Born in Lanzhou, raised in Chongqing and Shenzhen in north western China, Te Hu (Ford) has a traditional view of Chinese arts. Both his parents are artists. His father concentrated on Western oil paintings and his mother is a more traditional Chinese painter. She used inks, drawing landscapes and portraits in the Chinese traditional artwork style.
When Ford was young, his father would show him the many European and traditional masters of the world. The house was full of the arts, books, paintings and this enriched his upbringing, completely surrounding the family.
Ford has no formal training but has drawn naturally as this was, as he says, “the thing to do” in his household. He just began to study and draw from those books and sometimes tried to deviate from that style as well. His father would guide him a lot as well.
When Ford was 22 he graduated from school and was accepted into the Central Academy of Fine Arts, which was the top art school in China. He was also accepted to USC Cinema School, and the SVA in New York, but in the end he went to do his Masters in Computer Science at the Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA. “I came here to the USA alone,” says Ford. “My family are in China now, and they are a great support for my life and career and study.”
This course matched his drive and he loved that the curriculum actively prepared students for exposure at the top end of the games (and film) industries. He wanted to learn more about computers, so he studied hard, including C++. This was accelerated by his interest and abilities in advanced mathematics.
His interest of all things CG was spurred on by a mentor in his second year at the Central Academy of Fine Arts where he was studying Computer Science, shading, transform and renders, in OpenGL. The professor at the Academy suggested he go to CGSociety.org, and he began his journey after buying his first tablet.
The Excellence Award winning ‘Joyment’ image is a product of an abstract painting with a lot of life. Ford’s memories of the north west of China contain a wash of desert scenes, and the start of this piece began with an abstract texture, almost like a sand storm. At that early stage, the entire image was just a simple random texture. After taking a break, he came back and worked at inventing the context of the form out of this color space.
Working in both ArtRage and Photoshop, Ford says his mind went back to traditional masters in China, remembered from his upbringing. Below is another piece from Ford referring back to the traditional European masters.
He had his first internship at Disney Toontown as a 3D artist where he worked on a lot of character-based projects and developed applications.
At the end of this project as an intern, Ford was picked out and given a job with Electronic Arts as a Technical Artist. He was diligent enough to move to Visceral Games where he began work on some pretty intense physics simulation tools.
The job involves processing assets and making sure everything runs error-free in a character or an effect, and this is the job Ford is on this present day. “This job is cool because it uses both my arts skill and my programming skills,” he says.
Ford had two designs he was working on to enter for the CGSociety Dreamscape CGChallenge. Although quite similar, he only completed the ‘dream.no.1.flow’ and entered this for the contest. Then he submitted it for the EXPOSÉ 9 book. [It got in too; page 210]. He found Dreamscape the most exciting and thought-provoking topic.
Ford says when he dreams, he has always imagined this form he used in the image, where human society is visualised as slowly growing into this perfect cube. All built out of the smaller cubes, some not quite so perfect, but forming slowing together into this new organic mould.
When Ford first begins research for a project, he digs into the purpose of the image project he has been given. With the Dreamscape/EXPOSÉ 9 image [left], the purpose or the theme was ‘escape’. “If this was given to me as a theme for a professional commission, I would research all the great surreal artists to see where they went in their final results,” he explains. “Salvador Dali had a specific way to bring the viewer into his world.
The surrealist artists had a great many angles to depict their particular direction. Stretching time and space was his unique motif. But as an artist, you have to find your own elemental direction within this image to express this information. One of the most basic geometric forms is a cube. Representing volume, it is the most basic shape.” So, this is what Ford did straight off, in Maya.
Once Ford has a basic form, it was time to develop a story to link back to the brief. He changes the hue to depict the mood, Ford reverts to a classic technical artist, when he describes going back to the command line to generate the random function, like a texture, a form or a change to a color hue.
“I would use the command-line to generate the cubes, and 80% of the modeling was done from the command-line. No hand modeling was done,” Ford explains. “The random function can generate the most interesting effect. This is where a real inspiration comes from within the image.” This is the artist using the computer to paint, at the most basic process.
Ford holds true to three rules to ensure the quality of his work:
Rule 1: He checks the form and structure of the image. “I will ask myself a series of questions: is the relationship between each block correct? is the mood right?
Rule 2: If possible, I get other artists to give me critique. It's always good to gain a fresh view of one’s image, and you always finds new problems when discussed with others. But you have to still keep who you are and your style. That's the most important thing.
Rule 3: Try something new. New technology, new ways to create digital art.
Always reinvent who you are.