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From the Artist's Tablet Archives - Firebelly Productions

What makes 3D so difficult?

What makes 3D so difficult to handle is that it has a very steep learning curve more often than not. I’ve found people that assume because the computer does a lot of the work that 3D isn’t art and it’s lazy to use. Let me assure you: nothing is further from the truth!

True, some programs, like DAZ Studio or even Poser are good for beginners or hobbyists and make setting up a scene reasonably easy to do, but that doesn’t mean the rendered art will be good quality. Like pencil and paper, there’s basic techniques and much more advanced ones. It’s the difference between a stick figure with dots for eyes and a line for a smile and a fully detailed anatomically correct figure that’s nicely lit and realistic.

Anyone can draw a stick figure, but that much higher quality figure with all the details and lighting? That can take years of practice. The very same holds true of 3D art.

First and foremost, it’s very much art. If it isn’t, it shouldn’t be in movies as a special effect since it takes special effects artists to use it for movies. What are they using if it isn’t art? Secondly, it’s constantly changing and improving, so just because some amateur hasn’t yet mastered even the basics isn’t a reason to tell them to use pencil and paper.

Four years ago, I knew next to nothing about 3D art. I posed bald, nude figures in Poser with default lighting and painted hair and clothes in Photoshop. As I learned more, my methods changed. Figures began having clothes and hair, I began experimenting with lights and camera angles.

Being a 3D artist is a lot like being a movie director. You have to be able to work with all the various departments to get the scene just right. Actors, wardrobe, hair, makeup, lights, cameras and other things have to be prepared for the scene to be complete. Finding, creating and effectively rendering the scene elements is more complicated than some might imagine. Even when you think the scene looks the way you want it, it doesn’t mean the final render will have the desired result. That means post work, which can get almost as complicated as setting up the scene in the first place.

The truth is there’s a million ways a scene can go wrong. True, pencil and paper mean you can simply erase the part that’s not the way you want it, but what if it’s already inked? That means hours with white-out or something similar to correct the problem.

Lots of ways to mess up, lots of ways to create incredible art. It’s a matter of time, patience and a lot of practice.

What makes 3D so difficult?

What makes 3D so difficult to handle is that it has a very steep learning curve more often than not. I’ve found people that assume because the computer does a lot of the work that 3D isn’t art and it’s lazy to use. Let me assure you: nothing is further from the truth!

True, some programs, like DAZ Studio or even Poser are good for beginners or hobbyists and make setting up a scene reasonably easy to do, but that doesn’t mean the rendered art will be good quality. Like pencil and paper, there’s basic techniques and much more advanced ones. It’s the difference between a stick figure with dots for eyes and a line for a smile and a fully detailed anatomically correct figure that’s nicely lit and realistic.

Anyone can draw a stick figure, but that much higher quality figure with all the details and lighting? That can take years of practice. The very same holds true of 3D art.

First and foremost, it’s very much art. If it isn’t, it shouldn’t be in movies as a special effect since it takes special effects artists to use it for movies. What are they using if it isn’t art? Secondly, it’s constantly changing and improving, so just because some amateur hasn’t yet mastered even the basics isn’t a reason to tell them to use pencil and paper.

Four years ago, I knew next to nothing about 3D art. I posed bald, nude figures in Poser with default lighting and painted hair and clothes in Photoshop. As I learned more, my methods changed. Figures began having clothes and hair, I began experimenting with lights and camera angles.

Being a 3D artist is a lot like being a movie director. You have to be able to work with all the various departments to get the scene just right. Actors, wardrobe, hair, makeup, lights, cameras and other things have to be prepared for the scene to be complete. Finding, creating and effectively rendering the scene elements is more complicated than some might imagine. Even when you think the scene looks the way you want it, it doesn’t mean the final render will have the desired result. That means post work, which can get almost as complicated as setting up the scene in the first place.

The truth is there’s a million ways a scene can go wrong. True, pencil and paper mean you can simply erase the part that’s not the way you want it, but what if it’s already inked? That means hours with white-out or something similar to correct the problem.

Lots of ways to mess up, lots of ways to create incredible art. It’s a matter of time, patience and a lot of practice.

Where do ideas come from?

Where do ideas come from? Well, there’s a broad subject. To help explain this, let me share a story with you.

I must confess I’m quite a bit like Dad. I read Shogun in high school and fell in love with Japanese culture and history (the stuff that’s not taught in school!). I have a good respect for Edgar Allen Poe (read Telltale Heart in high school and more recently tracked down The Pit and the Pendulum on DVD) and more importantly, I’ve found a firm appreciation for Ray Bradbury. I grew up watching The Halloween Tree each year and more recently found The Ray Bradbury Theater on DVD (We tend to frequent the local library’s movie section and find all kinds of interesting stuff). I was a bit surprised when I saw the opening sequence for that show, because it showed I’m a lot like Bradbury himself. The room he works in is full of stuff he gets ideas from, and my room is certainly no less crowded than his.

Where he gets ideas from the objects around him, I often find myself getting ideas from cartoons, movies and various TV shows we have around the house. That’s not to say I don’t also get ideas from objects around me. Ideas come from anything and everything more often than not. For me, a great many of my ideas come from stuff made in the 1980’s or older.

Let me share another story now. I was 4, we were moving from San Francisco to a small bedroom community and a bigger house, but just before leaving the preschool I was in, there was a little “graduation” ceremony and I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was so tired from the moving that I didn’t answer, so my preschool teacher Girtha said “She’s going to be a comedian!” Well, she’s not too far from the truth. There’s plenty of comedy to be found in my work. Dream Angel is intentionally lighthearted and humorous and even Techwarrior, which is a bit darker has its moments. Know where I find inspiration for the jokes? Classic comedians. Red Skelton, The Three Stooges, Jack Benny, Abbott and Costello and a long list of others that were mostly dead before I was even born.

So, where do ideas come from? Anywhere and everywhere. It’s about that simple. Of course, making the ideas work is an entirely different matter. It helps to keep a notebook and pen close at hand even when I have my tablet nearby. Often, it’s faster to simply write the idea down than wait for the tablet to turn on and get into the right app – by that time, the idea could dissipate like a cloud.

Chime in! Where do your ideas come from?

Anatomy of a plush action figure

All the human plush action figures in the shop mention having a wire armature, but I’ve come across people who don’t know what that means. So, let’s explore that and learn what it means, shall we?

If you haven’t explored the shop, I suggest you do. The plush action figures are an impressive sight. The question is, what do I mean when I say they’ve got a full body wire armature?

I’m sure you’ve seen a normal rag doll – limp, soft, cuddly – right? Most people know about Raggedy Ann and Andy. They’re prime examples of rag dolls. What’s that got to do with the plush action figures and what’s the difference? Let’s analyze that.

A doll (stuffed, of course) is limp, soft and cuddly. This one isn’t stuffed yet, but quite limp. If stuffed as it is, it would still be pretty limp, soft and cuddly, but not capable of being posed. There’s our key difference.

Looks like a stick figure, doesn’t it? Well, in place of a full skeleton, this wire gets to play the part of one. This goes inside that limp body and makes it stiff but still flexible. Sure, there’s still flexibility limits – how far the fabric and thread will stretch with the wire – but with this wire inside, the figure becomes more than a doll. It starts to become a plush action figure. Okay, in doll making terms, that would translate to art doll, but since we’re talking comic book characters, plush action figure sounds better, right? Moving on to the armature inside the body now.

Not so limp anymore, but kinda flat, right? Let’s finish the job, but pardon the nudity! We’re not done yet.

From here, underwear is sewn on. Along with hair. The face is sculpted and painted. Even some body details are sculpted. Once dressed, this character is ready for his close up! Carefully posed, yes, he could possibly stand on his own, but having a stand to help is always better. Let’s take a look at some finished examples:

The ever-charming Dream Angel looks beautiful, doesn’t she? Yep, she’s got that wire inside and if you look closely at her knees, they’ve been needle sculpted and so has her face. Yep, she’s in the shop and quite available for purchase as Arora with her Dream Angel outfit also available for purchase.

This gentleman and his two brothers are quite the spectacular sight. Like Dream Angel, they sport the wire in their bodies, but in his case, it’s that stunning red dragon on the back of his shirt that’s the real eye-catcher. He’s in the shop along with his brothers. This fellow’s Restu Sazaisaki.

Miss Pink Hammer here demonstrates just how interesting the wire armature can be as she holds a cool pose to show off her hammer. She’s also in the shop.

As you can see, these plush action figures are a lot more interesting and full of surprises than an ordinary doll. On top of the wire, they have one more interesting feature that’s available, though: magnetic hands.

This feature is more for older collectors than kids, though, because the magnets are powerful and the accessories they enable the figures to hold quite small at times. For example, the weapons available in the shop are frequently small.

Small, and yes, can cause harm despite being soft like the figures that can hold them.

Fascinating, aren’t these action figures? Can plastic figures boast half as much flexibility? Perhaps larger ones might, but can they be hugged at night? No. Can they be washed when they get dirty? Not too easily. Well, there you have it. This should unravel the mystery of the plush action figures. Awesome, aren’t they?

What makes 3D so difficult?

What makes 3D so difficult to handle is that it has a very steep learning curve more often than not. I’ve found people that assume because the computer does a lot of the work that 3D isn’t art and it’s lazy to use. Let me assure you: nothing is further from the truth!

True, some programs, like DAZ Studio or even Poser are good for beginners or hobbyists and make setting up a scene reasonably easy to do, but that doesn’t mean the rendered art will be good quality. Like pencil and paper, there’s basic techniques and much more advanced ones. It’s the difference between a stick figure with dots for eyes and a line for a smile and a fully detailed anatomically correct figure that’s nicely lit and realistic.

Anyone can draw a stick figure, but that much higher quality figure with all the details and lighting? That can take years of practice. The very same holds true of 3D art.

First and foremost, it’s very much art. If it isn’t, it shouldn’t be in movies as a special effect since it takes special effects artists to use it for movies. What are they using if it isn’t art? Secondly, it’s constantly changing and improving, so just because some amateur hasn’t yet mastered even the basics isn’t a reason to tell them to use pencil and paper.

Four years ago, I knew next to nothing about 3D art. I posed bald, nude figures in Poser with default lighting and painted hair and clothes in Photoshop. As I learned more, my methods changed. Figures began having clothes and hair, I began experimenting with lights and camera angles.

Being a 3D artist is a lot like being a movie director. You have to be able to work with all the various departments to get the scene just right. Actors, wardrobe, hair, makeup, lights, cameras and other things have to be prepared for the scene to be complete. Finding, creating and effectively rendering the scene elements is more complicated than some might imagine. Even when you think the scene looks the way you want it, it doesn’t mean the final render will have the desired result. That means post work, which can get almost as complicated as setting up the scene in the first place.

The truth is there’s a million ways a scene can go wrong. True, pencil and paper mean you can simply erase the part that’s not the way you want it, but what if it’s already inked? That means hours with white-out or something similar to correct the problem.

Lots of ways to mess up, lots of ways to create incredible art. It’s a matter of time, patience and a lot of practice.

Anatomy of a plush action figure

All the human plush action figures in the shop mention having a wire armature, but I’ve come across people who don’t know what that means. So, let’s explore that and learn what it means, shall we?

If you haven’t explored the shop, I suggest you do. The plush action figures are an impressive sight. The question is, what do I mean when I say they’ve got a full body wire armature?

I’m sure you’ve seen a normal rag doll – limp, soft, cuddly – right? Most people know about Raggedy Ann and Andy. They’re prime examples of rag dolls. What’s that got to do with the plush action figures and what’s the difference? Let’s analyze that.

A doll (stuffed, of course) is limp, soft and cuddly. This one isn’t stuffed yet, but quite limp. If stuffed as it is, it would still be pretty limp, soft and cuddly, but not capable of being posed. There’s our key difference.

Looks like a stick figure, doesn’t it? Well, in place of a full skeleton, this wire gets to play the part of one. This goes inside that limp body and makes it stiff but still flexible. Sure, there’s still flexibility limits – how far the fabric and thread will stretch with the wire – but with this wire inside, the figure becomes more than a doll. It starts to become a plush action figure. Okay, in doll making terms, that would translate to art doll, but since we’re talking comic book characters, plush action figure sounds better, right? Moving on to the armature inside the body now.

Not so limp anymore, but kinda flat, right? Let’s finish the job, but pardon the nudity! We’re not done yet.

From here, underwear is sewn on. Along with hair. The face is sculpted and painted. Even some body details are sculpted. Once dressed, this character is ready for his close up! Carefully posed, yes, he could possibly stand on his own, but having a stand to help is always better. Let’s take a look at some finished examples:

The ever-charming Dream Angel looks beautiful, doesn’t she? Yep, she’s got that wire inside and if you look closely at her knees, they’ve been needle sculpted and so has her face. Yep, she’s in the shop and quite available for purchase as Arora with her Dream Angel outfit also available for purchase.

This gentleman and his two brothers are quite the spectacular sight. Like Dream Angel, they sport the wire in their bodies, but in his case, it’s that stunning red dragon on the back of his shirt that’s the real eye-catcher. He’s in the shop along with his brothers. This fellow’s Restu Sazaisaki.

Miss Pink Hammer here demonstrates just how interesting the wire armature can be as she holds a cool pose to show off her hammer. She’s also in the shop.

As you can see, these plush action figures are a lot more interesting and full of surprises than an ordinary doll. On top of the wire, they have one more interesting feature that’s available, though: magnetic hands.

This feature is more for older collectors than kids, though, because the magnets are powerful and the accessories they enable the figures to hold quite small at times. For example, the weapons available in the shop are frequently small.

Small, and yes, can cause harm despite being soft like the figures that can hold them.

Fascinating, aren’t these action figures? Can plastic figures boast half as much flexibility? Perhaps larger ones might, but can they be hugged at night? No. Can they be washed when they get dirty? Not too easily. Well, there you have it. This should unravel the mystery of the plush action figures. Awesome, aren’t they?

3D is lazy?

I’ve heard it numerous times from critics: “3D is lazy! You should do it by hand!” Really? I wonder if they’ve ever tried to use this medium. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not point-and-click. It’s hours of minute adjusting, extreme attention to detail, fussing, tweaking, arguing and sometimes even swearing to get a scene just right. All so a reader can enjoy it for maybe 2-3 minutes as they read the page.

Lazy. Unrealistic. I get a laugh at the complaints when I think of how far this “baby” medium has come. Then I laugh louder when I can prove that even industry professionals use this medium with extremely impressive results. A fantastic example sells things right on the DAZ3D website: John Van Fleet. Here’s his story on the site of how he found DAZ and has put it to incredibly good use for both DC and Marvel! The renders shown on that article page alone are enough to be a total knockout for just about any “lazy” argument I’ve heard.

For someone like me, it’s a matter of learning, getting better tools, studying professionals and improving over time. I have little doubt even John Van Fleet’s earliest renders weren’t near as good as they are now. It takes time to learn, just like any other medium.

So, instead of the useless insults of calling someone lazy for using 3D, how about encouraging them to learn and improve? It’s like comparing a stick figure to the Mona Lisa. I doubt Leonardo DaVinci got that good at painting overnight. Take that into consideration before insulting someone that’s learning to be artistic. Perhaps then instead of being insulting, you’ll be more helpful with what you say to them about their art so they’ll grow and improve.

Anatomy of a plush action figure

All the human plush action figures in the shop mention having a wire armature, but I’ve come across people who don’t know what that means. So, let’s explore that and learn what it means, shall we?

If you haven’t explored the shop, I suggest you do. The plush action figures are an impressive sight. The question is, what do I mean when I say they’ve got a full body wire armature?

I’m sure you’ve seen a normal rag doll – limp, soft, cuddly – right? Most people know about Raggedy Ann and Andy. They’re prime examples of rag dolls. What’s that got to do with the plush action figures and what’s the difference? Let’s analyze that.

A doll (stuffed, of course) is limp, soft and cuddly. This one isn’t stuffed yet, but quite limp. If stuffed as it is, it would still be pretty limp, soft and cuddly, but not capable of being posed. There’s our key difference.

Looks like a stick figure, doesn’t it? Well, in place of a full skeleton, this wire gets to play the part of one. This goes inside that limp body and makes it stiff but still flexible. Sure, there’s still flexibility limits – how far the fabric and thread will stretch with the wire – but with this wire inside, the figure becomes more than a doll. It starts to become a plush action figure. Okay, in doll making terms, that would translate to art doll, but since we’re talking comic book characters, plush action figure sounds better, right? Moving on to the armature inside the body now.

Not so limp anymore, but kinda flat, right? Let’s finish the job, but pardon the nudity! We’re not done yet.

From here, underwear is sewn on. Along with hair. The face is sculpted and painted. Even some body details are sculpted. Once dressed, this character is ready for his close up! Carefully posed, yes, he could possibly stand on his own, but having a stand to help is always better. Let’s take a look at some finished examples:

The ever-charming Dream Angel looks beautiful, doesn’t she? Yep, she’s got that wire inside and if you look closely at her knees, they’ve been needle sculpted and so has her face. Yep, she’s in the shop and quite available for purchase as Arora with her Dream Angel outfit also available for purchase.

This gentleman and his two brothers are quite the spectacular sight. Like Dream Angel, they sport the wire in their bodies, but in his case, it’s that stunning red dragon on the back of his shirt that’s the real eye-catcher. He’s in the shop along with his brothers. This fellow’s Restu Sazaisaki.

Miss Pink Hammer here demonstrates just how interesting the wire armature can be as she holds a cool pose to show off her hammer. She’s also in the shop.

As you can see, these plush action figures are a lot more interesting and full of surprises than an ordinary doll. On top of the wire, they have one more interesting feature that’s available, though: magnetic hands.

This feature is more for older collectors than kids, though, because the magnets are powerful and the accessories they enable the figures to hold quite small at times. For example, the weapons available in the shop are frequently small.

Small, and yes, can cause harm despite being soft like the figures that can hold them.

Fascinating, aren’t these action figures? Can plastic figures boast half as much flexibility? Perhaps larger ones might, but can they be hugged at night? No. Can they be washed when they get dirty? Not too easily. Well, there you have it. This should unravel the mystery of the plush action figures. Awesome, aren’t they?

What makes 3D so difficult?

What makes 3D so difficult to handle is that it has a very steep learning curve more often than not. I’ve found people that assume because the computer does a lot of the work that 3D isn’t art and it’s lazy to use. Let me assure you: nothing is further from the truth!

True, some programs, like DAZ Studio or even Poser are good for beginners or hobbyists and make setting up a scene reasonably easy to do, but that doesn’t mean the rendered art will be good quality. Like pencil and paper, there’s basic techniques and much more advanced ones. It’s the difference between a stick figure with dots for eyes and a line for a smile and a fully detailed anatomically correct figure that’s nicely lit and realistic.

Anyone can draw a stick figure, but that much higher quality figure with all the details and lighting? That can take years of practice. The very same holds true of 3D art.

First and foremost, it’s very much art. If it isn’t, it shouldn’t be in movies as a special effect since it takes special effects artists to use it for movies. What are they using if it isn’t art? Secondly, it’s constantly changing and improving, so just because some amateur hasn’t yet mastered even the basics isn’t a reason to tell them to use pencil and paper.

Four years ago, I knew next to nothing about 3D art. I posed bald, nude figures in Poser with default lighting and painted hair and clothes in Photoshop. As I learned more, my methods changed. Figures began having clothes and hair, I began experimenting with lights and camera angles.

Being a 3D artist is a lot like being a movie director. You have to be able to work with all the various departments to get the scene just right. Actors, wardrobe, hair, makeup, lights, cameras and other things have to be prepared for the scene to be complete. Finding, creating and effectively rendering the scene elements is more complicated than some might imagine. Even when you think the scene looks the way you want it, it doesn’t mean the final render will have the desired result. That means post work, which can get almost as complicated as setting up the scene in the first place.

The truth is there’s a million ways a scene can go wrong. True, pencil and paper mean you can simply erase the part that’s not the way you want it, but what if it’s already inked? That means hours with white-out or something similar to correct the problem.

Lots of ways to mess up, lots of ways to create incredible art. It’s a matter of time, patience and a lot of practice.

What makes 3D so difficult?

What makes 3D so difficult to handle is that it has a very steep learning curve more often than not. I’ve found people that assume because the computer does a lot of the work that 3D isn’t art and it’s lazy to use. Let me assure you: nothing is further from the truth!

True, some programs, like DAZ Studio or even Poser are good for beginners or hobbyists and make setting up a scene reasonably easy to do, but that doesn’t mean the rendered art will be good quality. Like pencil and paper, there’s basic techniques and much more advanced ones. It’s the difference between a stick figure with dots for eyes and a line for a smile and a fully detailed anatomically correct figure that’s nicely lit and realistic.

Anyone can draw a stick figure, but that much higher quality figure with all the details and lighting? That can take years of practice. The very same holds true of 3D art.

First and foremost, it’s very much art. If it isn’t, it shouldn’t be in movies as a special effect since it takes special effects artists to use it for movies. What are they using if it isn’t art? Secondly, it’s constantly changing and improving, so just because some amateur hasn’t yet mastered even the basics isn’t a reason to tell them to use pencil and paper.

Four years ago, I knew next to nothing about 3D art. I posed bald, nude figures in Poser with default lighting and painted hair and clothes in Photoshop. As I learned more, my methods changed. Figures began having clothes and hair, I began experimenting with lights and camera angles.

Being a 3D artist is a lot like being a movie director. You have to be able to work with all the various departments to get the scene just right. Actors, wardrobe, hair, makeup, lights, cameras and other things have to be prepared for the scene to be complete. Finding, creating and effectively rendering the scene elements is more complicated than some might imagine. Even when you think the scene looks the way you want it, it doesn’t mean the final render will have the desired result. That means post work, which can get almost as complicated as setting up the scene in the first place.

The truth is there’s a million ways a scene can go wrong. True, pencil and paper mean you can simply erase the part that’s not the way you want it, but what if it’s already inked? That means hours with white-out or something similar to correct the problem.

Lots of ways to mess up, lots of ways to create incredible art. It’s a matter of time, patience and a lot of practice.