CGSociety :: Artist Profile
28 May 2013, by Meleah Maynard
It takes work to get better at something. That’s why Mike Winkelmann decided in 2007 that he was going to create some kind of picture from scratch every single day. He called his projects Everydays, and though he has stuck with the name, his art form is constantly changing as he dabbles in everything from pencil drawing and photography to 2D and 3D animation.
On January 1, Mike Winkelmann began his sixth year of Everydays with this project.
Now in his sixth year of Everydays, Winkelmann, who is better known by his pseudonym, Beeple, is currently concentrating on how to use Maxon’s Cinema 4D in conjunction with Pixologic’s ZBrush and the render engine V-Ray. Progress is incremental at best because he creates Everydays in the evenings when he gets home from his day job as a graphic designer. But he’s feeling good about what he’s learned so far this year. “It’s not like when you take a class and you sit down and learn from a teacher,” Winkelmann explains. “I’m watching tutorials and picking things up here and there, but if you add it up, I’ve learned quite a bit.”
Winkelmann puts some of what he learns creating Everydays to use in his graphic design work. But he does a lot of personal work too, including short films, drawings, live visuals and music videos like Flying Lotus’ Kill Your Coworkers
and his own Instrumental Video Ten
. He also creates VJ clips for DJs and other motion graphics artists. All of the videos are available under a Creative Commons license and can be downloaded from Beeple’s Vimeo channel.
Winkelmann modeled the entire bodies of these center characters in Cinema 4D before realizing they looked ‘boring and dumb’ standing around. So he put them in the water to create more of a story.
A few months back, he also released his first book, Everyday Book: The First Five Years. The book started out as a Christmas present for his parents, but his wife encouraged him to put it out there for anyone who would like to buy it. Billed as a ‘collection of the least shitty work’ he created in his first five years of Everydays, it is available as an eBook, as well as paperback and hardcover. “I really did it for my own use, but if someone wants to buy it, that’s great,” he says. “I just like being able to look back at what I’ve done.”
Made From Scratch
Like anybody else, Winkelmann doesn’t always feel like having to create something from scratch every day, especially after a long day at work. But he does it, no matter what, because sticking to the schedule means he learns new skills and new software all the time. It also helps him overcome two career killers: the paralyzing fear of the blank page and the inability to stop tweaking a project way past deadline.
The March 18 Everyday was modeled in ZBrush. For faster rendering, he lowered the polygon count using ZBrush’ Decimation Master. C4D’s Sketch & Toon was used to create the ‘spider web’ look.
“Too many artists can’t say, ‘Okay, this is good enough and I’m going to stop now,’ so they just keep tweaking things way too long,” he says. “I’ve found that there isn’t really a correlation between how good something is and how much time I spent on it. I can spend all afternoon on something and think it blows, or hardly any time on something and feel like it’s really pretty good.”
Normally, Winkelmann spends about one or two hours doing an Everyday, making sure that he sticks to his unwritten rule that everything has to be uploaded before midnight. That’s not always easy when working doing 3D animation because there are so many steps involved from designing, modeling and texturing to creating the environment, lighting, compositing and rendering. To streamline the process, he specifically creates his files to keep render times under 10 minutes.
Take one look at Winkelmann’s website and you’ll see that he’s pretty self-deprecating, right down to his URL beeple-crap.com. So it’s not surprising when he says he doesn’t think many of his Everydays are very good. He also says he doesn’t really have a particular style, which actually makes sense when you look at his body of work. He gets bored of doing the same old thing. “There are so many awesome styles out there. I’m always flipping through Behance and Pinterest and I see some really insane things and think, ‘Oh, I would love to make something that looks like that.’”
Lately, in addition to feeding his longtime love of robots, Winkelmann has been experimenting with sub surface scattering shaders in Cinema 4D so he can make things that look like skin. “And then I play around with what I can make out of shapes that are half geometric and half skin-like and they kind of build on each other and form themselves,” he says. For his February 24 Everyday, for example, he used C4D’s atom array for modeling and then took the polygon mesh into ZBrush and used DynaMesh to sculpt on before bringing it back into Cinema 4D for texturing, lighting and rendering.
He likens the project to another he created on April 10 that began as three different cubes in C4D only instead of atom array, he used the UberTracer plugin for C4D to connect all of the object points. “I got this huge nest of splines and put that into Sweep NURBS so it would have geometry to it before I brought it into ZBrush to use DynaMesh,” he explains.
The January 24 Everyday was made using Cinema4D to model a number of different, simple cylinder shapes that were then curved around each other using Multi Meshes in ZBrush.
Inspired to make something curvy and geometric, on January 24 he tried making his base geometry in CINEMA 4D before importing it into ZBrush to experiment with making curves using the Multi Mesh brushes. “I used it to curve all of the tubes around each other to get a warped look to thing and then I took it back into C4D to render it out,” he explains. “I really didn’t have any notion of what I wanted it to look like, but I just wanted to see what I could do.”
Winkelmann liked that he could use ZBrush’s Multi-Mesh brushes to quickly create a curve with detailed, repeating geometry.
On February 15, still playing around with using ZBrush’s Multi Mesh brushes on models he created in C4D, Winkelmann tried building a techy snake-like head in Cinema 4D and then curving it in ZBrush. “I started by creating the simple geometry in Cinema and then used ZBrush to draw out curves that the geometry is welded to,” he explains.
So much to learn
Winkelmann admits that he sometimes feels a little overwhelmed knowing he has so much more to learn about so many different kinds of software. But he doesn’t let it get to him. He says he’s not losing sleep or anything, and if he wants to call it a night and watch a movie, he does. There’s always another day. “I’m getting incrementally better and that’s the whole point. As an artist, you need to be okay putting stuff out and realizing that it may not be your best work, but you’ll have another chance to do better.”
Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor.