Once upon a time, a friend of mine ran across a piece of 3D world creation software called Bryce 5. She looked it over, played around with it for a night, then recommended it to me. I gave it a shot and fell instantly in love with it. I could sense the potential for a life-consuming passion there in that program, because I have a head filled with science fiction and fantasy stories. But for years, I denied the strong pull of 3D worldbuilding in favor of writing. I used Bryce as a playground, fooling around with it occasionally, learning bits and pieces of it as I went. When I upgraded to version 5.5, there was an additional bit of software on the install disk called DAZ Studio. Now at that point, I was rather grumpy that this upstart DAZ had slurped up my beloved Bryce for their own. What if they ruined it? Because as you know, many, many companies have been bought by others, only to have their products vanish from existence. And I’d just seen Macromedia get gobbled up by Adobe. Yes, now I know that neither situation brought about the end of the world, but back then I was a bit cranky. Still, I installed this DAZ Studio thing, because it was free and why not.
Well, I couldn’t get it to work. Crap. It was just a beta version, but I wasn’t willing to forgive the software for its limitations and problems. I just decided it stunk, shunted it off to the “ignore” pile, and played with Bryce some more.
But then… Then, years later, things changed. I’d published a few short stories here and there and written a few novels. But you see, I don’t write “normal” stories. I admit it, what I write is pretty far from the mainstream. So I got a lot of “Well-written, but not our thing” rejection letters, and started investigating the world of self-publishing.
There used to be quite a bit of stigma attached to self-publishing, a feeling that a writer that went that route couldn’t possibly be any good, especially if they went through a vanity press that charges the author a fee to publish the book. If it was any good, they’d have it published the usual way, right? Not necessarily. And the stigma faded away with the success of places like Smashwords.com, which offers a home for writers that don’t fit in the standard mold. And rather than the author paying for the privilege of publication, Smashwords pays the author a great commission on sales.
What’s this got to do with 3D art, you ask? Well, let me tell you. Writing a novel is all fine and dandy, but to publish it, you need a cover. And when you have a limited budget, a head filled with images, and software that can produce those images, you start brushing up on 3D skills in a hurry. At least, that’s what I did. I went back to the old DAZ software, still couldn’t get it to work, then updated it to a much newer, much more flexible version, three-point-something or other. And I gave myself a crash course in the basics of 3D artwork.
Now, I’ve been making book covers for a bit over a year, and I feel like I’ve progressed beyond the absolute basics. I’ve noticed a distinct problem with the information available about 3D art online: it is weighted very heavily towards beginners. But what about intermediate folks? What about advanced users who want to refine their techniques? I certainly won’t pretend to be advanced at DAZ Studio, although I could probably get away with making that claim in Bryce, but I’ve landed solidly in the intermediate stage of development now. I want to start chronicling my investigations, because like I said, there just isn’t much content available for intermediate users. Not that I’ve found, anyway. It gets pretty frustrating, going to, say, the DAZ forums and trying to find advice on texturing OBJ format terrains in Studio, and turning up nothing. Nada. Zilch.
So here I am, taking on the intricacies of the 3D world beyond the beginner stage, and doing it in public. Am I crazy? Maybe. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I will learn, grow as an artist, and share what I learn with the world.