Malcolm Thain of Australia

Tell me a little bit about your studio and your art?

Old Tire - Created by Malcolm ThainOld TireCurrently my studio is located in Tasmania, Australia , where I have lived and worked as an artist for the past 8 years.

I started experimenting with computer graphics on an Apple Lisa using 'MacPaint' and 'MacDraw' and kept doing more sophisticated work as the power of Macs and software developed over the years. For most of this period I was primarily a painter and sculptor.

About 6 years ago , the computer became my dominant medium, firstly in the production of Photoshop limited edition prints, and then 3D CG 'sculpture' using Electric Image Universe...particularly EI Modeler's Ubermesh. Prior to this commitment I had made some preliminary attempts with InfiniD and Hash Animation master.

I have always as an artist, been heavily involved with the human figure , I started out in the tradition of western european Fine Art and continued in that vein ever since. It was therefore natural that I would want to bring that knowledge and experience... and appreciation into the new technology.

Modeling a fully developed human figure sculpture on a desktop computer has become more achievable to more artists with the arrival of the Apple G5, which I intend to upgrade to soon.

I have been making many studies of the figure and undertaking sophisticated character commissions for animation...using the EIU toolset on a dual 800 G4 for some time nonetheless.

For more refined and detailed work I have confined myself to head modeling... and this follows naturally from my ongoing self portrait studies. To successfully model a 3DCG self portrait... has proved to be a challenging exercise.

Creating an accurate likeness in the 3DCG medium is no easy task for me... at this level of subtlety (of form and surface) I found that, to get the required precision, it is really necessary to read the mesh... (rather than relying on the familiar smooth shading), this is a more empirical way to perceive the subtle forms of the model.

How and why did you start your career as a 3d artist?

Face - Created by Malcom ThainFaceI have long held the view that Fine Art painting and sculpture would recede into the background of our modern multimedia culture, the scholarship, craftsmanship and connoisseurship in the traditional modes of fine-art were waning. It seems to me that, for art to be socially/culturally relevant and be a positive force, it needs to be presented in a more appropriate form for our times, in the appropriate arena.

Film and contemporary music, have gained the ascendancy for popular critical appreciation over other art forms, being more readily accessible to, and shared by, so many more people.

Art as 3DCG may well achieve similar popular interest via television and the internet, encapsulated in animations, computer games etc.

So I decided, to take the plunge into the new technology, and hopefully bring with me the essence of the traditional value and discipline I have learned. Digital technology also offers the painter and sculptor the opportunity to liberate himself from static form and image... and silence... we can now aspire to generate animated art incorporating sound etc. this is too much to let pass me by.

Why did you choose this particular piece for your project?

The self portrait piece is an opportunity to employ an ancient yardstick for art, as a means to demonstrate the capability of software for character modeling... the current project is as far as I have pushed the genre in Ubermesh to date. There are a few problems to solve particularly with regard to surface rendition and blending of the parts of a particular model. With traditional media the issue of integrity of the material and how to work with it, is relatively straightforward. Not so with 3DCG ... the scope offered is almost limitless potentially, so an individual artist has quite a task divining how to exploit the medium to best serve his ideas, artistic intention often needs to be revised! .

Why do you use Universe for your projects?

Magic Lantern Scene - Created by Malcolm ThainMagic Lantern SceneEI Modeler's Ubermesh presents a fast, straightforward user interface ... it is not as fully featured as some 'hi-end, techy' modeling packages, but the implementation of the SDS tools in the Ubermesh toolset has been, as far as I am concerned, without peer. The software is intuitive, interactive and does not get in the artist's way.

Universe also boasts the fastest and one of the nicest looking renderers out there...which is great for the artist who wants to render his model as he works, in order to get a proper progress assessment with a variety of lighting arrangements and different shaders, etc. I am frequently modeling as I render in the 'background' , MacOSX makes this a breeze of course.

Any projects for the future?

Ultimately I want to make animated fine-art sculpture incorporating insights I can bring from my traditional training and experience , particularly with regard to the human figure, perhaps even including sound ... how this will evolve remains to be seen. My progress in this direction depends on development of appropriate software tools and hardware performance, as much as my own ability.

Anything else you would like to add?

Well speaking for myself: The development of 3DCG has been a dramatic process, and has acquired a fascinating history already...I look forward to the day when it is as popular and accessible to the wider community as is music and movies.

There is an expanding community of 3DCG artists, programers and followers which will I am sure bring this relatively new form of Art onto the screens of many ... sooner rather than later!

When this is achieved then the visual artist stands a good chance of becoming a more relevant and significant contributor in our culture, as standards evolve and knowledge of the processes is acquired by an appreciative audience. Time will tell, but I anticipate that excellence will be accomplished in this evolving technology to rival the work in any medium.

Malcolm Thain

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