3DValley Featured 3D Artist of June 2008 – Paco Morales. Paco is an artist from Mexico and although he studied architecture in a computer free class room, he is now working as a freelance architectural and still life illustrator/ animator. He is specialized in photo realistic product visualizations. Please see below to read our interview with Paco and to get to know him and his work a bit better.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit about yourself: Who are you and what do you do in your daily life?
Paco: I am an architect and I work as a 3D artist and illustrator, my clients are mostly from south California. I work mostly with 3dsmax and V-Ray, and my leisure time with a little hobby photography, and some scale model crafting and building.
Christa: Which software packages do you use for your artwork?
Paco: I like to use a combination of 3dsmax, AutoCAD, and V-Ray, probably because I have a background as an architect, but also because most studios asks for files for that software as part of the job.
Christa: Do you have traditional art experience?
Paco: Yes I do. I took several courses while in the university (drawing, sculpting, and so on). Furthermore, my father is a traditional artist, his specialty is oil painting.
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Christa: Where did you go to school and how did they prepare you for your career?
Paco: I went to the UDLA-P (University of the Americas, Puebla) in Puebla, Mexico. I majored in architecture, mostly computer-free for most of my time there. It was almost until the end, when computers became introduced as an alternative to drawing by hand, and then, it was a very different transition, as most teachers very totally against the computers. It was an uphill battle then, but fortunately I’ve been told that today computers are an integral part in the learning process.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit of the way you work on your art?
Paco: I like Photorealism so I use these steps to model any stuff.
1. Obtain the best reference material you can get.
2. Do lots and lots of sketches on the subject. Then do 2d drawings in real scale to use as view port templates. If our measurings are not real, our subject will also do not look real. Also draw 2d guides to import as a starting point to model in 3dsmax.
3. Model. Either with nurbs or Polymesh. Just remember this will get textured!
4. Examine the material’s objects, all its properties. Be exhaustive.
5. Start doing the texturing. If possible, scan your own textures, and edit them in a graphic program. If not, use good commercial grade textures, no cheapskate stuff. What cannot be defined easily as a texture? (like reflection, refraction, and subsurface scattering), do lots of testing and tweaking.
6. Ask, demand, feedback! Not just in the forums. Ask your niece, your Grandfather, people that have nothing to do with computer graphics, they can give an unbiased opinion. They also generally spot details that we avoid, or that just skipped us by. Also look for ways how other People have done what you are doing. Use that as reference, don’t be a Copycat! Learn the technique; don’t just clone other people’s hard work.
7. Do the light rigging. Test. Tweak. Test. Tweak. Test. Tweak. Until it is perfect, or until you have only 30 minutes before you have to render or miss the deadline!
Christa: How much time do you spent on modeling on how much on touch-up in Photoshop?
Paco: I spend several hours modeling my scenes, also doing the lighting and texturing, I really don’t like to use Photoshop for retouching. I like to resolve the entire process in Max, I use Photoshop only for work on the textures, not for retouching the final product (render). I try to anticipate and avoid doing post work as much as possible.
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Christa: How long are your working in the industry and what was your first break?
Paco: I have REALLY been in the business for three years. My first real job (as in decently paid) involved lighting and texturing a new line of cellular phones. As of now, I’m doing lots of texturing and lighting for other electronics products.
Christa: Which areas of your work do you enjoy the most?
Paco: I like more lighting and texturing, maybe it is because lighting and texturing can make or break a scene and a simple change in hue or light intensity can produce a dramatic difference in the render.
Christa: Do you have a favorite piece of your own artwork and if so why?
Paco: One of my favorites is Raindrops. Because it shows that sometimes very simple things (like a branch and some raindrops) can make a singular image.
Christa: Who or what would you describe as having the most influences on your work/ style?
Paco: Well, I always try to mimic the way sunlight works in nature. I guess you could call the sun a great influence.
Christa: What would you say is the most important aspect when creating a realistic 3D scene?
Paco: I believe that your 3D scene will only be as good as your references. Your research, the time you dedicate to it, the time spent on details. Sometimes we want to skip details to finish deadlines, but then we Sacrifice quality and detail.
The more reference drawings, sketches, photos we have, the better we can analyze the subject. If we can get hold of a physical sample, even better, but that is not always possible.
So what do we have to analyze, to observe? EVERYTHING!!! How is its materials? How does it behave if they are under intense light, under artificial light? How does the light refract in it? If it is transparent, how would the inside behave in light? How is it’s surface?
In my case, the modeling part is the easiest, and the fastest part. I concentrate myself a lot more in the texture and lighting. Once modeled, I start doing texturing tests. 5 Quicky test render. Tweak. Quicky render. Tweak. Until I get a result I like. And then I tweak some more.
It is very important to be aware of the surprising ways that light behaves in reality. Take for instance, iridescence. It almost does not exist in reality. Only on the shells of some bugs, soap bubbles, the shine of real pearls. But you have lots of renders out there with lots or iridescence. This only makes them seem unreal. So if you want your render to be as real as it can get, pay lots attention to light. Or your work will just be one in the bunch.
Sadly, most render engines do tricks to simulate light. Especially because most people do not dwell too much on detail. So developing workarounds on the renderer’s shortcomings is a sad necessity. This is also why it is imperative you have your software manuals at arms length at all times. They are truly gems of information, so read them. They are your best friends.
Setting up a light rig is also very important. I usually start my Illumination with an Image Based Lighting solution, with some very minor lights that highlight important areas. So do yourself a favor, scourge the internet for HDR files, or buy yourself some. You will not regret it.
Christa: How do you keep ‘fresh’ within your industry?
Paco: Once I read somewhere that the sophistication of a design is directly related to the sophistication of the mental process going on in the designer’s head. So to keep fresh, I think you have to keep moving. Reading, testing, doing things totally unrelated to CG but being interesting in themselves can be a good source of fresh ideas. And of course, keeping your tools up to date (which sadly, can be quite expensive, sigh).
Christa: Do you have tips for beginning 3D artists?
Paco: Be patient. Don’t expect just to run ANY 3d program, click some buttons, and obtain a nice render. Learning takes time. Participate in the forums. Giving and receiving feedback can be a very valuable learning tool. Search around the internet for free and non-free learning material. But above all, be patient, be consistent, and be humble.
Christa: Can you tell us where you are currently working on?
Paco: I’m working as a freelance architectural and still life illustrator and animator. I am also doing some lighting and texturing for some electronic product’s “beauty shots”.
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Christa: If you where not working in 3D, what do you think you would be doing today?
Paco: I would probably be flipping burgers! Just kidding, I would probably be doing architectural scale models. I just do them as a hobby now, but in times of needs, I could still do them, I think.
Christa: Besides 3Dvalley.com, which other graphic sites do you visit regularly?
Christa: Is their something you can’t work without?
Paco: Yes, I need to see the sky through my window, how the day is passing, sometimes for me it’s very relaxing. I also like to listen to music.
Christa: What do you do when you are not working or creating something?
Paco: I like to walk, it helps me clear my mind (and keep my belly at bay!). This way I get to know new places, new people, and new sights. It is very soothing.
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Christa: Thanks for your time and the interview Paco!