In this interview with the master and the coffee addict, Gleb Alexandrov himself, we discover his interests, his unusual approach to art, and just how pragmatic and fascinating he is.
I've known this awesome guy for as long as I can remember. Let's jump in and learn more about him!
How did you get started with Blender?
I challenged myself with creating a steampunk render for a competition on Render.ru. I didn’t want to use 3ds max that I had been using for over a decade. I was sick of it and wanted to try something new. Not because 3ds Max is bad or whatever. I just wanted a change.
That’s how I ended up using Blender. Imagine switching from Toyota Tundra to Mini Cooper.
By the way, now I think that was a good crash test of Blender. Top-notch. I had only one month to familiarize myself with Blender and it didn’t let me down. We crushed it! First prize. Won Nvidia Quadro and had a year-long adventure with selling this videocard.
What is the main source of your inspiration?
Many things turn me on. A long list. Let me first say that it sucks when you have to wait for inspiration. That is so boring.
Imagine that you could just start working and fueling yourself with a pragmatic interest. Get the job done, earn money, don’t f#ck up. THAT would be awesome.
Sometimes I get motivated by evil things, for example envy. Or I’m getting angry with myself for having hands that grow straight out of my ass.
Your strongest and weakest points as a 3D artist?
A tricky question, bro... Programming, coding, webdesign - awful! Total noob, ashamed to live. Tried many times to learn Python, C# and failed. Painting is also a pain in the butt. It’s number one reason why I prefer 3D and raytracing.
My strongest point, as far as I’m aware, is a multidisciplinary vision of creating audiovisual work. I have some background in music (guitar player since 3), in visual studies (graduated from EHU: Media and Communication, Visual Culture). Some wannabe gamedev work in Unity and Unreal Engine. I learned every software I could get my hands on in my pirate youth. A bit of photography and photogrammetry experience.
I’m a graphics ninja who can’t code.
Big City Sensory Overstimulation
With this render I tried to push the number of light sources and the intensity of light over the top. To the point of sensory overstimulation, as I imagined it. It took me a couple of weeks to put together the scene and then 4-5 days to render it out.
Get the job done, earn money, don’t f#ck up.
The most challenging project you ever did in Blender?
Oh gosh, everything is challenging. My first render in Blender, Her Majesty’s Zeppelins, was challenging as hell because I had to learn Blender! I had almost no previous knowledge of Blender, and I wanted so badly to win this steampunk competition.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a pretty solid knowledge of 3ds Max and computer graphics in general, the years of ninja-work done for studios helped a lot, but this project was stressful anyway. Do you remember the meme about how different software compare, “fly, bitch?”. I felt like this bitch
As a 3D artist, what was your biggest success?
Overcoming procrastination and laziness. I’m a lazy bastard. I’m so thankful to myself that I had enough mojo to overcome this laziness and actually do something. Probably, quitting the job helped. When you run out of money, it’s motivating. What I also find helpful is imagining your own death. Some people visualize a calendar and start marking off days by putting X on them.
What is your dream project to work on?
F#ck dreams. Goals! As someone said, dreams are just goals without a deadline.
I try not to create the objects of desire that will torture me afterwards. I’ve been having a bunch of phantom ideas lingering in the background of my mind since I was a child. Like making a first-person adventure game (that will change the world, blah-blah). So the best project for me is the project that is grounded in reality.
What matters is do I have resources to make it happen on time? Does it bring me closer to other strategic goals? Does it provide opportunities for growth?
Still, my first-person adventure is waiting for me somewhere in the upside down
HDR Tone Mapping Study
I’ve become very interested in high dynamic range and tonemapping recently. Especially after reading the Troy Sobotka’s articles (but even before that). Basically this Blender render was my HDR tone mapping study. The biggest challenge was squeezing the super high luminosity range into the RGB color space.
Your most-loved passion aside from 3D Graphics?
I have a multipotentialite tendencies. Do you know where this word comes from? I watched Emilie Wapnick’s TED Talk. Impressive stuff, very much describes me.
My passions spread across the wide range of unrelated disciplines. Obviously, I do 3D graphics. Aside from that I love heavy metal and folk music. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 3.
Gamedev is my other unfulfilled desire, I’ve been literally hooked after playing Doom for the first time and wanted to spend the rest of my life creating 3d worlds.
What is your favorite aspect and feature of Blender?
Peeps. Smart crowds that create. Army of Youtubers. Global network of creatives driven by a common interest.
I know that’s a cliche. Still it’s true in case of Blender. With Blender I was able to get up and running in no time. I just googled Blender Tutorials and was shocked by how integrated this network was. I thought, oh these Blender geeks share knowledge like crazy. Of course it’s natural for F.O.S.S. to be structured like this, horizontal connections and all that stuff, still my mind was blown.
Let’s put it like this. Blender is like a social network for 3D content makers and that’s what I love about it. Plus an emansipatory movement.n
If you had the chance, what would you change in Blender to make it better?
I know that Blender developers are allergic to when someone tries to make Blender better again. Jokes aside, they are doing such a great job propelling the whole industry into future.
Still, here is my wishlist:
1. The Customize UI mode. Create new menus including PIE menus on the fly, rearrange things, add buttons without touching the code.
2. Record Macros to batch the repetitive tasks.
3. Node-based everything (take a look at Animation Nodes add-on, mind-blowing).
The bottom line is, more tools to the users including beginner users who know nothing about Python. I’m amazed by Blueprints in Unreal Engine for example. Godot and Unity also have visual scripting, native or achieved with an add-on like Playmaker. Out of the blue, everyone becomes empowered to create logic without coding. Imho that’s democratizing gamedev industry like nothing else.
Blender is like a social network for 3D content makers and that’s what I love about it.
The inspiration for this render were works of Hyperrealist artists like Gina Heyer and Denis Peterson. I wanted to render something hyperrealistic and make everyone go: “How the hell did you do that? It looks too real! Argh, you simulacra-producing nerd”.
If there's one thing you would teach your younger self, what would it be and why?
Educate yourself whenever you can. Invest in yourself whatever free time you have. Go all-in with what you do and start earning money as soon as possible.
Fortunately, I always had a strong vision of what I want to do when I grow up. I was addicted to games, loved computer graphics, music, movies and thus it was crystal clear that I want to MAKE THINGS, mostly audio-visual things. Probably, interactive things as well. The rest was the matter of saying “ok, ok, I’ll try it out” when my elder friends gave me a pirate copy of 3ds Max 5.
What is your workflow when creating 3D artworks?
I keep telling to myself: KISS. Keep it simple stupid. Any kind of idea can be stripped to the core. Once I see that core,
I know what features to cut.
For example, if you want to do a lighting study, there’s no reason to build a super complex scene full of stuff. Maybe you could get away with reusing some old model that you’ve made before. And focus on what matters, on lighting. It may seem obvious, but it’s so easy to fall into that trap.
Also I find it easier to synthesize rather to create from scratch. I don’t rely on my imagination. Garbage in, garbage out. It’s very important to give your brain some visual images to work with. For me, sites like Artstation and Flickr work pretty good.
The rest is straightforward.
Once I have the reference images sorted out I usually sketch out my idea in 2D. Then looking at the references and the sketch, I design this stuff in 3D. No surprises, usually it’s Blender. Though I don’t hesitate to use any other tools I need at the moment. I let the project go through as many iterations as needed (before the deadline is here). I had renders that took 30-40 revisions before I thought it was good enough.
The last step of my workflow is somewhat perversive. I want to tell everyone about the techniques I learned, tools I used and so on.That’s why I record tutorials, I think
What is your hardware and software setup?
I’m a late adopter when it comes to hardware. And not a hardcore Linux geek as well. Right now my setup looks like this:
Core i7 4770
MSI Geforce GTX 1080
A bunch of HDDs, about 8TB in total, 7200 rpm 128GB SSD
Two monitors - 27 inches one, 1440p, 60hz and the other - 24 inches 1080p, tilted vertically
Blender daily build - 2.79a at the moment
OBS Studio for screen capture
PureRef for displaying references
Google drive for all kinds of documents, and believe me I’m drowning in papers as I love to document everything
Could you tell us more about how you conceived CreativeShrimp and what were the lessons you learned along the way?
By the time I started using Blender, there were excellent examples of tutorial websites. Blender Guru, CG Masters, CG Cookie,
you name it.
I thought, damn, the value they provide is extremely high. Educating generations of 3d artists to use the free and open-source
means of production, this is a revolution, almost in a marxist sense.
As much as digital distribution and other Web 2.0 phenomena changed the face of gamedev, smart crowds of Blender
users would be changing computer graphics, I thought. Let me jump into that boat!
As for the name, I just picked the most stupid one. Other options were nerdyshrimp, creativecrap, creativeblob, but they were taken. I didn’t want to include Blender in the name, because it was too straight and I’m more screwed than that