I put out a call on Twitter, asking for illustration guest posts, and was delighted when Brent answered the call, especially since I knew he could give me a view on something very specific. Being both author and illustrator, then even a step higher than that because he does 3D illustrations. I can’t even imagine dedicating the amount of time he has to this one subject, and think it’s completely awesome. I hope you all enjoy his post. I’ve peppered a couple of the book covers throughout it, but at the bottom he’s nicely included a screenshot of modeling Aoléon. Look at how much work goes into it!
She goes walking through the shadows of my mind
Brent LeVasseur: On Being Author & Illustrator
My name is Brent LeVasseur, and I am the author and illustrator of The Aoléon The Martian Girl Saga. I will always be grateful to Lilyn, who reviewed Part 1 of the Saga here , and who asked me to write this blog post on the pros and cons of authors creating their own illustrations.
In my particular case, my Aoléon The Martian Girl project sprang from my “hobby” ─ teaching myself 3D modeling, texturing, rendering, and compositing. Most authors would simply have hired an illustrator, outlined the intent and the vision, and monitored the creative results.
That would have been the smartest, quickest, and easiest way to do it.
However, Aoléon The Martian Girl was a 3D movie in my head ─ as the old country classic goes, she was “walking through the shadows of my mind.” I felt that the only way I could do her justice in terms of realizing that vision was to step up my lessons in the art of 3D and create all the illustrations myself. In retrospect, that was probably a huge mistake.
I thought it would go pretty fast. It turned out I was very wrong, and it ended up becoming a 12-year journey from start to finish. It took that long to learn how to create all the characters and scenes so that the original vision in my head would be properly realized.
Was it worth it?
Yes and no. Had my goal simply been to publish an illustrated book, then spending that enormous amount of time would not have been worth it. However, as it turned out, I have grown as an artist and my readers have seen the original vision that inspired my characters and their worlds.
Back at the beginning in 2002, I began to teach myself the art of 3D modeling. I chose 3D instead of hand-drawing because I could model in 3D much better than I could draw.
At the time, 3D was still a novelty, and movies such as the various Pixar films were still noteworthy accomplishments. So to give my new hobby a focus, I came up with the idea for a feature 3D animated film about Martians and caught my first glimpse of Aoléon. I had no idea it would take me more than a decade to complete my work, and had I known, I probably wouldn’t have done it. It definitely became a labor of love.
The bar for high-quality 3D art rises every year. If you compare the 3D art in movies and video games produced from 1999−2010, you would clearly see an astounding improvement in both quality and quantity.
Fast forward to today: In 2016, most people have become somewhat jaded toward the quality of visual effects in movies and games, especially in the realm of 3D animated and computer-generated imagery.
When they see products such as the ones created by Pixar or most AAA game titles, they don’t realize how much work goes into making them. There are literally hundreds of incredibly talented artists (3D and 2D) who work for years at a time in unison to create the final product. Add to that the state-of-the-art computer technology and massive super-computing “render farms” with thousands of processor cores and terabytes of memory required to render the final frames for one of these animated feature films, and we begin to see how incredible a feat it is.
I spent several months just creating my main character model, Aoléon The Martian Girl. A full month and a half was spent perfecting the geometry of her face alone so that it was “just right.” In my mind, I knew exactly what she looked like, and although my skills as a 3D artist were at a novice level, I was determined to realize my vision for this Martian adventure.
After finalizing Aoléon’s model, I began to conceptualize and iterate the other main characters ─ Gilbert, Bizwat, Helios, and of course Zoot. Each character went through dozens and sometimes hundreds of modeling iterations before I came to the final look. Modeling was just the first step. Each character model then had to be textured and painted. That took more time and many more iterations to arrive at “classic” look for each character.
Buildings, ships, weapons, props, and backgrounds ─ EVERYTHING in the book had to be conceptualized, designed, modeled, textured, and rendered. The Martian Megalopolis alone took five years from start to finish. There were hundreds of building models to be designed, modeled, and textured.
During that five-year period, I continually worked with the developers of the 3D software to encourage new feature additions, such as the ability to replicate objects in a scene; the capability of the program to handle a scene with hundreds of building models, each more than a million polygons; and finally to render the scene, which collectively had more than 50 billion polygons in a single rendered frame.
When you consider that I had to go through hundreds of iterations on the city design alone and spend countless hours trying different layouts, building configurations, and so on to achieve what I had originally envisioned in my head, you’d only be seeing the tip of my own particular iceberg.
Was it worth it? Well, let’s just say it was a lot like running a marathon where the finish line kept being moved further and further away.
Author Website: http://brentlevasseur.com/
Crop circles magically appear in Farmer Johnson’s field. A mysterious light sweeps over the night sky and awakens Farmer Johnson and Gilbert, the boy next door.
Curious, Gilbert ventures out to discover the source of the light and stumbles into a beautiful Martian girl sitting in a crop circle. Farmer Johnson also investigates the strange light, and thinking that Gilbert and Aoléon are vandals, he chases them. But they sprint to Aoléon’s saucer and escape only to be pursued by the U.S. Air Force.
Gilbert has never been attacked by swarms of giant killer robots. Never met strange aliens from other worlds. Never skyboarded across a megalopolis hidden deep inside an extinct volcano. Never trekked across a vast Martian desert. And never been eaten alive by a gigantic slor (well, almost never, unless you count Billy the fat bully at school).
And luckily, he has never ever confronted an evil ruler of Mars bent on conquering the Earth to steal its cows.
You can find the first book in the series, Aoleon the Martian Girl: First Contact here on Amazon.