the likes of Imagine FX, and has kept me pretty busy, alongside other existing clients ever since.
The AI Critic©Adam Benton (kromekat)
It is evident with your amazing eye for detail and composition, as well as your master of lighting, that you have had formal art training mixed with your natural talent. Have you in fact taken classes in traditional art, 3D art or computer graphics?
In terms of the digital art world, I am completely self taught, but I did have formal training at art colleges after leaving school. I started with a two year foundation course in Art and Design, which covered just about everything. Then I took a more specialist course in Illustration for a further two years. We did have some of the early Macintoshes at the time, but I only really ever used them for typing up thesis, and creating mockup typography for my illustrations. I have however invested in some good DVD tuition over recent years. You can never know too much, and that form of learning really works for me over reading manuals etc.
I find now, as I did whilst a student, that the best teachers, are the images of other artists themselves. Though, I still maintain to this day, that I learned far more by really looking at others work, and almost mentally ‘reverse engineering’ what went into the picture, and I always recommend others to do the same — don’t just look — see! [laughter]
Congratulation on being a part of the creative team that worked on the film Pitching Lucas (created for the 2006 Atom Films: Star Wars Fan Films). How exciting was it to have won not only one, but two of the top awards (George Lucas Selects and Audience Choice)? Also, what part of the film was your contribution?
Thanks! It was a real buzz to get those awards! I was pretty euphoric for a while after knowing that George Lucas himself had watched, and enjoyed our work enough to give us his award, along with being the audience favorite.
In Pitching Lucas, we basically had about four months to come up with the entire finished product. Since it was made up of a number of TV parody recreations, we volunteered for which parts we fancied doing the most. I was immediately struck by the DIPs concept, which was to be a Star Wars version of the 70s television classic CHiPs, with Imperial Biker Scouts. I offered to model digital doubles of the scouts and their speeder bikes, since it was planned that some less ambitious shots would be done using suited actors against green screen, whilst the CG version would need to be animated in all the flying shots. As the production progressed, it became more evident that I was going to end up also doing the rigging and animation right through to finished shots for the entire sequence, which is what I did.
It was a hell of a learning curve, since I had not done modeling of that accuracy previously, nor had I ever fully rigged a character let alone animated it afterwards, but it all seemed to work out better than any of us had really expected, with many of the planned green screened shots being replaced by the pure CG versions. Personally, if we had had the time, I would have liked to have replaced the last couple of remaining live shots with CG, but as it is – it’s still about 95% 3D.
Pitching Lucas screen grabs ©Adam Benton (kromekat)
Are you a fan of the Star Wars films, or did you just become a member of the team due to your artistic expertise?
Oh yeah! I was one of those seven-year-olds that sat in the cinema when that huge Star Destroyer flew overhead for the first time! It was a seminal thing for so many of our generation I think. And from an influential point of view, it fuelled so much of my play and creative endeavors all through my childhood and beyond.
Was this the first time you worked on a film project?
I had worked with the same team for nearly three years on Star Wars Revelations — which broke a lot of ground in the fan film genre due to the complexity and sophistication of production we achieved from our own homes across the world. That was a very challenging project, and consumed an awful lot of my time, but it was also one of the biggest learning experiences I could have possibly had, since it forced me to try things I had never done before, which also later applied to Pitching Lucas.
I had dabbled with some film related work a year or so prior to Revelations, with the maverick director and FX wizard, Scott Billups. But, the communication and direction was very patchy, and ultimately it became a frustrating experience, so I was really glad to have the chance to prove myself with Panicstruck.
High Five©Adam Benton (kromekat)
How long, from conception to finish did it take to complete the film? Was your contribution/collaboration virtual, or were you able to meet and work with the film’s co-creators in person?
We started in January 2006 and delivered the finished film to Atom Films some time in May — so it was only about four months in all. We all worked from our own locations around the world on the CG, and communicated via a private forum where we could post our progress and critique each others work as we went along. The live production elements were all done in the Virginia/Maryland area of the US, since that is where the director, Shane Felux is based. He’d post the raw green screen footage on an ftp site, where we could retrieve and integrate into the CG shots.
At first glance your passion for science fiction and fantasy appears to be the prominent genre within your art gallery — which is understandable with the Star Wars movies being such an influence in your adolescence. However, upon closer assessment, your personal style is very eclectic (photorealistic still life, artistic nudes, landscape, etc.). What is your favorite genre? What is your favorite medium to work in?
Science fiction is still my favorite genre overall. It’s the ability to show improbable things in a semi-realistic way that has always motivated my own artwork. I have however got a love of photorealism, although I am not sure I have ever really achieved it yet … and, since I am a great lover of the countryside, naturalistic scenes do crop up from time to time. Fundamentally, as I said before, it’s all about lighting for me. I just love how the positioning of a light can describe an object or scene, or how it sets a mood, or explains a temperature or mood to the viewer — it’s wonderfully addictive stuff!
Black Widow ©Adam Benton (kromekat)
There is no doubt that you are a master of CG lighting and that computer graphics comprise the majority of your gallery. Yet, I have to wonder, do you on occasion have the urge to go back to your roots and dabble with traditional art: colored pencils, watercolor, acrylics?
Well I haven’t picked up a ‘real’ paintbrush in a very long time to be honest, so I think my journey to the dark side is almost complete!
My Dad bought me a new set of acrylics, brushes and some canvas boards for the Christmas before last, in an attempt to inspire me to use traditional media again. As apart from anything else, he believes it’s very therapeutic and relaxing, which I tend to agree with. But in all reality, clients know me for my digital work, and commission me on that basis. From a personal perspective, when I do have some free time, there are so many new tools, or things in my existing apps that I want to explore or understand better, that the idea of real painting goes by the wayside.
However … I will be moving in the next few weeks, and I have decided to set up a table with a canvas, paints and brushes, so that if inspiration does strike, I’ll be ready!
Examples of Adam’s Traditional Artwork ©Adam Benton (kromekat)
Thank you Adam — I appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to share your insights on art and Renderosity. Do you have any parting words of wisdom you would like to share with aspiring CG artists?
Do what you love, and love what you do — it will show through in your work, and might be recognized by others as having something a bit special. Their encouragement will inspire you to keep doing it, and get better. It has certainly worked like that for me.
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