SCIENCE FICTION ARTIST IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS DigitalArtLIVE.com
ISSUE 39 | MAY 2019
VUE ● TERRAGEN ● POSER ● DAZ STUDIO ● REAL-TIME 3D ● 2D DIGITAL PAINTING ● 2D/3D COMBINATIONS
DIGITAL ART LIVE!
YOUR EXPERIENCE AND YOUR CREATIVE STORY
Chris Hecker, ‘Tigaer’
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We will also consider webinar ideas which relate to your specialist skills, or which help users to fully use a software plugin that you’ve developed. Webinars are recorded, and we profit-share with our presenters on any future sales. We sell on the popular DAZ content store, which has strong traffic and sales. Please use the link below to submit your application, and we’ll be in touch!
Front Cover: “Umakala, Yellow City”. Detail from a
movie concept illustration made by Armando Savoia.
THE DESERTS ISSUE
CONTENTS OUR LIVE WEBINARS! ―― 02
EDITORIAL ―― 07
OUR SUMMER MEET UP EVENT ―― 08 INTERVIEWS INDEX OF BACK ISSUES ―― 10
OUR MOON CONTEST!
Armando has been hard at work on major movie projects such as The Avengers, but found time to talk with our magazine.
We present a tribute interview with the late Ken Musgrave, the pioneering creator of the MojoWorld software.
We visit Israel to talk with ‘Vioxstar’ about his amazing use of Garry’s Mod for a series of epic desert pictures.
3DS MAX | PHOTOSHOP
FRACTALS | MOJOWORLD
G’MOD | PHOTOSHOP
“Walking for real in a desert fills you with strong sensations, sensations that you can never forget… [for desert pictures] I find that adding an element which contrasts with the emptiness of the desert helps to convey the right mood.”
“I’d taken an aptitude test way back in high school that said I should be a computer programmer, a forest ranger, or an interior decorator, in that order. Little did I know that I’d become a bit of each! [Much later] I was hired 5 Benoit Mandelbrot…” by
“… the ground here is quite varied, and as an environment guy you start to really pay attention to these variations. [I see] these weird formations and interplay with dirt and rocks, and I note it down, make a picture, think how I’d replicate it in a 3D scene.”
STEFFEN BRAND ―― 60
GALLERY ―― 72
IMAGINARIUM ―― 90
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LIVE Join our live webinar-based workshops for digital artists. digitalartlive.com Credits for pictures, from top left: Detail from “The Lost City” by Artur Rosa; detail from a MojoWorld speed rendering test by Mutinate; detail from Togate by Anaor Karim. All are shown in full, elsewhere in the magazine.
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Copyright © 2019 Digital Art LIVE. Published in the United Kingdom. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher. No copyright claim is made by the publisher regarding any artworks made by the artists featured in this magazine.
Welcome to the “Deserts” themed issue of your free Digital Art Live magazine for science fiction and fantasy artists. Deserts in science fiction are common settings, but they seem to be remarkably under-studied. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has no entry, and neither Google Books nor Google Scholar nor JURN can find anything containing the phrase “deserts in science fiction”, or similar variants. This absence is remarkable. Because one only has to think of the desert planet Tatooine in Star Wars or Frank Herbert’s original Dune trilogy of novels, and countless other examples of desert planets in B-movies from Riddick to Starship Troopers, and TV such as Firefly and Star Trek (Vulcan etc). Not to mention the ubiquitous presence of the red desert-planet Mars (from John Carter of Mars to Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars and beyond). Or the equally ubiquitous notion of a future Earth as a post-apocalyptic desert, as seen in the original Planet of the Apes movies, Mad Max and similar. If we think of the most memorable videogames then we might think of the deserts of Morrowind, Journey, Fallout, Borderlands... and I’m sure keen gamers will be able to name many others. If we look to the best science-fiction comics, then we immediately think of Moebius’s heroes and anti-heroes moving across vast and beautifully drawn deserts in the 1970s and 80s, Judge Dredd in the Wasteland of The Cursed Earth, through to recent triumphs such as the graphic novel The Spire. And if we were to delve into the vast mountain of science fiction literature then we would encounter countless examples beyond Dune, especially in the short stories written during the fifty golden years between 1935 and 1985. If we also count asteroids and moons as effectively ‘grey deserts’, the examples must be almost endless. Then there is also the related UFO folklore, closely associated at its inception with arid American deserts and secret military testing facilities in the desert — FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/3DArtDirect 7
such as Area 51 and 52. Related to this is the ‘Ancient Astronauts’ belief, which — in its first popular post-Theosophy incarnations — often founds its supposed ‘evidence’ in desert places such as the Naza Lines. Incidentally, H.P. Lovecraft got there first, as with so many other things. His “The Transition of Juan Romero” (1919) is set exactly in Area 52 and it also contains two classic ‘UFO encounter’ motifs. Although the story was only ever intended as a throwaway demo for friends, his later mature work also made much use of deserts and lost desert cities as supporting background for his weird tales. Deserts have also been a beloved starting point for science fiction artists, especially those of us who began with 3D and the likes of the Bryce software. Partly it was that the old software and the old PCs had such problems doing trees and vegetation. Deserts were simply faster to render. But partly it was also because some of the software seemed specifically set up to create beautiful deserts and desert-planet space-art. Such as MojoWorld. We’re pleased to say that this issue of our magazine has a special tribute to the MojoWorld procedural ‘planet generator’ software, in a long and detailed interview with the software’s maker the late Ken Musgrave. Our thanks to Huw Collingbourne for giving permission to publish this. Talking of ‘moon deserts’, this issue also trails our new summer art competition! We’re asking digital artists to show us what a human settlement on the Moon might look like in the year 2150! For full details, see the double-page spread to be found later in this free magazine.
DAVID HADEN Editor of Digital Art Live magazine
Picture: with thanks to Tejvan Pettinger.
MEET THE TEAM, AND YOUR FELLOW ARTISTS! We have a splendid opportunity to meet the Digital Art Live team, our magazine readers and digital artists, at the New Bodleian (Weston) Library of the University of Oxford, UK. This venue will host the major free exhibition: Thinking 3D, which tells the story of the development of threedimensional communication and visualisation over the last 500 years. This show also explores technological advances up to the present day — including 3D modelling, 3D photography and stereoscopy. We will pair this with a visit later in the afternoon to the Bodleian’s ‘Moon’ exhibition which celebrates “all things lunar” including art and photography. OUR SCHEDULE 11.30am meet outside the venue. The show will not be so booked-out as last year’s Tolkien show was, but you should still try to book your own personal tickets beforehand, ideally for 1pm entry. 11.50pm we go for a quick light lunch and chat in a very nearby pub garden we know of. (Purchase your own snack and drinks). 12.50pm we assemble at the exhibition entrance, ready to start our 1pm tour of the ‘Thinking 3D’ exhibition. We anticipate that a full appreciation of this large exhibition may take about an hour or slightly more. 2.30pm informal break in the café. 3pm We will hope to also visit the Moon exhibition in the same venue. 5.00pm Depart for the train station (about a half mile walk from the venue).
PLEASE BOOK NOW! https://digitalartlive.com/meetup2019 9
Digital Art Live visits sunny Rome to talk with major movie concept artist Armando Savoia, about his professional work on deserts and desert environments. DAL: Armando, welcome to the in-depth interview at our free Digital Art Live magazine. Thanks you very much for agreeing to the interview. We appreciate that you’re currently very busy, working on developing concepts and painting illustrations for major movies.
AS: Thank you for offering me this opportunity.
DAL: Let’s start by asking you how you first became aware of your creative talent, and then how and where you trained. AS: I think my first ‘talent scout’ was actually my mother. I wasn't very good at school, so when the time for high school came, she said: 10 because of my temper, I might be an artist!
ARMANDO SAVOIA ITALY 3D STUDIO MAX | PHOTOSHOP
Picture: Roman desert-garden concept for the movie Ben Hur.
And she was right. I then went to study at the “Liceo Artistico” which is in the center of Rome — the capital of Italy — and at that institution… that was when I first realized that I had some talent. After that, I was formally trained further in art
at the “Accademia delle Belle Arti”, with a ‘major’ in the craft of Scenography. After all these the studies, I soon started working professionally, first for the stage and theatre, then with television commercials and finally in the Art departments of different film productions for the big screen.
DAL: Was there anyone else who especially encouraged your talent, in those early days? AS: My teachers encouraged me to study, and my family supported me. And my motivation made the difference on the rest. DAL: Excellent. So you have not always been a digital artist, and began in traditional media? AS: Yes, as I said, I was trained and started working with traditional media. It as traditional art in those days. Which means that, yes, I am a self-trained digital artist. DAL: What was your first software, and what were the problems you overcame with it?
AS: My first software was 3D Studio Max in version 3, which I studied from a big paper manual. Can you believe it? DAL: Oh, yes, I can believe it. Those big paper manuals were quite the fashion at one time. Now it’s all YouTube videos and webinars. But I remember in the 1990s, going into a ‘remaindered’ bookshop — where they would sell off the end chunks of the print-runs of books that were just not selling. And there was a whole wall, about 50 foot long, floor to ceiling, with those kind of ‘software bible’ books at a £2 each. AS: Yes, now, with all the schools and online tutorials and webinars available, it is way easier to learn to use the software tools. Unfortunately, this was not the case back then, and thus I had to face problems ‘one at a time’ and try to find out the creative solutions all by myself. I really enjoyed this challenge anyway. DAL: Yes, it’s certainly the sort of thing that makes for a deeper understanding of one’s software tools. Let’s turn to your work now. You’ve worked on concept illustration for major movies such as Ben Hur, where you designed the Palace interior. You also designed the “Pharaoh’s House” for the TV series Tut (2015), and worked on interior contents for the Christian movie Risen. I saw and enjoyed that. And your latest works are very impressive Dune-like sci-fi desert concepts and a city-harbour that is presumably located on the edge of a desert. What draws you to this type of desert work?
AS: Of course, the main reason is the film script. But all the works you mentioned were full of desert scenes, and I have to admit that I take particular pleasure in designing desert landscapes. They always suggest that exotic aura of mystery. DAL: Yes, the ‘mystery of the desert’, that’s a big factor in the attraction of science-fiction and fantasy to the setting. Also the implied mysticism, but not a louche and dallying sort of mysticism, but something harder and more rigourous — potentially. Do you often have a chance to visit real desert environments? AS: Not that often, but I have had some chance to visit real deserts, both during film shooting for movies and on holiday. The most memorable deserts I have seen are Ayers Rock (Australia) and the Libyan Sahara. DAL: Oh, superb. A lot of our readers will envy you for being able to visit such places. ASL: Walking for real in a desert fills you with strong sensations, sensations that you can never forget and reflect upon your work, I think. DAL: Wow. Is there a way to ‘bring that back’ and put it in a picture? What would you say are the three things that people need to add to a desert environment picture, to make it more believable? AS: I would say… colours and… a rarefied atmosphere, these play a major role. But I find that adding an element which contrasts with the emptiness of the desert helps to convey the right mood. DAL: Thanks. And now you’re also working on a big science-fiction movie, Umaskala. What are you able to tell us about that movie? AS: Yes, this is a big project by Chinese director Ye Ting Hu, who contacted me to collaborate with him for the film pre-production. He asked me to develop architectures and atmospheres ‘of another world’. But it had not to be a sciencefiction nor a fantasy movie. I provided him with lots of concepts, some of them for the same scene, that helped him to create the imagery of the movie. I hope to see them come true in the finished film. 12
Pictures: top: “Pharaoh’s House” and “Ancient Egyptian Temple” interior concept illustrations for the epic TV mini-series Tut (2015), set in Ancient Eygpt. Below: “Pilate’s palace”, interior concept illustration for the palace of the Roman governor, for the movie Risen which is set at the time of Christ.
“I had a studio with a wonderful seaview on the island of Malta for the work on the movie Risen, and then another one in a valley surrounded by the mountains of the Alps for work on The Avengers.”
DAL: Great. How has it been, working at great distance and perhaps with language barriers? AS: I have to say, this was my first experience with working remotely and it has been less difficult then I thought. Language and cultural barriers, like all challenges, sometimes can be stimulating.
DAL: Super. I see from your ArtStation online portfolio that youâ€™ve also designed the XuRi cruise ship interior for the movie (seen below). And the maritime Opera House? That looks fun! AS: Yes, you are right, it's been fun! Especially designing all the details for the Opera interior â€” that was a heavy duty piece of work that took a
lot of energy, time and... my sight! The film storyline is a bit complicated and seems to open up to different genres, so I had the chance to experiment a lot. DAL: That sounds great, well we wish you well with that. For the base of the image and the textures you use a 3D software, and then you
overpaint? Am I correct on that? AS: You're totally right. DAL: Could you say more about the basic workflow, please, and the various steps it involves? AS: I generally start with the 3D modelling.
Picture: interior concept illustration for the XuRi cruise ship in the forthcoming movie Umaskala.
I get into 3D modelling as soon as possible. Then I add the textures, lights, and some environment fog, if necessary. These three elements help providing mood to the scene from the very beginning of the process. While proceeding further with the work, I refine and improve these elements until the end. In other words, I prefer
to create and ‘grow’ the concept, by keeping all values [the values from dark and light] well balanced throughout the whole process. I finish the image with overpainting, as you said. This last step is aimed at adding a ‘soul’ to the concept. DAL: Well that certainly works for you, and your
Picture: interior concept illustration for the XuRi cruise ship in the forthcoming movie Umaskala.
pictures are fabulous. Have you noticed any changes on the concept illustration business, since you began finding work in it?
portals such as ArtStation give artists a lot of visibility and this can sometimes bring to job offers.
AS: The software tools have improved significantly, and so I would say has the level of the artists. The movie and game industries now offer a wide range of opportunities. Relevant
Not so many years ago, it was impossible to be recruited online and then work remotely with a major film production. The world is so much closer now.
DAL: Yes, that’s true. We tend to overlook the advances and grumble about what’s still not fixed. It’s like… people in a 120mph train complaining about their mobile phone reception and that the sun-blinds are stuck. Thirty years ago they would have been in a 60mph train, probably quite a dirty British Rail one, with no
phone or Internet, no sun-blinds, and with a horrible plastic-y tasting coffee in front of them if they were lucky. We see the same thing happening with our software and hardware. Is it always possible to make 3D scenes with polygons for very large epic-scale environments? I imagine it’s fairly easy for interiors, but less
easy for massive scenes that area half-mile wide? A procedural landscape generator? AS: It mainly depends on the scene that I am designing. I prefer to model and compose polygons in the scene, for most of the concept work. But for a very large-scale environment, a procedural generator is a useful solution.
DAL: Talking of ‘big views’, what is the view from your studio window like? You are in Rome, I think? As the reader will remember, that’s still the capital city of Italy — despite the best efforts of the barbarians all those centuries ago... AS: Yes, I live in Rome, but my studio is ‘where my job takes me’. Picture: exterior concept illustration ‘The Yellow City’ in the forthcoming movie Umaskala.
Just to mention a couple of them, I had a studio with a wonderful seaview on the island of Malta for the work on the movie Risen, and then another one in a valley surrounded by the mountains of the Alps for work on The Avengers movie. When I work for Rome-based film productions, I work at Cinecitta Studios, or from
my own personal studio. Here the window view is composed of trees, hills and there is the Rome skyline in the background. Quite an inspiration, I have to say. DA: Wonderful. OK, we won’t ask about the work on The Avengers movie, I’d expect you’ve under a non-disclosure agreement on that one.
Which artists of the past do you admire? AS: With my academic education, I have studied and admired so many great artists. Instead of making a long list, I prefer to say a period: the Italian Renaissance. DAL: Good choice. And finally, do you have any personal projects you’d like to mention?
AS: Personal projects! Ah well, maybe if I had a 48-hours day that would allow me to study other software in my free time!
DAL: Ok, well... we appreciate you’re very busy with paid work at present, so we'll leave it there. Many thanks for this interview. AS: Thank you again. It's been a pleasure.
Armando Savoia is online at https://www.armandosavoia.it/ https://www.deviantart.com/armsav https://www.artstation.com/armandosavoia Picture: exterior concept illustration ‘The Yellow City’ in the forthcoming movie Umaskala.
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https://digitalartlive.com/ Inset: Issue 28 (’Future Oceans’ issue) cover art by Artur Rosa.
Issue 1 Oct 2016 Designing Future Cities ● Tarik Keskin ● Christian Hecker ● Gallery: Future Cities, a huge 32 page mega-gallery! ● The Imaginarium (regular feature, in all subsequent issues)
Issue 2 Nov 2016 Alien Plants/Creatures ● Matthew Attard ● Exidium Corporation ● Gallery: Ryzom concept illustrations ● Gallery and essay: the future bodily evolution of humans in space
Issue 3 Dec 2016 ’A Galaxy Far Away…’ ● Neil Thacker ● Jean-Francois Liesenborghs ● Gallery: “These are not the planets you’re looking for…” ● Gallery: SpaceX manned Mars mission 22
Issue 4 Jan 2016 The new Poser 11 ● Charles Taylor (on the new Poser 11) ● Ariano di Pierro ● Paulo Ciccone (the Reality plugin) ● In-depth 8,000-word review of the new Poser 11 Pro!
Issue 5 Feb 2016 Cosmos (space art)
Issue 6 March 2016 Cyber-humans + VR
Issue 7 April 2016 Future Female Heroes
Dave Hardy Ali Ries Tobais Roersch Oyshan Green (Terragen 4) ● Gallery: The art of the cosmic.
● Tara de Vries (Second Life) ● Ludovic Celle ● Elaine Neck ● Anders Plassgard ● Gallery: Future cyber-humans
● Leandra Dawn ● Aaron Griffin ● Paul Frances ● Troy Menke ● Bob May’s collages ● Gallery and essay: Female future heroes
● The Mars Society ● Ludovic Celle ● Gallery: Orbiting Cities in Space ● Gallery: Space Colonies/Outposts ● Gallery: Mars in 1950s pulps
Issue 9 June 2016 Blender: special issue
Issue 10 July 2016 Steampunk
Issue 11 August 2016 Future Landscapes
Issue 12 Sept 2016 Second Skin (tattoos)
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Colin Masson Thomas Piemontese Shane Bevin Tutorial: How to export a clean .OBJ from Blender ● Index of past issues ● Gallery: Blender art
● Renderosity ● Suzi Amberson (’Kachinadoll’) ● Bob May ● Sci-fi in PC pinball ● Steampunk gallery ● Imaginarium
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‘Artifex’ Lewis Moorcroft Rob Wildenberg ‘Tigaer’: ‘making of’ Gallery: Future Oceans and Craft ● Imaginarium
Issue 8 May 2016 Our Future Frontier
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‘Pixeluna’ Paolo Ciccone Deane Whitmore HiveWire: new Big Cat for Poser ● Gallery: Second Skin ● Imaginarium
YOUR ART HERE?
Issue 13 Oct 2016 Spacewrecks (TTA) ● ● ● ● ● ● ●
Vikram Mulligan Xistenceimaginations Craig Farham TTA series tribute NASA’s rescue-bot Index of past issues Gallery: Space hulks wrecks, crashes
Issue 14 Nov/Dec 2016 CyberTRONic ● ‘CG Artiste’ ● ‘Keplianzar’ ● Jacques Pena ● TTA series tribute ● Ugee 1910b pen tablet—in-depth review ● Gallery: Neon and ‘cyberglow’ artists
Issue 15 Jan 2017 Mistworlds ● ● ● ● ● ● ●
Chuck Carter (Myst) Cynthia Decker Cathrine Langwagen Ulco Glimmerveen Evolo competition Index of past issues Gallery: Myst-like digital art
Issue 16 Feb 2017 Future vehicles ● ● ● ● ●
Syd Mead interview Vadim Motiv Adam Connolly Mark Roosien UK’s Bloodhound supersonic rocket-car ● Index of past issues ● Gallery: “Vrooom!!”
A FREE MAGAZINE
Issue 17 March 2017 Movie magic ● ● ● ● ● ● ●
Greg Teegarden Tobias Richter Phil Dragash ESA’s Moon Temple Scott Richard Index of past issues Gallery: the spirit of the cinema
Issue 18 April 2017 Vue 2016 special issue ● ● ● ● ● ● ●
Barry Marshall Vue 2016 R2 review Anaor Karim NASA’s tunnels W.P. Taub Index of past issues Gallery: Nature Grows on You!
Issue 19 May/Jun 2017 Sci-fi comics ● Patrick Gyger (leading sci-fi museum curator) ● Georges Peters ● Arne Cooper ● RoboSimian ● Index of past issues ● Gallery: comic-book 24
Issue 20 July 2017 Digital clothing ● Kim Schneider (’Arki’) ● Melissa Moraitis (’BlackTalonArts’) ● Marvelous Designer 6.5—in-depth review ● Jepe ● Index of past issues ● Gallery: Future Fashion
Issue 21 August 2017 Ecofutures ● ● ● ● ● ●
Hal Tenny Frank Little Organics in pulp art Linda Granqvist Index of past issues Gallery: visions of the ‘ecofuture’ ● Imaginarium
Issue 22 Sept 2017 Lighting for effect ● Joe Pingleton ● Davide Bianchini ● Characters in the public domain ● Lee (aka ‘Conlaodh’) ● Index of past issues ● Gallery: characters ● Imaginarium
Issue 23 Oct 2017 Gateway to space ● Neil Blevins (assets artist at Pixar) ● GrahamTG ● Arthur C. Clarke ● Oshyan Greene ● Gallery: Arthur C. Clarke tribute ● Imaginarium
Issue 24 Nov 2017 Abstracts in sci-fi ● Andy Lomas (The Matrix, Avatar) ● Erwin Kho ● Alastair Temple ● Gallery: ‘At the borders of abstraction’ in science fiction art ● Imaginarium
FOR DIGITAL ART
Issue 25 Dec 2017 Dynamic posing ● ● ● ● ● ●
Jaki Blue Tasos Anastasiades Brian Armieri Sugary Ashes Index of past issues Gallery: World of Wearable Art ● Imaginarium
Issue 26 January 2018 To the skies!
Issue 27 Feb/Mar 2018 Giant monsters
● Kevin Conran (Sky Captain movie) ● Alois Reiss ● Airships over Venus ● Vladimir Yaremchuk ● Index of past issues ● Gallery ● Imaginarium
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‘Sanskarans’ Simon Beer Jean-Marie Marbach John Haverkamp Index of past issues Comic strip Gallery Imaginarium
Issue 28 April 2018 Future oceans ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●
Artur Rosa Matt Nava (Journey) Samuel de Cruz Future oceans timeline Index of past issues Evola mini-gallery Gallery Imaginarium
Issue 29 May 2018 Fantasy portraits ● ● ● ● ●
Kevin McBriarty Rebecca Elsey Mirjam Index of past issues Gallery: fantasy portraits ● Imaginarium
Issue 33 Oct 2018 Abstract characters ● ● ● ● ● ●
Ulrick V. Jensen E. Golavanchuck Lovecraft posters Claudio Bergamin Index of past issues Gallery: Abstract Characters ● Imaginarium
Issue 31 July/Aug 2018 Sci-fi rocks! (music)
Issue 32 Sept 2018 Design for videogames
Issue 30 June 2018 Alternative history ● ● ● ● ● ●
Mike Doscher Fredy Wenzel Small Brown Dog Index of past issues Alt.history tour-guide Gallery: alternate histories ● Imaginarium
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Robert McParland Darius (TheBakaArts) 3mmi Index of past issues Classic album covers Gallery: Rock album inspired art ● Imaginarium
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Wildfire Games Neal Stephenson Stefan Kraus World Creator review Index of past issues Gallery: Game themed artwork ● Imaginarium
Issue 34 Nov 2018 Future Interiors ● Tarik Keskin ● Daniel Maland ● ‘Petipet’ (Petro Apostoliuk) ● Index of past issues ● Gallery: Future Interiors ● Imaginarium
Issue 35 Dec 2018 Issue 36 Jan 2019 Getting value for your art Megacities ● ● ● ● ●
Chris Hecker Drew Spence Gene Raz von Edler Index of past issues Mini-review: Meshbox ‘H.P. Lovecraft 3D’ ● Gallery: To the Beach! ● Imaginarium
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Lorenz Ruwwe Jon Hrubesch James Ledger Index of past issues Review: Bryce 7.1 landscape software ● Gallery: Megacities ● Imaginarium
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Issue 37 Feb 2019 Giant Historic Creatures
Issue 38 April 2019 Super Skin
● ‘AM’, aka Alessandro Mastronardi (LAMH) ● Arthur Dorety ● Herschel Hoffmeyer ● Index of past issues ● Gallery: underwater prehistoric creatures ● Imaginarium
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Dave Abbo Anestis Skitzis Pixeluna ‘La Femme’ review Index of past issues Gallery: exotic and alien skins ● Imaginarium
Issue 40 June 2019 Depicting character
Issue 39 May 2019 Deserts ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●
Armando Savoia Ken Musgrave MojoWorld tribute Steffen Brand Michael Efriam Moon contest! Gallery: Sci-fi Deserts Imaginarium
OUR IN-DEPTH REVIEWS:
Ugee 1910b (pen-monitor)
Vue 2016 R2
#4 | January 2016
#14 | December 2016
#18 | April 2017
Marvelous Designer 6.5
World Creator 2 RC14
#20 | July 2017
#32 | September 2018 27
#36 | January 2019
We’re pleased to announce our new summer contest for digital artists!
Digital Art Live is pleased to announce the initial details of our major summer 2019 contest. ‘Bring us the Moon!’ Imagine: It is the year 2150, a century after advanced missions to the Moon were renewed on a regular and wellfunded basis. After much hard work by astronauts and robot machines alike, the well-designed infrastructure for the first really large ‘moon settlements’ is ready. Your transport ship nudges out of orbit and begin its descent to the lunar surface. What will you see, as you approach your new long-term home? Show us your scenic landscape view of the design-led settlement on this ‘future moon’ of the year 2150, either built on the surface or in caves — or both!
Submit your named images at: https://spaces.hightail.com/uplink/ digitalartlive
Prizes: To be announced, but the top prize will be £300 UK sent via PayPal.
Entrants: entrants are welcome from anywhere in the world (provided it is legal for us to send prizemoney or other prizes to you, and your nation is not under an embargo). You can be an amateur or a professional, or a student. Entry fee: Free! Deadline: 20th July 2019. To enter: We ask artists to submit one main digital image in landscape orientation, 3000px or larger and less than 5Mb in .JPG format. Your picture should be previously unpublished and suitable for a double-page spread in our free monthly magazine.
The full prize list will appear in our next magazine issue in June 2019!
Small print: The judging panel’s decision will be final on all matters. We will not accept ‘fan art’ e.g. Space 1999, and similar, or art which uses 3D models ripped from videogames or similar. Renders made with royalty-free commercial-use 3D models are acceptable — provided you use these creatively and credit the content makers in a footer added below your submission.
SUBMISSION FORMAT: Your_Name_Main_Picture_title.jpg Your_Name_Preliminary.jpg (add info footer) Your_Name_Wireframe.jpg (add info footer) 29
Entrants must also provide one preliminary sketch or pre-painting, and/or 3D wireframes, indicating how the picture was created. A footer below this should add details of the software used, plus your main Web address / email. The copyright of the pictures will remain with their makers.
We were saddened to hear that fractal art pioneer Ken Musgrave passed away at Christmas 2018. Ken was the creator of the much-loved MojoWorld software. As a tribute to Ken, we are pleased to reprint — in a new illustrated format — an interview he gave to Huw Collingbourne in 2001.
Huw: Ken, welcome. What made you want to develop MojoWorld? I mean, it's a lot of fun to use, but is there a ‘serious’ reason why someone would want to create whole fractal worlds? KM: “Because they’re there”. MojoWorld is driven by a personal vision. Since 1987 I’ve known these worlds existed in the maths. Realizing this, of course, I’ve felt compelled to give everyone who’s interested — and who wouldn’t be — a portal into this parallel universe.
When you find a whole new universe, of course you want to share that discovery! “Serious?” Only if you’re serious about curiosity, play, exploration, discovery and experiencing wonder. My life is dedicated to these things. So… yes, I suppose I have a “serious” reason, but that reason is best described as… “play”. I’ve been exploring little bits of this alternate universe since I realized the possibility — no, the 30 existence — of what we now call ‘the Mojoverse’.
Picture: “Sunset”. A pure MojoWorld 3.1 render by Mutinate.
KEN MUSGRAVE 1955 — 2018 FRACTALS | MATHS | MOJOWORLD
But for 14 years my research code only revealed little bits of it, and at a cost of great effort to me, the sole user. MojoWorld finally opens the Mojoverse to all of us. That’s tremendously exciting for me, as it’s the beginning of the realization of my life’s dream. I figure that if you’re extremely lucky, you may find a gift in life to share with the world. For me, it is MojoWorld.
Now, you may wonder why I say this parallel 31
universe “exists”, and why this is only the beginning. Well, presumably 1 + 1 = 2 has always been true, everywhere and for all time. As such it has an existence independent of humanity and our discovery of it. Other intelligent life in this universe is no doubt aware of it and uses this universal truth for their own purposes. MojoWorlds are exactly the same, only the computation is more complex than simple addition.
Each image of a MojoWorld is the result of a deterministic computation that results in that image, just as reliably as adding 1 and 1 yields 2. There you have it. Pretty heady stuff, eh? I say it’s only the beginning, because this newly revealed universe is infinitely larger than the universe we inhabit. The universe we inhabit has four perceptible dimensions: The three spatial dimensions, plus time. The Mojoverse is infinitedimensional. It’s unimaginably huge. So we’ll never explore more than a tiny, tiny fraction of it. And, of course, certain parts of it are much more interesting than others. We’ll have to find
“I didn’t start making images from maths until I was 33 years old and had thoroughly forgotten all maths I’d ever learned. Rather painful, that, having to learn it twice! ... Then came my lucky break: I was hired by Benoit Mandelbrot, the father / inventor / discoverer of fractal geometry — which is the key to MojoWorld — to be his programmer in the Yale math department.”
those parts, and the search will never end. Also, MojoWorld 1.0 is a pretty crude tool, compared to what’s to come. [The software went to version 3.1.1, Ed.] As a software application, we’ve designed MojoWorld very carefully, to be able to grow gracefully as the years go by. So you’ll see MojoWorld mature into a much richer and more engaging experience as the future unfolds and the releases go by. Faster computers will always reveal more of the Mojoverse, more gracefully. Ultimately, what we’re shooting for is the Star Trek holodeck experience. That, of course, is an ever-receding
goal. But MojoWorld will be a hell of a lot more compelling when we have high-resolution immersive displays, and realism like the photorealistic renderer currently yields, only in real-time. At that point we’ll have the first true incarnation of virtual reality. VR, to date, is anything but “reality,” in my professional opinion. But it’s only a matter of engineering, both software and hardware, to get there from here. It will happen, and not too long from now. Huw: What does MojoWorld give you in a practical sense that a more 'traditional' landscape generator does not? KM: First and foremost, it gives you the opportunity to explore. Second, MojoWorld provides a level of realism that surpasses other landscape generators, simply because of MojoWorld’s prefect detail in all renderings. In other packages, you “fall off the edge of the world” if you stray too far, and, when you get too close, the terrain and textures become flat
and boring. This ability to roam and have perfect detail everywhere is what puts the “there” there in MojoWorld.
Other packages are more mature, having been around longer, and each has its specialty, things it does best. MojoWorld isn’t a replacement for the others, but rather an entirely new technology. Most “traditional” landscape packages are geared more for rendering realworld terrain data sets than for actually generating new terrains. MojoWorld excels at just that — it’s by far the most powerful landscape generator on the market. I personally put a lot of fancy terrains into Bryce 4 when I was part of the Bryce team at MetaCreations, but they’re a tiny — and infinitely less detailed — subset of what MojoWorld can do. Huw: Can you foresee real-world applications for this kind of technology. For instance, for scientific, mathematical, meteorological research?
Our thanks to Huw Collingbourne for kind permission to republish this long interview. Huw is in the UK and is online at: https://bitwisecourses.com/ 33
Picture: “Planet ‘Middle-earth’” by Mutinate. A pure MojoWorld render on a unique planet.
KM: Yes, there are real-world applications for MojoWorld, but not of the types you mention. MojoWorlds are entirely synthetic, and to add “real world” data is to pollute them in a very real sense — it’s a violation of the procedural paradigm MojoWorld is based on. MojoWorld builds something from almost nothing: The files encoding virgin MojoWorlds are tiny, on the order of tens to hundreds of kilobytes, yet they specify an entire Earth-sized planet with practically infinite detail. The algorithms MojoWorld uses to conjure forth entire planets from this tiny seed of data only occasionally make reference to scientific laws — only when convenient. For the most part, they are artistic algorithms designed to generate pleasing forms and colors that often resemble reality as we know it. But there’s generally no claim of scientific accuracy in any MojoWorld model. MojoWorld reflects our lead programmer Craig McNaughton’s and my background in high-end Hollywood special effects: “If it looks good, it is good”. We’re not doing science here, we’re doing art. MojoWorld could try to embody accurate scientific simulations of Nature. It doesn’t: Such simulations are way too slow and hard to control. MojoWorld could try to process data for scientific purposes. It doesn’t: Scientific data sets are notoriously huge, and part of the beauty and elegance of MojoWorld is in the microscopic marching orders that it translates into boundless information and beauty. The proceduralism that MojoWorld is based on (and is the very apotheosis of) is a very specialized paradigm, or working model. You kind of have to have a PhD to fully appreciate that, but… never mind that bull — MojoWorld is designed to be an easy-touse software toy that’s fun to play with, while simultaneously being a software tool of unprecedented power for digital artists and Hollywood effects wizards. Who cares how it works under the hood? If you call Hollywood special effects the “real world” — certainly a stretch! — then there’s one real-world application for MojoWorld. Certainly digital artists of all stripes will add MojoWorld to their set of software tools for doing everything
from graphic design to fine art. Education is another important application of MojoWorld: It can be used to teach the fundamentals of fractals, and a whole lot of the complex and difficult discipline of 3D computer graphics. We specifically designed MojoWorld so that you could start with the MojoWorld Transporter [free, later called the Viewer] as a child and, with perseverance over the years, actually train yourself to be a fully-qualified Hollywood digital effects artist, all with this one program. It’s that deep and powerful.
Watch an animation in MojoWorld by Armands Auseklis, a breathtaking “canyon-world flythrough” showing a full procedural world in MojoWorld.
The biggest application for MojoWorld will be as cyberspace, the ultimate human/computer interface. In the novel Neuromancer, William Gibson defined cyberspace as a “consensual hallucination,” the place where you go to access all the data on all the world’s computers. MojoWorld will be that consensual hallucination, like Neal Stephenson’s metaverse in his novel Snow Crash, but rather as an infinite variety of realistic planets, each hosting some different data display, and avatar community, Myst-like puzzles, or whatever people choose to put there. Most will be peaceful. Some will be infested with hostile aliens that you must exterminate lest they exterminate you — i.e., they’ll host shootem-up computer games! Cyberspace is a real-world application. The Mac / Windows style “desktop” is the current human/ computer interface of choice. But it’s 2D and boring. Cyberspace will be 3D and thoroughly engaging. So, in a very real sense, MojoWorld is destined to be the Windows [OS] of the future. 34
I’ve written a paper on why MojoWorld is the right design for cyberspace, “On Engineering the Appearance of Cyberspace”.
Huw: I don’t mean to be too frivolous, but MojoWorld keeps reminding me of the character in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (Slartibartfast, I think?) who designed planets and prided himself on the quality of his fjords. Is this the kind of kick you get out of developing MojoWorld? The simple pleasure of creating beautiful things? KM: You got it! We considered calling MojoWorld “Slartibartfast,” but Slartibartfast is just not a pretty name. In fact, Douglas Adams intentionally made Slartibartfast the most obscene-sounding name he could come up with, without actually being obscene. So, not a great product name there! Although, in January of 1996, Scientific American did, in fact, run a little blurb on the work leading to MojoWorld under the title “Playing Slartibartfast with Fractals.” Actually, I met Douglas on an elevator a few years back at SIGGRAPH and gave him my MojoWorld “elevator pitch” — literally! He was excited about the idea. It’s a pity he passed away just before its release. A really interesting question when working in MojoWorld is whether you, as the artist ‘driving’ MojoWorld, are creating or discovering these worlds. It’s one of those unanswerable questions — both are true, and neither is true. Sure, in an abstract sense, they already exist and the artist merely finds and images them. But, on the other hand, no one’s going to find the best ones by accident; rather, it takes a highly intelligent, carefully guided search that certainly qualifies as “creative”, to find a good one and bring home a striking image or animation of it. This is yet another fascinating aspect of MojoWorld — to my warped mind at least. Hell, I wrote a 30-odd page paper on this topic, too, titled “Formal Logic and Self Expression.” If you’re up for a thorough flogging of the topic, you can get it online. Huw: But isn’t it the mathematics that is really of the essence?
KM: Definitely not. Real mathematicians rightly consider the maths I do to be what they call “trivial.” Yes, that’s the mathematical term they use. The mathematics are my means of creation, that’s all. All artists have tools: Painters have paints and paintbrushes, sculptors have chisels, musicians have their instruments, poets have their words and dancers have their bodies. They know how to use these tools to create their art. I use mathematics similarly: Equations give me shapes and ways to combine them; I’ve learned to be facile at creating interesting and beautiful things this way. But my reasoning and intuition are entirely visual; it’s just that I construct things mathematically. Simple equations are the tools I use to sculpt and paint my artworks. Now that’s certainly an unusual way to think and work, and we certainly don’t want you to have to become so pointy-headed to enjoy using MojoWorld, so there’s a user interface that hides the mathematical machinations from you, the ordinary user. You can be guided by your visual intuition, and ignore the hideous machinery that cranks out the result you’re after. Heck, this is true for anything you do on your computer, other than the rare microcode hacker. There are always software tools, starting with the operating system, that hide the complexities of the computer and provide high-level controls that provide easy results, efficiently. Photoshop is all math, too, under the hood, but virtually none of its users are aware of that, and none needs to be! However, if you happen to be mathematically inclined or a programmer, well, then you can go into MojoWorld’s Pro UI and have yourself a ball. You can even write plug-ins to extend MojoWorld’s capabilities, if you like. We’ve knocked ourselves out to make MojoWorld all things to all people. Huw: Speaking personally, I must say that the greatest joy I get from programming is the feeling of having crafted something. The thing that got me interested in programming in the first place was the old text adventure, Zork. Maybe if I'd seen fractal worlds instead of text descriptions of the world of Zork, I might have spent more time studying maths?
Unfortunately, my school maths teachers managed to convince me that maths was dull, dull, dull... it's something I regretted in later life.
KM: “Tell me about it.” I failed Algebra in high school the first time around. When I finally found a use for mathematics, many years later in life, I had to relearn all the maths I had ever had forced down my throat in school. I didn’t start making images from maths until I was 33 years old and had thoroughly forgotten all maths I’d
ever learned. Rather painful, that, having to do it twice! So, one of my fondest hopes for MojoWorld is that it will demonstrate to some young people, in a very real and tangible way, a way that even lights up the imagination, what maths can be good for, before they write it off. Had I known you could create MojoWorlds from maths, I might have paid attention the first time around myself! We at Pandromeda [the MojoWorld company, with Ken as CEO] are
always looking for opportunities to use MojoWorld for that purpose. We’d like to see it used in primary schools, as a gentle introduction to certain aspects of maths and science. It certainly is more appealing than the standard treatment of maths, which is extremely dry, for reasons of the cultural history of mathematics.
— Bryce, Vue etc. — and what do you think will be the state of the art in 5 or 10 years?
Huw: I know you've been involved in fractal landscapes for quite some time. How do you think MojoWorld compares with the 'competition'
and forests arrived in MojoWorld in version 3.1, as well as camera-facing billboards which can be used as trees, Ed.].
KM: As I said earlier, all the other packages are more mature, as they’ve all been around for years already. They are generally more fullfeatured; for instance, most have vegetation, which MojoWorld does not yet have. [Basic trees
Picture: “The lost city of Irem”, by Mutinate of the UK. A pure MojoWorld render, with no OBJ imports.
This pure raw MojoWorld render demonstrates the â€˜painterly qualityâ€™ which can be had on the terrain at the very fastest preview render setting. Here rendered at 3,400 pixels wide and with a suitable terrain material. This took less than ten minutes and shows that a matte painter can quickly have an epic landscape render which offers strong digital overpainting possibilities. Better, the scene is absolutely unique to you. Because you are at a unique position on a vast procedurally-generated fractal planet!
Pictures: Top: Typical MojoWorld landscapes of the type to be found by flying over the terrains offered by its procedurally generated planets. The examples here are from MoodyBlue’s MojoWorld stock, available under Creative Commons at www.deviantart.com/ moodyblue.
Picture: “Painterly quality demo” by Mutinate. “The construction of fractal terrains is remarkably simple: it is an iterative loop involving only four important factors, one of which is generally a nonissue. First, we have the basis function, or the shape that we build the fractal out of, by repeating it at a variety of scales. Next there’s the fractal dimension, which controls the roughness of the fractal by simply modulating the amplitude or vertical size of the basis function in each iteration (i.e., each time you go through the loop). Then there are the octaves, or the number of times that we iterate in building the fractal. Finally, we have the lacunarity, or the factor by which we change the frequency or horizontal size of the basis function in each iteration. … We’ve gone with a default lacunarity just over 2.2 in MojoWorld [v.1.0], to eek out a little more speed. If you want images that are as good as they can be, I’d recommend a value more like 1.9.” — from Ken’s excellent chapter “Mojoworld: Building procedural planets”, in the third edition of the famous textbook Texturing and Modeling:
A Procedural Approach.
KM: MojoWorld’s atmospherics are relatively simple in version 1.0. Look for that to change in future versions — we want to catch up with Terragen in that area! But for terrain modeling and rendering, well, nothing can hold a candle to MojoWorld. None of them delivers entire planets or has the real-time interface for exploration. They don’t need it; there’s nothing to explore. In superficial ways, all these landscape packages inevitably look similar. Here’s what’s fundamentally new and different about MojoWorld: it’s the first 3D package, at any price, that delivers more than strictly local “stage sets.” Stage sets are always designed to be viewed from specific angles and distances; they’re always finite in size and generally, they look like crap if you inspect them too closely. In all other 3D software, your models are finite. So are MojoWorlds, but they’re huge — the size of planet Earth. If you move very far, you reach the end of the model or environment; you “exit stage left,” so to speak. If you get too close, you run out of detail and the view becomes boring. Not so MojoWorlds! Of course, MojoWorlds have a less-than-infinite amount of detail, but for practical purposes, it’s far more than you’ll ever need. [MojoWorld on ‘fast render’ settings also provides a nice painterly effect, ready for overpainting]. So MojoWorld delivers the first truly global models, global environments for whatever you want to put there; entire worlds, rather than strictly local stage sets. MojoWorlds, as we find them, are pristine, barren and empty worlds. But what is an empty world, but a place to put stuff? Huw: Might it go open source at some point? KM: Well, MojoWorld is also the one commercial landscape package with an open architecture — which is the next best thing to open source. We’d go open source, but we need to make money to support our Mojo habit! This open architecture will let third party developers add vegetation, cities, avatars, cars, etc. — stuff, in a word. We’ve deliberately designed MojoWorld to become much bigger than what Pandromeda can make it. It’s a sandbox for all to play in! The old hippie at play, you know? That’d be me.
Our plan for future releases of MojoWorld is first to create a solar system with multiple planets, then clusters of such solar systems, then a galaxy, then clusters of galaxies, then an entire universe. [Spore later superbly realised this core concept, as a procedural game, Ed.].
“I’d taken an aptitude test way back in high school that said I should be a computer programmer, a forest ranger, or an interior decorator, in that order. Little did I know that I’d become a bit of each!” Simultaneously, MojoWorld will get faster. We will close the performance gap between the realtime renderer and the photorealistic renderer. Of course, that’s an ever-receding horizon, too, as the photorealistic renderer gets more and more ambitious, with radiosity and the like. When we’ve added lots of content to the context of the MojoWorld environments, and can image it in real time with something like the realism of the current photorealistic renderer, we’ll have cyberspace. That should happen within the next ten years. Though my friends at Nvidia tell me, “What are you, nuts? More like two!” To that I say, “Good on ya’, mate!” Please excuse the colloquialism, I’m here in our programming office in Duendin, New Zealand, as I write.
Huw: What was it that kicked off your interest in fractal landscapes? I mean, I can understand someone being interested after having seen some examples of virtual landscapes. But I guess you must have taken up an interest before there were any such landscapes available to see...? Did you already have a mental picture of what you wanted to create? KM: It’s been an interplay of what I saw as being possible, with exploration and discovery of what the fractal maths could conjure up. I’ve always 40
been in terra incognita, intellectually, so I certainly couldn’t tell you with a straight face that I always ‘knew’ where I was going; that’s for sure. But I had some ideas and insights, and combined them with the kind of single-minded focus we computer geeks are famous for and the persistence of an I-don’t-know-what. So, as the years have gone by, I’ve been able to reveal more and more of the beauty that’s inherent in this parallel universe we’re constructing/ revealing with MojoWorld. It’s kind of like I glimpsed the Promised Land in my mind’s eye, and I saw how to get there. And it’s taken years to fulfil on that vision, years filled with a lot of engineering work, to get from here to there. In fact, technically, it couldn’t have happened any sooner than the new millennium, at least not on your home computer. Heck, MojoWorld is still beyond the capacity of the vast majority of home computers. On the other hand, they just don’t sell computers that aren’t up to it, any more. Huw: You used to be an art student? KM: Yes, once upon a time, long before I got into computers, I was an art student. Artistically, my lexicon has always been landscapes and abstracts. There’s something in a beautiful landscape that attracts me in exactly the same back-brained way as a beautiful woman does — it just feels right, and calls to me. I love landscape painting and photography, and vistas in the great outdoors. I ditched my art major early on because it was too much like work. The sciences seemed easier; at least there you know when you’ve got it right. Then I took a break for five years to be a Santa Cruz hippie. Having exhausted that particular line of inquiry, I went back to college. I went into computer science half-heartedly, simply because that’s where the jobs were, and because I’d taken an aptitude test way back in high school that said I should be a computer programmer, a forest ranger, or an interior decorator, in that order. Little did I know that I’d become a bit of each! After a few years I got into computer graphics, fell in love with it and never looked back. Then 41
came my lucky break: I was hired by Benoit Mandelbrot, the father/inventor/discoverer of fractal geometry — which is the key to MojoWorld — to be his programmer in the Yale math department, helping to implement some algorithms he was working on to include rivers in fractal terrains. This was my first brush with fractal terrains. I’d only been at Yale for a matter of weeks when Benoit left for trip, having first given me permission to “render unto Caesar, Caesar’s due” (he really said that) while he was gone — that is, to render some nice images of the terrains I’d been coding up. He liked what I came up with — “Nimbus” and “Lethe” — so much that he pretty much kept me on as an artist-in-residence for another six years, during the second three of which I earned my PhD in computer science for the techniques I was inventing. All the while I had a faculty office in the Yale math department, for proximity to Benoit — so that I could be his handy joeboy, forever carrying his boxes of books about and doing other such exotic tasks. Since I was stationed in the math department for six years, and righthand man to the most famous living mathematician, everyone assumes that I, too, am a mathematician. Ask anyone in the Yale math department — they’re clear I’m not! “Lethe” is a rare case of an image I had in mind before I made it. Almost all images I’ve made have been discoveries from my explorations in the early visualizations of the Mojoverse. I’m more of a virtual photographer than a painter — I record what I find, more than making it up from scratch.
A little like Ansel Adams, if I may be so presumptuous: He didn’t bulldoze the landscape to get his compositions; rather, he had a keen eye for beauty in Nature and the patience and skill to catch it in its best light. So, to contradict myself, yes, in a sense, it has always been about the maths — or, more at, about an exploration of the beauty inherent in them. Therefore, as a rule, I’ve never done any post-processing of my images in Photoshop or in any other way, other than to composite in my signature in a corner.
Here’s the deal: I’m not interested in the maths themselves, but rather the visual beauty that issues from them, in its purest form. There Ansel Adams and I are polar opposites. He said: “the negative is the score and the [photographic darkroom] print is the performance”. I’ve always been a purist: The code is the score and the execution is the performance, but ‘thou shalt not mess with the resulting bitmap’. You see, to digress into a bit of pointy-headedness again, the unaltered bitmap that issues from execution of the rendering code represents precisely a theorem proved in a formal system. So my artworks are mathematical theorems. That’s so whacked-out I love it! Too weird. And too beautiful, in its strange abstraction, to mess with or sully via post-processing.
The interface for MojoWorld 3’s Planet Wizard module — a quick easy way to rapidly create new planets.
But for MojoWorld users, hey, do whatever you like to get the results you want! Interoperability is a keyword: we know that MojoWorld is just another tool in the software toolbox of the digital artist. [MojoWorld 3.1 later enabled Poser 6 prop import, Ed.]. As such, it must interoperate smoothly with those other tools. Even if it is a universe unto itself! Simultaneously, for the casual user of the MojoWorld Transporter [later called the Viewer], we hope you find fascination in these worlds exactly as you find them, without further modification or enhancement outside of MojoWorld. That raw and elegant beauty always been good enough for me. And one wild thing is for sure: No matter how beautiful a vista or detail you find in any MojoWorld, there’s probably a better one somewhere else on the planet. Probably a whole bunch more… Now if that’s not adventure calling, I don’t know what is!
Picture: MoodyBlue’s MojoWorld stock, available at www.deviantart.com/ moodyblue. MoodyBlue has 36 x free desert ‘stock’ pictures, kindly given away for you to re-use under Creative Commons licences. Don’t forget to credit him!
WHAT IS MOJOWORLD? MojoWorld offers a unique ‘procedural planet maker’, with videogame-like controls to ‘fly’ over an Earth-sized fractal-generated planet. You can learn the basics in an afternoon, it’s fun, and there’s still nothing quite like it. It’s also very deep, but it hides the complexity well. However, this software is old. Really old, so it’s often dismissed out-of-hand — despite running fine under Windows 7, 8 and 10 and having no problem in making a big 4k render with a nicely retro ‘1970s sci-fi paperback-cover’ feel to it. It is also ideal for quickly making pictures of vast desert and treeless terrains. Such renders make fine scenic backplates for rendering characters and props with more up-to-date software. MojoWorld is also still useful as a quickstart for matte painters to overpaint, producing a nice painterly look on its quickest draft render settings (3 minutes for a 4k render, provided you don’t have lots of water or OBJs in the picture). Moon presets were a weak point of the software, but real moons can now be easy had from NASA’s public-domain pictures, and pasted in with Photoshop. The Photoshop plugins ‘LunarCell’ (Moons) and ‘Glitterato’ (Star-fields) were widely used when MojoWorld was popular, along with Flood (now the excellent Flood 2) for adding scene-reflective surface water. MojoWorld lost the race with Vue, and has not been officially available for about a decade now. Many consider it ‘abandonware’ and there is a demo version of 3.1 on Archive.org (but note that has now time-expired). However, used copies may occasionally be had on eBay (version 1.0 is currently listed there), and a thorough Web search will uncover useful online resources for 3.1.1. The best video quickstart tutorial is TikiRussy’s 15 minute introduction at YouTube. The Renderosity MojoWorld forum is still active and there is currently some talk there of crowdfunding a community-purchase from the estate of maker Ken Musgrave — so please help them out with that if you can. An actively developed 64-bit multi-core open-source MojoWorld 4 would be a software wonder for the 2020s! 43
● Quick ‘random planet generator’. ● Superb materials blending in terrain transition zones. ● Poser 6 .PZ3 prop import (added in version 3.1). ● MojoWorld 3.1.1 still runs and is quite stable on Windows 8 and 10. ● A 500-page manual as a structured and searchable Windows Help file. ● Atmospheres, nice clouds, rivers, all as presets. ● A variety of one-click ‘random’ buttons, including several for camera placement. ● Fun, with ‘flight sim-like’ world navigation. ● Light use of PC resources / memory while rendering (only one CPU core is used). ● Does 360 VR (renders as 6 x ‘cube’ tiles, then you convert these for Facebook 360 with either Pano2VR 6.x or PTGui 11.2). MojoWorld cons: ● Old now, and was never updated to take advantage of multi-processor CPUs or 64-bit. ● Distant ridges and horizons look razor sharp, even in mist and fog, and thus may need to be softened manually in Photoshop. ● Not a fast renderer, especially if a scene has some imported polygonal models or reflective water in lakes and pools. ● It’s more difficult than you might think to find a really good scene by using the ‘random’ camera position generator. The best strategy seems to be to find a moon on the horizon, zoom the camera up to 10,000 feet, then fly away from the moon (keeping it centred in the picture) until one sees a likely spot below, then drop down and nudge in. Top inset picture: The old MojoWorld logo.
CREATIVE IDEA: desert trees made from organic parts.
CREATIVE IDEA: running and freedom in a desert land.
DESERTS IN PAPERBACK ART Out of Their Minds
The Airs of Earth
1972, Sidgwick & Jackson paperback, UK
1975, NEL, USA (UK had the same cover)
This novel is an example of the later and lesser Simak, who had turned to crafting whimsical and comedic novels that would appeal to the new ‘hippy generation’ of the early 1970s. The novels were entertaining and well-made, but too genre-busting for the defensive and hardline science-fiction reviewers of the time. In this case the creatures of folklore and myth come back into the modern world to chide humanity for its shoddy new commercial creations, and for forgetting the old ways. The artist is the great Bruce Pennington, and the small figures are Don Quixote and his esquire Pancho Panza. The themes of death and journeying are evoked as well as possible, not only by the innovative ‘brain tree’ but also by the ‘teeth-road’.
The very popular story collection from the popular British writer. NEL paired Aldiss with the best paperback cover artist of the time, Bruce Pennington, for this iconic 1970s cover. Pennington’s work was commonly seen on paperbacks of the time, not only science-fiction but also weird fantasy collections from Clark Ashton Smith and Frank Belknap Long. Sadly there's been not yet been a compehensive printed Catalogue Raisonne of Pennington’s work, even though a Kickstarter would surely fund one in just a few hours. Instead there are only the out-of-print and highly prized collections Eschatus and Ultraterranium, a Bruce Pennington Portfolio of twelve prints, and a high-quality little Paper Tiger Miniatures book titled Bruce Pennington. 44
CREATIVE IDEA: plant-like monsters seen from below.
CREATIVE IDEA: a beautiful and elegant UFO shape.
The Legion of Space
1969, Popular Library, USA
1969, Pyramid Books, USA.
The prolific Roger Elwood’s very first anthology was put together in 1964, and this cover is from the cheap U.S. paperback edition of 1969. Elwood was assisted by the great Sam Moskowitz, though Sam went uncredited. The collection still holds up today, as a themed collection of ‘desert planet’ monster stories that you are unlikely to have read before.
The Legion of Space was a far-future space-
The artist is John Schoenherr, and his art has been ‘worked around’ rather than ignored by the cover designer. Schoenherr had also done covers for Dune, making his the natural choice for this anthology. He did concept work for NASA, and was also an accomplished animal artist. As one can see here, he also had a fine sense of layout — note how the rocket ‘points’ the eye upward to the struggling man.
opera adventure from the mid 1930s, similar to the pioneering Lensman series but playing to Williamson’s strengths in characterisation, rip-roaring plotting, and the creation of vivid monster-planets. Like many 1930s series, it had a cheap paperback reprint in the 1960s.
Here the sedate cover by artist Paul Lehr appeals to potential readers among the new ‘hippy generation’ and also to the wider interest in UFOs — it certainly is a very appealing take on the UFO shape, but suggests none of the novel’s monsters and action-adventure. Lehr’s slightly impressionistic and slightly abstract work adorned many paperback covers of the 1960s, being well-suited to the atmospheric ‘futurescape’ landscapes of a 45 certain type of science-fiction book.
We interview Micheal ‘Vioxstar’ Efriam of Israel, about his amazing science-fiction picture series made with real-time rendering in Garry’s Mod and then finished in Photoshop.
DAL: Michael, welcome to the Digital Art Live in-depth interview. We were impressed by your “Server Dust” series made in the real-time gameengine Garry’s Mod, and thought you’d be a fine pick for this Deserts themed issue of our free magazine. Vioxtar: Thank you for having me! It’s a pleasure being here, and to be given an opportunity to share! DAL: Could you start by telling us how you first encountered digital creativity, and how your talents then developed? Vioxtar: I think that goes back to when I was ten years old: I got my hands on a small digital camera and started taking pictures. I zoomed in a lot, I loved macro [very close up] pictures, and I focused on insects, plants, and objects. I remember trying to put the lens where I wouldn’t put my eyes, and thus I became familiar with framing and composition. My dad then bought me a DSLR [digital single-lens reflex, pro] camera, and in response I took my photography a little more seriously; I paid more attention to light and motion.
Picture: “Flower Omega”.
MICHAEL EFRIAM ISRAEL GARRY’S MOD | PHOTOSHOP
Picture: “Server Dust: Collector”. 48
I also took a week-long photography course, in which I was introduced to Adobe Photoshop, and the awesome world of image manipulation, which I loved!
DAL: Yes, it’s difficult to imagine now, that layers in Photoshop only arrived about 20 years ago — circa 1996, I think it was, in Photoshop 3.x. Were there any other influences? Vioxtar: Oh yes, I’ve been playing videogames all my life – so, eventually those two hobbies became one, and I found creative outlets in 3D graphics, through the games I loved. DAL: Great. And you use Garry’s Mod to make your pictures. Could you explain what that is, for readers who are unfamiliar with it, please? Vioxtar: Sure! At its core, Garry’s Mod is ‘a game to fool around in’, with no defined objective. In it, with a press of a button, you can spawn anything; boxes, cars, explosive barrels, zombies, animals, weapons. Everything is physics based, and everything is free. You’re also given tools to mess around with the things you spawn, such as welders, thrusters, and motorized wheels. Beyond constructing a base and fighting off waves of enemies, or building a catapult that launches you to oblivion, you can also get more ‘visually’ creative: with the camera and the lamp tool, you can set up any scene to your liking and take a picture as a screenshot. DAL: Right, so it’s all in real-time, running on a game-engine.
Vioxtar: Yes. So that’s Garry’s Mod, or at least, just the default ‘Sandbox’ gamemode. Garry’s Mod is first-most a modding game, and is fuelled by a large community of developers who create many other gamemodes, scripts, and assets which anyone else can download and play with. It’s what makes Garry’s Mod an endless experience. DAL: Super. And how does it differ from the forthcoming Sandbox (S&box) for the Unreal Engine? Which some are calling Garry’s Mod 2? Vioxtar: S&box is meant to be the technological successor of Garry’s Mod, it’s currently in development by Facepunch Studios, which also created Garry’s Mod. The thing is, Garry’s Mod is based on the — now quite old —Source Engine. That’s the same game engine which powered the popular Half-Life 2 game, ‘back in the day’. Even though it’s quite capable, it is significantly outmatched by today’s modern game engines. To keep things going smoothly, looking into the future for both developers and players alike, Facepunch has set a course that will give their promising game a technological face-lift. So… it’s the same game concept, only more graphics, more performance, and more everything, really! DAL: We’ll look forward to that. Picture makers could always do with more genuine 49 WYSIWYG real-time 3D rendering choices.
Especially if they’re free and have a fun interface and are quick to learn (i.e. not Blender or Unreal). iClone is the obvious choice there are present, but it’s very expensive to step up to the full package and all the required addon packs.
But let’s step back to Garry’s Mod. When and how did you first encounter Garry’s Mod? Vioxtar: I discovered Garry’s Mod in 2007. In school, my friends had talked about this game that was ‘like Counter Strike, but you could build
Picture: “Server Dust: Out of Map Bounds”.
a bath-tub race car and drive it’. After seeing some gameplay videos on YouTube, I got hooked — if you’re into physics and cool things like that, you get hooked. I even showed a Garry’s Mod Rube Goldberg [Heath Robinson, UK] machine
video to my science teacher and he loved it too. When I started playing Garry’s Mod, all I did at first was build things: cars, flying machines, roller coasters, bases, walking mechs, boats, other crazy contraptions.
All that was done online, with friends, in a world of builders — a sort of digital paradise. A lot of that world got carried over into the pictures I create today, too. DAL: Sounds fun. Now, presumably you
wouldn’t be able to get the same epic scale in real-time software such as iClone? Vioxtar: And I also think I stick to Garry’s Mod because it’s a game: you’re a physical player roaming around a 3D map with standard game
Picture: “Server Dust: Path of Spawn”.
movement controls and… guns. So, I get to walk around in the scenes I create, and immerse myself in them, through the perspective of just another character in the world. Often, when creating a scene, I find myself just ‘playing’ a
game. I think that injects creativity into the workflow. There’s also Lua, which is Garry’s Mod’s scripting language. With Lua on my side, I can code my own tools and create my own workflow.
Picture: “Server Dust: Traverse”. 54
I usually find myself creating scenes along with Lua on a separate text editor window side-by-side with Garry’s Mod. If I want to, say, spread rocks in a specific manner in the scene, I can save hours of work with several lines of code. DAL: Right, I see. So kind of like Vue’s Ecosystem materials. Sounds also like a sort of advanced free-flow version of the new FlowScape. And then you use Photoshop for postwork. Could you tell our readers what the complete workflow would be, in outline, to make a picture in Garry’s Mod and Photoshop? Vioxtar: Sure — when I’m done building the scene, it’s a bunch of 3D models in this black, dark void with no light. So, the first thing I do is light it: I place a bunch of lamps in the scene, and for each lamp, render its own light separately in its own picture (with the rest turned off). So, say, seven lamps give me seven different renders. I do this because later, in Photoshop, I am then able to take all these individual renders, stack them additively on top of each other… and then I tweak their brightness values more carefully. That way I get more control over the lighting setup, and can maximize the impact of the scene. Sometimes finding the right balance between lights takes me hours. DAL: Yes, I found that with iClone. With something like iRay in DAZ Studio or SuperFly in Poser, you tend to just slap on a preset light, do a little test render and then and if that doesn’t work you try another preset. But becase iClone is “what you see is what you get” real-time, the temptation is to keep pushing and tweaking your custom lighting for hours until it’s perfect. But, back to Garry’s Mod… Vioxtar: … so after the lights, I add atmospheric elements – sky, fog, clouds or smoke. At this point the picture becomes almost whole, and I can start tweaking the picture more ‘conventionally’, that is: colour grading, removing render artefacts, adding effects, polishing, etc. In between all that, I may sometimes extract isolation passes (where every model is coloured differently), or depth passes, or material overlay passes from Garry’s Mod to aid the editing process. You can see a video of all this here: DAL: Thanks. You mentioned the next version, but is development still continuing on Garry’s Mod, is it now in a fairly mature and stable state? Setting aside its qualities as a game —which seems to be how it’s marketed, at a similar $30 price to a game — would you still recommend it to artists looking for a lower cost alternative to iClone, and/or who are worried that the ‘free’ Unreal/Unity engines will start to slip over into some paid / subscription version. Or should they wait for S&box? Vioxtar: The current version of Garry’s Mod, which is 13, is quite mature and well established. However, that doesn’t stop a dedicated team of Facepunch developers from continuing to improve it with casual updates... and then there’s the whole community development side to it. For example, just recently a community member created an impressive VR addon for the game. DAL: Right, so there’s still a lot of work being done on it. That’s good to hear. Vioxtar: As for a recommendation, even though Garry’s Mod answered my artistic needs, I would be hesitant to recommend it to others. Garry’s Mod is a game more than it is an artistic medium, and the 15-year-old engine is bound to ‘fight back’ when you make technical demands on it. To ‘beat it’, I find that I have to get into quite a fight with it, to make every new picture I work on. The workflow revolves around workarounds. It’s a challenge. 56
Pictures: “Server Dust: Watch tower” and “Waste tower”.
“… the 15-year-old [Garry’s Mod] engine is bound to ‘fight back’ when you make technical demands on it. To ‘beat it’, I find that I have to get into quite a fight with it, to make every new picture I work on.”
Pulling off tricks such as global illumination or ground tessellation is a headache, although admittedly rewarding. With the future in mind, I’d look for more up-to-date alternatives. DAL: Thanks, that advice will be very useful for some of our readers I’m sure. Now, let’s turn to your pictures. You've had much acclaim for your “Server Dust” series of pictures. Could you explain to our readers what this is, please? Vioxtar: Yes. The Server Dust universe is encapsulated in its entirety within a single server box left to gather dust. Instead of simulating an online game server, it simulates an entire living, breathing world.
This world of Server Dust is roamed by Players equipped with unprecedented power — that of the Toolgun. The Toolgun is armed with raw functionality, and serves as a weapon as much as a tool. It is able to materialize matter from thin air with a pull of the trigger, and despawn it with another. It deforms, warps, manipulates, and creates. The Toolgun bridges one's imagination to the physical world. It has the power to make an idea into reality — so much as to make reality, into an idea. This world is covered with remnants, ruins affected by the liquidating force of the gun. Parts of this world may reach the form of pure abstraction, while others remain untouched. This world is also spanned by huge masses of land, with relatively little population to make use of it all. While the world is mostly bare of wanderers, it is permeated by the remnants of the creations of its visitors — products of unregulated minds, senseless imaginations. Products of limitless construction, reproductions of the mind, ideas materialized with no boundaries. Huge super-structures that scrape the sky, constructs that connect mountains, and bridges that span across the oceans. Like ageing toys, these structures serve no functional purpose and with time lose the attention of their creators. They are consequently replaced by new ones, and with the seasons they decay, eternally unmanned. DAL: Right, and you shows us that world.
Vioxtar: Yes, the Server Dust series is a collection of ‘captures’ from that universe, which is my reinterpretation of the Garry’s Mod Sandbox experience. It’s an exaggerated, cinematic version of what would be a Sandbox game world, simulated entirely on some old abandoned server machine left to dust. This world is roamed by living human ‘Players’, able to materialize objects out of thin air, and build any construction they desire. Such a universe is the perfect canvas for the ideas I want to explore. From it, I constantly try to extract that same sense of wonder I experienced as a kid every time I launched Garry’s Mod.
DAL: Great. And you hope to also develop a comic or wider story around this scenario? Or perhaps a ‘storytelling artbook’ — have you see what was done recently with the book Above the Timberline? Vioxtar: Yes! I feel as if a story telling artbook is the direction I’ve been subconsciously heading for this whole time. It’s probably one of the most heart-warming ways of building worlds and bringing life to them. I envy others with the power to realize their ideas like that. There’s some good distance between what I do and a storytelling artbook though — I never had a well defined story that lived in the scope of several of my pictures. Maybe one day! DAL: Who else should our readers be looking at, to see the best of the still pictures that are being made with Garry’s Mod? From your ‘Favorites’ on DeviantArt I picked out Redm4ki, Scotchlover, and TheNebeskyMuz to 'Watch', for instance.
Vioxtar: The immediate name that comes to mind is Crazy Knife. He’s a great person, and crazy talented. He also managed to extend the reach of Garry’s Mod artwork even further by creating his own models and incorporating them into his scenes. Other notable names are Joazzz, Olmate Ubafest, and NOGA14. DAL: Thanks. If some new to it did take to Garry’s Mod, how much time would you say an artist would have to spend with G’Mod, to be 58
able to create a good ‘epic scale’ picture with depth fog and good detail? A week, a month, several years?
a good place to be a digital artist? Do people there understand what you do?
Vioxtar: I’ve had pictures I worked on for months, and some others about two hours. With enough familiarity anyone can put great pieces together in several hours. I actually found that the faster I got a picture done, the more I enjoyed coming back to it afterwards – there’s more to be discovered in it. DAL: I see, thanks. What is the view from your work studio like, these days? You’re based in Israel, so I imagine… lots of sunlight! Vioxtar: My work studio — which totally isn’t just my house bedroom! — has a remarkably uninteresting view of my parking garage. But if were you to embark on a three-minute drive north of that garage, you’d find yourself in a pretty cool rural area with lots of fields and trees, where I like to occasionally drive around. And yeah, there’s a good amount of sunlight here, which I’m thankful for! DAL: Nice. Do you feel there is a connection between Israel being a mostly desert nation, and your liking for making desert pictures?
Vioxtar: I’d think so, a bit like ‘you are what you eat’, there’s ‘you think what you see’, maybe? Even though I live in the more agricultural part of Israel — which means less desert — the desert parts of Israel made their impact. The ground here is quite varied, and as an environment guy you start to really pay attention to these variations, try to get a feel for what makes ground, ground: you become a researcher. Sometimes I’d see these weird formations and interplay with dirt and rocks, and I’d note it down, take a picture, think how I’d replicate it in a scene. I had to work quite hard — several attempts — until I was happy with my grounds. The picture which opens this interview, “Flower Omega”, was my first attempt at building a ground, with “Watch Tower” being my most recent one. DAL: Great, people can see the details on those at your DeviantArt Gallery, where you have them big, at around 3,800px and more. Is Israel 59
Vioxtar: That’s a difficult one. As to people understanding what I do, the first answer I want to say is ‘no’, because society here is perhaps a bit more materialistic than cultural, and if it’s cultural, then it’s probably not the type of culture that would be familiar with the “build a scene in 3D software and make a picture” medium for art. It’s not graphic design, it’s not photography, and it’s not 3D modelling or game level design. So it’s hard to describe. But there are always exceptions – to be honest I don’t don’t know how Israel compares to other countries in that regard. DAL: Probably about the same everywhere. ‘How it gets on the screen’ might as well be magic, to all but a few. Where would you like to go with your art, in the near future? Do you have any themes you would like to explore? Vioxtar: Oh wow, no clue! So far, all my pictures happened because of artistic itches I had to scratch: ideas would pop in my mind and they would pester me without end until I put them in a frame — and that frame is usually enough to silence them. Maybe that will change one day, and I’ll need to look into animation, or more interactive media experiences. Or yes, explore a different theme. But it doesn’t feel like I’m the one making the calls here. It’s something deeper that dictates my direction. DAL: Great, ok, well… thanks very much for this interview. We wish you well with your creative work in the future. Vioxtar: Thank you! It was my pleasure, good questions are always fun to answer!
‘Vioxtar’ — Michael Efraim — is online at: https://www.deviantart.com/vioxtar/ and https://www.michaelefraim.com/
We have a short interview with one of the RPG industry’s leading map-makers, Steffen Brand. Steffan has worked on the highly-acclaimed Degenesis RPG game books Black Atlantic and Justinian, and made iconic region maps for the game The Dark Eye.
DAL: Steffen, welcome to the Digital Art Live magazine interview. You made the maps for the upcoming RPG book Degenesis: Justitian, and also the 2018 Degenesis book Black Atlantic?
Could you introduce yourself to the reader, please — when you trained, in what, what the role of ‘freelance cartographer’ involves in the year 2019.
SB: First of all let me thank you for this interview! Yes, I was contacted while Black Atlantic was in production, and asked to first work on the world map for the game. But my first maps of cities will be shown in print-form within the new Justitian.
SB: I studied Communication Design with a focus on Illustration. That was in Hamburg, Germany. Cartography, however, started out as a necessity for the Pen-&-Paper RPGs I ran. Over time, this became a ‘niche’ that I trained more and more in. Ulisses Spiele GmbH became my full-time employer, but I appreciate that I am still able to freelance in my free time in the private and business sector.
DAL: Great, I see. Yes, and your maps fit quite well with the ‘deserts’ theme of this issue.
STEFFEN BRAND GERMANY MAP MAKING | TABLETOP RPG DESIGN
Picture: Iconic region map made for “The Dark Eye” RPG game (detail, faded for text — full version is seen overleaf).
DAL: Thanks. What are your ‘greatest hits”? SB: My greatest hits I'd say are the iconic mapstyle for The Dark Eye (seen above and overleaf), that I keep alive with the help of talented freelancers I regularly commission. And the work for the SIXMOREVODKA Studio in Berlin with the Degenesis RPG game. DAL: Excellent. To set the scene, tell us a more, about what a “regional sourcebook” is. For our reader unfamiliar with the output of the RPG publishing world. I think everyone knows that an RPG gamer has a “core rule-book” for the game — but where does the “regional book” fit in? 61
SB: Regional sourcebooks in these type of games are usually focused on an area of the gaming world, going in-depth and providing additional content. Degenesis from SIXMOREVODKA ‘ups’ the game by including campaign hooks or even complete campaigns anchored in that region. In my opinion, this captures the feeling of that area in a unique way, a way that is immediately personal to the character you play. With the new Justitian there are over 130 NPCs [non-player characters] introduced into the game, with an intricate interwoven web of hooks and ideas — that I think will empower gameplay for years to come.
DAL: Super. And thus the role and design of maps within that is obviously going to be quite important. How closely do you work with the writers and designers of other game elements, to shape the maps to fit the setting and content? SB: We usually work very closely. Depending on the work there are already known facts that have to be included or kept in mind, but sometimes there is great creative freedom to go down interesting routes. DAL: What is the function of a map, what does it try to communicate, how does the style help underline that, do the constrictions allow creative directions not yet used, how does the layout of a map and routes allow for an immersive and interesting gameplay? SB: These are key questions. After sketching, it is important to communicate to the writers the approach being taken, so that text and imagery can work together seamlessly. Maps in this RPG medium are often the most referenced image in the game. Ideally, then, usefulness and aesthetic enhance each other in a way that makes people want to use them as a tool. DAL: Quiet. Does it help to be an RPG gamer yourself? I imagine that it does? SB: Yes, being a gamer myself helps to keep typical problems you encountered in mind. You get ‘a critical eye’ for the problems that can arise due to bad or just unclear design -- and how it impedes gameplay. You cannot hide behind automated mechanics in these games, as everything is done manually. Therefore, everything you set down with your hand has to be clear or intuitive enough to be used even by beginners to the game. Over the years my thinking changed in a way to reflect that. Similar to a novel, in a way — in that… if people mention the typeface instead of the story, it is a sign that something is off! DAL: Indeed. What was the research process for the settings, which I think were Bassham or The
Spital in a future-time setting? Did you get old public-domain coast maps, work out what would have changed and then work inland filling in as you go. Or did you work from modern GIS systems which offer public-domain DEMs and data? Or was it more based on plotting the ‘story routes’ for the game and then filling in the surrounding hinterlands of those? SB: Research is a key part even before scribbling. The Dark Eye is set in a fictional world, which would give me more freedom… if there wasn't the fact that it has been described over 30 years!
Degenesis is based on our real-world earth that holds interesting baggage from today. Abstracting what has happened and knowing fundamentals like a region’s weather, its winds, the earth tectonics, and so on you can logically enhance and continue that for settings set in the future. There is some room to fill in the blanks and some things are given, but having an explanation handy as to ‘why I chose a certain route to go forward’ can be interesting in and of itself in-game.
Public data can help to get an early idea what I am dealing with, nevertheless. Bassham and The Spital — for example — are featured in Justitian and are very loosely based in real cities. But not much is left that is still recognizable. DAL: What sort of graphics software and studio setup do you use in your work? SB: I work on a Wacom Intuos 4 ‘Large’ which pretty much made my career. Mostly I use Photoshop, run on a self-built workhorse of a computer that can handle the often ridiculouslylarge file-sizes. DAL: Great. Do you find that there are any mapmaking plugins for your core software that are useful? The ‘3D Map Generator: Atlas’ for Photoshop, for instance? Or something similar for Illustrator? Or, does proper GIS mapping software have more of a centre-stage in the production process?
Picture: Full version of an iconic region map made for “The Dark 62 RPG game, for Ulisses Spiele & Distribution GmbH. Eye”
SB: My answer to this has to be both and neither — it can help to create something or flesh out an idea, but it too often restricts the way I personally work. GIS mapping can help as a reference for real-world maps, but all in all, in my opinion, cartography thrives in the areas not restricted by programs but only by skill of the artist to visualize his work in his own unique way.
Printers are offering more and more techniques to increase the ‘haptics’ of the game. If a game maker steps off the main highway they will find there are now a lot of interesting directions to go in, and I think many in the industry can learn from others in different areas of expertise like innovations in magazines or the user experience of digital games.
DAL: Right. I hear that the RPG world has been very impressed by the visual and design quality of Black Atlantic. Has it led to others in the industry also ‘upping their game’ and producing works of the same quality?
DAL: And I see that the fans also contribute to the game? For instance I see that there’s a new Degenesis Atlas book which collects the best of the fan-made maps? Is there likely to be something like that for the Justitian book? Or does Degenesis Atlas cover all the territory?
SB: /laughter/ The same quality is hard to achieve, but I think many try to at least offer more than they had. I can only speak for myself here, but I try to push — in early concept development — for new games to boldly go in different directions than what we are used to.
SB: The fans who created the Atlas are dedicated to to providing no end of additional content, and I applaud them for the work they put in there. The Atlas is probably something that can never truly be called 'done'. There is always more that is possible and I do not see
them stopping after Justitian is out. More likely, it will spark new ideas. You can find the Atlas at DriveThruRPG and another great unofficial resource is called the Cluster and is online at www.degenesis-cluster.com. DAL: Super. Do you also make ‘guide templates’ for the fans to download and use to make their own maps? SB: Not as of yet. We'll see what the future holds... DAL: OK. Erm… I recently discovered Gregory Manchess’s ‘art-novel’: Above the Timberline (Oct 2017). That’s a fine new format for storytelling, of a sort that I hadn’t quite seen done before. Certainly not with such excellent design and art. Are you someone who follows such innovations in print and tablet ebooks, and if so what has most excited you in the book format over the last three years?
Pictures: City maps for Degenesis:
SB: That book by Gregory Manchess is amazing, and I can recommend it without hesitation! I quite enjoy books that try something new, sometimes small publishers try to create something incredible to stand out, sometimes books like S. – The ship of Theseus by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams (yes, that one!) or House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. But I can't put my finger on one specific book that could rise above all else. I’m open to changing my mind... DAL: Great. Ok, keep an eye on the Imaginarium section at the end of each of our free monthly magazine, in future. Oh, and I hear you have personal side-projects? Could you tell us more about those please? SB: Yes, I've been interested in the design of new games for years, two attempts of mine stand out to me: There be Monsters is a more cyberpunk-based game — set in our world but not as impersonal as many in this niche are.
Picture: City map for Degenesis:
â€œI use Photoshop run on a self-built workhorse of a computer, that can handle the often ridiculouslylarge file-sizes.â€?
Picture: Latest overall world-map for the northern part of the Degenesis RGP game.
My other personal project game is Bodhisattva, a game set in the past of a fictional India. For the latter one I have plans to publish it, but there is not much online yet. Hopefully, there is more to happen still in 2019...
Steffen Brand is online at: https:// www.artstation.com/steffenbrand and at https://www.deviantart.com/ steffenbrand
DAL: Great, that sounds fun. Yes, I’d imagine there’s potentially a huge market for someone who can make the first ‘big hit’ Indian equivalent of Dungeons and Dragons, which perhaps draws on relevant songs and folklore. OK, thanks very much for this interview, we realise you’re a busy guy, so thanks for the time. We wish you well in the future.
The Degenesis game and additional material is available from: www.shop.sixmorevodka.com See a video trailer for the game, at YouTube.
SB: Thank you for this chance — I feel cartography is an under-appreciated topic in art and the fact that you are among those featuring it is greatly appreciated! DAL: Our pleasure. We’ll be having a complete ‘fantasy maps’ themed issue at some point, perhaps later in 2019 or early 2020. SB: Great!
Pictures: This page: Initial overall world-map for the Degenesis RGP game. (See previous spread for the latest world map for the northern areas in the game-world). Opposite: initial print rulebooks, a digital version (inset) and the cover of a new and recent fan-made Atlas map book.
The game is set in Europe and North Africa at the end of the 26th century, 500 years after an asteroid slammed into the Earth â€” just at humanity was at the edge of achieving a transhumanist utopia. Primal new cultures emerge from the ruins and struggle for survival in a new Ice Age. Many groups find themselves infected by an alien entity that arrived with the asteroid, which turns humans into a new Homo Degenesis type.
This monthâ€™s Digital Art Live gallery whisks you away on a brief-but-gritty tour of science fiction deserts, as imagined and brought to life by some of our readers and past interviewees.
Picture: “Refuelling Station: ‘Call again, big boy!’” by Mutinate of the UK. MojoWorld 3, Poser 11 and Photoshop. Victoria 3 wears an outfit by AerySoul.
Pictures: Top: “Torgate” by Anaor Karim of Reunion Island, in the Indian Ocean. Anaor uses Vue and Photoshop. Bottom: Two from Fredy Wenzel in Germany, who uses Poser linked to Cinema 4D via the PoserFusion plugin.
Picture: “The Lost City” by Artur Rosa of Portugal. Artur uses Vue, Poser and Adobe Photoshop. 76
Pictures: “Gigabyte Auros” sequence by Crazypalette (Ayan Nag) of India. Can be read as a wordless comic book story-sequence.
Pictures: Opposite: “The Expedition” by Crazypalette (Ayan Nag) of India. Top: “The Ethereal” by Dumaker of Spain. Bottom: “There She Sleeps” (speedpainting for a livestream) by James Zapata of the USA.
Picture: “Giants in the Playground XIII (Leviathans)” by TK769 (Adrian Mark Gillespie) of the UK. Digital paint. 82
Pictures: Opposite, “Red moon” by Crazypalette (Ayan Nag) of India. Opposite, bottom and this page: “Catch of the day” and “Distant Worlds” by TK769 (Adrian Mark Gillespie) of the UK. Digital paint.
Picture: “Early Bird” by Star-rik. Made with Cinema 4D. 86
Picture: “Yellow Mountain” by Anaor Karim of Reunion Island, in the Indian Ocean. Anaor uses Vue and Photoshop.
We interviewed Anaor Karim is our Vue special-issue, back in April 2017 (#18). Here's an excerpt: “Yes, I live on a small island ‘lost’ in the Indian Ocean, which is far away from big cities like Paris. But with the Internet I can follow what is happening in the world of 3D. My only regret is that I cannot be present quite often at international meetings. I console myself with the beach and the permanent sun 89 in any season!
I do not live full time in [the capital] Saint Denis. I actually live in an even more remote part of the island! [Where I can go up into] the mountains, which in fact are volcanoes. One volcano is ‘asleep’, but the other has been active a few times. The active volcano is only a few miles from my house! But I think the vast spaces of my illustrations come more from the science fiction books that I read, such as Frank Herbert’s Dune.”
MOVIE: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote The new movie from Terry Gilliam (Monty
Python, Time Bandits, Brazil, 12 Monkeys, Doctor Parnassus) is a modern day take on the classic Spanish novel Don Quixote. And what better movie to suggest to our readers for this ‘deserts’ themed magazine issue? Quixote was released 18th April 2019 and the reviews are positive and the acting fine. It’s a story that starts in the modern day, but then slips into the surreal and energetic world of Spain in the 17th century — complete with giants, bearded ladies, wild masked balls, and more!
Our pick of the most inspirational art and sci-fi. Make your imagination LIVE!
“a lively, charming excursion into a landscape claimed by Gilliam in the name of Miguel de Cervantes ... It’s a meeting of minds — a celebration of artistic kinship across the gulfs of history, culture and technology [and it shows how the mundane world has] the potential to be made wonderful by inspiration.” — New York Times review.
Pictures: Press pictures, with thanks to Umbrella Entertainment. 91
Graphic Novel: The Traveller
Book: Making Comics
We’re pleased to report that one of our past magazine interviewees has a new graphic novel forthcoming, and announced in the comics industry trade journal Previews. Above is the cover for the graphic novel version of his comic series, coming soon.
Making Comics: A Practical Guide is the
Tasos Anastasiades was interviewed in the Christmas 2017 issue of our free magazine. Tasos works with the real-time comics capabilities of Poser 11, and has presented several webinars on the topic for Digital Art Live. Check out issue #25, for the details and our in-depth interview with Tasos.
Previews describes the collected work as... “a steampunk adventure story set at the turn of the 19th century, made with 3D models finished with hand-inking, the story focusses on the greater good and the price we are asked to pay for it.”
The Traveller has a Kickstarter on now, and the book should be available soon.
forthcoming re-titled American edition of the 2017 book How Comics Work, by British comics master Dave Gibbons (2000 A.D., Watchmen). Set to appear in mid Sept 2019, this 192-page book will cover his “hand drawn and digital design techniques”, but note it’s mostly pitched at beginners rather than being a masterclass. If you can’t wait until September, you can pick up the 2017 UK edition now for about $15.
We also recommend: Scott McCloud’s Making Comics; Foundations in Comic Book Art; Words for Pictures; Make Comics Like the Pros; Writing and Illustrating the Graphic Novel; Framed Ink; and there’s also a fine chapter on page design and panel-flow in Drawing Cutting-edge Comics. Comic Book Lettering: The Comicraft Way will get you started in lettering, and Hi-Fi Color for Comics will do the same for colouring. Lastly, it’s a little-known fact that Dave Gibbons has used Poser to help make his comics, including the famous Watchman graphic novel! 92
Book: The World of Dinosaurs
Book: Lost Anatomies
Is your dinosaur knowledge a bit creaky? The story of dinosaurs has progressed enormously and become very fast-paced since the 1970s and 80s, and many older people have been left behind in their knowledge. Now comes the one book that will set your straight, and may even allow you to tustle ‘dino-facts’ with your know-itall nephews! This 250-page whopper distills all the latest scientific knowledge into a highly polished and accessible visual form, and sets you up to follow the rapidly emerging new discoveries in dinosaurs. The World of Dinosaurs: An Illustrated Tour is from the American Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago Press, and it presents dinosaurs by genetic group rather than chronologically. This means the reader can easily follow the subtle and remarkable differences produced by adaptation and evolution.
Lost Anatomies: The Evolution of the Human Form is a new book that surveys the remarkable
Due for publication at the end of April 2019.
variety of human species now known to have once existed in prehistory. Far from being a dry scientific monograph, this new book vividly recreated ancient human features in over 200 scientifically accurate paintings and drawings. These are the work of John Gurche, who over three decades has been creating the pictures as each new scientific discovery was made. Gurche is not a household name, but his work has been shown at the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum, and he made the fifteen sculptures of early humans seen in the Smithsonian’s Hall of Human Origins. the book is organised by time period, introduced by short personal essays from some of the world's most acclaimed human fossil-hunters and curators. The pictures have a suitably earthy and gritty appearance. The hardcover appear in mid March 2019, and we're pleased to see there’s already a Kindle ebook edition — which 93 should look great on a big 10” tablet.
Masters of the Fantastic
Until 8th June, New York City
Until February 2020, Oxford, UK
‘Masters of the Fantastic’ is a new exhibition at the Society of Illustrators in New York. More than 100 of the finest works will be on display, including paintings from Chesley Bonestell, Hannes Bok, Jeffrey Jones, Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo and Michael Whelan.
‘Thinking 3D: Leonardo to the present’ is a substantial exhibition from 21st March to 9th February 2020, at the Bodleian in Oxford. For centuries, artists and scientists have wrestled with how to convey threedimensional objects on a 2D surface. ‘Thinking 3D’ tells the story of the development of three-dimensional communication over the last 500 years. The exhibition shows how innovative techniques in western art, developed from the Renaissance onwards, revolutionized the accurate depiction of anatomy, architecture, astronomy and geometry. ‘Thinking 3D’ also explores technological advances up to the present day — including 3D modelling, 3D photography and stereoscopy. This exhibition will be accompanied in summer 2019 by two other exhibitions in Oxford, on the adoption of 3D techniques in botanical illustration. Also at the Bodelian, from 13th July, is their exhibition ‘We Look to the Moon’ which celebrates... “the study of, and fascination with, all things lunar.”
Pictures, from left, across double-page: ‘Hari Seldon’ (detail), cover art for Asimov’s Foundation books, by Michael Whelan — on show at ‘Masters of the Fantastic’ in 2019. Filippo Brunelleschi experiments with 3D during the building of Florence Cathedral. His hand-held mirror becomes a ‘picture plane’ on which the perspective of a building is seen via a peep-hole in the picture itself. A Phoenix bird rises from its own ashes, in a bestiary of circa 1270. Unknown illustrator, perhaps northern France near Calais. Fantasy creature and rider by Arent van Bolten. He made drawings and engravings circa 1588-1633 in Italy and Holland.
Book of Beasts
The Grotesques: fantasy embodied
Opening May 2019, Los Angeles
Until September 2019, Amsterdam
‘Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World’ opens at the Getty in Los Angeles on 14th May 2019 and will run to 18th August 2019.
‘The Grotesques’ is a large show at the PlantinMoretus Museum in Amsterdam, running from 5th April to 15th September 2019.
A vast throng of animals tumble, soar, and scamper through the pages of popular early medieval books called ‘bestiaries’. Claiming to present the beasts of the world, to educate young Christians and pilgrims, they often unwittingly mixed the strange and the mythical with the real — dragons nestled next to snakes, and unicorns next to lions. Sometimes real creatures, such as elephants, were depicted in implausible and fantastical ways. So popular were such books that the beasts often escaped from the pages to become other objects, from chess peices to golden tankards. They influenced the visual imagination of the west for centuries to come. ‘Book of Beasts’ is the result of eight years of work, resulting in a major show of over 115 items which trace the evolution of the bestiary book. Over one third of the world’s surviving Latin bestiary books will be on show here.
One can often find imaginative, freakish, bizarre and monstrous creatures in old prints from 16th-century Europe. This exhibition surveys the best of these, with sumptious prints from Vredeman de Vries and Frans Floris, exceptional 16th century sketches by Paul Vredeman de Vries and prints by Bosch and Bruegel. Also on show are ancient grotesques found in the ornamentation of other art forms, such as architecture, goldsmithery, glass painting, and among the page dividers and chapter headers in old book printing. The show concludes with new work by illustrator Carll Cneut — who has created five brand-new works for the exhibition — along with a collection of other works by ‘modern grotesque’ illustrators. Definitely one to see, if you like monsters! https://www.museumplantinmoretus.be/en
Are you interested in being interviewed in a future issue of the magazine? Or presenting a webinar for our series? Please send the Web address of your gallery or store, and we’ll visit!
Back cover: “The Jump” by Lizarkeo, in Brazil, DAZ Studio iRay.
25th May 2019.
In-depth interviews with digital artists showing inspiring and striking artwork, often in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. ARMANDO SAVOIA has...
Published on May 4, 2019
In-depth interviews with digital artists showing inspiring and striking artwork, often in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. ARMANDO SAVOIA has...