“I always prefer the simplest of solutions and having the built-in tools -- without fiddling around with simulations, scripts or plug-ins -- inside 3ds Max, saves me time and I have more control over the whole of my projects.”
-- Till Nowak, media artist and 3D animator, frameboX
Our first encounter was flying through an industrial city and coming across an unknown package with an unknown purpose. The second is something you’ll find in a grocery aisle. The former was an animated short film called “Delivery” which has been internationally recognized across various film festivals, and the later, a visual tribute to two world-renown artists H.R. Giger and Giuseppe Arcimboldo. This visual tribute was entitled “Salad”, which went on to be displayed at the 2007 Siggraph Art Gallery in San Diego.
And now, this art maker from Mainz, Germany unveils his two latest works – one which features bumblebees and the other, a tastefully done image of replacing a blown tire. One must consider that it’s not an every day occurrence where bumblebees make you laugh, or transforming the mundane task of replacing a blown tire can look so cool.
Funny Little Furballs
The image titled “Bumblebees” began some time ago as a playful thought. It shows three chubby bumblebees hovering between a mirror and some bathroom tiles; one of the bees had just been freshly shaven and the other two are caught in a fit of laughter. This image was an entry for the “Strange Behaviour” contest held back in 2007. “I have always loved bumblebees, because they are funny little furballs, tumbling around in the air as if they had been created for a funny cartoon. And their flight patterns are so unstable that it seems as though Nature shows her humour through them,” says Till. “I don’t know if it’s true, but someone once told me that scientists had calculated that the average bumblebee wouldn’t be able to fly under the known physical laws. Anyway, I got this idea of a shaved bumblebee a while ago and this contest just gave me the motivation to finish it. The topic “strange behaviour” exactly matched and one of the most important rules of this contest was sharing your process of creating the image, which also fit perfectly since I always do detailed making-of’s with all my work.”
And that’s what Till consistently does with his CG work; a break-down showing his methodical workflow and “Bumblebees” was no exception. “First I modelled the bumblebee using a 3rd party application,” explains Till. “Then I further modified and created from it three different bumblebees which I brought into 3ds Max. The bathroom scene around the bumblebees was not complex, it consists of only a few tiles and a flat back plate which is reflected in the mirror. For the bathroom there was almost nothing to model, it was more a question of material, lighting and reflections which I tweaked very carefully. The bumblebees’ materials, teeth and eyes were also added in 3ds Max. After rendering, I spent a lot of time in Photoshop adding details and carefully tweaking colour and lighting.”
3ds Max Straight Up
Having talked with Till about his 3D creation process, he’s proud to profess his love for 3ds Max just as it is. Nearly all of his projects are done using off-the-shelf built-in tools – 3ds Max, straight.
“The fur was done with the built-in fur tool of 3ds Max,” Till reveals. “By the way, I recently used the 3ds Max Hair & Fur tool in another project for something very visually different, have a look at these tentacles.”
“The shaved hair on the bathroom tiles were individual objects, thin cylinders which I arranged into groups and duplicated several times. I always prefer the simplest of solutions and having the built-in tools -- without fiddling around with simulations, scripts or plug-ins -- inside 3ds Max, saves me time and I have more control over the whole of my projects. Here you can see how simple the setup of the scene is.”
With Dressing On Top
The door that swung wide open for Till Nowak happened with the release of his infamous image “Salad”, done as a tribute to Academy Award-winning Swiss painter, sculptor and set designer H.R. Giger and Italian Mannerist painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Not too long afterwards, Till was contacted by H.R. Giger’s agent Leslie Barany from New York, whom he would both later on meet. He has since directly worked with Giger, and can’t be more thrilled and excited to be able to collaborate with someone he has for many years been fascinated with. Till says, “He is a lovely person and I meet him from time to time. I visualize some of his ideas for him, which is more like experimental, unofficial work on a personal level.”
Earlier, he was invited to work together with Barany to create a piece for his latest project “Carnivora – The Dark Art of Automobiles”, a compilation of car-related art done by about 100 artists. It will be released as a book and the originals will be shown in an exhibition, opening in Detroit this weekend. The piece that Till created illustrates a nice co-existence of 'old-world' with its dirty griminess of a metropolis, combined with the future of hovercrafts and spacey vehicles. “Blowout at Exit 16A” is a collage of styles adopted from some of Till’s earlier projects, but as with the majority of his visual pieces, they also carry a social statement. “I started with 3D models that I took from my past projects and then I replaced it with parts from photos and overpainted it so that it became something like a matte painting. The original 3D model of the background city was adapted from my short film “Delivery”. I was showing Leslie a draft of the image and he came up with the idea of someone changing the tire. For me, it is a symbol that shows there can also be weakness in our high-tech future. The guy is not a 3D model, he was composed into the image from a real photo. It is Eli Livingston, a well-known sculptor, who was photographed by Leslie when they really had to change a tire some months ago. That’s also the origin of the title, because it happened at an existing interstate exit 16A in New Jersey. The image is something like an advanced version of “Delivery”-scenery. It’s the future, but it’s still based on our world of today and some old buildings still exist. The palm trees and the warm sunlight could also be a sign for a climatic change that happened.”
“Actually this bright glow on the right side was taken from a photograph which I shot at last years’ Autodesk party on the aircraft carrier “Midway” in San Diego.”
One of the stars of the image is a car design Till came up with as part of a continuation of the visual style found in “Delivery”. It's a cool combination of retro 1940s automobiles which has a turbine-type jet propulsion and the cleanliness of what futuristic vehicles may look like. It again duplicates the two sides of 'old world' and the future within the image. “Carnivora was the perfect opportunity to use this model,” Till notes. “And yes, I like these visible relations to existing cultural and technological roots. I just don’t like futuristic visions where everything looks like (Luigi) Colani designed it -- whose work I admire, by the way. I don’t want to hide the function behind the form and I like extreme and exaggerated proportions, which is expressed here through the heaviness of the front part.”
Below is a video that reveals the multitude of layers showing the progression of the “Blowout at Exit 16A” final image.
“Carnivora – The Dark Art of Automobiles” exhibition opens on Saturday, January 12th, 7pm in the ©POP-Gallery, 4616 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, followed by a book signing with a number of artists on Sunday. There will be a limited number of books available for the lucky visitors of the gallery this weekend already, but the release in bookstores will follow in spring and the exhibition will travel to Los Angeles by that time and then to New York in the summer.
And you don’t necessarily have to be a fan of that signature style to be able to appreciate the work itself, as Till admits, “It was very motivating and inspiring for me to be in contact with Leslie, Giger and the people around them -- even if I am absolutely not a dark person, don’t listen to heavy metal and am not addicted to skulls in any way. It’s amazing to learn from a person whose work has fascinated me since I was a child.”
Additional information regarding “Carnivora – The Dark Art of Automobiles” can be found here:
Invitation for the exhibition opening: http://www.myspace.com/cpopgallery
Latest updates on the book: www.baranybooks.com