Sci-Fi art by Tony Hayes created with Photoshop, Poser, 3D Studio Max, Vue and Mudbox

Tony Hayes has spent a long career in photography spanning many different aspects of the industry, including recording the building of sets for the motion picture “Superman” . Tony progressed into digital art, having most success with 3D Studio. He enjoys creating his portfolio and viewing the work of other like-minded artists. We originally interviewed Tony in issue 8 of 3D Art Direct Magazine.

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  • Dead Metal
    Dead Metal
    Dead Metal
  • Lights Out
    Lights Out
    Lights Out
  • Top Secret
    Top Secret
    Top Secret
  • A World Below
    A World Below
    A World Below
  • Ice Station
    Ice Station
    Ice Station
  • Space Dock
    Space Dock
    Space Dock
  • The Tower
    The Tower
    The Tower
  • The Royal Barge
    The Royal Barge
  • Threshhold of a Dream
    Threshhold of a Dream
    Threshhold of a Dream
  • Gladiator
  • Return to Fantasy
    Return to Fantasy
    Return to Fantasy
  • Crash Site
    Crash Site
    Crash Site
  • Escape Pod
    Escape Pod
    Escape Pod
  • Waste Land
    Waste Land
    Waste Land
  • Hunter Hunted
    Hunter Hunted
    Hunter Hunted
  • Space Hulk
    Space Hulk
    Space Hulk
  • Future World
    Future World
    Future World
  • Carcass

3DAD: You mention in your website bio of starting photography at the age of five! How did you get started in an arts or photography career – what was your first break?

TH: My father was in photographic retail and it seemed logical to follow his footsteps. I got a Saturday job at a local camera shop while still at school and joined them full time at the age of 16. In my spare time I visited peoples homes with a portable studio and took portraits of their children.
I began lecturing on photography at camera clubs and evening classes to boost my income. I don’t really think that there was a time when I got a break, my career grew slowly and I would take any photo-related job that came my way including photographing the sets for the movie Superman 2. In the mid seventies I began to paint in oils purely for pleasure and that gave me a better understanding of composition, light and shade and story telling in picture form.

3DAD: You’ve spent a long career in the photographic industry, busy with many aspects of this. What type of photography did you enjoy the most during your career?

TH: Teaching was enjoyable and industrial work paid well but landscapes were my personal favourite and working in the darkroom was always enjoyable.

3DAD: You did some work in the motion picture industry. What was the nature of your work there? Did it help you as a digital artist? If yes, how?

TH: As mentioned above, my work was to record the building of the sets for the Superman film and this was done with traditional film as digital was a long way off in the future.

3DAD: You enjoy viewing the work of other like-minded artists. Who were some of the earliest digital artists that helped propel you forward with your own creations?

TH: There were so many. Rodney Matthews was famous for vinyl record cover designs and his work still inspires me. Les Edwards is just brilliant and Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell are the king and queen of figure art. Three artists that I have come across over the last few years are: Andree Wallin, Craig Mullins and Raphael Lacoste and their work is among the best on the net.

3DAD: What software is used in your workflow?

TH: Photoshop, Poser, 3D Studio Max, Vue and Mudbox all of which I have used since they were first released. I have tried other software but could not get on with it, Z Brush being one of them.

3DAD: Were there any initial barriers as you started out with the learning curve in digital art? How did you overcome these difficulties?

TH: My big mistake was buying cheaper 3D software. It was not only difficult for a beginner to use but the results were disappointing. They say you only get what you pay for and this is true of software. In the end I bit the bullet and spent several thousand pounds on 3D Studio, I was lucky, my wife was very understanding and so was my bank manager! Although there was a learning curve, I was able to produce basic 3D scenes almost straight away which gave me the confidence to learn more and these days I find it second nature. Having said that, nowadays there is some really good software at more affordable prices or even free that wasn’t available to me as a beginner. Different software suites different people and I tried Painter but found Photoshop easier to get to grips with and I’d be lost without it.

3DAD: What first impressed you about Photoshop when you first used it? What do you believe its main strengths are?

TH: From the start I loved the layer system as it allowed me to experiment without working directly on the original image. I found the interface intuitive and logical and the availability of brushes and plug-ins makes it perfect for me.

3DAD: You focus on several genres in your portfolio. Do you have a favourite? Are there themes that you like to keep revisiting in your work?

TH: I began working mainly with horror art and the occasional Sci-Fi or fantasy image but after a year or two I found myself creating more and more Sci-Fi art. Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me what genre I work on just as long as I’m happy and able to work. My health is not good and I have times when I just cannot work so when I do feel better I try and make the most of it. I guess if I had to pick one genre it would be Sci-Fi, the future holds so many possibilities.

3DAD: “A World Below”. This is an interesting concept – what gave you the idea for this? It’s as if the river itself is flowing through a giant ship’s hull.

TH: If anyone has listened to the War of the Worlds CD, they will be familiar to the David Essex character who is deluded and thinks he can create a brave new world below the surface of the earth, that was my inspiration for the piece.

3DAD: “Abandoned Metal” , “Future World” and “Ice Station”. These pieces and others in your portfolio portray machines and structures on a large industrial scale. Does this stem from an influence when you were involved with industrial photography?

TH: Yes, without a doubt as some of the structures I photographed were huge and overpowering. If we look to the future, it seems likely that buildings, cities, machines and vehicles will grow larger and larger and that fascinates me.

3DAD: “Crash Site”, “Dead Metal” and “Escape pod”. These scenes all have good lighting. What are the types of lighting you have applied here? Do you spend a fair fraction of your time in the lighting of a scene?

TH: In my opinion lighting is the single most important element of a good image and I can spent days playing around with different types and combinations of spotlights, pinpoint lights and volumetric lighting. I used a mixture of these lights on the images you mention and some lighting is done in Photoshop. I often add volume light in Photoshop using custom brushes because render times can be very long when volume lights are used.

3DAD: “Gladiator” and “Lights Out”. You have made very good character pieces in your portfolio. Presumably these are done with Poser. Did you start with Poser in it’s infancy?

TH: Yes, my first copy of Poser came free with a magazine and I was hooked. Back then it was very basic and it has improved so much over the years. I do use Poser for some figure work but it takes some post-work before I’m happy with the results. I tend to create my own characters where possible as they look more unique and a little less doll-like.

3DAD: “Hunter-hunted”. I like the added humour with the “Eat Fresh” sign in this image. How did you get the idea for this image?

TH: This was one of those images that I had rattling about in my brain for months before I actually got it down on paper. It isn’t one of my personal favourites and it was a breeze to create using out-of-the-box models. I guess that is why it means less to me, anyone can buy the models and drop them into a scene and hey-presto. I’m far more satisfied when I create the bulk of a scene myself.

3DAD: “Return to Fantasy” and “Threshold of a Dream”. You have several pieces involving children in the images, creating some quite vulnerable scenes. Is this the key emotion you wanted to portray in these images – are there stories for these characters?

TH:I use children in my work to convey vulnerability, somehow it feels like the scene could be the nightmare a child might have. In my case most of my images have an underlying story but I generally like to let the viewer make up his or her mind about what is happening. A certain amount of ambiguity makes the viewer think about the piece more.

3DAD: “Rescue 2”. Gorgeous composition, just love the lighting effects and the way how the saucer is dripping with water. What inspired you to create this piece?

TH: It is always hard to say what exactly what inspires a piece of art. So many things come into play such as what films I’ve been watching or what books have I been reading and even music can influence a picture. I have no idea why I created this image, like so many it just popped into my head. I have so many ideas I always keep a sketch pad near by, I even have one on my bedside table. As soon as I get an idea I scribble it down before I forget it. Sometimes in the light of a new day it gets discarded as rubbish but once in a while I get something that I can work with.

3DAD: “Wasteland”. I picked this piece because of your notes that it was done entirely in Photoshop and the large amount of work that went into this. What are you most proud of about this image?

TH: This was one of my first pieces created entirely in Photoshop and it was a labour of love. There is a lot I like about the image such as the reflection of the character is different to what is actually there. The warmth of the cave against the cool blue of the rest of the scene gives a focal point. The thing that I’m most proud of is that it’s is literally all my own work from scratch.

3DAD: “Expedition”. Gorgeous view and the atmosphere looks very cold and desolate. Tell me a little about this piece.

TH: I was inspired by a picture that I saw on the net but I can’t remember who the artist was. It’s really about man trying to conquer what has never been conquered before, we are never satisfied until we have been there and in this case they are on an expedition across an icy planet.

3DAD: “Cold Reality”. Love the lighting and wall textures in this image. You seem a bit unsatisfied with this work as you have mentioned. What else would you have done to improve things?

TH: If an image is fundamentally wrong or not what you wanted it is usually impossible to save and it is often better to start over again. In this case I didn’t think it through and the end result was disappointing. There was no story and no point to the piece it’s almost abstract and I didn’t feel like spending more time on a lost cause. We all produce pieces that we’d rather forget and that is all part of learning and if we do learn a lesson from our mistakes then the time was not a complete waste.

3DAD: “Night Breed”. Brilliant composition with an effective sense of fear and suspense. Tell me what was your inspiration in giving life to the elements in this image?

TH: I have always loved werewolf stories and this image was inspired by the film ‘Dog Soldiers’. The wolf models and scene were rendered separately in Vue and composted in Photoshop.

3DAD: What aspect of your work would you say is your strongest – is it your experience with Photoshop?

TH: Without Photoshop I’d be lost as every image passes through this software before it is really considered finished.

3DAD: What were some of the “breakthrough” images that started to get you a lot more attention?

TH: Without a doubt the first breakthrough was ‘The Caretaker’. It proved more popular than any other image that I have created. It was also published in ‘Digital Horrror Painting Workshop’ by Martin McKenna along with several other images I had created.

3DAD: Do you have a few recent personal favourites from your portfolio and what makes them so?

TH: ‘Brutus’ is one of my favourites it has a cartoon feel to it and it was painted entirely in Photoshop. ‘Carcass’ is also a personal favourite. Two people discovering a wrecked ship from a past war, what will they find? And finally ‘Top Secret’ and ‘Space Dock’ the first images to feature real people.

3DAD: Finally, what three tips would you have for those who are just starting out in digital art?


1/ View as much work by other artists as you can and with time and a little work you can be just as good. Be inspired not daunted.
2/ Use the Renderosity forums to ask questions, you’ll be suprised by how many members are happy to help novices. Also take time out to view the tutorials and free stuff that Renderosity have available.
3/ Don’t be over ambitious. It’s better to finish a fairly basic piece rather than to fail because you bit off more than you could chew. very new piece you will gain confidence and before long you will be creating great works of


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