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Masterclass: RB Resident Andy Thomas on Imitating Nature

By Andy Thomas

My inspiration comes directly from nature, a lot of my work is about looking. Studying forms and patterns that exist in nature and reproducing them. Recently, I went to the aquarium to capture some images for a new piece. Using my macro lens I managed to get some beautiful shots of coral. I then begin by creating a montage of images in photoshop and drawing a rough sketch of how I want my design to look. The next step is to jump into my 3d sculpting program called Zbrush. Here I use a wacom tablet to sculpt forms that reflect the subject matter. Once created, I render them using a program called 3DS Max and Vray. All these little CG elements are then mixed together with the real photos to create surreal art that makes the viewer question what is real and what is not.

My goal is to make real photos look artificial and artificial CG art look real. When blended together in photoshop the results can look spectacular. It all depends on your attention to detail.

"Aquatic Structure" by Andy Thomas

Materials: When light hits forms in nature, the materials these forms are made of come to life. Think about seaweed for example, it has a semi-translucent look. We can replicate this in 3D software using “subsurface scatter,” which is light is able to penetrate translucent objects. It might also have certain properties that make it shinny or reflective. With proper attention to detail, we can reproduce all of these properties to create something that looks real.

 

Form: There are many forms in nature that can be replicated at all levels of scale. Think about a piece of broccoli and a tree, they both have the same branching out structure however one is much bigger than the other. Lungs, seaweed, and many more forms have the same branching out structure. Even a galaxy has this pattern. A galaxy also has a swirling vortex shape, as does a hurricane. This phenomenon is called “Self similarity.”

Fractal patterns in nature:  This is fundamental to the nature of my artwork. When I make my montages, I know that as long as I match perspective and colour, I am able to mix photos of nature at all different sizes and know that they will blend together naturally.

 

Texture: Nature almost always has some evolutionary response in creating the shapes and colours we see in the environment. For example, a baby ostrich has a spotted pattern to camouflage it in the grass so it won’t get eaten by predators. Or a bird might have brightly coloured feathers to attract a mate. I often have fun studying natural textures and using them to create brushes in my 3D programs where I can make abstract forms and give them various textures like that of a lizard, or I can cover a shape with moss — anything is possible depending on how much time you have.

For more on this subject, come to Andy’s Redbubble Masterclass on May 2nd at Redbubble’s Melbourne HQ.

Tickets available right here.

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