Rethinking the basics

Totem, originally uploaded by Syntopia.

Found this via fffound (what a website!). It’s by Mikael Christensen and was originally shown on his Flickr page. Apart from the simplicity of the image and the ever-pleasing use of global illumination, the image sparked off a few thoughts.

I started to ask myself what would have happened if this image had been posted to a CGTalk or HighEnd3D forum? The answer is probably that it would have been criticised or ignored for being simplistic and unoriginal. But what would the same audience think if they knew more about the image - that it had been created entirely in open source code (and pretty elegant code at that), that it was being produced without a user interface, entirely experimentally?

There’s a playground mentality to a lot of forum posts: there’s a drive for bigger files, better raytracing, faster processing, ambitious scenes - and for everything to be judged by the way it looks, not how it was made. But actually, ambition and creative thinking needn’t manifest itself at the bombastic end of the industry - there’s still interesting developments at the basic end of CG graphics, as proved by the use of Processing, Sunflow, Blender, Context Free and Structure Synth. And as demonstrated by creative Maya scripters, who can turn what would have been weeks work of manual labour into the click of a button.

This sentiment is particularly pertinent to me as I’ve gone back to basics recently - I’ve started drawing again, in pen and ink. Ink is unforgiving as you can’t erase it, so I’ve been practicing and practicing the same lines over and over so that they become effortless, expressive and simple. The simplification process is familiar to many fine artists - often a single line can be more evocative and successful than an elaborate masterpiece. Applying the same principle to CGI is something I’m really interested in, but the hostility towards simplicity in the CG industry is overwhelming. Soon they will have built a city without figuring out the best way to make a brick.