Please tell us a bit about yourself and what led to your interest in computer graphics.
My name is Nick Jensen (a.k.a. HateTank), I'm 35, living in Århus (second largest city in Denmark), together with my lovely girlfriend, Liv. We recently moved out of a ghetto (after 13 years for me and 5 for her), and into a really nice neighborhood near the city center - close to work and city life - so we're pretty happy about it.
I've always been creative... I love making stuff, with my creativity and my hands.
I used to play guitar in a death metal band, called Frozen Sun (no not the dutch sumbitches who knicked our name), but as fun as it was, as little could I ever make a living of it, so eventually I turned to computer graphics.
I was actually forced to take an education at the age of 25, because I had none, so the main drive when I had to choose, was games. I loved playing them, and I still do. I got my first Commodore Vic=20 aged 14 or so, and have been into games ever since. They're a much needed break from everyday life. And as such I still have a big interest in computer games in both the developing stage as well as an end consumer.
It was also in computer games development I had my first professional experience with 3D. Following a 1½ year education as a multimedia graphics artist, I was soon offered a position as freelancer on a kiddie x-mas adventure game, based on a danish christmas tv-series. This gig led to even more gigs both in business-2-business and in games development too, within the same company.
Since then I've had several freelance and "steady" employments in various fields of the graphical industry, and I've been working with stuff like TV-commercials, printed commercials and campaigns, game development, education, product and architectural visualization.
Do you work fulltime in the computer graphics industry or is it a part time hobby?
Full time (and then some). Currently I am working as a 3D visualizer at a local design and architectural visualizing company. I'm the acting chief of the studio, when the boss is out. This means I also have a bit of administration and supervising, as well as trying to figure out how to streamline our everyday procedures and processes, to gain maximum efficiency and better workflow. It's exiting with this kind of responsibility, and a fresh breath, since I've mainly just been a regular 3D-monkey previously. I think this job will teach me a lot about myself, as well as give me a broader understanding of the industry in general.
I am highly adaptive when it comes to working with 3D. I've just ended a 1½ year employment working on a MMORPG title about 5 months ago, when the company unfortunately went bankrupt. It takes a little time to switch from one type of work to another, but the transition is pretty smooth.
Where do you find the inspiration for your artwork? Are there any artists or studios you admire?
I think I get inspiration from pretty much all the impressions I'm subjected to during the day. How can I not? But obviously some are stronger than others. I find inspiration in music, and in the moods certain music creates and how it makes me feel. I guess it ties together with my musical history. I get inspired by other artists, regardless of what media they use to express their creativity. We have a art museum nearby, and a full-time membership, so that’s one good place to go for inspiration. Apart from that we have beautiful surrounding nature in Århus which I enjoy to take advantage of for photo-safaris, reference and inspiration.
There's of course some specific artists I admire. Such as Neil Blevins and Steven Stahlberg. Not that they're the best ever, I mean they're good, no doubt about that, but I think it has more to do with the fact, that they were someone to look up to, while I was still a raving noob. And I could follow, and get inspired by their development, while I was working on my own. Neil Blevin's very "dark" works also fits very well with my musical preference.
I like Seung Ho Henrik Holmberg for his amazing concepts and matte paintings.
Big fan of Pixar - I think they raise the bar with every release. Maybe not always in the story department, but Pixar work is always just a little more.... visually pleasing.
And great respect for danish studios Ghost and A-film for bringing in some big productions, and delivering top-notch work. I can only imagine how hard the competition must be, coming from a really small country, and trying to blend with the big boys in the cut-throat business - In general through, I admire good art when I see it.
Please tell us a bit about you CG work. What is your favorite piece? How long have you been doing it? What aspect of it do you enjoy the most?
Phew - that’s always a bitch. I like most of my works. And they're all my favorites.... until I finish the next piece. I am however quite pleased with my VW Barndoor project, and the MAXforums.org "Let's ride workshop" low-poly vehicles.
But that also has a lot to do with how much I learned from those projects. The work I did on the MMORPG "Seed" is also something I hold dear, but we had some amazing concepts and art direction from Jan Roed to work with, so I think a lot of the credit goes to him.
I'm starting to miss doing my vomic.com "cartoons". So that's probably going to be something I dig up again in the near future. I like this way of working. Putting an image to a funny phrase or twisting the meaning of words and visualizing it. The vomic.com one-liners has carried me through many periods with lacking creativity. And thus those periods became creative after all. Everybody wins.
Is there a particular piece of software you prefer to use for your artwork? Please explain why?
3D studio MAX (+ Photoshop). Why? Because that's what I'm most comfortable with. It does what I need it to do, and I know most of it's quirks, odd behaviors, and hiccups. I know how to get around a problem, and "bend" MAX into doing what I want. MAX has pretty much the same functionality as all other "big" packages. So I see no need to switch, unless a particular employer would want me to, in order to give me the job of my wettest dreams. It's the artist, not the software that makes a great piece. Should I look into other software, it would be something to add that little extra "WHOOP" to my works. Something like Mudbox perhaps.
Please tell us about your CGSphere.com submission(s); what you like about it (them), and what you would like to improve.
I've done 11 pieces so far, each very different from the next. I think I've treated my sphere submissions kinda like a substitute for the stuff I (used to) do at vomic.com. And I've felt a creative surge through November and December 2006. This was also the time just after the bankruptcy, so I needed somewhere to channel the creativity. I'm especially fond of "Panzerkugel mk. 2", and I think it is the one I worked the most with. I finally gave life to a HateTank...
I think the lighting and lighting effects works pretty good in that particular piece. Freak incident is, that (user) g4dual posted his "armored ball" entry, only 3 minutes ahead of me. So we've been working on a pretty much similar idea at pretty much the same time, and submitted them with only 3 minutes apart, with no knowledge of the other persons project whatsoever. What are the odds?
The pieces Red Baron and Piece of Time also took some work, but I think I like the more humorous pieces like Caco Demon and Booboid better.
Please share with us what you like most about The Sphere Project, and what features you would like to see added.
I like the fact that its the SPHERE project, and not the CUBE or TORUS project. Especially since every time I go creatively dead, and force myself to open MAX, 95% of the times I start out with a sphere. Just to get something going. The sphere is my creative life jacket.
I like that the rules are simple and few, and the result of those rules when browsing through the images, is that you get some very non-intrusive reference points from one image to the next, which helps you keep focus. Very clever.
I think the community has matured, especially since the introduction of the new rating and commenting system. Which is VERY good. Unfortunately it has also lost a bit of the dynamics and pace it had in the first 2-3 months. But that might also have to do with it not being brand new anymore. And I personally prefer a slower but mature community over a fast paced and immature one. I'd like to see more sharing of tips and tricks - templates and setups. But I trust that is already in the making. I think once CGsphere becomes a resource as well as a gallery, it will be unstoppable.
If you could give any advice to other developing artists what would it be?
Don't let people bring you and your art down. If you think you're onto something, then chances are you're right. Or maybe you're not, and perhaps you should get a second opinion (no, not from your mom, because she loves you regardless, and thinks you're the most talented person in the world..... she has to.... she's your mom...)
Work those polys hard and you will succeed. Be open to, and grateful for, the critiques you're given. They WILL help you become a better artist.
And best of luck to all of you.