Rob Figee, Architectural Renderings

Rob Figee is an architectural Illustrator based in the Netherlands with a focus on urban and industrial building. During his 21 years experience in this field he worked for numerous clients such as Building Companies, Architectural Offices and Estate Agencies.

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» How did you get started in the graphics industry? Did you start as a traditional illustrator?

I started as a painter and printmaker after receiving my education at the Art Academies of Antwerp and Rotterdam.

I was active in the art-world until 1986 when my life started to change after a request from an architect to add color to a print of a building. That was appreciated and soon after one order followed the other. I started constructing the perspectives manually myself and gradually slipped from Art to Illustration and that was a change I liked very much.

With some publicity I acquired more and more clients to give my "office" a more stable foundation.

» What made you pick up Strata 3D? Was there a specific problem/need that caused you to seek out a 3D application?

TurboCad V 8.2 was a very good release, which I still use for my constructions but its way of handling Radiosity was rather poorly documented. At least I could not get it to work well. Howard Prince pointed me to Strata 3D and I was sold ever since. I use it now for most of my rendering work and the possibility of rendering Photoshop Layers in CX 5 is really great.

» How has your workflow changed since learning Strata 3D?

Not dramatically. I loose some time by having to re-texture the building elements in Strata, because the bitmap based textures from Turbocad are not transportable. I win the same time by not having to airbrush soft shadows and the like in Photoshop afterwards, because the Strata's Raydiosity renderer takes care of that.

» What's a typical day for you? What other software do you use on a regular basis?

I start at 9 reading the papers and drinking coffee. About 10 I go up to my studio and work with breaks for lunch and dinner until 10 in the evening. Because we live in a very small village I often have to go to town to post finished projects. I always deliver the whole project on CD, but at the same time make a large framed print that the client could hang in his office (which most of the time he does!)

It gives a better idea what he has payed for than a small thing like a CD.

Additional software: TurboCad Prof., CorelDraw, Photoshop, Photomatix, Wings.

» How did you learn 3D and would you recommend your method to new users?

I started making architectural drawings very traditionally in 1986, constructing the perspectives on a large drawing board.

That was in the days of the Mac Classic and the Atari. A friend told me there was a program called STAD (ST Aided Design) that could make 3D vector based images. That sounded interesting so I bought a second hand Atari and started to work. From that moment on I stuck to the computer. Changing from STAD to AXIS, a real architectural 3D program, I bought my first PC and got to work with Autocad, that was replaced by TurboCad Professional and later on supplemented with Strata 3D Professional 3.9, 4.2 and finally CX 5.

It is hard to recommend things that were very useful 20 years ago. The situation has changed enormously since. What I recommend is to keep in touch with what is going on now. Read magazines and visit Forums to stay informed of the latest developments.

With new software I always struggle through the entire manual, then use an old project and see if I can translate it into the new program. It is good that there is great help from Chris Tyler's Tutorials and the Art and Science CD and there always is the Forum to ask questions and get help from everybody.

» Has the introduction of 3D into your workflow caused you to branch out and explore opportunities you wouldn't have otherwise?

Since I use 3D in constructing the buildings presented to me as plans and elevations, I am able to do at least twice as much work in the same time compared to the days of the drawing board. When the resulting view did not please me then, I had to start all over again. Now it is a matter of turning the camera! First a change of color when the drawing was finished meant hours of retouching. Now it is a matter of selecting the element(s) to be changed and applying the different color and, of course, render again.

Since Strata and TurboCad are my main tools for doing my job I regard them exactly as that: Great tools. When I want some other means of expression I turn off the computer and start painting or making photographs. Photography has been my great passion for many years and I used it for print making too.

Fact is that all the things I have learned during my time as an artist - like finding the right composition, getting a good balance of colors and tonal values - find their way into the work I do now.

» Do you try to fit your personal style into your Strata work, or do you find the technology dictating your style?

The technology some way seems to set the borders of what is possible. That does not mean you have to agree with that and I think one has to experiment and try to make the program do what you want and not the other way around.

So, yes, I think I can put my personal style into that work. When I compare these rendered images with my old hand drawn architectural images there are a lot of common elements in them and put side by side you clearly see they are from the same person.

» Any advice for new users? Where to start, what to avoid, creative advice?

Beside developing good technical skills there is one thing above all that is important and that is looking. I mean looking in an investigative way. Study with your eyes. That can be how shadows behave, that light is evoked in an image by its shadows, see how the old masters in painting used elements to set up a scene. Also look with keen interest at what your colleagues are doing and try to find out how they could have done it.

How to start? Read your manuals, follow tutorials and advice on rendering techniques, ask questions on the Forum if things are not clear.

Take an old design as a study object and start to work and practice. This last word is a key word. Everything you do is the result of practicing. The more you do it, the better you get.

What to avoid? Getting bored or tired. Always try to find challenges, new solutions or new techniques that make your work still more interesting. Keep regular breaks. Like a painter you should - from time to time - take distance from your work to regard it critically. Personally I make prints to study the design and see if there are things that do not please me or are absent where there should be something.

In fact, certainly in Photoshop I work like a painter.

» Thanks for your Time, Rob. We look forward to seeing more of your work on the Cafe!

You're welcome! New work soon on its way.