Jan Kaliciak, 3D Illustrator
Jan Kaliciak resides and works in York, England. Jan has a multidisciplinary approach to design and visual exploration, with a professional profile in both arts and design, and various job roles in TV graphics, games programming, the printing industry, and in-house design. He divides his time between creative image-making, being a graphics specialist lecturer in higher education, and consultancy work in the applications of computers to the graphics industry.
How did you get started in the graphics industry? Did you start as a traditional illustrator?
I guess I have been pursuing various types of artistic vision beyond the constraints of applied design for most of my career. My visual foundations are based on an intensive drawing and painting program undertaken early at art college, but it is thanks to the previous encouragement and support of my teachers at school, that I developed the confidence to pursue this career. It was science that I was most interested in then, and I had the grades, but it was the ability to visually communicate that had the final impact on my choice. My subject matter was always based on science concepts, and my final graduation piece in graphic design was a movie about future technologies and their impact on man. The first professional works I did were a course prospectus for a University Metallurgy Department, and in television, where I did daily graphics for the local BBC TV news station.
What made you pick up Strata 3D? Was there a specific problem/need that caused you to seek out a 3D application?
Having produced some very early flight simulator games for Commodore Computers in the 1980’s, I had played around with programming 3D objects as well, particularly stereoscopic imagery, but this was simply beyond the capacity of those early processors. It took the introduction of the first colour Macintoshes, and some early work using engineering CAD software, to realise that a whole new era of visualisation was potentially available. As a designer, I wanted to visualise things that I knew I could invent, and not be limited to slow hand-rendered 2D schematics. The 3D aspect was crucial to the design process, in order to handle objects virtually, including stereographically. As an artist, I had to have an image quality that did not look like a clonky plastic toy, but was photorealistic in its rendering, unlike most other CAD programs. Stratavision 3D was the perfect solution.
How has your workflow changed since learning Strata 3D?
Each new reincarnation of Strata has been a great encouragement to push beyond the envelope of expectation into new territory. It has provided a motivation to develop concepts and models that have gone beyond the processing limits of my hardware, so has fuelled the installation of higher speed systems with more RAM. This has led to more comprehensive modelling and so on. Strata CX has become more and more a platform for integrating a whole suite of applicationware, from importing elements from other programs, to outputting images for post-render matting with other visuals.
What’s a typical day for you? What other software do you use on a regular basis?
A typical day involves six hours working with graphic design students, and up to another six hours working on professional projects in the evenings. Due to the academic year’s timetable, I will have other long blocks of days when I can concentrate fully on professional development. I am sure this is a familiar routine for most college professors! Software otherwise used directly with Strata, or its image output, includes Poser, Bryce, Photoshop, Freehand, Dreamweaver, Flash, and iView Media Pro. The latter, I heartily recommend for tracking any image production workflow, by cataloguing all the render files output and incorporated bitmaps, in an indexed and very visually accessible format. It is the ideal companion to Strata.
Can you explain a bit about the EOS Mars program? It it purely a creative exercise/hobby?
EOS is a synthesis of many facets, and if you like, is the ultimate integration of competing faculties. The bringing together of science and art, too often divorced in the educational system. It taps into the underlying science interests I have, but makes them professionally accessible. I correspond with science interest groups such as https://www.marshome.org/ at MIT, to discuss research that I have uncovered in the processes of virtual technology design for Mars. The visual output, which I regard as design, is also commercially accessible as art, to those licensees that want to use these illustrations for their own ends. In that respect, it helps to fund ‘The Program’. I strive to bring both a scientific foundation and visual realism to the task. For inspiration, I have looked to such previous ‘science’ artists as Chesley Bonestell, familiar to those growing up in the 1950’s, and Ludek Pesek, who did great work for National Geographic, illustrating the solar system and its planets. Ultimately, I hope it will do for the current generations what Bonestell did for mine, namely demonstrate the real possibilities for the future.
Has the introduction of 3D into your workflow caused you to branch out and explore opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise?
Yes, although it has been about twenty years since I first assimilated 3D software concepts. As I have some engineering capabilities, it is natural to think of objects as a sum total of their parts. I used to dismantle all I could get my hands on, as a kid, to see how it worked. Analysis precedes synthesis. An early discipline in drawing anything and everything, which despite the conventional wisdom is not about ‘producing art’, but about understanding reality, also helped to get a grip on how other things are put together. I remember some early drawings leading me into fields of physics for answers about what was going on before my eyes, as once you really start to see what is out there through the perceptual process, there are more questions than answers. It is quite natural to construct 3D objects in virtual space from that point on.
You’ve branched out into stock images. How has that worked out? Have you had much success in that area?
It is matter of a wider market outreach, where a minority interest spread world-wide may actually number as any other majority group. When I chose to work as a printmaker in the 1970’s, I had some success working in this mass-production medium, making editions of about fifty silk-screen prints at a time. These were exhibitable world-wide, and also sold well. I liked the accessibility and non-elitist nature of the medium. The stock image market is a natural extension of this philosophy. It allows me the indulgence of producing work I want to do, while allowing people to connect with it who would otherwise not have the opportunity. Although individual royalties are not necessarily massive, they are continuous like early singles records sales, so in the long term they become worth the initial effort. So far, I have been lucky that almost all my work is accepted for online sale, and there have been several client downloads each day, to date, over the last year.
Do you normally get material to work from for an illustration, or just a brief on the type of illustration required?
As I now work mainly as the prime commissioner, I both develop creative and imaginative futuristic visions, and also look to existing market needs or gaps. In either case, I use academic processes to isolate the research I need for both factual and visual information purposes. When designing the ‘Mars Construction Unit’, for example, I visited websites of all the main manufacturers of mechanical diggers, and looked at their technical specifications and drawings, looked into online stock libraries for dedicated photographs, and hunted down real digging equipment locally to digitally photograph hydraulics and other details for reference.
Any advice for new users? Where to start, what to avoid, creative advice?
Do not be afraid to try anything new. Try to get a good art education foundation in drawing, construction and CAD. Being goal-oriented and inner-directed, and keeping one’s focus without being easily distracted helps. Be unique and yourself, create your own market where you can, but also be prepared to tap into those areas where you see a need to be fulfilled.
Thanks for your Time, Jan.