100 Days, 100 Renders— Day 100


Perhaps it’s appropriate that my final image would be an ambitious misfire. I’ve occasionally created accidental long-exposure-style images from time to time. I’ve wondered about doing a sci-fi long exposure since I saw one in the 2002 edition of the Ships of the Line calendar (which sadly doesn’t even have a thumbnail online I can link to). My big mistake was having it be a daylight image. The ships orbiting Babylon 5 are so underexposed you can hardly see them even if you know they’re supposed to be there. There were also some technical gambles I took with lens flares and antialiasing that didn’t pay off. I think the concept is worthy of a second attempt based on what I learned, though.

So, one hundred days, with one hundred images to show for it. A lot has happened in the past three-plus months. I went from being unemployed, and wondering whether it was even worth the trouble to continue to try for a career in 3D to having a great job with a great team doing meaningful work that makes the world a better place (and, yes, draws on my experience in 3D and knowledge of visual effects. And I even get to use Lightwave at the office). The support and advice of my internet friends over at Foundation3D led me to explore new-to-me techniques, challenge myself, and experiment with my work in a way I hadn’t in about seven or eight years.

I mentioned back on day zero how I credited the drop-off in my output primarily to a university drawing class that was a prerequisite for my animation major. It was a very holistic course, with not a lot of specific instruction in terms of technique. Very much being thrown into a deep end, which didn’t help considering how, while I always enjoyed drawing as much as any kid, I also always recognized that I was solidly in Ira Glass’s gap between taste and ability, and that I wasn’t moving anywhere with it. In retrospect, I’d blame being cross-dominant, but I’m sure there are plenty of left-handed artists with the same crossed wire who are much better drawers than I am. In any case, I spent two semesters smashing my head against a wall producing pictures that weren’t very good that I wasn’t very interested in. That was around 2008, 2009, and you can certainly see the effect by the number of blog posts after that.

And then, once I started to get my mojo back in my animation courses, I always felt an obligation that everything needed to be a technical exposition, an animation I could put into my reel. Nothing could be small and fun, everything had to be ambitious, something that would get me noticed (or even, God help me, go viral). When I started this project, as much as anything, it was a declaration that I was going to do what I wanted. A reel full of spaceship beauty shots won’t get me anywhere? Well, the hell with that. I like spaceships. And if I was truly going to end up finding a new direction in my life, then I was going to close out my time as a 3D guy enjoying myself and doing what I loved. And, just like every longshot success story and parable about serenity, genuinely letting go of others’ expectations worked. As soon as I stopped trying to be employable, somebody told me I was employable. So, yay. And it’s at a place that doesn’t pretend human talent doesn’t exist, so I can actually put my day-job work on my real, so I’m no longer obligated to let my career anxiety have control over my free time. Double yay.

And I have a hundred images to look at. Triple yay. Some are real dogs, some have promise and will shine after a second pass, and some are so stone-cold gorgeous that when they cycle up on my computer’s desktop, I have to just take a moment to stare and convince myself that, yes, I made that. And I was able to reconnect with the idea that it was okay to do something easy that would only take an afternoon or two. Not everything needs to be a two minute animation or a fully rigged model. Even when I started working again and didn’t have a bunch of time to kill, doing my daily image was always an obligation, but rarely a burden. Not to say I won’t enjoy being able to just flop in bed without thinking about whether I’ve got a render cooking, of course.

The events of the last week have been disturbing. I’ll admit, fun sci-fi fan art doesn’t seem quite as worthy now as it did a couple weeks ago (and I know I’m not the only one feeling that way). I’d initially had some fairly ambitious plans for hobby projects over the coming year. I’m not sure if I’ll end up being able to devote as much of my time and energy to them as I intended to before, but I do expect I will go through with them. While I’m never going to obligate myself to post once a day again, I’ll try to have something weekly.

Finally, I want to thank all of you who have been following along. I do check my traffic stats, so I see that people have been coming through day by day. Like I said, I mostly do this stuff to make myself happy, but it’s nice that other people like it, too.