Interviewed by Garrick Webster in January of 2009 for Computer Arts, issue March 2009 (159). This is the final body of text of my interview based on Garrick’s questions and interest in the daily renders project in 2008.
Around the beginning of 2008 I started doing 3D again for a projection installation in The Hague called Today’s Art 2007. This re-sparked my interest in 3D, and I wondered what would happen if just kept working daily on the same file, adding and removing items to each iteration. Saving the file every day and progressing the image each time often produces some very interesting results, which I sometimes render and post on my website. The main concept is about entertaining myself and keeping busy, but there’s also a personal desire to continue progressing as an artist.
I am actually a closet history nerd and I have a pathetic (and very unwanted) obsession with politics and international news. When I moved to Bangkok, I subscribed for the first time to a newspaper to try and get a different perspective on things. In America, I stuck to websites such as CNN and the BBC with an occasional glance at Fox News and Al Jazeera for shits and giggles. I realised how much reading the news affects my emotions – pissed off versus happy.
When I started this daily project, I knew I would already have today’s news implanted in my mind from reading my daily paper. Considering all the nonsense and depressing topics in today’s news, I didn’t necessarily want this to form my sole inspiration. So I also decided to regularly check what happened on this day in history over at Wikipedia, which came back with loads of crazy data. I found out when India was free of the Brits, when OPEC embargoed world oil supplies, and when Reagan started the war on drugs in the States.
Frame of reference
Reading about these events helps adjust my brain into new patterns of emotion and thought. Not surprisingly, reading about OPEC resulted in me using a lot of black in the work. When I referenced the King’s illness here in Thailand (he had a sore throat), I began to think of things growing in one’s throat, which then led to strange hair ball-like elements in my images. These things come from my emotions, which are completely unpredictable, but at the same time I can control this by adjusting my mental inputs right before I work on the project. It might sound a bit ludicrous, but it truly entertains me and keeps me interested in doing the work.
I generate my daily images in 3ds max, which I discovered about 11 years ago. Back then it ran on Windows NT. I’ve stuck with the program but in recent years I switched to the Mac, so now I run Boot Camp to run Windows XP, and then I crank 3ds max.
I typically explore lots of line work, splines and very basic forms, but the key to my work is in the texturing, using solid colours and not so much shading. It’s a bit of an ass backwards approach to 3D. Animated textures can play a big role as well, adding an extra dimension of motion to the project. I use animated textures and sometimes audio as well to displace the objects form over time as well. This helps generates endless compositions, forms, movements and visuals.
Sometimes people think the images were created in Adobe Illustrator, but more often they assume its coded work. But the strange thing is that this work isn’t really new. I was doing the same kind of art four or five years ago, so I am not sure why all of sudden people think it was done using Processing.
My daily process doesn’t require a final output or something to show. I’ve saved many projects that showed no remarkable progression. When that happens, I just don’t render the results or bother to go further. I assume it’s a slow day, shut down, and go about life like a normal person. However if the object happens to be breaking new ground, I start to render angles and views as I go along – sometimes anywhere from 10 to 40 images. It might be that seeing it in motion is what really does it justice, so I animate it or give some of the surfaces animated textures. Sometimes the first render might be on a white background, with the last 10 on yellow.
Another thing I can do to affect an image is feed audio into 3ds max to affect the displacement or noise levels on objects in the composition. The audio might be simple tones I generate, or a quick song I have made. I work with the program Reason to generate my audio and import it into max. The feature in 3ds max is a bit dinosaur, but it gets the job done. In the project March in Thonburi, the forms were all effected by running audio levels through them to effect the size and scaling.
The idea is to explore and see what happens. Happy accidents are welcome in this process. Sometimes I will stop if I feel I’ve really taken the image beyond the last one I posted. I might stay up late waiting for the render to finish to see the animation, then decide whether I’m pissed off or satisfied with the look. But once my eyes start burning and I start feeling a sharp pain in the right side of my neck, I know it’s time to call it a night.
My project still feels new and I have a few more ideas upstairs that I want to develop. Creatively, this is a lifeline. I’m a year into the project and as you can see sometimes it goes back into repeating some earlier techniques and methods. When this happens too much, I run like a bat out of hell from the process. That signals the downward spiral of becoming too cozy and feeling safe with certain good results. I find I am slowing down already, as I find going to Thai language school more interesting right now.
For years now I have been shaking my head, angry that I have yet to get any of this built in the real world. If I could ever get some massive structures built from the 3D objects I develop, I would probably poo my pants.