Joining Forces

Photorealistic CGI is a great problem-solving tool but can it be used in a more creative way? We decided to conduct an experiment: take six illustrators and designers with a handcrafted aesthetic and ask them to collaborate with six leading CGI studios. Each pair was asked to create one new image

Illustrator: Andy Gilmore
CGI: Happy Finish

“Initially I experimented in wrapping some of Andy’s images around the inside of a sphere, using it as a light source to bathe some test objects in coloured light and reflections,” explains Happy Finish’s Simon Allan of working with illustrator, Andy Gilmore. “However, Andy felt this was too much of a break from his style, so we came up with another treatment together.” Allan rendered a “low polygon object” resembling a gem stone with flat grey colours on its facets. Gilmore could then apply his distinctive colour pallette to the tiny polygons to create a finished image. “The object had to be something simple and easy to read, something elegant but interesting, unusual enough to capture the eye,” says Allan. “We thought about everything from cars to skulls, but settled on a stag beetle because of its distinctive silhouette. The challenge was in creating all those shapes from a small number of polygons, while capturing as much detail as possible. We also had to find the most elegant and expressive pose so the beetle could show off its shape to maximum effect.”

Artist: Solomon Vaughan
CGI: Recom Farmhouse

Inspired by his brother who designs and models furniture, graffiti artist Solomon Vaughan taught himself to use 3D software Rhino in order to turn a paper model of the work shown below into a virtual one. “When I saw the model, the first thing I thought was that it has to be taken back to the streets,” says Christoph Bolten of CGI studio Recom Farmhouse. Bolten took photos and ‘HDR-spheres’ on the road outside Farmhouse’s Hackney studio and rendered Vaughan’s 3D model into the images to create the result seen here. “Now we plan to continue and refine this concept and turn it into a series with other graffiti artists,” adds Bolten. “Any potential collaborators – please feel free to get in touch with me,” he urges.

Illustrator: Hellovon
CGI: Taylor James

“Having gone through the work on Taylor James’s site, I was really interested to see the step-by-step guides they give to some of their key projects,” says illustrator Von. “The juxtaposition between photos they were working on and the elements they were adding in when they weren’t fully rendered was what really caught my eye. It was this in-between stage in which I saw echoes of the way I treat my images.”

“Due to time constrictions, and both of our methods being quite time-consuming, we had to work with an existing image of mine,” Von explains. “We went with a drawing of an Owl I did in 2008 because it already had a very angular, 3D feel which provided a great starting block for Taylor James to do their magic.”

Taylor James’s creative lead Ed Taylor explains how they worked together on the image: “We spent time experimenting in CG and myself and Von discussed ideas to develop the creative in a way that would stand out in 3D. We sent work-in-progress images and thoughts for the overall direction to Von regularly. For me achieving ‘success’ was about getting to a result that we both felt happy with, one that respected his work as inspiration. So I did my utmost to pay close attention to Von’s feedback whilst also creating something that reflected our skills and abilities at Taylor James,” he explains. “Getting to the final image was a real challenge; how do you take a picture from one medium to another [Von works in pencil and ink] – to create something new and interesting, whilst still respecting the illustrative qualities of the original? The piece didn’t need to be stereotypically 3D, ie with highly convincing form and shading, and I certainly didn’t want it to be a demonstration of any kind of gimmicks. Computer graphics has such limitless creative possibilities, there is no inherent ‘style’, so working in 3D you have to be able to adapt to every fresh challenge.”

For Von, “it was an interesting journey, with quite a bit of to and fro, but ended up providing a lot of food for thought of where things could be taken in the future on other projects. I’m very happy with the final outcome. It’s always interesting to hear how someone interprets your work and so to see how they do that with their own skills and technology is doubly so. With this kind of project there’s always a lurking danger that the image gets taken off on a massive tangent but the final piece has retained the essence of the original whilst taking it to a different arena, showcasing the talents of Taylor James in a great light.”

Illustrator: James Joyce
CGI: Candy Lab

“I’ve been imagining moving my work into a three dimensional form for some time now and for this project I wanted to try and transform my 2D shapes into 3D sculptures in a gallery environment,” explains illustrator James Joyce. “The tricky part was to translate the illustrations into a sculptural form yet retain the look and characteristics of my drawings, so as to still be recognisable as my work. I talked through the ideas with John Fox at Candy Lab and sketched out a few ideas highlighting what these sculptures would be made of, the finishes I wanted on them and the composition of the objects within the space. Candylab created a completely new imagined space from scratch. Everything from the floor to the light fittings was digitally constructed.”

Illustrator: Seb Lester

“I really liked the idea of some kind of clever typographic idea forming the basis of the piece so I started thinking about ambigrams and showed TIGERX a variety of ideas,” says Seb Lester. “We settled on one that reads Create/Review and agreed it would also be great if the environment worked both ways up too. We talked about various treatments and I gave some input on their interpretation. Once the idea was established, and I saw their first rough, I was happy to let them get on with it. I think they’ve done a great job.”

“To create the image, every member of the TIGERX team created some 3D ‘junk’ which was stitched together to form the letters,” explains TIGERX’s Dougie Cross. “Several versions of lighting were trialled, with options on daylight and backdrops. We eventually settled on the same lighting conditions above and below, making the image itself a ‘true’ ambigram (save for the seagull). The whole team held crit sessions almost daily as we refined the concept which were relayed to Seb, resulting in an in-house competition for the last round of post work. The final image was created in 3DS Max, rendered with Vray and post produced in Photoshop and Fusion.”

Illustrator: Emily Forgot
CGI: Saddington & Baynes

Emily Alston, aka Emily Forgot, teamed up with Kevin Shepherd, head of CG R&D at Saddington & Baynes for our last collaboration. “For me it was a perfect project,” says Shepherd. “We looked through Emily’s book together and chose a few things that could work. Emily then just started doing sketches and I’d rough things up in 3D, trying to make the process more fluid. Once we’d found some models we liked we just built a small room in 3D and started creating scenarios.” Alston says: “It’s difficult to know where the hand tree idea originated from as we discussed lots of different ideas, and things evolved very much as part of a conversation. Together we played with alterations, pushing the oddness, making some of the fingers longer and building on the idea of it growing out of the floor. It was great to see how Kevin uses the technology, sculpting all the elements and building the environment, setting parameters like where the sunlight came in from. It has made me curious about how I could push digital techniques further in my work and I’m really interested in making 3D sculptures in the future.”

Of the final image Shepherd says, “It’s great to use 3D in a totally different way where it’s more fluid and a design tool. It was just a really good fun project.”

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