• Thomas Mangold

    Thomas Mangold doesn't feel he has a work history like many of us have.  After school and civil service, he went off to study Visual Communications in Dortmund where he still lives. During these studies, he had the opportunity for an internship at the advertising agency Grey Dusseldorf and also began to receive invites to publish his photographic series in magazines. Around this time, a new professor at the college arranged a one week intensive seminar in Strata 3D. “Being familiar with computers from the time of the VC20, which preceded the Commodore 64,” says Thomas, “I immediately liked the idea, and I tried to solve some of my semester tasks with the help of Strata, instead of doing it the photographic way.“

    He describes his overall style as ‘fictitious’. “There's no need for me to get lost between asteroids or in the halls of the dwarfs,” he says. “If you rearrange reality and/or approach it in a new and unfamiliar angle there are endless possibilities to create stunning stuff. Usually these ideas will find you, because if you look too hard for them, they don't show up. You need to listen carefully.”

    Mangold doesn't care too much about defining what he’s doing. “If you deal a lot with advertising agencies,” he says, “then it might come in handy to give them a name for what you are doing, as some of them think in categories. They need illustrators, still-life photographers, photographers who are able to shoot liquids, clothes, people, etc. Sometimes they get confused if I show them my work as it lacks a certain definition.” Mangold really enjoys working with other creative people in a real life environment. So shooting on a location or studio ranks higher than moving points in a darkened office space. “But there’s nothing better than a mixture of both,” he adds. “When you leave the photo-shoot, you know that a lot of the work will begin with the post-production. Whereas, if you finish a model or render on a screen, then you know that it's pretty much done. Hopefully the end result in both cases brings a smile to your face.”



    Working on a current project makes Thomas smile, because he knows he’s busy. Loving a challenge, he enjoys approaching the hurdles that stretch his creative side. “The jobs that make me curse all day long are probably the most interesting ones,” he says. “The work you already finished gives you this warm cozy feeling because you know what you’ve achieved in the past, but that's over.” Being an artist in both mediums, Thomas Mangold loves the combination of 3D objects and photographing real life environments. Just doing everything in 3D he feels, binds the artist too much to their computer, but he’s glad they exist.

    For inspiration, Mangold does a lot of research to get the anatomy and dimensions right for a model. A lot of time is spent on getting detailed information on the surfaces. But he goes even further. “For the horse image I bought several expensive anatomy books,” he says, “and rented endless books from my local library. The jockey's cloth, saddle and so on were bought in a store. The horse was too expensive and my apartment was too small, so I went to a stable nearby and even started taking riding lessons.”

    You can't really fail to complete your mission if you have the chance to do stuff again, correct things or add stuff you feel is essential. “The horse image was almost complete when I decided to spend more time to enhance the face of the jockey,” says Mangold. “And this extra time really brought it another step forward. But in real life production time tends to get shorter and shorter. So nightshifts and little sleep is the only way to stay on schedule.”



  • Thomas Mangold

    The gear that Mangold works with is by his account, ‘nothing special’. Apart from the usual camera stuff, he works with a G3 and G4 Mac, both still playing in the MHz league, and a few PCs between 2.6GHz and 3.0GHz with 1GB RAM. He’s never invested in any high-end graphic cards or other equipment. “I have a LaCie, a Formac and another screen arranged on two large tables, so I can just rotate my office chair and work on another computer. For my photographic work I rent a studio or shoot on location,” he adds. For software, at the moment he works with Lightwave. “There are also many plug-ins I wouldn't be without Sasquatch,” he explains, “but to model efficiently you do need a lot of extra stuff which is generously shared within the Lightwave community. Pictrix is only one of the many plug-in coders I depend on. Additional to the software all the Internet forums are almost as essential as the application itself. Some functions are so difficult to handle, that you do rely on the experience of other pros or amateurs. So the essential forums to discuss my software are even more important than the software's manual.

    Thomas Mangold has what he calls a very effective way of working. He finishes all other tasks in the morning, spends a few hours on the computer, makes the necessary phone calls, goes out for a coffee, comes back and cleans the office so nothing distracts, and then works till after midnight. He says usually the time from 6:00PM till 1:00AM are the most effective. Either way, it’s the fight against procrastination, well known to all artists. “I guess both ways have something to do with eliminating everything which might disturb your concentration,” says Thomas. “Working on a photo or anything 3D needs kind of a meditative state of mind. If anything keeps you from getting lost in your work, then usually it's very unproductive. There should be no alcohol, no radio, and no phone calls while trying to find the flipping polygon. Also, no coffee (at least not after the third Espresso) and no music that isn’t familiar. A girlfriend or any other guest can also make it difficult to stay on track.”


    Colors are very important to Mangold. For his pink horse ‘Hairy Tale’ project, he needed to find a shade of pink that would look great on its own. “I needed a pink that said ‘Beauty parlor’, that brought out the fur of a white horse and didn't rival the skin tones of my human hand model. That was tough, but it turned out looking spectacular. Colors are much more than a surface attribute, they are a statement, the brackets that keep a series of images together. But I don't have a method for my color schemes, no calculator or anything. It's my feeling and experience. In general this feeling never lets me down, but sometimes you need time to get familiar with the colors in your latest project and then change them if you know them by heart.”

    Like the rest of us, in a perfect future, Mangold would like the big budget jobs and to get loads of credits and prizes. But he would really like the ability to ‘Stop!’ on a project. “As an artist, you tend to loose a certain feeling for the real world,” Mangold says. “You almost constantly get lost in the 3D world, because there's always something that needs refining. I'm in the lucky position to be able to work in both these worlds, the real photographic and the surreal 3D one. For a few more years this might be quite a rare ability, so I want to take advantage of it as much as possible.”


    Related links:

    Thomas Mangold
    CGSociety Forum Lightwave
    Fat Horse
    Fat Giraffe
    Octopus in the Bathroom


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