Here are some quick studies I made using Blender’s native ocean and mountain creating properties. The program did 95% of the work here. I did the rest. Once I figured out how to do it, it took just minutes to come up with new versions.

Quick experiments with ocean and mountain generating techniques.

I got put off of 3D for a while after Beeple netted $69,000,000 for a JPEG of his first 5,000 daily art pieces. If you don’t know him, his modus operandi is to assemble digital models he buys off the internet into a scene using Cinema 4D. It takes him a couple hours max, most days, to do this assembly work. The models he downloads take the original creators tens of hours, or days, or weeks to create. I watched one of his live streams of his process, and in the course of the video he spent over $200 on models to incorporate. That’s for one day’s work, when he does one daily. The reason people think he’s the greatest digital artist who ever lived is they believe he sculpted those models himself, and otherwise possesses extraordinary, virtuoso, technical abilities. Anything but. In his case, all the hard artistic craft is done by the computer, or by other people. His talent is assembling the “assets” he downloads into highly sophomoric scenes, though there is definitely something to be said for doing that.

I love reflections on waves, and it’s a lot of fun to create them in Blender.

So, Beeple kinda’ killed 3D digital art. He made it something you are better at the more money you spend on other people’s professional sculpts, and with $69 million at his disposal, nobody can afford to compete at buying other people’s art and taking all the credit for it. Because of his success, there are hordes of followers annihilating the integrity of 3D modeling art. They download a rusty car that took someone a dozen or more hours to create (not to mention hundreds or thousands of hours of training), slap it in a landscape, and then claim that they did it all themselves. When people are awestruck that they got so amazingly good in just a few months, or weeks of learning Blender, or other similar software, they just lap it up, when what is really impressing people is someone else’s hard work.

If I seem a little hard on Beeple, consider he’s got more than $69,000,000 in sales in the last year. He can afford to take a little criticism. And his imitators are lookin to cash in big quick, so, they have it coming to them as well. And there’s a very simple solution, which I’ll get to later in this post.

You can move the sun around all you want to get the highlights and shadows you want.

So, making 3D art is like entering a soap box derby, where you are making your own car yourself in your garage out of wood, a repurposed lawn mower engine, a garden chair, and whatever you can, and someone else is just buying a Porsche, putting their logo on it, and pulling up to the starting line.

In these quick mountain and water studies, the computer is doing all the hard rendering. It’s amazing that it can do this. You can create mountains and waves on the fly, and then go and explore them with your camera. I’d have to do a lot more with it before I would consider it “art” and by me. One had to take it quite a lot further, because if not, it will be virtually indistinguishable from other artists applying the same techniques. But the promise of just this very narrow range of what the software can do is a revelation to art. With some more intensive tweaking, and adding small, individual elements, one could make a series something akin to Monet’s waterlilies or haystacks.

Uh, just for an example, here’s something I did from scratch that was rather intensive:

Nobody can just download that. I’ve animated it and put it in a couple environments, but I’m still yet to really pose it in landscapes.

There are, as I see it, three main components to creating 3D scenes in Blender. One is hard-surface modeling (as above), another is organic modelling, as below.

My practice digital sculpt of an Orc.

And the third is to create environments, which the mountain-scapes do on a rudimentary level. There’s volumetrics and other goodies. Of course animation can play a role. There’s rigging figures so one can pose them. And I forgot to mention texture-painting. It can be very involved, especially if you do it all yourself. But if you do, it’s a vast and all-encompassing terrain of knowledge about visual reality. So the real skill may be how one integrates it all. I didn’t get that far yet. I was about two-thirds the way there when I veered off into doing videos, and an ambitious digital painting project. Now I’m thinking it’s time to finish the groundwork so I can make some wholescale original pieces.

The reason I’m getting back into 3D is that I love it. It’s just fascinating, and you work on every aspect of the phenomenon of imagery. For one, since you are sculpting, or working with environments, you are always working at multiple angles, navigating in 3D space. What Photoshop can do is impressive, but Blender is a whole other level or two or three up. And the program itself is about 10X as difficult.

You are basically working not with an image, or even sculpture, but with virtual reality itself. The hope for artists that make their own work, when competing against download-and-assemble jockeys, is that you can make your own designs. The jockeys are restricted to what other people created as their basic building blocks. And if one is genuinely creative, one can come up with original pieces that stand out from the throng of Beeple copy-cats (and even Beeple is highly derivative of the much more sophisticated digital paintings of Simon Stalenhag]. This is not to say Beeple doesn’t do some sick shit with the material he downloads, but for artists who know how to draw, paint, and sculpt, it’s unconscionable to take credit for assets we couldn’t create ourselves, and fully knowing that the skill it took to make them is what is really impressing people.

The solution to that is very simple. Credit the people whose work you are using. So, for example, under a Beeple image, there would be a list of the people whose work he downloaded, so they get some credit, and possibly some more work. It might be a fairly long list at times, but for every second it takes the digital artist to type up those names or sources, it saves at least an hour of work. Then everyone would know what Beeple did, and what was downloaded, in which case, I’d have no problem with his creations. But, I’ve suggested this practice to some of his myriad followers, and they’ll have none of it, because they know that once people see how much of their creation they didn’t do themselves, people will stop praising their astounding genius, and start learning to appreciate the awesome power of the programs themselves.

I would support using other people’s “assets” in a subordinate way, such as using some else’s silverware in a scene where it is just a part of the backdrop. Provide credits, and all is good. I might do that myself to set an example and precedent of artistic integrity.

I noticed that Andrew Price, a.k.a. Blender Guru, in his “Cabin in the Woods” tutorial video was very candid about all of the resources he used. While that was the nature of the tutorial, I think he would do it anyways if a significant part of his creation was dependent on someone else’s work.

In any case, Blender, and other 3D software packages, are far too phenomenal of artistic tools to askew just because some artists cheat a little, or a lot, or a whole lot, by brazenly using other people’s work without giving any credit.


3 replies on “Getting back into Blender

    1. I think that may be true. It’s so nice when we find them. Maybe there’s something where it’s considered naïve and stupid to be a decent and honest person. When I lived in China someone explained to me why everyone tried to rip everyone else off. And it was because if you didn’t, well, then you had no way of compensating for being overcharged and cheated by everyone else. You were considered stupid if you were honest. I realized that everything was a game of Chess that was played behind the scenes, and everyone was trying to outsmart everyone else and get an upper hand.

      However, in my mind, cheating is for losers. Cutting off everyone else’s head in order to be the tallest person in the room is not self realization. Corruption may be savvy, and is practiced religiously by some of the most powerful people in the world, but it’s always compensation for an inner lacking, and is a weakness of character. On a low level it’s clever, but ultimately it’s horrendously stupid.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Such an important message here! 👏👏❤️👏👏

    First, tho, thank you for posting this. I learned a lot, not only about Mr. Winkelman but also about Blender. I was naïve to think I could select a couple of Blender’s tools & use those for what I wanted, without learning the rest of it.

    This: “…and you work on every aspect of the phenomenon of imagery.”

    BOOM! Got it. I won’t stop trying with Blender, but will be more patient & methodical. Much – so much – to learn.

    Then there’s Beeple. I heard nothing about him until a couple of years ago, and then only a reference to his earnings. Inspired by your words, I looked into him and wandered thru his “Everydays” photography. You know what? I’ll bet that if he’d tried hard he could’ve crafted some of his misappropriations himself and wouldn’t have needed to use others’ work. (But what do I know? I still can’t convince Blender to loosen its grip on the things I do manage to make. 😂)

    How sad that people behave so badly. Sometimes survival’s at stake, sure. But most of the time it’s greed or insecurity. Your “tallest person in the room” thing is a terrific way to illustrate how dangerous and disgusting this cheating thing is. People have always done it & probably always will. But the stakes seem to be higher now & I think that’s lowered the bar for entry into the “If I can steal it I can call it mine, you stoopid losers!” club. Blecch.


    Liked by 1 person

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