How does your computer science background and knowledge
play a role in creating wallpapers, versus pure artistic talent? I
don’t do a whole lot of coding anymore, outside of the work I do on
my site. I would say the CS background has helped most in being able
to find my way easily around just about any piece of software. The
math background comes in very handy when creating animations,
creating and using procedural shaders, and adjusting settings so that
my renders use the CPU and RAM most efficiently.
What does a typical work day for you consist of? My first order of
business is dealing with any customer service emails that came in
while I was asleep. If I am starting or in the middle of a project, which
is about 75% of the time, I will work on it until around lunch time. I usually don’t do any work between noon and three, as my brain just doesn’t function that well after lunch. I’ll work on my project again until
around dinner time (5:30) and then sometimes do an hour or so of work
after the kids are in bed. I answer emails throughout the day, however.
What software do you use to create your digital art, and has it
changed since you first started? My main tools these days are Vue
d’Esprit and Lightwave. I started using Bryce and then moved to Vue
because Vue allowed you to have vegetation in your scenes which is
very important. I started using Lightwave because I wanted to model
my own objects such vehicles, buildings, plants, etc.. I used a program called World Builder for a while, but stopped because it was
very buggy and it looked like the developers had abandoned it.
How do you keep up with the latest in computer graphics and dig-
ital art? What magazines or Web sites do you read? I enjoy read-
ing 3D World at the magazine stand, but don’t like spending nearly $20
per issue. I usually check out CGTalk.com and Flay.com daily.
What part of your computer science education has been the most
useful to you? Learning to code has allowed me to build my own
e-commerce Web site and have it be something that I can run by
myself with a few utility scripts.
While studying for my BS at Iowa we were required to take two
semesters of an outside science course “for science majors.” These
courses were far more rigorous than what was offered to the BA students. I could have chosen chemistry, biology, physics or a number
of others but I chose astronomy. My knowledge of astronomy has
lead to some space images which have earned praise from professional astrophysicists. I’m quite proud of that.
Overall I think the biggest benefit I received from my CS education is the balancing of my right and left brain. I’m very glad that I
studied both the humanities and science.
What was the most important or useful thing you learned outside
the classroom? Since I didn’t learn anything about creating art in
school I would have to say that my art skills are the most useful thing.
There wasn’t a lot of CG training going on in Iowa back in the mid-90’s
so I had to learn it all myself. I couldn’t turn to the web either because
there just weren’t that many computer graphics sites when I was starting out. It was only 10 or 15 years ago but it seems like a different age!
What do you see as the future of digital art? What developments
or trends may be on the horizon? It’s advancing so fast that sometimes it seems like as soon as you predict something it comes to pass.
In the field of computer wallpapers (my specialty) I think that animations may one day take the place of static images.
I am also interested in motion tracking technology, similar to that
used in the Wii, which may make true 3-D environments possible “inside
your monitor.” Your monitor would be like a window into another world.
What advice do you have for computer science majors who are
interested in computer graphics and specifically in creating digital art? That’s another tough one. It’s been over ten years since I was
in the University and a great deal has changed since then. The Web
was in its infancy and CG was not something taught to CS students.
I’m sure these days more CS programs embrace these fields and I
would hope that CS majors would seek out these classes if available.
Today’s CS major may have it easier than I did starting out. There’s
so many digital art programs out there today and the field has really
matured. I pretty much had to teach myself everything but today’s student has a wealth of options for learning CG. You may even be able to
minor in CG while majoring in CS, or the other way around.
Computer graphics is a discipline where the right and left brain come
together. I’ve been fortunate to be successful with CG and I owe a great
deal of that success to my time spent as a computer science student.