The Beginning

Garrulous exposition concerning the burgeoning evolution of my artisinal prowess.

In short, this blog is intended as a venue for me to blather ad nauseam about my personal art projects. Whether or not anyone else reads this is of little consequence, as it's mainly just a way to catalogue (Screw you spellcheck!) my progress and force me to stay committed to my development. I always want to be making rad art, but as many of my fellow artists can testify to, it can be a love/hate relationship some days.

To anyone who happens to stumble upon this site or is directed here by me, I'll attempt to briefly (I like to kid myself and you, apparently) summarize my history with art. I hope to elucidate the path that has led me to creating this blog.

My Mom is an artist. I've been around the stuff since I was born. There's even a story of me, at age 6, trying to "fix" one of her commercial sketches when she wasn't looking. "I thought the lines were too light, Mom!" I'll let you ask her about my modification to her brand new car's paint job at age 5. I owe her a link for that one ( www.artjb.com ). Cartoons were about the greatest thing in the world to me. Later, I fell in love with video games (hang on, it becomes relevant). Comic books also became an obsession.

Then, in Middle School, an old art student of my teacher's visited class to show what he'd been up to in High School. It wasn't on paper. It wasn't made of clay. It wasn't an ironic fine art interpretation of man's triumph over nature. He was packing a VHS tape, and on this tape was the catalyst for my current career in art. The then-lad had been working in 3D Computer Graphics. What he brought was a simple animation of a fish swimming around a head with an all-black background. It wasn't really a prize-winner, but he was certainly a champion of heroic proportion to me!

Suddenly, something that seemed so esoteric, and strictly for people who knew how to program computers, was within my reach. A high school student was doing this stuff! Toy Story hadn't even been released yet. At the time, It was a weird and mysterious alchemy of computers and art. I'm pretty Sure 3DS Max was in its infancy (I ended up starting to learn on v2.5), and Maya hadn't even been conceived yet (Hah! Take that, Maya! I've been working in 3D longer than you have!).

I didn't immediately jump into Computer Graphics, but it was always tugging on my mind, and when it came time to start figuring out a career-path, there it was. I gave up on Calc 2 and enrolled myself in the only CG class available, which happened to be at the district's Trade School. I ate, $h@#, and breathed 3D software during that time. My previous adventures in art (Sculpture, Drawing, Painting, Photography, Tesselation, and Jewelry) were all useful in my endeavors, but I lacked a Master 3D Guru to consult. I joined local groups focused on the industry, but they seemed more focused on making a buck than divulging their secrets. I needed something more. Enter Digipen.

Joining the now-vaunted halls of Digipen IT was a fantastic step forward. Suddenly, I was surrounded by students of similar mind and hunger for 3D. Not only did I have great peers, I now had access to the "gurus" I craved to learn from. I felt liberated... but that light soon faded as I began to recognize the prison I'd been building around myself. Always being around art, and being quite familiar with the fundamentals, I had achieved an over-inflated sense of ability. While I've always been a natural artist, I didn't necessarily put in the time and hard work required to hone my abilities. Though my efforts usually produced a fine result, the fast-paced production-oriented curriculum left me breathing hard and heavy.

My magnificent masterpieces encapsulated in my mind were grand... too grand. I always started strong, but when deadlines came around, I was scrambling to wrap things up. This resulted in half-baked final products. The curriculum focused on animation, which I was happy with, but I always got caught up in the modeling and texturing of things. "I'm so close! There's just a few more things to fix!" became a sort of motto for me. Perfection was an obsession, and it shot me in the foot (often the knees, too).

The software and theory of CG and animation came easy, but prioritization and scheduling were the most valuable things I took from Digipen. My final project suffered to the same fate as all the others, but it was the final nail in the coffin of my avoidance tactics.

I moved back to Kansas (where I grew up from 7-18) to build a presentable portfolio and see what work could be had. The portfolio came, but the work just wasn't there. The area has some very motivated groups in the 3D CG industry, but there was a very small pool, and finding work of any kind in the field was nigh impossible. After working various CG contracts (only one required 3D) and supplementing my income with unrelated work, my fiancé (now my wife!), helped convince me that we needed to move somewhere more conducive to my career.

I came back to Seattle specifically to enter the Gaming Industry. After living with my generous Aunt for half a year, working on my portfolio and applying to companies, I found myself a home at Handheld Games, Inc. I've been with Handheld for 3 years, now. I quickly worked my way up from Pixel Artist, to 3D Environment Artist, to Lead 3D Envrionment Artist. I've definitely worked all of the kinks out of my scheduling habits (as the Gaming Industry can be even more fast-paced and demanding than Digipen is), and I've honed my 3D skills to a needle point (11 years worth of effort). You can see my portfolio at www.dudra3d.com.

Now, it is time to expand that horizon to include 2D painting. If there's one thing I've learned in my work, a strong concept is the foundation of badass 3D. It doesn't matter how great you are at sculpting, texturing, or animating if you don't know what to do with it. While I can whip up some 3D concepts fairly quickly, it can be much quicker to crank them out in versions and adaptations if it is done in 2D. It's a fantastic way of communicating visual ideas to both myself and others. Much of what you'll see here in the next year is going to be 2D concept practice and development.

Ultimately, I want to be quick and efficient, so there will most likely be a lot of ugliness and fumbling around in the beginning as I do compositional, color, and life studies. If a piece looks unfinished, it probably is. I need to keep myself to a strict daily schedule of practice for now. I'll probably post a few intermittent polished long-term pieces to remind myself (and you) that I'm capable of "decent" art.

Oh, and if you have any opinions on my progress or pieces, feel free to post comments. Constructive criticism's fine and appreciated. I suppose I'll even take project requests, since my goal is to be able to communicate other peoples' ideas as well as my own.

-M.S.D.

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