How to be a Digital Artist and survive hardware failure

Ever suffered a hardware crash when in the middle of an important render? It’s the wolf at the door for many 3D digital artists, where computer resources are stretched to the limit by demanding and hungry applications.

It’s well worth purchasing software that can recover the whole computer operating system and applications, not just the user files. Here at 3D Art Direct we use Symantec’s Backup Exec System Recovery, saving time by not having to reinstall every application and resource all over again if the unwelcome crash event occurs.

Irvin L Jackson is a journalist, professional writer and artist in the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres with work in the role-playing game, collectible card game and other industries. He’s had a hardware crash recently, so knows the bain of this event but used it to just build a better system instead.

We interview him for issue 10 at 3D Art Direct, out at the end of this month and include some of his best artwork from his prolific portfolio. Here’s an excerpt:-

3DAD: At your Deviant Art (DA) gallery you list yourself as a “Journalist, professional writer and artist in the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres.” Which came first, the sci-fi writing, or the sci-fi art?

ILJ: When I was a kid I always wanted to be a comic book writer/artist. So I’d make up these little hand-drawn comics that I wrote and did the art for myself. So I guess both really kind of happened at the same time.

3DAD:Expanding on the last question, who were your earliest Science Fiction influences for authors and artists?

ILJ: The very first science fiction books I read that I can remember were Brian Daley’s Han Solo Adventures. They were Han Solo at Star’s End, Han Solo’s Revenge, and Han Solo and the Lost Legacy. Since, like every kid at the time (early to mid 80s) I was a Han Solo nut, I ate them up. I think that was the first time I actually thought about writing purely on its own. As for artists, I don’t think there was one specific artist that snagged me. I was a HUGE fan of Heavy Metal magazine and I always loved the cover art. Not sure if they were around at the time I first started reading it but Luis Royo and Suriyama were huge to me. I was also a very big fan of Larry Elmore, who did a lot of the original Dungeons & Dragons art and still does.

3DAD: You recently had a major hardware crash! How did you recover and what are you running now?

ILJ: Hardware crashes are the bane of my existence. Every couple years I have one. I back stuff up, but for some reason it seems to be problematic recovering Poser/Daz files that I’ve saved. But I use it as an excuse to update everything and make it better. Fortunately OBJ files and textures for my ships never seem to have a problem being recovered, so I have to find another excuse to update those. Right now I’m running a home built system with an AMD Athlon II X4 640 3 GHz quadcore, with 8 gig of ram in a thermaltake case with fans that would look at home in the engine of a 747. The person who designed this system taught me the importance of frontside bus and ram speed, which I’d overlooked in the past. It’s made a huge difference.

3DAD: You primarily use Daz Studio, Bryce and Carrara as your 3D design platforms. What do you like about these products? Anything you dislike and would change if you could?

ILJ: Actually just Daz Studio and Carrara. Never could get a handle on Bryce, though I’ve tried. You know, people started out panning Daz Studio, but I originally picked up Poser and Daz about the same time. Paid for Poser, but Daz was free at the time. I had more success with Daz and got better results. Just the workflow was better for me. I’d get comments like “you did that with Daz! I thought that was poser for sure!” Never did find out what the problem was supposed to be. Carrara I chose for price, ease of use and its texture room. However, I’m trying to learn Vue and I’d eventually like to pick up Maya as well, but once you get comfortable you sometimes fear the learning curve of a new program. Only thing I’d change about Daz Studio was to be able to add environmental effects like Bryce so that it’d work better for outdoors shots without the need of skydomes. But Carrara fills that niche just fine for me. I’d also like a better way of transferring textures from Carrara-textured models to other programs.

See IL Jackson’s work at his DeviantArt gallery.

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