As a child I was not the best student, but I could always draw.
In elementary school I created a small business using my drawing skills. My classmates requested that I draw them comic books, so I would create them. As time passed, I had a growing desire to bring the characters to life with dimension and movement. I remember seeing The Last Starfighter in 1984 (when I was in fourth grade), one of the first large studio releases to use 3D animation as a major tool in the film’s production. From then on, I decided I wanted to pursue computer animation.
I graduated from University of Cincinnati’s Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning program with a degree in Fine Art in 1996. My emphasis was sculpture and painting (specifically steel and oil). DAAP’s 3D animation and digital design content was in its infancy during my college career. They offered just a few classes, which I took on top of my normal course load with special permissions from my advisor and professors.
WORKING IN THE INDUSTRY
During post-grad, I was offered a job at what we would now call at “startup” with two other DAAP grads who wanted to embark on a business that produced solely computer-generated images and animations. During this period, I specialized in character animation involving training and safety videos. Imagine those clips in training presentations that depict someone getting run over by a forklift or falling off a loading dock. Safe to say, I pivoted from there, and I began to work in the field of architecture doing my illustrations and animations.
DEVELOPING MY CRAFT
After spending three years at the “startup”, I started at BHDP Architecture and worked for almost twelve years as their in-house illustrator and animator. During this portion of my career, I was responsible for the 3D modeling of all the assets in any renderings. This was a time before asset libraries and Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems, such as Revit, existed. Need to include an office building? Build it. Need a Herman Miller Aeron chair for an interior view? Find a photograph of one and build it. This was my job for nearly a decade.
I recently celebrated my 12th year at MSA Design. When I first started, I was a one-man-show. Now I am a leading Principal with the firm and the Director of Visual Media with a team of three. I have the advantage of working with Mike Schuster, who is himself a very talented artist and illustrator, who has also surrounded himself with a team that appreciates the artistic authenticity of telling a story through illustration. As things get much easier to produce quickly with software such as Lumion and Enscape, the team here at MSA and our clientele appreciate that last touch – the extra 20% that an artist can provide with great lighting and rendering packages such as V-Ray and Corona.
PROCESS OF CREATING A RENDERING
Our process of creating a digital rendering involves receiving the Revit model from one of our architectural and/or interior designers. We import the model into 3D Studio Max where we (currently) use Corona as our rendering software. In Corona, the lighting and materials from the Revit software are discarded, and the environment is rebuilt using Corona materials and light sources. Depending on the project, exteriors can take around seven to ten days for turnaround while more complex interior views can be two to three weeks in some cases. We work closely with the project architect and interiors department using actual material samples to flesh out the look and feel. Then we embark on a series of “check” images to gain approval of the process as we near completion. We also incorporate photography and aerial shots in many of our illustrations. Two members of my team are licensed drone pilots to help facilitate this, so we truly do everything in-house here.
SELECT WORK DONE BY MSA VISUAL MEDIA TEAM:
The future of architectural illustration will see more change in the next five years than it has in the previous twenty with the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI). This increased capability will not only assist with making great illustrations faster, but also generate different time-saving options and alternative designs versus production in traditional processes. I believe there will still be a place for an artist who understand light, color, balance, and composition. However, the role will definitely grow and change in the future as technology continues to evolve.
Seeing these illustrations come to life is a fulfilling experience and has given me the confidence and knowledge of understanding conceptual space. Overall, this has been an extremely rewarding career, one where I have been incredibly lucky to have people trust in me with my own ideas on direction to tackle projects and visions for the eventual illustrations.