Featured 3D Artist of February 2008 – Theuns van Onselen

3D Valley Featured 3D Artist of February 2008 – Theuns van Onselen or for you all probably better known as Crusader. Theuns is an artist from Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes short sci-fi stories and was interested in military stuff from a young age. These two subjects also inspire him most for creating his 3D images. The sci-fi images mostly belong to a graphic novel he writes or to one of the many independent game projects he contributes too. Please read the interview below to get to know a bit more about Theuns and his work.

Gallery album of Theuns van Onselen
Website of Theuns van Onselen

Can you tell us a bit about yourself: Who are you and what do you do in your daily life?

Theuns: Well, I’m married to a beautiful wife and we have three beautiful daughters, 2,6,7 and we live in the biggest city in South Africa, Johannesburg. I’ve been a computer programmer for about eight years but have moved more to analysis and design management the last few years. I’m working for a company that does the billing software for cell phone companies in Africa.

Which software packages do you use for your artwork?

Theuns: The only one I’ve been using so far is trueSpace from Caligari in the US. I just upgraded from version 5.2 that I’ve been using for about 7 years now to 6.6. I’ve played around with some free landscaping programs as well like Bryce and Vue but haven’t bought one yet.

You can’t use your software without the hardware, so what do you use?

Theuns: Nothing fancy, recently had to replace my AMD Athlon 2.6, 783MB RAM, ATI RAdeon 9550 256MB which had a hard disk crash with a new Intel Pentium Duel Core 1.6GHz, 1.2GB RAM, Gefore 7200 512MB graphics card. Planning to upgrade the graphics card soon since the 7200 doesn’t even perform as well as the 9550!

Task force arrival MO X2

Do you have traditional art experience?

Theuns: Yes, had art class in high school and did a lot of pencil sketches mainly. Something I haven’t done much over the years and should. Doing it now in 3D does helps either because it is so much easier and more fun to do in 3D 🙂

Can you tell us a bit of the way you work on your art?

Theuns: Most of the time, I get my ideas from the science fiction short stories I write, but also from sci-fi movies and computer games as well as sci-fi novels. I rarely do concept sketches or drawings; I prefer to fiddle around in 3D space with shapes and textures to get an idea of the shape of the model I want. I find it easier to visualize it directly in the 3D program space.

Which areas of creating 3D do you enjoy the most?

Theuns: Modeling definitely! Texturing is important and makes a HUGE difference in the final image of you model but I love the physical design of the model most. I like to model realistically, so if I do a vehicle or robot, I actually look at a leg or wheel or chassis and see if it will work in real life. I even ponder on the inner workings of a mechanical object and sometimes model that too, even if it will not be seen in the final image.

Wood cabin The-Site-4a_v

Do you have a favorite piece of your own artwork and if so why?

Theuns: There are two that I can’t decide between, one is the Wood Cabin, my first scene I modeled when I got trueSpace 4.2, I was so excited and so enjoyed building that wooden cabin and learning to use all the tools and features, I’ll always remember that. The second is The-Site-4a_v 🙂 because just like the first one, I was very excited and motivated to do this one as the first image of my new illustrated short story series idea.

What is your goal as an artist?

Theuns: I’m going to have my own 3D modeling/animation company that does freelance work for the big boys on various projects; gaming houses, advertisements, movie special effects. This way I can do what I LOVE 24/7 and take part in countless interesting projects instead of just one every few years if you work of a specific game or movie company 🙂

Who or what would you describe as having the most influences on your work/ style?

Theuns: My interest in military and science fiction stuff. I did my compulsory military service after school and became an officer in the artillery but even before that I loved military aircraft especially and read a lot of sci-fi, even started writing my own short stories.

Cliff colony Corporate Speed Shuttle arriving in orbit

You are working on a graphic novel. Short sci-fi stories and each chapter illustrated with a CG image. Can you tell us some more about that project?

Theuns: The idea was inspired by an old computer game called Stars! A very simple star exploration and colonization game, empire building style. It gave me lots of ideas for numerous sci-fi stories and even made me want to model some of those ideas, so I thought, why not combine the two and make a sci-fi illustrated short stories webpage. And so, my SISS project was born. I wrote different ideas as new flashes and “journal” entries of the spaceship captains for each year in the game I played, with the aim of building a whole series around each journal entry and new flash for that year. Only finished one story so far and still need to do some illustrations for the last few chapters 🙂

Most of your work is in low poly. Is there a special reason for this?

Theuns: Yes, I’ve been approached through friends and fellow students from college days over the years to start hobby game projects and make our own computer game. So far none of them has been completed although one progressed quite far. But for those projects, I had to do the graphics and model designs and for the simple game engines we used, the models had to be very low detail. So all my designs (dozens and dozens) were low detail, low polygon. After a few years, this became a habit and my standard or style of modeling. In one sense, it is a good thing because I tend to break an idea down into the bare basics, from which I can then add detail as I like but it gave me a solid basis to start from, which is very important. I just have to train myself to add a lot more detail for proper high-poly designs that looks much better 🙂

In general how much time do you spent on modeling on how much on textures, and touch-ups?

I would say about 50/50, because I “fiddle” a lot with my models to get them perfect before starting to texture them. Texturing is a pain; I don’t like it and tend to rely on photo textures, paste and matching until it looks good. Texturing is very important and I need to spend more time on “making” my own with shaders and bump maps to get much better results. Lighting and scene composition also takes a lot of time and is a very important part of the process for me since a good composition and lighting setup can produce stunning scenes even with low-detail models that I normally work with.

Medium Assault Vehicle Hover Mode SISS – Orbital insersion

Do you have any advice for beginning 3D artist?

Yeah, start modeling whatever interests you most as an individual and EXPERIMENT – EXPERIMENT- EXPERIMENT! That is the best way to learn. Watch the pro’s and veterans in the CG forums and boards and learn from their examples. Most importantly is keep going at it as much as possible and never give up! Of course you have to have the secret ingredient to make it work and that is… have fun!!! 😀

Are you currently working on something that you can share with us?

Theuns: Sure. There are two main projects I’m busy with. One is, you guessed it, a game project with some college friends ;P Sci-Fi point-n-click adventure in the tradition of Space Quest, Kings Quest and Police Quest with an AWESOME story line. One of the sections or scenes in the game/adventure is a weird semi-organic robot race that lives against a cliff. I call them the Mecorgian Cliff Colony, mechanical-organisms with mainly wood structures and vine ropes. The other are some sci-fi military vehicles I want to use in my next installment of SISS, the M.A.V. multipurpose all-terrain vehicle that can ride on wheels, walk on robotic legs and hover on turbo-fans 🙂

Besides 3Dvalley.com, which other graphic sites do you visit regularly?

Theuns: Caligari’s trueSpace community of course as well as CGNetworks, and 3Dgladiators with a few others here and there as well.

Rescue Forece Arrives looking for CSSx42

Cliff colony – lift platform

Is their something you can’t work without?

Theuns: My keyboard shortcuts and my ball… kinda like a gymnastics aerobics ball 75cm high, I use it instead of a chair to strengthen my back muscles, partly because of an old high-school rugby injury and partly because of all the sitting I do most of the day. Plus its fun to bounce on every now and then for the heck of it 😛

What do you do when you are not working or creating something?

Like I mentioned already, I like writing, mostly sci-fi but I’ve also written fantasy, espionage and WW2 stuff. Computer games a lot as well, strategy and FPS. Movies, all kinds. And mountain biking, I’m lucky enough to ride 17km to work in the morning and 17km back in the afternoon with very little of it on the road, mostly dirt tracks on the side of the road 🙂

Middle ages multiple arrow launcher

Mav on terrain

Christa: Thanks for your time and the interview Theuns!

Gallery album of Theuns van Onselen
Website of Theuns van Onselen

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