Renderosity: Tell us a bit about your background: why did you choose to become a digital artist?
Steve: I originally studied art at Salford College of Technology when the thought of personal PC’s seemed science fiction and everything was based on traditional techniques. In my early 20’s I had a few small, local exhibitions of fantasy illustrations but at the time I was told it wasn’t fashionable. The drawings and illustrations took a long time to create and this in turn made them quite expensive. I was introduced to Delux Paint on the Amiga by an inmate while teaching in Prison Education. It was a revelation. This was probably my initiation into digital art.
Later in my career I was lucky enough to work on a project that looked at improving the supply and understanding of information through the use of 3D technology. At more or less the same time Carrara was given away free on a PC magazine disc and I could see Carrara as a way of creating reference pictures when used with Poser figures. However, the more I learned the more I realised that digital art opened up a totally new and exciting universe of creative possibilities. I also realised that I could speed up the artistic process and reduce the costs of producing artwork thereby making art and culture more democratic rather than elitist.
Further to this, through the Internet, it was obvious there was an immense number of people with similar tastes to myself who appreciated the kind of work I was producing – and I didn’t have to live in London to get that work recognized. I don’t think I chose to become a digital artist, I think events led me down that route.
You work primarily with Carrara: What is it about the program that makes it work for you?
Steve: Carrara is an extremely underestimated program. It’s extremely powerful but also quite easy to learn and use relative to other packages. It doesn’t take long to take on board the basics and come up with some astounding renderings. You can easily import and animate Poser and Daz3D figures, as well as animations, speeding up the creative process enormously. This includes being able to import the Genesis figures. I’ve recently updated my version of Carrara and I’m still experimenting in this area. Previewing renders means that you can plan and change scenes very quickly which makes it perfect for drafts.
When compared to other commercial programs I think it’s also relatively cheap considering what it offers. Having said all that, I have been using Carrara for about 8 years now and I still have not mastered all of the effects and model building tools the programme has to offer. It really is a superb program and I hope that it is developed further.
Can you tell us what your process is when you create a new image?
Steve: Once an idea has caught my attention I usually visualize it in my imagination then ponder on it for a couple of days before I start work. Sometimes I’ll do a thumbnail sketch to focus the ideas a bit more but not always. The next step is setting up my filing system for images, Carrara files, textures and .obj /3DS files. Most of my initial thoughts are how can I improve something or push Carrara further. There is always some form of experimentation.
Next is typically sorting out the objects I’m going to use in the piece. At this point I decide if I’m going to try to make the model myself or not. With figures I always use Poser or Daz3d. More recently I’ve been concentrating on the Genesis figures. (One of the things in I have to learn is how to make my own costumes.) As I try to create pictures for printing at A2 size and 300dpi I find at this point I’m creating new textures for the object to avoid pixelation when finished. I may do more research at this point as well. At home I’m not on the Internet so I have to plan my research before visiting my daughter to carry it out.
After this I start thinking about the environment. This, for me, is why Carrara has the edge on Daz3d and Poser. There is a vast range in the size and types of the environment you can create each with their own specific writing and details. It’s great time for experimentation, trying different camera angles and zooms. If I was creating the work traditionally I wouldn’t have the flexibility that I have in Carrara. This is why I really enjoy working with the programme.
Once the initial scene is grouped I then start doing test renders. I’ve normally set up some simple lights but now I can really start experimenting, changing things and doing quick test renders, then changing again. This process can be quite long depending on what I’m doing. I also refine my ideas at this stage.
When all this is done I’ll go for a full render. The picture detail will guide how long a time the piece will take to render but pictures at A2 and 300 dpi will usually take between 2 to 5 days on my machine. (I know, I need a new computer.) Hopefully there are no mistakes at the end. If everything is okay I use Photoshop to refine the picture further and resize it ready for Renderosity and my website. I then go through the Carrara file and make a text file of the objects I’ve used in the picture. After that, it’s down to my daughter’s to start uploading the work I’ve completed.
Who are some of the artists you admire and are influenced by?
Steve: This is really hard. There is so much talent out there but I think the major influences have been: Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Chris Foss, Roger Dean, Claude Monet, The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Phil Drawbridge and Gustav Klimt
Last question; what advice would you give a young artist just starting out?
Steve: Let accidents happen and keep experimenting. Don’t get into a rut churning out the same thing over and over again. Always try to push yourself harder.
Be sure to visit Steve Holden's gallery at Renderosity.com
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