Barry Marshall teaches CAD, 3D Modelling and Photoshop at degree level in North West England. We interviewed him about his portfolio created through eOn’s Vue back in issue#5 and include the full interview here with some of the best pieces from his portfolio.
3DAD: Where are you from? What’s your background?
BM: I was born In Rotherham South Yorkshire in ’64. As I was always interested in Technical drawing and Art I decided to do a combined degree in Industrial Design and Fine Art in York.
I have worked in many fields of design from Product to Graphic to Theme Parks over the years and after illustrating concepts by hand I made the leap into digital about seven years ago which lead to me teaching CAD, 3D modelling and Photoshop to degree level and have never looked back!
3DAD: What influenced you to take up digital art and when did you get started? Have you had a long term interest in digital arts?
BM: Since the early days of digital modelling and illustration back in the early 80’s I have been fascinated with the medium. The need for the transition to digital became even more apparent when I started in Theme Park Design. The construction and rendering of complex park design in perspective was great fun until a client would request a slightly different POV then it was back to the drawing board for many hours of reconstruction!!! Having said that the whole foray into the digital realm has made me a better artist using traditional media,
3DAD: Were there some digital artists that you first looked up to, when you started out? Who were they and what did you like about their work?
BM: My influences were not from digital artists to be truthful. I was always so impressed by traditional illustrators such as Chris Foss, Jim Burns, Roger Dean, Patrick Woodroffe, Brian Froud, the list is endless. Their imagination and skill made me want to emulate their creations. I never considered my drawing skills to be a match for theirs and with the advent of computers it certainly made the need for expensive materials and printing a thing of the past so I could experiment to my heart’s content!
3DAD: Was your first 3D art application Vue? If so, do you think this provides a good learning curve and interface for those just starting out?
BM: My first 3D package was Bryce which, if I remember correctly, I got free from Computer Arts. Suddenly I could easily create 3D environments which were on a par with the illustrations I loved! Through my work I was introduced to a package called Vectorworks and finally I could translate my Product and Theme Park designs into 3D and place them in realistic settings. I was truly over the moon!!
I loved the interface of Bryce, so different and so inspiring. It felt like a “machine” with which to fashion MY own worlds. Granted it demanded a degree of patience to get to grips with but I think it’s a great way to begin!
3DAD: You’ve created several models selling in Cornucopia3D – what did you use to create this and which is your favourite so far and why?
BM: My store is now quite comprehensive, and really represents my need to create primarily for my own work. I make what I need and I then develop the products I think people might like to play with from the massive library I have on my hard drives! My favorite product I suppose is “Banyan Grove” simply because it represents for the way different software can be combined to produce a finished product. The bark texture in Photoshop, the twisted vines in Vectorworks and of course the joy of the ecosystems produced by Vue.
3DAD: Is there any aspect of Vue you would like to see improved?
BM: I guess I would have to say the plants (.veg files). There are often times when the additional “image” based branches and leaves just look plain odd. I would love a greater control of the “growth” of the tree as in Bryce or Speedtree. The number of branches, the growth of roots etc. There also is a massive lack of flowering plants and this necessitates the use of models or billboards which means we lose the variations generated in ecosystems.
3DAD: What aspect of your artwork would you like to improve upon next?
BM: I suppose it has to be the lighting! Such a simple concept which can be so challenging! I think we take it for granted until we try to replicate the way it bounces of every surface to give us what we see every day!!
3DAD: What were some of the “breakthrough” images you’ve posted that started to get you more attention?
BM: I guess the first was “Jungle Clearing”. It was really this image which made me realise I had many, many models in my back catalogue which people might be interested in! Then I guess “An Enquiring Mind”, “A Chance Encounter” (an HDRI experiment), “Faded Industry” and of course the “Bong” series of images!!!
3DAD: “Jungle Patrol” and “Scoutcopter” includes your assault helicopter model, which is quite a cool design. What inspired you to start on a copter model?
BM: I guess I have to refer to Chris Foss and Jim Burns again for these? The idea popped into my head one day so I set myself the challenge of making them! Never done vehicles before and I like to test myself!
3DAD: “Return of the Mummy” includes the use of the Toon Graveyard Pack you’ve created, which creates quite a fun environment, did you fun making this?
BM: I have to admit the image itself only took about an hour to do! I generally like to do a quick illustration while tea is cooking!! LOL
I really like this set and very often play around with it, I particularly enjoyed the creation of the atmosphere and spooky plants!!!
3DAD: “How Will You Know”? Dedicated to your son. Did you like how this turned out (visualising I presume his question and your answer)?
BM: I am very pleased with this image, it has a surreal quality to it which I think brings a dreamlike quality to the whole idea. In many ways the journey to the solution of all my work is the most fulfilling aspect. The particular problem here was the rope from the figure to the moon, and much though I try to solve all problems in Vue, in the end I turned to Photoshop to solve the problem! I think my son would have preferred to have been wearing clothes though!
3DAD: “There is mischief afoot”. The light and natural environment in this image is outstanding? What was the germ of the idea for this piece?
BM: Thank you, I am particularly proud of this one! I had recently been re reading the book “Faeries” with illustrations by Brian Froud and the characters popped into my head! I think also the discovery of “Fly Agaric” toadstools in the woods I often work in contributed to the inspiration for the piece.
3DAD: You’ve used a number of models from scifi3d.com in “Viewpad” and “Sandcrawler”. Are you a sci-fi fan as such – has the Star Wars series provided some grist for the mill, with some of your images?
BM: I am a massive Sci Fi fan! Star Wars is an all time fave, I think I saw it a dozen times or more when it first came out! I think the fascination nowadays is the attention to detail and the design processes involved. I think it best to “shoot for the moon” when illustrating and every image should represent an idea which involves development of our skills.
I also feel that with such resources as scifi3d.com the quality of the models demands that we work hard to create environments that do them justice!
3DAD: “3 Muses”. I like the idea and composition of this piece. Applying unusual textures to figures and faces (see also “Jungle Clearing” is quite an enjoyable pastime for 3d artist. Did it take a while to get the poses you wanted for the muses here? Were you pleased with the final image?
BM: To be honest the poses in this image are presets that come with the model. I do not claim to be able to do the human form justice and so tend to use them as statuary, that way I get away from the problems of making the figures look “real”!! LOL
The image itself was an excuse to use Laurent Rodriguez’s excellent “Sculpted Rocks” and it was the poses that inspired the image!
3DAD: “After Dark” and “Lost” feature some incredibly amusing characters (Bong from Renderosity). I love how you have posed these figures in each piece. Though almost any pose these characters take will just look very funny. Are we going to see any more renders of these creatures?
BM: Again the standard poses suggested the image. There were minor tweaks to the eyes to enhance my interpretation of the poses!
There will undoubtedly be more images featuring this excellent character when the mood comes upon me!
3DAD: “Geko”. My son loves this vehicle as well as your own son. What inspired the design of this?
BM: I bought my son a pair of leopard geckos for his birthday and was fascinated by the way they move around their environment. This lead to an exploration of how a vehicle could cope in similar circumstances. Vue offered the perfect environments in which to test drive it!
3DAD: “Dragon’s Gate 1” is an atmosphere, mood lighting test. Do you spend a lot of time tweaking the light once the scene has been set up? Do you have any quick tips for beginners in this regard?
BM: All I can say is: “Curse the light!” LOL. There is one thing for sure and that is that we can spend hours modelling and composing a scene but bad light will kill it every time! My compositions and modelling generally take a couple of hours to put together but lighting them can take days. Even then I am not always pleased with the results!
I found the best way to start was to construct a scene with just a sphere and from there play with the settings in the atmosphere editor, render and see how the changes made affect the scene. One other tip is to make big changes, move the light balance slider all the way from 0 to 100%. What is the difference between a spectral model and a volumetric model?
3DAD: “Runner”. Was this idea moulded by “Avatar”? You mentioned this was “frustrating” fun – was there an element of the image that was difficult to achieve?
BM: If the inspiration is that obvious then all I can say is that the image works! There were several challenges involved here. There are 6 separate ecosystems in this image, from the fireflies and falling leaves to the vegetation. I guess the relative density of the instances was where the time was spent. I was practically bald by the end of this image but I loved every second!
3DAD: “Leaving” and “Last One Out”. This was in homage to artwork from the LP “Pentateuch of the Cosmogeny” – tell me about these images.
BM: Patrick Woodroffe!!! I have loved his work for years and of all the images in “The Pentateuch” this was the only one I could hope to emulate! LOL
The model probably took all of 5 minutes to make and to be honest “Leaving” took less than an hour to finish and less for “The last one out”. There are times when it just falls into place!
3DAD: “He Walks Alone”. Excellent model as you’ve stated from Daz. You mention that the lighting and atmosphere was difficult to achieve here – what made it difficult to balance these elements?
BM: I suppose in some ways I make life difficult for myself by using only one light source in an image, the sun. In this image I wanted Godrays and back lighting but still with enough gain to illuminate the horses markings. It took hours! I then just could not make the horse’s steamy breath and in the end had to turn to Photoshop to complete the image!
3DAD: “The Matrix”, “Batbean & Robin” and “Darth Beaner”. Looks like you had something good going here with a while universe of bean-i-fied characters. This could be your ticket for artwork production in Hollywood?!
BM: I love these little guys and still have quite a few in the pipeline!!! Jar Jar Beanx, The Beantastic Four, Spiderbean and of course Wolverbean! They were originally created for a range of collectable toys but this was as far as I got! Do you know anyone who might be interested? LOL
Hollywood?! I should be so lucky! My son would love it! I love making these guys and I often find myself giggling at them!
3DAD: “Shebot” close up. I like how light has been used here to make an over exposed image, which adds interest to the reflective robot’s face.
BM: I produced this image during my experiments with HDRI. That particular image (from Dosch design) lit the Shebot perfectly. This image is a close-up of “A Chance Encounter”. I just love the reflected detail produced in digital images.
3DAD: What’s your own personal favourite image from your portfolio and why?
BM: I guess my current favourite has to be “How will you know….” simply because of the deeply personal nature of the content. It’s not the most complex or technically challenging image but it means a lot to me and I hope talks to the viewer about the relationship between a man and his son.
3DAD: What are two of your favourite on-line resources to do with digital art? Be it a forum, on-line galleries, model sites or other resources?
BM: We recently started a Vue group on Facebook, “Vue Galleries”. It’s proving to be a great support for Vue users with regular input from some great artists. Feels a lot more personal and comfortable than most forums.
My second has to be Cornucopia 3D. Not just because they kindly sell my products (theatrical cough, shameless plug! LOL) but also because of the sheer variety of content to be found there. Not to emotion the reasonable prices!
3DAD: Finally What three tips would you have for those just starting out in creating 3D digital art?
BM: First, press the buttons and slide the sliders, it can’t be broken—so experiment!
Second, ask for opinions, but remember the only good opinion is sometimes the brutally honest one. Constructive criticism is good!
Third, save, save, save and if you are in any doubt as to whether you have saved save anyway! I have lost count of the times I have had to start from scratch after a crash because I did not take my own advice!
Now if I may? A cheeky fourth tip: Above all have fun!!!!!