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    Khalid Al-Muharraqi was born into an artistic family in the
    Kingdom of Bahrain, an island in the middle of the Persian Gulf. From humble beginnings and a great amount of
    generous influence from his father, Khalid was led through
    the initial stages of traditional mediums of inks, oils and
    painting. He was lucky enough also to go and study the arts in the US.

    “I moved onto airbrush and using computers when I studied design in Houston, Texas,” Khalid says, “and then I spent 15 years working in various aspects of the advertising industry.” In 2004, he decided to leave the company he’d built to fully dedicate himself to CG art, back in the Middle East.

    Khalid tells me he dreams in full color. “Everything begins with the imagination,” he says, “so when I work, I try to create what I have imagined it in my thoughts which is an impression based on reality.” One of the latest jobs for Khalid and his company was to re-create the entire country of Bahrain in 3D space. This was done using a combination of satellite imagery, texture painting and 3D modeling apps.

    “When we were first approached by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP, (SOM),” describes Khalid, “we thought that the Bahraini authorities had told them about us, but it turned out that they’d seen some of the renders that we’d done for an earlier Bahrain World Trade Center job.”

    The final result of that Bahrain job was so close to reality, the architects requested Khalid tone down or abstract the new developments so that people could distinguish between the older photographic views and the new CG creation of the cities. “We had to change to a dusky orange texture for the new buildings, so they would be clearly identifiable,” he says.

    The final 3D Bahrain was designed to present concepts for a Master Plan of the entire Kingdom in a comprehensive manner. While Bahrain is a small country, it was also important to be able to show how various plans interacted and how the many plans impacted on the environment.

    Khalid worked directly with SOM's teams in Chicago, London and Bahrain, so communication coordination was one of the biggest tasks on this assignment. Also, designs were being reviewed after the initial renders and changed so Muharraqi had a continual process of back and forth with them all. From the perspective of workflow, the efforts were concentrated on creating the entire country in 3D so that they could then 'drop in’ the proposed developments.

    This project was done primarily using NewTek’s LightWave 9, modo and F-Prime and InfiniMap. “Once we had achieved the photorealistic effect we wanted, it became a matter of placing the boxes where they were meant to go and texturing them,” describes Khalid. “One of the biggest issues then became camera positioning and lighting, in order to get the best effect in the final renders.”

    Khalid tells me most people might find this hard to believe and they think that Muharraqi Studio has a huge team who does the work, but actually, most of the work is done in the studio by he and Rashad Faraj. Muharraqi Studios was created just over three years ago. “We were interested in CG films, and wanted to have a place that we can do things in a creative and free environment,” says Khalid.

    “I chose my surname for the company as I have always wanted to continue my father's legacy as a one of the best known creative names in the region. Today, there are just the two of us and one studio K9, Keesha. I am the creative side of things while Rashad deals more with the business side. We also have a large network of support both locally and internationally that we draw upon when needed.”

    Check out the hires images here - 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09
    Inspiration
    “I am inspired by different things that are around me or in nature,” explains Khalid. “Also, I am always on the lookout for new artists in the industry to see how they work and how different artists think. Everything I do, I would begin by researching the subject and looking for materials first.

    I then sketch my road map for the project and plan the implementation of the project all the way to the final product. This can include what software to use, where the obstacles will be, how to avoid them and other problems, and finally, how to get it done in the time available.”

    Workflow
    “Well, in any project that requires my creative input, whether it’s designing or manufacturing a look for a building, or character development for a story, my brain works in a strange way,” Khalid continues.

    “I imagine what the project would look like when it is finished, then I work out the process backwards to get that look. Only then would I be able to look at my workflow and list it out in the right order. This process is how my brain has worked since I first started painting when I was a child.

    Today, I don't think of the process as much, it just happens to be there and it is hard to explain how I think to people when I want to explain a process I have in my mind. I feel like I am unfolding a path that is there already and I just need to blow away the dust and see the flow of the lines beneath.”
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  • Software
    There is no such thing as an all-in-one solution and specialization just makes for more solid platforms for the artist. The first software that propelled Khalid really into 3D was LightWave. Then he got into sculpting in ZBrush and later found modo, about a year back, and it has increased his output to a new level that he’d never imagined. “The mix of the software and the support we get from the developers is vital,” says Khalid. “These are important factors when you develop a long-term relationship with a product, as you need to be happy with the support and the direction the team is taking. I guess since I still need and use all of them, it means that they are all my favorites. Each one has its own features that make me continue to use it and these are the tools that would make artists like me able to create new and exciting pieces.”

    Color
    “Before I was an artist myself, I was my father's son and have lived in his color field since I was six or seven. This helped me create my own style and I have been painting and coloring for many years of my life with water colors, gouaches and airbrush, but there is no evidence of that as most of my paintings have been sold. Today my palette has evolved from canvas and paper to the RGB colors in my Cintiq screen.”

    Light
    “I believe that the lights and shadows are my strength, especially coming from a background in painting, it is something that I do with passion. Some people focus only on modeling and texturing, and yes, you need to do that well for a 3D illustration, but you can have a finished looking image just by lighting it properly and designing where the shadows go.”
    I am a workaholic and love my work, especially being part of its development both in the artistic side and on the technical side. I can't get enough of it so my wife made me promise that I would do something to get me away from the Studio, so I train at least one hour a day with my private instructor who is a Master of the Martial Arts.

    Future
    Khalid and Rashad would like to get on with the movie project they’ve been working on. “Also a few months ago, we were excited that His Highness, the Crown Prince of Bahrain has shown his interest in the SOM Bahrain project, so it is a without a doubt a cherished mission to complete this dream,” says Khalid.

    “We are also trying to divide our time between development, architectural and creative efforts so I hope that we have the energy to keep the momentum going, as it can be overwhelming and times and requires a great deal of effort.”

    Conclusion
    “My personal journey in 3D is not even five years old, so I am still learning as I go along. When I established Muharraqi Studios with my business partner, it was to make a fresh start for myself as an artist in a new field. I have now established myself in the global community and become recognized as a CG artist and have managed to turn my hobby into my profession.

    Every day we learn something new and everyday we try to improve ourselves a bit. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of the road and there will be much more to come from us soon!”

    Related links:
    Khalid Al-Muharraqi CGPortfolio
    2004 CGNetworks interview
    Muharraqi Studio
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