Interview with Cynthia Decker
Cornucopia3D: Hello, Cynthia, thank you for agreeing to talk to us. What part of the world are you from? Can you tell us what kind of work you do?
Cynthia Decker: I was raised in Cupertino, which is about an hour south of San Francisco. For the past 15 years, I've been living in Asheville, North Carolina.
Cornucopia3D: Do you have any background or education in art?
Cynthia Decker: I have always been creative, always drawing or painting as a kid. I took art classes in school, and also studied graphic design.
Cornucopia3D: How did you get started in CG? How did you become interested in digital art?
Cynthia Decker: Growing up in the heart of Silicon Valley, my parents both worked in technology fields. We had a computer in the house when not very many people had home computers. I doodled on used punch cards and stacks of green and white striped pin-fed computer paper. I began drawing —pixel by pixel, in monochrome—on an Apple II computer when I was about 13. I began using 3D software in 1998 and was immediately hooked.
Cornucopia3D: What version of Vue did you start with? What did you like best
Cynthia Decker: My first experience with 3D was with Bryce, which I used for a few years before switching to Vue. My first Vue version was 5 or 6, I think. The most amazing improvement was the atmospheric control, and the ability to use ecosystems. I spent hours and hours just creating atmospheres.
Cornucopia3D: What genres of art are you particularly interested in?
Cynthia Decker: I love all forms of CG, of course. In traditional media I like the realists and the expressionists. I also appreciate surrealism, architecture, and modern furniture design.
Cornucopia3D: What inspires you?
Cynthia Decker: The creativity of others. Dance, music, artwork, writing. I love to
see people who are passionate about what they do, it pushes me to move forward in my own creative expression.
Cornucopia3D: We always enjoy seeing your images; you seem to have a really wide variety, from realistic landscapes to whimsical and imaginative fantasies, some of which are quite illustrative in tone. Where do these ideas come from?
Cynthia Decker: So many things. Just the smallest moment or nuance can give me ideas for new images. Sometimes it's the reflection in a puddle, or the way the light filters through leaves. I love the idea of things being hidden away unless you go looking for them - so I'm often inspired by small discoveries and surprises.
Cornucopia3D: Do you use other applications with Vue?
Cynthia Decker: I am currently learning Modo, in the past I have dabbled in 3dsMax and Rhino. I also use Photoshop pretty regularly for creating textures and adding finishing touches and postwork to my images.
Cornucopia3D: What features of Vue do you like the most? Which features do you find yourself using most often?
Cynthia Decker: In my style of work, it's undoubtedly the atmospheric controls. I don't usually use Vue to create landscapes - not in the traditional sense.Most of my images aren't obviously outdoors or full of plant life, so I approach lighting a little differently. Vue lets me layer lighting; by usingambient light, fill lights, back lighting and direct lights I can basically paint light into my scene to complete the composition I'm after. I can go in and alter the color and the nature of each light, the softness, the shadow quality. I just love having that level of control, and I think it's huge factor in my final result. I also network render every image at very large sizes, and I appreciate that the render farm/render cow setup makes that simple for me. I couldn't do what I do without the ability to network render.
Cornucopia3D: Are there any features you find difficult to learn or use in Vue? Any features you would like to see added in the future?
Cynthia Decker: I spent a few years being very intimidated by the function editor, but once you get in there and start changing things around, you'll quickly see it's a remarkably powerful tool, and it's the key to really using Vue to its fullest potential. If you're using Vue but not customizing your parameters with the function editor, it's like having a really nice car that you never actually get into and drive.
As for features, an upgrade to the default mats and atmospheres, and more base plants would be nice, especially so beginners could get a sense of what's possible right out of the gate. Vue would be smart to formally aquire and incorporate Quadspinner's Helios as part of the Vue atmosphere set. I'd like the ability to use my GPU for rendering, and I'd like to be able to paint materials directly onto objects other than terrains.
Cornucopia3D: What are your favorites of your own images? Can you tell us why?
Cynthia Decker: I like "Sew Tiny", because of the softness and the light. It's also the perfect example of my love of surprise in images. I like "Foreclosure", because it's so full of emotion. Also it's a great example of how the ecosystem editor can take a few simple plants and make a lush backdrop. I like "Bike Rack", because simple everyday things can be so beautiful in the
right setting. Usually, my newest image is my current favorite - at least until I start the next one!
Cornucopia3D: Do you have any favorite stories about learning to use Vue? Care to share them?
Cynthia Decker: The day I discovered the 'select all object by material' button was better than Christmas! I had been shift-control-clicking for a couple hours before I decided to get the manual out and find a better way. That's how I make most of my discoveries, by doing it wrong for so long I get frustrated and have to figure out a better way!
Cornucopia3D: Do you have any tips or advice for other Vue users, especially beginners?
Cynthia Decker: Tutorials. There are a lot of great tutorials out there from E-on, and GeekatPlay makes fantastic tutorials. Tutorials show you different ways to work, more efficient ways to work, new techniques, and new ideas.
They teach proven effective ways to use Vue so your renders become less about happy accidents and more about creating great renders on purpose. Also learn about traditional art; learn composition and coloration. Learn the structure behind a good image. As a beginner with 3d, you're probably just making the snapshot equivalent of a render, meaning you're just pointing and shooting. Go deeper than that. Take time with your images. Quality over quantity. There's a lot of mediocre 3d art out there - strive to be someone who makes great art that happens to be 3d.
Cornucopia3D: You have a great Cornucopia3D store, the Curious3D Store, with a great variety of products, both models and textures. What inspires you when creating products? Any hints on some goodies you have in your production pipeline?
Cynthia Decker: In my own images, materials are key. My store has many of the Vue .mats I use regularly, and a whole bunch I created just for the store. All my .mats are high resolution, and image based, so they'll look great close up or way in the background. I am working on more items to complete the "Shabby Chic" set, which is a set of romantic furniture with cracked paint and soft linens. I hope to eventually offer a complete room.
Cornucopia3D: Thanks, Cynthia, for taking time to talk with us!
Please take some time and visit Cynthia's amazing Portfolio, Cynthia's website and the Curious3D store.