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Archive for August, 2013

Meet CG Generalist Sebastiano D’Aprile

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Sebastiano D’Aprile, a quintessential Renaissance man, was born, raised and schooled in the small Italian Renaissance city of Mantua in the northern province of Lombardy where William Shakespeare’s Romeo took refuge after being expelled from Verona.

Driven by his need to create, Sebastiano left Mantua for college in Torino keen to learn everything he could about art and the technical and artistic fundamentals of the 21st century’s emerging art form:   Computer Graphics and Animation.

In my quest to fully understand ‘creativity’ and the inner workings of creative people  I caught up with Sebastiano in L.A.,  where he is now pursuing  his creative dream as a CG generalist at Moo Studios.

During my virtual visit I told Sebastiano that I was taken by his work and that I’d like to learn how he got to the point where he is now able to create high quality works like his recent 2013 demo reel and ‘Rules,’ his animated short starring a bottle opener bouncing around in the desert searching for a wine bottle to open.

I began my interview by asking Sebastiano when and where his creative journey started and how he arrived at this point in his career.

Sebastiano told me that, “I started in Italy but didn’t initially study to become an artist.  In high school, although I majored in technical studies and Electrical Engineering, I also studied some art and multimedia in art that included a very basic introduction to CG with 3D Studio MAX.  I fell in love with CG immediately.  I was impressed by the artistic and creative possibilities.   I remember that for the final exam I did a CG video and it went way beyond my teacher’s expectations.  I started by building a character.   I textured it, I rigged it, I told a story with it, and, I’m super ashamed when I see it now.  But, at the time I really liked it.  It was my first CG animation.

When it came time to go to college in Torino I decided to completely change my major from Electrical Engineering to Art, and when I did, my life changed forever.  I became immersed in learning all I could about all art forms, studying computer generated art, art history, cinema and theater.  In fact, while I was in Torino I founded, directed and performed in an experimental collective theater.  I fell in love with anything and everything that had to do with art, and I think that I went in this direction because the arts are me and because I hated being a technical guy.  I found myself!”

I asked him to tell me a little bit about his current day job and he responded by saying that, “For the past two years I’ve been working full time at Moo Studios, a small production company in Los Angeles.  I started as a rigger, but I didn’t want to focus just on rigging so I’m a generalist there, and anytime computer graphics are involved in a project  I am the CG and visual effects supervisor.

I asked Sebastiano what his favorite CG tools are and how he uses them and he told me that, “I mainly use Maya for CG creation and Adobe After Effects for compositing.  I know that there are a lot of people who are Nuke nerds and that there are also After Effect nerds who hate Nuke.  I don’t love or hate any tool, but I’m pretty happy with After Effects.  Especially because in most studios we don’t just composite CG elements we do a lot of motion graphics and we mix motion graphics with pure CG and for that I think After Effects is still the best tool.

“How about tools for Vfx work?”  I asked.

“I use a lot of Photoshop,” Sebastiano said, “and of course Maya, and Mudbox for texturing.  When we lay CG on top of or accompanying live action footage I usually use SynthEyes to track the footage in order to get a virtual camera that matches exactly the one used during the shoot.”

I told Sebastiano that, “I was watching your 2013 demo reel and it’s really great stuff.  It’s begins really commercial, and then  suddenly there’s this corkscrew bottle opener bouncing around in the desert!  Where did that come from?”

“That’s my personal project.   One time I didn’t have much to do and decided to make a short movie.  In my mind I had an image of a corkscrew jumping around.  A corkscrew-bottle opener’s shape is very human like.  At the time I had just moved to the U.S. and one of the things that I was most impressed by was the nature here, especially the deserts.  Since I’ve moved here the desert has been a big part of my life and when I have a couple of days off I take long rides through the desert solo or with a friend.

As I was saying, when I first moved here I was impressed by the desert and I had in my mind the corkscrew doing something and I decided to put the two things together.  And, I wanted to tell a story in a short animation. Whenever someone sees it, it’s not very clear and I want to make sure that everyone knows that it was not my intention to be clear… Although this is my personal animation it’s a very impersonal story too.  It’s called ‘Rules’ and shows my first impressions of the United States –   Rules and desert.

So this guy, this corkscrew, who happens to be in the desert looking for some wine but there’s a rule that in the desert you cannot drink wine.  And so he doesn’t have anything to drink.  He sees a mirage of a beautiful shiny bottle in the distance and he tries to reach it and right before he thinks he’s going to get it a police cheese grater comes from the sky and traps him … got him!  It’s a little bit nonsensical, but fun.”

“Is there going to be a sequel to Rules and is there going to be a happy ending?” I asked.

‘I’ve been thinking of a sequel where maybe he’ll fall in love with another corkscrew. “

“And they walk off happily into the sunset?”

“Exactly!  And, I’d also like you to pay attention to the shapes of corkscrews and you’ll find that some of them are more girlish while others are more manlike.  Perfect characters for a 3D animated short.”

“Just to wrap it up,  what advice would you give to people who are just getting started and have a passion for CG art and animation and would like to pursue a career in this field,? “

“I would tell them not to learn a tool just for the sake of learning that tool. Try to learn the tool while making something bigger.  For example, always think about a story, think about a small animation or a still image and learn the tools that you can use to make that happen so you’ll always have something to show.    While you’re involved in the process you may find out that you are a very good story teller or discover other abilities that you didn’t realize you had.

Don’t try to learn a tool just because you want to add it to your resume.  Try to do something bigger. Try to have all the tools you’re learning converge in your final work of art.

Another good thing is to browse the web and bookmark everything that you like.  We live in front of a computer screen and bookmarks are very easy to do.  Just bookmark anything and everything that interests you.

And, when you’re out and about be observant and take notes.  I’m always on the lookout for awkward or funny human foibles and odd situations that can be turned into compelling animations.  Bring a professional note pad with you like I do.

I get creative inspirations every day, every half an hour.  I always have a notebook with me because I think my memory is not that good anymore. So, I need to write down every image and thought that comes into my mind.  Unfortunately many of the images come when I’m driving, so I can’t write them all down and a lot gets lost.”

I assured him that, “They’ll come back.  They’re still in your mind hiding someplace but they’re not gone forever,   right?”

“Absolutely,” he said and I interjected that, “They’ll just reenter your consciousness one day and they’ll be new to you then.”  I could almost see him smile  🙂

Meet Artist Paul Sutton

Monday, August 12th, 2013


I’ve always been fascinated by the creative process. Where does the inspiration come from? Is the spark always there? Is it persistent? My creative spark shows up rarely and unexpectedly and when it does I’m compelled to take action and create. But, once I’ve scratched my creative itch it disappears only to return again at another unpredictable time when the cycle begins again. Erratic creativity at best.

In my quest to learn how truly creative people break out of the cycle and are able to consistently devote their lives to the pursuit of their art I decided to visit with ShareCG’s artists to learn how they tick and what gives them their magical powers of prolific creativity.

To begin my journey I first chose to pay a visit with Paul Sutton who epitomizes the consummate contemporary artist and has more than 250 works of art posted just on ShareCG.

Thankfully we live in a connected world where travelling from my home in Campbell California to ‘sit down’ with Paul Sutton who lives six thousand miles away in England, doesn’t require anything more than Skype and access to the web. I made this journey a week ago.

Paul lives in the town of Newport Pagnell just 40 minutes north of London and next door to Milton Keynes, a large town that humorously holds on to its last vestiges of rural farmland with a scattering of cement cows who, Paul told me, sport socks during the winter to keep their feet warm, and stand incongruously dwarfed by the same super modern gleaming glass and steel buildings that acted as backdrop for the original Superman film.

Over a pint of suds enjoyed simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic Paul told me that, “Every day I like to be creative in some way.  I don’t think my day is complete without producing something, otherwise I feel as though I’ve wasted the day.  It’s kind of an addiction, really.    I do have some black days,” he continued, “I go a little crazy.  Obviously in Poser I’ll produce something that I’m not happy with and I think that it’s not creative enough.  Even if I don’t necessarily publish anything I’ll get the work to a single point and if I don’t think it’s worthy I’ll just put it to one side.   Eventually something will inspire me and when I think this new inspiration will work perfectly I go back to the piece, add that element and then do something with it.”

“My problem is that I’m a perfectionist.  I might try fifteen different lighting scenarios to get the perfect lighting.  I’ll stick with a picture until I’m absolutely overwhelmed with the light that’s there.  In my mind it has to be the right look or else I’m not happy, so I just keep going with the same picture until I get it right.”

Rolling a cigarette a relaxed Paul gave me a bit of insight into his world.  “Someone once said to me that you do things that you like and sometimes you do things that you think other people will like. I don’t always try to do things that just please people.  It’s so easy to do that.  As you can see online, certainly the art works that get the most attention are typically those that are scantily dressed.  But, for me art has to have some kind of concept or some juxtaposition, something other than just being a nude.”

I mentioned that, “I recently posted some of your not-nude works on our ShareCG Facebook page.  One is your new ‘Force of Nature’ and it got unbelievable attention, people really loved it, and your ‘Pretty Vicious’ was liked by more than one-thousand people. One of the comments about Pretty Vicious was, ‘I know this woman, I know her!’   Pretty Vicious reminded him of someone he knew. It seemed as if there was something familiar to this person about Pretty Vicious that came completely out of your imagination.  What was this portrait based on?”

“What Pretty Vicious is wearing, he replied, and her punk look was based on pictures of Sex Pistols’ bass player and vocalist Sid Vicious  who died in 1979 after overdosing on heroine.  Her facial features, especially the big lips, are based on Scarlett Johansson the actress who starred in the ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring.’

Scarlett Johansson + Sid Vicious = Pretty Vicious

“I always like to do something different and brought a sort of punk element into this portrait to give it an edge. The hair comes from a model you can buy called ‘Black Hearted.’ It’s actually not made for the model I put it on, I just thought that the hair looked like Sid Vicious, a little bit punky.”

“I always aim for a particular style of face and the model I used for Pretty Vicious has quite full lips. I also added a safety pin through her eyebrow, she’s got a ripped shirt on and she’s got the padlock necklace so it’s like sweet and sour in that what she’s wearing, which is quite punk, is a counterpoint to her sweet face. I wanted a pretty face, but I wanted it to be believable so she had to be a certain age. I didn’t want her to be too young and wanted her to be a woman to fit into the kind of genre that I’d done here. “

I was also curious about the genesis and creation of Force of Nature and Paul started be telling me that, “I’d like you to know first off that I do all my work using Poser Pro 2014, Adobe Photoshop, illustrator, and InDesign.

“For Force of Nature I used Photoshop to create the hair. Typically you get a 3D hair prop and place the hair on her head, but in this case the hair prop is flat since it’s done in Photoshop, but then in Poser I’m able to layer hair as I want it. I created one version of her hair in Photoshop and then in Poser I placed multiple iterations at angles using different size variations placing the first one forward and then layering the next ones going backwards. I placed various shadows and hair behind the first one so it ended up looking like the hair is full and rich while it’s actually flat and made up of multiple JPEGs.”

Force of Nature

“Obviously there’s no product that will make the hair the way it appears. I like challenges and thought, ‘how am I going to produce that?’ Force of Nature was originally an original painting and I wanted to reproduce it in a 3D environment. But, there was nothing commercially available that would make the hair look as does in my painting. I tried doing it all in Photoshop, but it never looked quite right. You can add shadows in Photoshop but it’s never quite the same as working within the Poser environment where you can adjust how light hits the hair creating the illusion that the hair feels full. And in Poser, even though the hair is only 2D it still leaves a shadow that makes you believe that it’s full and rich.”

“My original idea was to incorporate surf like waves into the hair, but after rendering I didn’t like the result so I redid the work to achieve the essence of being pulled, like a force of nature. It’s like there’s a magnet pulling the hair and necklace forward rather than the wind blowing them.”

Paul became more animated as he started telling me about his pride and joy.  “People have said that they want the Adult Barbie Doll art and I’ve thought about doing a limited print of some of them. One of the Adult Barbie Doll versions I did has more than 160,000 hits worldwide and it’s listed number two on ShareCG and last time I checked more than 19,000 people had looked at it!”

Paul told me that Hidden-in-plain-sight humor is present throughout the series and pointed me to a version with a sticker on her private parts that says ‘peel here,’ which, he explained, “is a subtle reference to the banana in the picture and although Barbie is made by Matel my adult version says Mental. “

Speaking philosophically Paul said that, “the general premise and idea of a Barbie doll is kind of weird isn’t it? You’re imposing a certain type of look on kids when they grow up, aren’t you? Kids are holding their Barbie Doll and thinking, this is how I must look when I get older. My work is tongue and cheek satirical commentary about, you know, blonde hair, a sleek car, and Ken.”

Just at this point a cheerful woman’s voice popped in and I could almost see the smile on her face as she exclaimed, “It looks a bit like me.”

Paul chimed in, “It’s too bad you don’t have your video on. Sarah looks a bit like a Barbie” Even with broken video, I knew he was happy as he introduced us. “You wouldn’t believe, he said enthusiastically, the amount of people who ask where they can buy this doll. I had a Dutch company interested in obtaining the rights to manufacture it at one point. Unfortunately the climate changed and they lost funding for the project. But, maybe one day!”

“Say Paul, I really enjoy some of the early works you put on the site. They were also very tongue and check. All these male Grecian type statues in a row, and pop, there’s a naked woman smack in the middle of the line-up. And your take on The Last Supper and other work based on classical art?”

“I do like the classics. The version of the Last Supper that I did was as accurate to the original as I could get it, but as you see it’s all women but, where Mary Magdalene from Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code she is theorized to be in the original, I’ve inserted a man. The picture’s background and table are from the original painting.”

“One of my favorites is the tough girl series. It makes such a shocking statement. I should go back and  redo them since Poser has moved on and there are lots more ways now to get more realism now. A that time, three or four years ago, that was the best I could do, and sometimes I do go back to update images. I would like to go back to this Tough Girl series. I can add what I’ve learned and make it 3 times better.”

“Oh, almost forgot. I made the little machine gun earrings and the Marlboro Blacks.” I could almost see his eyes glinting. “She’s so hard that she smokes Marlboro Black.  It’s got a really high tar content.”

After looking at Paul’s gallery of work I had to ask him how he was able to achieve the realism and humanism he does working solely in Poser.

“I was a photographer for around 20 years and the photography in me wants me to reproduce the type of realism that I’ve done in my pictures. Not always, but it has to have some element of realism. Since you can achieve realism with Poser why not do it?  I wouldn’t like it to look stiff, I don’t want it to look like a blow up doll, and I’d rather have the real thing.

I asked Paul if he was working on anything new that he wanted to share with ShareCG members.

“I just did a review of Poser Pro 2014 and for that I’ve produced an image that I tried to make as best as I can since it is going into this printed magazine. Once the magazine is released I’ll put the picture up on ShareCG. (July 17th 3DArtist 3D Artist Magazine. Published by image publishing, part of a bigger publishing group.“

Paul’s Tip for All Artists

“Look on the internet, go to art galleries, get inspiration from everything you look at. Look at The way hair falls, the way people actually, really are I suppose. Look for realism look at real pictures rather than what you imagine is real. Look for references, once you look at enough of them, and absorb them, you’ll get inspired to create something!”

Want to be interviewed?

We plan to interview more ShareCG artists, animators and modelers so we can all learn more about the talented and creative people who help make this site as popular as it is.  If you’d like to be considered for an interview please click the ‘Make a Suggestion’ link at the bottom of each site page and let us know about yourself.


The New ‘Get Reel’ Challenge

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

We have replaced the Star Search Challenge with the new and exciting  ‘Get Reel’ challenge that’s designed to help individuals, students, consultants and creative firms get their work in front of thousands of prospective employers.   We feel that this challenge will receive lots of quality work while giving entrants the chance to expand their reach and broaden their opportunities.

Entrants are asked to Create a new demo reel or select their best and drop it into the Demo Reel Challenge.  They will present their animation, Vfx, modeling or 3D Art skills  to win one of three superb prizes and be seen by thousands of potential employers. Plus, all entered work will be evaluated by our professional Evaluation Board who will grant prestigious Star Awards and provide feedback to artists with outstanding submissions. Students, individuals, consultants and creative firms are all welcome.




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