Tuesday, 31 December 2019

So what have I actually achieved in the last ten years?

So after yesterdays blog post I got thinking.....what did I actually achieve in the 10 years from January 2010 to 31st December 2019? So here we go in no particular order.

Still one of my favorite photos of me lecturing
  1. My work seen at the London 2012 Olympics by a third of the planet (I will never have my work hit as many people ever again.)
  2. Taught and lectured all over the world from Las Vegas, to Vienna Science Academy to Berlin to Iceland (the country not the supermarket lol), Sweden and beyond.
  3. I worked at the top of the tree in both Film VFX and computer games with highlights being MPC Montreal and Rockstar North in Edinburgh. as Lead lighting artist and Senior Environment artist respectively.
  4. I worked for 2 1/2 years for Chaos Group on the documentation for many version of VRay, responsible for a great many of the examples across multiple platforms.
  5. I provided 46 1/2 hours of free video training (I stopped counting in 2012... so its probably a lot higher now). Released a lot of paid tutorials on subject from sculpting to environment techniques to The Unreal Engine.
  6. I had 2 strokes, 2 complete mental breakdowns and had to deal for once with my long standing clinical depression.  I did and I'm glad I managed it.
  7. Many articles for trade magazines (I used to enjoy writing them until the mudbox star started to lower in the sky.)
  8. Wrote all sorts of apps and plugins with the most famous being MudWalker which was then cloned a million times often by people who didnt realise where it started  (and its now a standard feature in most workflows.) Shame I never made a penny from it lol.  Also my app Reducto which I've had in mothballs now for a number of years.  There was also of course the vector displacement shader I wrote....and so many scripts etc for clients and places I've worked
  9. You name it and I've probably sculpted it or modelled it at some point for a client.   Although I sculpt a lot less thee days and not as a rule for 'fun' as I used to.
  10. my 'crazy expreiments' such as project sureat and the facial mocap system I made were all fun and cutting edge at the time.
  11. Done all sorts of stuff for clients all over the world in all sorts of fields fom medicine to film, games to architecture and just about everything its possible to make a 3D model for or light or render .
  12. I released a shit pile of albums in the 2010's.  Before this the last albums I'd put out were in the early 90's.  I've put out 7 from 2012, with a classical album I've been working on since 2012 and a few others 'in the pipe'.
  13. Worked on films (more than I can say due to NDA's) and a fair bit of TV stuff (with another debuting in the new year).
  14. I made the animated short 'Monsters!' in June 2013 on a single machine.  It had a somewhat heavy message.
  15. I got married.
  16. I killed off my sucessful YouTube series of  'Waynecasts'.  Mainly as the exagerated version of me in the videos was getting mixed up for the real me.  I often think about resurrecting them in some way.
  17. 7.8 million views on videos of mine on Youtube and Vimeo.
  18. I started painting on canvas again and have sold my paintings to a few countries.  It provides a nice balance to the art I did in the digital world.  I still take on commissions
  19. I wrote and relased a mobile game in a single day when I ws bored. Called Flappy Dildo (a rip off of flappy birds) it was released and banned from the Google Play Store in less than an hour. Something I am strangely proud of lol.
  20. I went from just playing guitar to playing, mandolin, Banjo, Piano, Bass, Ukelele, 3 and 4 string cigar box guitar and I'm currently learning another instrument. I find it keeps my brain sharp.
  21. I released the Nuke for 3D artists video series for free.
  22. I've taught not only artist who woprk in the industry now, but the ones who taught the guys that taught them.  I've helped form 3D courses at various universities over the years... which isnt bad for a numpty from Consett.
  23. I've lived in more countries than I care to count for work  with notable entries being Montreal, Dublin & Edinbugh.
  24. I've been doing 3D now for about 25 years (ish) which is more than half my life.  Somehow I am still not a millionaire lol
  25. I've done more models and speed sculpts than I care to count.
  26. I wrote for a long time under my pen name on subjects outside of 3d and art and made quite a name for myself until I stopped. I plan on starting again.

There's probably a million things I am missing out here.... but not too bad really.  Lets see what (if anything) I achieve in the next ten years.  I honestly have no clue what ahead or any big masterplan other than keep enjoying what I do and try to make enough to eat and buy musical instruments etc.

Monday, 30 December 2019

My Last Decade (Warts and all)

WARNING: Everything written here is my opinion only and in no way reflect the opinions or views of any companys I have worked for past or present. The last 10 years... This is the longest blog post I have ever written. So make yourself a coffee and sit back, and just a warning.... I'm going deep on this one! It's not always going to be easy or pleasant reading. Well one things is for certain, the last decade has been a helluva ride with more ups and downs than a prostitute in a back alley lol! Now I'm going to warn you right off the bat that I am not going to be pulling any punches (either good or bad) in this review of my own personal last decade. Either about myself or the things in my life. If you'd rather have a nice fairytale view of me and my career, look away now as 'here be monsters' lol. So new years day 2010, I was coming off the back of both the huge book I wrote on Zbrush and the Mudbox 2009 beta tester images (which as events outside my control would have it, happened to come out exactly the same damn day causing all sorts of shit for me.) I was on the start of an upswing that would last a while. My star was riding high as a result of all that, plus the Mudbox Quickstart series of free tutorials I put out, and the From the Ground Up series (and god alone knows what else). 2010 was when the lectures started. Before I knew it I was lecturing all over the world seeing places I'd never seen before. But things did go a bit sideways. I had my 1st stroke in 2011 while in Utrecht at EUE but didn't realise it for quite some time due to being in complete denial. It took my partner at the time and my mother, father and brother to frog march me to the doctors to get it sorted about 3 weeks (ish) later, it turned out that the type of stroke I had was usually followed by a huge one about 28 days later. But good news there were meds that could stop that but they took 2 weeks to start working. Now if your maths is like mine you realise those two time lengths cause an issue. So what I had to do was to take the meds and basically spent weeks staring at an empty wall at home in a chair (all the while I had my son running around like a typical 5 / 6 year old and a new born daughter). I was VERY VERY lucky as I made a full recovery, although it did leave me with minimal memories of the whole of the 1990's (from what I understand I didn't exactly miss much that decade lol), a terrible memory, and it took me a long time to get my skills back to where they were...and after my entire style was different, my coordination outside of art and music is epically shit now as a result. The cause of my stroke? That's sort of a sore point you see, because it was all my fault. I had declared I was going to make a film quality short in 2 months on my own called 'Of Gods and Men'. The story was sound and the script worked well... however 3 weeks before I was due to debut it at EUE 2011 all my drives died along with my backup drives and I lost all my work on it. A sensible person at this point would have thrown their hands up and walked away from it. But I however was ANYTHING but a sensible person. Already drinking between 30 and 40 strong coffees a day and chain smoking cigarettes while I worked. I upped my hours to 20-22 hours a day. I was warned by family and friends and basically everyone I knew that this was a very bad idea. But I let my ego and 'not wanting to fail' rule things. I ended up having to cut so many corners to get it done (with just 24 hours to spare till I left for EUE 2011) I never even checked it or watched it. The 1st time I did was when it played on a big screen during EUE 2011 in the bar. I had a moment of clarity and realised it was total and utter shit. In fact no it was worse than that... it was embarrassing to watch it was so bad. I managed to take a wonderful potential idea and put out something laughable. So I drown myself in more alcohol that night than I have drank before or since. It is this stream of events which I blame for my stroke. It worked as a cautionary tale to me to never ever let my ego be in control ever again. After that I put a limit on my hours and cut my caffeine intake down from insane levels too far more sensible ones. Some point between 2011 and 2012 I was made the 1st ever Autodesk Master for Mudbox. This pissed some people off, but more were happy than weren't. The slowing down that I had no choice but to do as a result of the stroke, combined with 3 very weak Mudbox releases meant my star was falling. I was earning less and less money until the start of 2012 where I had at one point 57p to my name and a family to feed. I worked on the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony watched by 1/3 of the planet on the Jesse Owens shot. Which I am still not allowed to show on my reel BTW lol. That one won the prize for worst working conditions of anything I ever worked on. (I can freely say this now as the company no longer exists). As I had a brand new dept head who insisted on a live stream of everything I did from 6am till 5am each morning (I was working from home). A little hint for anyone new to running a department...THIS IS NOT HOW YOU DO THINGS! By the time the very very late payment of the invoice came I was in debt and the wage didn't even dent it. I was up shit creek without a paddle. But sometimes life throws you a bone, and it did! Back in 2009 I'd met a guy at EUE called John O Connell, we'd had a drink and a long chat and I never thought much more about it. However John realised Screen Scene in Dublin needed someone for an upcoming feature they were about to start work on, and put my name forward. So I spent from 2012 to April (I think) 2013 working as 3D Supervisor on the Film The Last Days on Mars. That time is without a shadow of a doubt my happiest memories of working anywhere in my life. I made many long term friends then (and also if I'm honest partied like a fucking lunatic in my off hours. But NEVER at the cost of not being able to give 100% to my job.) I wish the film had done as well as I did enjoy working on it. The work done on it was breaking all sorts of rules to get shots done on time that really weren't possible with an astounding team under me. I have fond memories of operating 4 to 6 machines at the same time rushing between them on my office chair from one side of the room to the other like a hyperactive fraggle to meet shot deadlines. It's a bit of a shame I put my foot in it with Screen Scene a few years later (but more of that in a bit, as I am being 100% honest here as I promised... warts and all). 2013 was freelance work, more work at Screen Scene for both Ripper street series 1 (with the favorite shot I worked on of all...the fossy jaw shot) and Moonfleet. It ended with me lecturing at the Autodesk Cave Event in Las Vegas. At this point my depression was biting pretty hard, although it would get worse. Real life had not been good, with my partner at the time and myself on the verge of splitting up. The end of the year I split up with my partner and mother of my two kids. We'd got to a critical mass point and my head space probably wasn't helping. We still remain friends to this day and there's certainly no animosity from either of us towards the other. I'm proud we handled the split like adults without the need for lawyers. 2014..... now this was an interesting year. I was newly single and had a house. I'd not really been out drinking (apart from 2 or 3 pints a week with my brother) in many years. But I freely admit I went totally fucking nuts and drank whatever wasn't nailed down. While I'm not totally proud of that part, it was pretty natural and seems to be a 'thing' a lot of blokes who find themselves single after many years do. Money ran out again... and then fortune smiled on me once again and I ended up working for Rockstar Games in Edinburgh as a Senior Environment Artist. No I can't say what I worked on, if any of it has been released or if any of it is still to be released...ever in fact. I had a LOT of very heavy real life stuff going on at the time such as seriously ill close family members, the fact that it wasn't really the job for me coming out of years in VFX. I was paying for my flat in edinburgh, my house back in Consett and paying off my ex's debit on that house so my kids didn't end up homeless... that and a whole load of other stuff I wish I could put here but can't. (I'll let you all work out why this may be yourselves.) I ended up stressed to fuck, my depression biting harder than ever, regularly drinking myself into nearly a coma each weekend and having my head far up my own arse. I had a 2nd mini stroke in May of 2014 that acted as another wakeup call. I've not had another since. It was at this point I put my foot in it with Screen Scene. While I can't remember the thought process behind it (as to be honest I'm pretty sure what I experienced then was a mental breakdown), I did a 'behind the scenes' blog post on my time in Dublin. Many things were put on it that no one in their right mind would have, and to be frank I certainly wasn't in my right mind at the time. Probably the only thing keeping me from a mental ward was this wonderful lass I'd met up there called Louise. Now don't bother looking for that blog post as it was removed after many shouty phone calls inside of an hour of posting it (it's not even on the way back machine, and no I do not have a copy.) Suffice to say it was an epic fuck up caused by having way too much on my plate on the real life side of things and mental health issues. I apologised later (although this still does not excuse it at all, and it's a blemish I will carry around my whole career.) It's one of the many things I wish I could go back in time and undo. Also around this time I nearly died due to a sudden allergy to penicillin (bearing in mind I'd taken it plenty of times when prescribed by doctors before, so it really came out of nowhere.) So here's the story of how that happened: I had been struggling with a chest infection in Edinburgh for a while, went to the docs got prescribed pills in my dinner hour. Took 1st one when I got home while making my dinner. I'm eating my dinner and suddenly I'm covered in hives...thousands of hives! ....even in places you'd never expect hives to be.... zillions of the bastards! Then my airway started to close. I phoned 999 and wrote on a piece of paper what the pills were, when I was prescribed and had taken them etc.. and opened the front door using the button at the top of my stairs. To cut a long story short, if there hadn't been an ambulance at the end of my road at that time (there it seems due to a prank call) I wouldn't be here now. I was rushed to hospital with an adrenaline shot to my heart. which BTW hurts like a bastard. I woke up in A & E shaking like a leaf and feeling like death. 10 mins later this lass called Louise I'd only met a few times turns up (I'd sent her a text saying an ambulance was on the way, I thought it'd be a bit shit to go and die on someone without some sort of a warning.) Side note: Louise is now my wife :) So 2015 rolls on, once again I am flat broke, no freelance is coming in so I went over to Montreal to work as Lead Lighting artist at MPC on the Fantastic 4 movie (now known as one of the biggest box office bombs in history, where its own director called it shit a few days before release.) I could write a book (if I was allowed) on the stuff behind the scenes on that one! I left MPC at the end of that film as working away was pulling me apart as I had to rush home at lunch time to my wonderful flat in Montreal , ram a sarnie down my neck then skype call my kids before they went to bed. Louise would stay up till 2 or 3 in the morning to talk to me over skype after I finished work each night. I couldn't handle being that far away. So I came home and as a result defaulted on the 2 year contract and ended up with about £12k in debt. ...and with no income. Life then started kicking me in the nuts again on the real life side and kept doing that till start of this year (but more of that later). I ended up in early 2016 working on the documentation team for Chaos Group (who were a wonderful company to work for) and I was very sad when we were all let go 2 1/2 years later. I'd advise anyone who has the chance of working for them to grab it with both hands. Then followed a string of freelance gigs often with large gaps between them, but usually making just enough to survive. In 2018 Louise and I got married. Probably the one and only good thing that happened that year. Then we get to the back end of 2018 / 2019...... My depression had hit whole new levels in 2018. I had two mental breakdowns in 3 days, tried to 'fix myself' by self medicating with insane amounts of alcohol. But nothing worked. I wasn't fixing anything.... just breaking myself in new ways. With no money coming in I settled into a routine of going to my local every night and drinking the 5 or 6 pints it took to make sure I slept that night and didn't stay awake all night worrying. My mental health was at a critical mass point and I was truly suicidal. Very few people knew how bad things really were at this time. By the start of 2019 I was a mental mess and a total fucking car crash of a human being. It got to the point where I knew I had to get my depression sorted for once and for all before I killed myself. So I went to counselling. I was convinced it wouldn't work, that it would be total shit and a waste of my time. But I promised those around me I'd give it the best go I could....and luckily i am a man of my word. ...and it worked. Not like a magic wand being waved, but with hard work I slowly started to improve. So by May this year I was the best I'd ever been. Which was good as I'd spend from May till the start of October working on something for a production company from L.A. So where am I now as a person, a decade older with so much experience both work wise and in life itself? My depression rarely bothers me as now I have the tools to manage it far better. Yeah, I still have the occasional 'bad day', but they aren't on the same level as they once were. Your probably waiting for me to say I stopped drinking so they fairytale can have the perfect ending. No I haven't.... because life isnt a fucking fairy tale. The difference these days is that I keep to my pints of John Smiths and not any crazy concoction that will get me trollied out of my head. So yep I am still a flawed artist and musician (and person), but it's those flaws that make me the artist I am. I know many will pulll the old 'thats career suicide' trope about this article, but companies arent hiring robots, they are hiring artists who are REAL human beings with often real problems. If they cant get out of that mindset, then they are cutting out vast quantities of amazing artists who should not have to pretend everything is fine when it is not. There should be no stigma around mental health issues, especially in such a high pressure career as ours. Hopefully the next ten years are good, with a stable income and many good memories to come. If it just has less crap going on in the real life side, that'd be cool as well lol.