Last fall I attended the Blender Conference 2017, one of the most invigorating experiences of my life.
Blender is an open source extremely versatile 3D creation and animation program with a great and quickly growing international community of developers and users.
Imagine what happens when a bunch of those people from around the world meet up to attend presentations and lectures, exchange ideas, experience and knowledge. In the middle of autumn the air was buzzing with energy, light, joy and creativity.
This overwhelming experience helped me to exchange ideas, be encouraged by witnessing the progress of projects of fellow attendees, improve the projects I am currently working on and keep on track.
I was a bit embarrassed that I still couldn't show any of my animation and 3D projects. Mostly it is still in its beginning stages. Another embarrassing thing was that the website that I built in 2004 wasn't exactly up to scratch.
Knowing how to prioritise is always a struggle with so many projects to work on and my own website (except for just adding some content and small adjustments) always came last on my list. Until now!
Much encouraged by some of my fellow Blender users, I modernised it at last. Without changing the overall look and feel, my website has become larger and responsive. One can swipe through my images and I added space for my 3D and animation projects (mostly shown as work in progress).
In the coming years I will mainly focus on 2D and 3D animation and building 3D experiences for the web.
During the past 2 years alongside my other ventures I have started work on a fully illustrated children's book. Progress on my book can be followed by Patrons on my Patreon Page which will be launched in the beginning of spring.
In 2017 I decided to completely dedicate my time to further developing my own creations and stopped taking on commissions. I had to concentrate on my illustrated children's book (for print and as an immersive interactive 3D web application) and bringing my 2D and 3D characters to life in animations. For 2D animation I used the excellent program Moho Pro but 3D animation was a different thing....
3D animation is complex and therefore going back and forth between different programs to get the job done is part of the trade. One's computer skills become very flexible through the process but it's not an ideal situation. I tried out 3D animation programs like Lightwave, Poser Pro, Maya, Blender, Houdini. All are great programs and each has its pros and cons.
In spring 2017 I (re-)embraced Blender. Blender – founded by Ton Roosendaal – is a free and open source program that has made tremendous leaps in its development. It enjoys an enthusiastic and growing community of technically highly skilled, highly creative, helpful contributors and users.
Learning and using Blender has become a joy. By the end of this year I will be able to publish some work in progress.
If you are an aspiring 3D artist and animator, I would highly recommend climbing Blender's steep learning curve. A steep learning curve is part of animation anyway. Be persistent and the rewards will be enormous.
A few years ago after two small accidents and some unfortunate circumstances I found myself not being able to walk, work and function without considerable pain. Also drawing became almost impossible due to the injury.
Luckily with the right therapy given by a great team of fantastic people I slowly recovered. Unfortunately keeping my part-time job turned out to be too demanding and hampered my full recovery. In 2015 after a period of trying and trying I decided to give up this job and fully devote my energy to recovery and completely returning to my creative projects. That's how I could turn something unfortunate into something fortunate.
During the last few years I did manage to work on a number of mostly technical commissions: Building a few Responsive Websites with animations, sound and social-media feeds for advertisement and design studio SameSame and an iPhone app "Cardcha", designed by multi-talented composer-designer Eelco Claassen of theming company ThemeSake, for which I wrote all code. Another great project came quite unexpectedly from a new client: Building and designing an educational subscription website. (It will be launched some time in 2018 when all courses are complete, so no link yet.)
Those projects were really gratifying but now that I am able to draw again I will focus more on 2D and 3D character design, rigging and animation. Working with 2D animation programs and 3D programs like Moho Pro, zBrush and Blender is a time consuming but fantastic experience.
It combines all of my interests and skills: drawing, painting, sculpting and technical logic so it's a natural leap to take into the future.
My computer has won! After my last exhibition at Kunsthuis Theo Hubens in the lovely city of Maastricht I mostly spent long periods at my computer writing code, developing interactive animations and working on websites for clients.
After the crisis in 2008 I had to take on a part time job because some of my clients ran into bankruptcy and being a full time freelancer wasn't a realistic endeavour anymore.
I did enjoy the job and I could combine it well with my freelance work. Besides that it gave me a financial basis to work on my own projects and spend more time venturing into 2D and 3D animation, a desire I had for a long time.
Characters for my animations were living in my head and on many sketches I made over the years. Now, with new technical developments and skills I could bring them to life.
It also meant that I had to make a choice in favour of the computer. After all there are only a limited number of hours in a day....
Does it mean no more painting?
No, certainly not! 2D and 3D animation projects require a lot of digital painting and drawing. It only means my oil-paints and brushes will stay untouched for a long while.
as an artist is a real struggle and because I'm a graphic designer as well as a painter my work never stops.
Honestly I don't want it to stop, it's my life.
Because I work a lot on commissioned projects I also want my work to be perfect and ready in time. So I'm most happy when I can quietly work away on my drawing, designing, illustration or painting at hand. Therefore, solitude is a vital ingredient in my life and it takes some effort to protect it.
Sometimes I have to get away to find solitude. To live a different life in different inspiring surroundings.
I'm not a great traveler and when I travel it's to places were there is some quietude. In 2005 by chance I discovered a very special area in Spain. The area was called "Barrancas de Gebbas", in the Province of Murcia. A strange eroded desert-like landscape in complete stillness, unlike anything I ever imagined. That gave rise to a desire to do something with landscapes.
During the winter of 2007 I lived for two months in Spain in the Province of Cadiz which is not yet overrun by tourists. Arcos de la Frontera was my place of choice. Perched on a large protruding rock it still breathes a medieval and Moorish atmosphere. Lovely and inspiring. Of course I traveled through the surrounding hills and saw many beautiful, strange and ugly sites.
Given time new works will develop from these special experiences.
Besides working a lot for a client on diverse digital projects, during the last period I dived into Flash animation and perfecting my general web-building skills.
Spending most of my time at my computer I doubted whether I shouldn't be working more at my easel or drawing table. So many drawings and paintings are waiting to be finished, so many new ideas to explore and develop, both on paper and canvas and the computer. What to do when.....
What should I do? Work at my easel and drawing table or behind my computer? Probably a question many artists ask themselves nowadays.
A commission to paint the portrait of professor Anna Sågvall Hein, Dean of the Faculty of Languages at Uppsala University in Sweden drew me back to my easel. Painting Anna and the warm welcome I received in Uppsala were a wonderful experience.
I thought my easel had won, especially after an inspiring stay in "Barrancas de Gebbas" in Spain. But it had not. Freelance computer work quickly took over. A good thing, a bad thing?
I don't know!