Croatian CG artist Damir Martin’s life was changed forever by Jurassic Park. Many incredible creations later, he is still turning out gripping CG renditions of giant squid, dinosaurs and other thrilling creatures. Read on for his take on where CG is going, where it’s been and why it is so special.
Current Residence: Rijeka
Occupation: CG artist
Areas of Focus: Creature and Character design, 3D modeling, Illustration, Photography.
What is the art culture like in Croatia?
In my own humble opinion– and from what I can perceive– it is strong-but-weak, in a sense. There are quite a few talented and inspired people around. It’s just that there isn’t any strong government backing in the financial sense or any real, well organized programs to support the arts. It all exists but it’s very poor.
So if you want to make a living out of it, you either have to face a stressful and unsorted life or try and make connections outside of the country. Investment in culture and art in Croatia is very close to non-existent and probably somewhere at the back of a long line of things. And I don’t see any changes in the near future. Unfortunately, I guess the word I’m looking for is marginalized.
Was there a specific event that led you to teach yourself computer graphics?
Sure, I saw Jurassic Park and instantly became aware of what I want to do with my life. I mean there were couple of movies that utilized CG before Jurassic Park; but that movie introduced the first lifelike organic cg…that of dinosaurs.
Bringing your imagination out to life with computer graphics. No matter if it is abstract or figurative, computer graphics enable you to do it the best way possible. It is the fastest and cheapest way today; and, sometimes, the only way. If you need a giant squid eating a cruise ship, this is the only way to do it and keep it believable at some level. If you want to create and abstract video, or create inspiring or evocative motion graphics, again, the easiest way is computer graphics. Even some of the coolest works I’ve seen, like the MUTO, a wall-painted animation, utilize digital technology to come to life. I think computer graphics is becoming, or has become, a major tool of modern artists. It will never completely replace classical approaches, but it can in some instances take it to higher levels.
Dinosaurs play a major theme in your work. What is your favorite?
I have couple of Dinosaurs I really like. But if I had to pick one, it should be Carnotaurus. I don’t know why exactly, but I like its short and narrow scull structure. I also like the horns. Jose Bonaparte, the Argentinian paleontologist who discovered it, gave it an awesome name. Its name in English means “meat eating bull”. Its short snout and those horns definitely resemble those of a bull. And there is something so contradicting in that name , “Bull, ” It is a quite dangerous yet herbivorous animal, and in addition it is meat eating.
Another thing is its skin. Findings say that this animal was quite a bumpy fella.
What do you like most about being a 3D artist?
I think it is the ability to flesh out your imagination really fast. I remember when I used to paint images with brushes on real canvas or thick paper, I would always use a hair drier to dry up the paint so I could continue adding new layers. I was impatient to wait for it to dry by itself. Computer graphics enables me to work for as long as I want without being interrupted by things like drying paint, a lack of specific colors, broken brushes or whatever.
Another thing worth mentioning is the financing. Imagine if I’d wanted to create Dinosaur sculpture in real size. It would cost an immense amount of money and would take 10 times longer to complete. Sculpting a life-size Seismosaurus would be close to impossible. You know, people used to say, computer graphics is synthetic, it is “not real.” You cannot touch a 3D model. Nowadays most of these things are behind us. I can model anything I want in 3D, then order a 3D print of that exact thing, pixel for pixel or (in the 3D sense) polygon for polygon.
In contrast, what are its challenges?
The challenges are ever growing competition and having to be up to date with constant changes and improvements of software as well as hardware. The lifestyle of a CG artist forces him to sit behind his desk for most of the day, which is very unhealthy. These are some of the sacrifices you have to make to be able to work as CG artist/designer.
In your eyes, what does the future of computer graphics look like?
I think and I hope CG in itself has bright future, though it will be harder and harder for the new generations to get in. CG is becoming a very popular and very competitive field. Try becoming a known photographer today, and you will find it is very difficult. You will have to be truly exceptional to succeed. The same thing is happening to Computer Graphics. It is becoming a common thing. With each new software instance and the update, it’s becoming easier and easier to learn and to work with. But regardless, even with some of these “minuses” that exist or may occur, CG is the thing of the future.