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Or is that an interview with Peter Hague? We may never know. Catherine Tudor tries her best to discover what makes him – whoever he is – tick. Catherine Tudor is a well respected literary reviewer and art enthusiast.This interview was conducted in 2011.An introduction by Catherine TudorI confess I'm an anglophile. Living in America, growing up with a name like Catherine Tudor, one soon becomes fascinated by the history and culture of England. So, when I happened upon this British artist's official web site, I was intrigued. Not only was I in awe of the diversity of Peter Hague's work, his dry wit, and stunning visuals, I was immediately drawn to the image 'Moon River’, which depicted a scene I was already familiar with having grown up near the Mississippi river myself: a riverboat gleaming in the moonlight. The atmosphere in this image, the attention to detail, touched me so much I threw my caution to the wind and emailed him. I was intimidated at first to contact someone so accomplished because I'm new to digital art. However, I found Peter to be personable, supportive of other artists and at times hilarious. Now I'm glad I took that risk as I've learned not only about art but also about the history of tea and the history of photography. I hope when you finish reading our interview you will make time to peruse all of the galleries here. I promise it will be worth your while.CT: When was the first time that you said to yourself: "I am an artist? What did you do about that?e-brink?: I'm not sure I ever did... until perhaps very recently. Some of my recent 3D work looks almost art-like and it's the closest I have ever come to considering myself an 'artist'. I get some great comments from people I do consider to be artists though, so I am very proud of that fact. As for doing something about the notion, I have committed myself almost totally to 3D art in the last few years and plan to do so for the foreseeable future. I have many ideas started and still in the thought stage.CT: How did you pursue your career in graphic design? What training have you had?e-brink?: I had a great interest in art at school and was reasonably good at it, judging by reports, exams and what people said about my pictures. My mother was also interested in my art skills too and when I left school she wanted me to do one of two things: either go to Art School, or become a painter and decorator. Her brother owned a painting and decorating company at the time and was doing rather well, so that influenced her, but I also think she had secret dreams for artist offspring, and so although I did become an apprentice painter and decorator for 6 months – which has come in very handy since – I went to Art School anyway. You needed to have certain academic qualifications to get in, which I didn't have, but I got in on the strength of my doodling. This consisted of a few drawings and some paintings I did using odds and ends of household paint... we didn't have much money... it was almost like painting and decorating taken to a new level. I can remember that I painted a cottage scene with some cream emulsion and a tin of matt black, and also a Mallard duck, painted in standard gloss paint remnants (we must have had some green left over from the fence). I think the art school lecturers who interviewed me were quite impressed by my inventive 'make do and mend' approach, and I was obviously so good at selling myself they let me in on a two year Advertising and Design course... so again, I never really considered myself an artist. We did all the basic art things there, like life drawing, but not so much of the truly art-based stuff like oil painting. We did graphics with ruling pens and markers, photography and technical drawing, which I also had a natural flare for and won a class prize two years running. I suppose that's why the technical side of 3D was easier for me to get to grips with and why I now use so many different programs. I moved on to do another three year course of vocation graphics at Bristol university... I still lacked the basic academic qualifications, but the work from Art School got me in.CT: You are an accomplished webmaster, animator, graphic designer, internationally acclaimed digital artist, owner of a museum and a teashop, entrepreneur, photographer and writer. Am I missing something? I haven't seen any references to music, but I have to wonder if it's in the wings. You are multitalented and obviously work hard. How do you organize your time in order to be so productive?e-brink?: There is never enough time, Catherine. You put 'writer' last there on your list, but I have always put 'WRITER' first. Even when working in advertising I did a great deal of copywriting - my campaign work often started with a headline. I have also written a great many other things too, much of it poetry. As for music, I wrote and recorded about 38 songs in the late 80s, but at the moment I have little interest in music. I am a workaholic, without a doubt. I hardly ever stop – work is my life – there often seems no other reason to be alive and I am lucky enough to have been able to make a living out of art and also to be able to finance what I might call 'unpopular activities', such as my poems, or the art that doesn't make any money and never will – of course, that's usually the most rewarding art.CT: Digital art is relatively new to human history. I read on the Digital Art Museum (DAM) that the first art ever produced using a computer was in 1956. Do you consider yourself and others who follow this artistic movement a type of pioneer? What excites you most about combining technology and art?e-brink?: That's a very interesting question because around 1989, when I was working in advertising as art director and designer, I think I produced the very first piece of computer graphics used in the advertising world around Sheffield. I can also remember driving up to Newcastle to give a solo presentation of an ad campaign which strongly featured the use of computer graphics. It was highly original and they loved the presentation... albeit via Pantone© markers on a layout pad, as was the way then. By the very early 1990s I was doing all my work on computer and occasionally crossed paths with 3D, but computers back then were too slow for that sort of thing – as they still are now to some degree – I feared atrophy of the brain waiting for the rendering and got the hell out. I did 3D drawing and some standard 2D digital art in Adobe Illustrator, especially for the museum graphics in the late 90s, but it was not until 2007 that I really discovered the still new and yes... very pioneering world of 3D digital art.CT: For those who arrive at your e-brink site and know nothing about digital art, or CGI, can you describe the process somewhat? What forms does it take? For instance, how would you respond to those who might look at anyone's 3D work and say: "I don't get it. How did the artist accomplish this? Does the computer do it all? And how can people 'use' these computer-generated images other than in film or in Web design? Can they print them out or hang them over a sofa?"e-brink?: At the end of the day digital art is just 'pictures' and we shouldn't be overly concerned by how they are produced. Just as the average onlooker might not wish to get too concerned with the processes involved with more traditional painting, such as oils and watercolour... or even how a camera produces its imagery – without the artist or the photographer there is nothing. In digital art, many aspects can be considered though. Some people literally construct everything in their scenes, as I sometimes do now. Or they use 3D characters and props that have been provided by third parties, just as a stage or movie director might use actors, props and locations. Some people just like making the 3D models and don't involve themselves in producing pictures with them – which is a great hobby. Because digital art so emphatically involves computers, the slave of the modern age, I suppose some people naturally think these pictures are easier to do in some way. The truth is very different though, and the 'art' content and the 'inspiration' is pretty much the same as in the other, more traditional processes. Okay, it's true to say that just like traditional art, digital art has its 'painting by numbers' potential, but I would advise people not to take too literal a view of this. Many amateurs and hobbyists in the field of 3D art have great fun using stock backgrounds and in some cases, stock foregrounds too. For many it's merely a case of organising the presets and pressing 'go' on the render engine, but I would be the first to encourage these people because I have seen great improvements in their work as they become more experimental and more skilled. There is a whole other side to digital art, of course, which is more serious and takes itself more seriously – too seriously in some cases to the point of exclusion. However, digital art can be very hard work indeed – much harder than the freedom of say, painting on a canvas. The technical side, at a higher level is not so much 'computer assisted' as 'computer hindered'. It can be very frustrating indeed to produce what you want... but that's what makes it pioneering and drives us all on. Like much of art, it is very subjective. In essence, there should be no difference to what I can produce in digital art and what I might produce by drawing and painting. I was a traditional illustrator for many years and I can say that although it might seem that the skills of figure drawing are not so much of a requirement in 3D – many people get it wrong when posing 3D figures and they can end up just as botched as a bad drawing. From a production point of view there is a lot in common with the creation of a stage play or a movie set, and lighting is one of the key factors. Anyone who thinks there is more skill involved in traditional art is wrong. As for the question of print, even before 'e-brink' existed, I had been producing all my work on computer for about 16 years and virtually everything I have ever produced has been printed or published in some way or another. Therefore the line between digital and hard-copy is now very blurred indeed.CT: And speaking of e-brink... he is no ordinary pseudonym. When you write about him, he sounds like a separate persona from Peter Hague. When did e-brink enter your life? How did the name come about? How do Peter Hague and e-brink differ? How do you compliment one another? Who rebels most often? Who wins?e-brink?: e-brink is just another part of me – it's not a war or a struggle. When I'm working on 3D I often say to myself... "I hope e-brink turns up". It's not that he appears at the end to "save the day" in Photoshop, or anything like that. e-brink is a total mystery who appears on-site at any moment in a new work and suddenly it starts to have a special quality – that quality that people seem to like... don't know what it is. Sometimes I think he buggers off before the end though... they're the pictures I don't show. I have always run my creative business under the name Peter Hague Concept - Design - Art Direction, but e-brink is almost a wing of that... he's the guy who gets things done... the SAS of art who leaps in and bails me out. In reality, he is maybe just the kid I used to be proving he's still there. He came to light on the very first day I became involved in 3D. I had started doing some new work with composite photographs and was looking for a certain effect. I started looking on the web and discovered the DAZ 3D site, which had the very thing I needed. At that time I was not a member so I joined with the username 'e-brink'... which just popped into my head, although it does have a very special secret significance to me, apart from the fact that it is quite obviously 'e' related, such as e-mail and e-bot etc. Looking back, years later, e-brink is almost a guardian angel. I often refer to him as though he is another person... which does confuse a few people.CT: When did you first begin expressing yourself in 3D? What was the lure?e-brink?: What I was looking for at DAZ 3D in February 2007 was not strictly speaking 3D. I was looking for a way of producing a fairly traditional 2D cartoon, but without the hassle of doing all the figure drawing, which was unnecessary for the project I had in mind. Anyway, having messed around with the excellent free program called Daz|Studio, I was smitten by the whole process and I have never stopped since. I don't think a single day has gone by without me having one connection or another with 3D digital art.CT: How did you learn all the software you use?e-brink?: I have been using computers for over 20 years. I am a bit lazy though so I hardly ever read a manual - I usually just mess around until I 'get it'. I see a few odd tips along the way. Of course, recently we have the phenomena of video tutorials, which are priceless. In the early days I only had to master a few programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and QuarkXpress, but now I use over 20 different programs on a regular basis, so the 'lazy boy' approach doesn't work too well. Video tutorials are a great crash course, but I recommend people use them properly. Too many people dip in here and there and discover something they can reproduce for a single picture, or a demo, but without really finding out how a program ticks... it's always worth running through a full course these days – it's so easy and inexpensive, why not? I have to say though that the only program I could not have learned without tutorials is Carrara... it's a great program... but a nightmare to get to grips with at first. Or at least it was for me. It is currently the program I use most because I am doing a great deal more modelling, which will appear in my work and on this site progressively.CT: What are your favorite tools? Do you use a PC or a Mac or both?e-brink?: Well, I suppose my favourite tools are still the software I have used most. Photoshop is probably my flagship. I use Adobe Illustrator occasionally now, but I used it every day back in the 90s. For almost the whole of 2007 I used Daz|Studio in combination with Bryce for 3D work, but more recently have been using Daz|Studio by itself – many of my recent well known pictures, such as 'The Dragon Slayers' and 'Breath of Life' were done purely in DS (with Photoshop postwork). I have also used Vue extensively too and will use it more in the future, along with Poser. At the moment, I use Carrara a great deal because I am doing more modelling, as I said earlier. I have produced quite a number of new pictures in Carrara too, but they are not yet available to see... I am still very private about my work and don't feel that displaying it is always a part of doing it... time may see them bloom. I use a Mac, because in business the Mac has always been the traditional graphics computer, preferred in most areas of the graphics industry. Oddly, the PC had an almost exclusive foothold in the 3D world and only recently is that situation changing.CT: Tell us how you go about rendering your images. What was your longest render time?e-brink?: For rendering I am at the mercy of the machines and the programs, as we all are. Render times can be very short or extremely long. Sometimes you can render a decent picture in just a few minutes, other times it takes hours – and this is on top of the creative work time. Because of my often very complex lighting and atmospheres, my pictures in general can take anywhere between 2-12 hours per render on average. I've had quite a few take 24 hours or more, but my longest render ever took 9 days - didn't even finish that one either - I think I forgot what I was doing with it and moved on. I sometimes render a picture as many as 25 times in the course of production... it's a lot of time. Just for the people who may be reading this and don't know what 'rendering' is, it's the process that happens when the picture that you have set up using wireframe models and various lighting and atmospheric effects is reproduced by the computer to look (hopefully) as you intended it to look in picture form. It can take the computer a great deal of time to workout what all your settings mean – if the picture is large, the render time is longer. I produce my pictures fairly big these days for potential future traditional print purposes rather than just screen resolution, but you can do short little test renders to use as guides along the way and have a great deal of control over what you are doing.CT: How important is postwork in the art you do? What role does it play in the final process of your 3D work?e-brink?: After rendering, that's when the real art occurs as far as I'm concerned – when I put it all together in Photoshop and make it work as a picture that people will hopefully want to look at. Some people seem proud to strive for renders 'without postwork', which is handy if you plan on doing animation with many frames, but to me, they are missing the whole point - a picture without postwork is almost never complete. Even movies are highly postworked these days - frame by frame. Having said that, postwork is occasionally also beset by the painting by numbers attitude - though once again, it's always great to see people trying something new and learning along the way.CT: Where do you find the most support for your talents: family, friends, peers, or all of the above? What keeps you working so hard? Do you belong to any of the artistic communities or galleries on the Web? If so, what is your favorite gallery and why?e-brink?: My family is used to me being involved in commercial art, so don't take a great deal of interest in what I do, although my recent work on the web and in 3D has been different and hard to dismiss, so they have been very supportive of it and a little bit surprised... bearing in mind that the last big project I came out with was a museum and a teashop, so they never know what to expect. I have a few friends and acquaintances on the web, mostly centred around the Renderosity art site, where I have a gallery. I still post pictures on the DAZ site though and I am always in their shop. The shop at Renderosity is also a big draw – so many wonderful items. I must admit that I enjoy collecting 3D models. I have hundreds that I will never ever be able to use. I have always been a bit of a collector – hence the museum of photography. The thing that makes me work so hard is just the drive I get from the interest I find in every twist and turn of the 3D world. There is also a great deal of inspiration to be gained from the words and images of the people involved, who seem to come from all walks of life. I suppose I currently consider Renderosity as my second home and my work has been amazingly popular there. However, it is a very huge site with people posting pictures every 50 seconds, or so, and we have to take any popularity in life on that scale with a pinch of salt. I am of no doubt that the silent majority still rules all things in the universe... a bit like 'dark matter' – no one knows what it is, it seems pointless, but the gravity cannot be ignored.CT: Who are your favorite classical painters? Your favorite writers? Do they influence your work in any way?e-brink?: Over the years, I have been influenced by many people as individuals, but also by a general 'umbrella of excellence'. This would include people like Beethoven, T S Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Kate Bush and the Beatles... many, many more of course. I have always had a deep interest in art history. Leonardo da Vinci impressed me with his diversity. The French impressionists impressed me with their unity of thought, producing so many great images and different styles within a common framework... what a pioneering era that was! Digital art is probably the nearest art has come to that since - so much diversity here, including all the genres, from portrait to sci-fi and fantasy, from fractals to photography.CT: There are often rule makers in the art world no matter what the discipline. In this case, those who divide into factions using only one type of software, or one type of technique, style, or genre. What do you say to them? What is your general philosophy?e-brink?: I have noticed a tendency among some people to just stick around a single program or the same style of picture - some because they just like being part of a smaller community within a huge one, or just because they found something that works for them – easy to understand amongst the hugely puzzling scope of 3D. Other people stay within a certain framework because they are trying to sell products in that area, so someone with a Vue orientated shop will only comment on my work when I do a picture in Vue... which frankly seems mercenary and ridiculous – and not even a good marketing ploy either – since I may well be doing Vue pictures in the background which I choose not to show. In many ways though, it is very normal for people to cluster and behave the way they do. I have genuine interests in many areas and I find myself encouraging people in many disciplines – sometimes, because I don't seem to do much of 'that' whatever it is, myself, they question my interest. For instance, occasionally a photographer might not understand why I comment on their work, totally denying the possibility of general interest outside 3D and also the fact that, in my case, I have always been a photographer, I specialised in that subject at Art School and have my own photographic web site showing many pictures I have taken over the last few decades... not to mention the Museum of Photography. I also have a supportive interest in fractals, though I have never actually done one. What people do is their prerogative – I am an art nomad. It probably comes from the fact that I am a recluse in many ways and don't really allow myself to be drawn in to small communities. I suppose that's why I like the bigger picture of Renderosity and the general internet digital art scene – lots of little interesting niches to explore without having to pitch a tent.CT: You have created several extraordinarily life-like models and display them on this site. Do you plan to eventually sell your models to other digital artists?e-brink?: I have a lot of models that are currently unseen and that's what I'm working on at the moment - and the possibility of marketing them on the various sites, but there are boring technical difficulties to get past and that's often when I tend to 'do something else' instead. The 3D world has been too enmeshed in the PC system rather than the Mac and I find the information and technical method sketchy, irritating and out of date. 3D product production needs to move on a bit. Having said that, it's moving forward in the right direction on a daily basis. Last year, it was almost impossible to do the conversions necessary but now things are getting much better. Of course, I have loads to do already with my other art projects and then there's my other business interests to keep going, so releasing models is still just a thought on the back burner.CT: Your sites involve a great deal of graphic design, yet they also contain excellent writing. How long have you been writing? Have you ever written any extensive work such as a book? If so, what was it about and what is happening with that project?e-brink?: I have been writing as long as I have been doing art. For a long time I considered myself a writer rather than anything else and that's why there's so much of it in my work. I have always written stories and poems and I have also completed a comic novel that I think would be really worth publishing.CT: Your Black Pencil Design site is such a funny satire about an imaginary advertising business. When did this idea first come to you? Comedic timing is difficult to come by. Many writers think they have it, when they don't. Is this a skill you acquired, or has humor always played an important part in your life? What was the comic novel about?e-brink?: I had a thought about writing comedy as far back as the 80's, when I wrote a couple of things that I thought were quite funny. I even wrote a stand-up script once – but it was fairly topical, so unless you have a time machine, it may need editing. The Black Pencil Design Site came about just after I created the teashop. I was doing a lot of writing then and I was also a bit miserable. One day, while doodling with a web site idea it all came out. I have obviously had a great deal of experience in the advertising world so I had a lot of material to go at. Funnily enough, I was originally going to call my own design business Black Pencil Design, but it sounded too sinister for the clients, so I dropped it. The comic novel I wrote centres around an eccentric Professor and his sidekick who have wonderful adventures exploring Africa sometime during the last century. I also produced a serious book about the ancient magical writing form known as runes. I did all the artwork for that book and it was almost published, then things happened in my life and I shelved it. I think that's another thing I could consider bringing to light again... I'm just so busy though... being e-brink.CT: Authors often talk about their self-critical or editorial voice which can stifle or even cripple their creativity, sometimes leading to writer's block or in some cases long periods of depression. You are so creative, productive, and have been so successful during your life that one has to wonder if there are ever any moments of self-doubt? Do you ever stop to wonder: what am I doing, and why? How do you deal with that negative self-talk?e-brink?: This is a very big issue for me. "What am I doing and why?" is my motto! I have suffered from depression for a very long time, but I have learned to use it. Even as far back as the eighties I can remember producing advertising that really worked well, though at the time I was deeply depressed. In a way, the expected 'ever-positive' outlook of advertising and design helped me to find a way to produce very upbeat work from the black pit of depression. That still happens today. I remember being very down when I came up with Zelda, Anthony and Emo, some of my very best 'fun' characters. In fact, this 3D art thing has been very positive for me in pulling me out of such dark times. Having said that, there are always moments of self-doubt and I still feel I have yet to produce my best work... that's what keeps me going. Some of my work often seems to me to be a visual for the real thing... the sort of thing we do in advertising and design for presentation or the 'pre-vis' work now so popular and almost replacing the story-board in movies. One of the things that keeps me going is thinking about me as that small boy who made models and painted ducks with household gloss... he would be so happy and thrilled at what I can do today... so maybe I do it for him... and like I say, maybe that's the real e-brink?CT: Tell us about your experience as creative director in advertising. Was your work equivalent to any of the characters' duties in the popular American show 'Mad Men' which is based on an advertising firm set in Manhattan during the sixties? What type of projects did you work on? What was your role?e-brink?: Well, surprisingly, considering I was nowhere near Manhattan in the early sixties, my advertising experience years later was very similar to what we see in that series. The advertising world has stayed pretty much the same... full of backstabbing, affairs, egos, mergers, head-hunting and also genuine people with great ideas just trying to make money. Like some of the characters in the series I started out at the bottom as just a paste-up artist and tea-boy, but progressed very quickly to Art Director and Creative Director. I was very hands-on though, I did a huge amount of the visualising myself - wrote a lot of the concepts and headlines too. But it was also a team effort and I had three or four different studios to control during that period. Eventually though, I became sick of the endless politics of agency life and branched out by myself as a Freelance Designer and Concept Creator, under the name Peter Hague Concept - Design - Art Direction. I did okay for a long time... it also allowed me the time to do other projects too, which has always been important to me.CT: How does your experience in advertising effect, or help your digital art work now?e-brink?: Very much so. I think that's what helps me develop an idea sometimes just when I'm doodling.... an idea that can grow into something quite structured, as though I had started with a brief. As I mentioned, there is a certain quality of looseness and 'concept visualising' contained in my work. People have often remarked that I should make this or that picture into a series, or maybe develop a character further in more pictures. I think that comes from the strong sense of 'concept' I put into most of my work.CT: What has been your proudest moment doing 3d work? Your proudest moment working in advertising? And what was your proudest moment in your life?e-brink?: So many! So far as 3D goes, I am easy to please. I just love winning those little competitions or even just getting a few genuinely positive comments for what I do. People often write to me and say they find my work inspiring. I like that because it really does make me feel I am putting something back, because not many people can say they have spent their whole life in art and made a living from it. In a way I am proud of just that - the fact that I actually did it so long... and still feel I have so much to offer... and to learn too. Another thing I am proud of is that I worked for three advertising agencies twice! I left them all – even walked out of one of them – but they all had me back a second time. That's rare in advertising and business in general. I must have had something?CT: How would you advise those who are just starting out in the arts? For instance, what would you say to a young person who hopes to go into a career of graphic design?e-brink?: This is not so easy. Computers have made the world of graphic design very accessible to non-artists. The job-market in that respect is very much different. Many web sites are designed by techies now and even posters and print seem more and more handled by people who can 'work the equipment' rather than know anything about design or typography. Anyone who has flare in actual art and design is going to find it very difficult indeed. In some ways, that's why I used my skills to open a museum and a teashop – designing for myself and my own business seemed the best way forward. In the 1990s, 'clients' almost ceased to exist in the traditional sense, much of my design work came though companies needing PR rather than just straight advertising. I think young people will find it hard to make a living because there are a lot of people now who will simply work for nothing to get work and that's always going to attract a client – quality or not. One thing I would say is stay clear of specialisation and don't be a 'one trick pony'. Even when I started that would have been bad. I was an illustrator, a lettering artist, a paste up artist, a conceptual designer/visualiser and a copywriter all at the same time. I have never ceased to add to that list either. It's that sort of world – be flexible and progressive... oh... and above all, learn Photoshop!CT: As an American who has not been to the UK (yet), I have to ask you... what's your favorite part of having lived in England all of your life? Tell us a bit about where you live and work and what a typical day is like in the life of Peter Hague... and e-brink?e-brink?: Since I was born in England, the best thing I liked about it was that it felt like home. However, all that has changed recently. I think a lot of English people are starting to feel less at home now. The politicians of the last 30 years, or so, have screwed up in a big way – they have been far too liberal with our infrastructure and our cultural base – in fact, in my opinion they have thrown much of it away. English traditions, way of life and industries are dying rapidly... they call it 'cultural diversity', but it feels more like megalomania – a game of square pegs in round holes driven by multinational companies trying to bulldoze everything flat and paint it all grey. Even many older people don't seem to have a handle on it anymore, let alone the bewildered, disenfranchised youth. The same thing has been happening across the rest of Europe too – Europe has lost its special flavour. I suppose, in a way the internet has been responsible for some of that, though I do strongly advocate the web and the world-wide connections it produces – this can be cultural diversity at its best. I have more friends and acquaintances on the web, for instance, than I do here in England – so like I said, be flexible. Being Peter Hague and e-brink is not all that wonderful. I try to spend as much time as I can, working on my computer, but never seem to get ahead of what I want to do. I also have to consider my other business interests too now, which I must confess, are becoming less interesting, but too successful and popular to drop. I have some wonderful people helping me, people I can rely on, but I would still love to have more time for what I consider my real work. So much to do, so little time – that's my day.CT: Tell me the one question you wish I'd asked you during this interview? And your answer?e-brink?: Is 'e-brink' always spelt with a lower-case 'e'? Preferably, but not always.CT: What's next?e-brink?: You're quite right... this is the beginning, isn't it...Catherine Tudor