When I started painting in the 1970s, the photograph was an invaluable technology for detailed realists. It made it possible to freeze a moment in time, and allow for months of work on your image. As digital photography entered the market, this made the photo all the more accessible. Then along came 3D. I had used this professionally over the past 20 years, but it wasn’t until I was retired, that the idea occurred to me: why not work up my reference from the fantasy world of 3D digital?
The push I needed was a free (yes – FREE) downloadable program called DAZ 3D (Digital Art Zone). For absolutely nothing, you can start making magic; however, if it works for you, you may consider buying pre-made objects and scenery created by other artists. Keep in mind, you are not copying someones work, just building something from elements. This would be the equivalent, for instance, of renting a Ferrari, hiring a model, and taking photos for a work of art. The car and model, in this case, will be wireframe objects being directed by you, the photographer.
Okay, this is very complicated, and sometimes way over my head. Everything is based on reality, so accurate terms and data are necessary. But when you manipulate a figure on screen and move the camera around, you don’t have to understand lens radial bias, luminous flex, spectral and diffuse strength… although you will eventually know this. What you need to do is look at the image, and decide if it’s working for you.
My first painting based on this technology was “Time and Space are Elastic”. My concept was to be a family who’s car had broken down, and ended up in a snow globe on a desk somewhere. Back in the day, I would have hobbled together reference photos – perhaps getting my friends to pose as the family – and used my knowledge of light, perspective and shadows. But with 3D, I built the whole scene in this digital world that doesn’t exist. The subtle shadow within shadow and refection/refraction of the glass were stunning. This was a whole new world where I controlled even the angle of the sun with a mere roll of the mouse!
As I write this, I am in the middle of my third painting in this series. It is currently untitled, but involves a cleaning staffer in a gallery at night. She is magically stepping into a large painting of a wave. I will post the final painting when it’s done, but I already have 2 or 3 more ideas lined up. Shown here, is the figure being “rendered out” in a resolution of 3000 x 4000. The higher the resolution, the more detail you have as a reference. One of the tricky parts for the computer is natural looking hair, but that doesn’t bother me. As an artist, I automatically paint the hair in my own style, correcting any inaccuracies as I go. In fact, the painting is only my interpretation of the digital image, anyway.