User Preferences: Tech Q&A With Digital Illustrator Ben White
Each week we chat about the tools of the trade with one outstanding creative to find out exactly how they do what they do. The questions are always the same, the answers, not so much. This week: Ben White. Click here for more User Preferences Tech Q&As.
The Creators Project: Who are you and what do you do?
Ben White: Hi I am Ben White, currently working under the umbrella of nvlnvl.co for all things abstract, typographic, minimal, and experimental. My full-time work is as a Deputy Manger in retail, while part-time I work in digital illustration, user interface / experience, and typography. At the moment my main focus is going into self-initiated apparel and lifestyle garments to be manufactured next year, and an experimental approach to developing abstract sculpture for both screen and physical process. I love electronic music, books on philosophy or physics, and in all honesty, going to fancy restaurants whenever possible! All together it can be a busy but enjoyable schedule with a little time here and there to explore new digital tools and techniques, one of the things I enjoy the most.
The Copenhagen Solution (2012)
Simplexity & Complicity (2011)
What kind of hardware do you use?
The current setup is a single-core system with 1 GB of RAM, it’s an aging setup that can struggle at times I admit! Adopting the ethos that’s it’s better to do a lot with little, I have kept working on it for some time and it’s been reliable. Now however, there are simply just some things it won’t stretch to, such as 3D simulations and very large files for print in Photoshop, so a probably overdue upgrade is around the corner.
Without wanting to endorse any particular manufacturers, the upgrade will be to an Intel i7 quad-core system, 16GB DDR3 memory, a GTX 660 graphics card and all important SSD for faster drive access times. Other hardware bits include a scanner (that I embarrassingly haven’t used for years), external hard drives, nothing too special, but a nice enough widescreen monitor and broken digital camera that I will replace soon. I don’t use a graphics tablet, though I have been assured more than once that I should for the work I do! Maybe one day I will get into using one and look back wondering how I survived without it before, but not quite yet.
What kind of software do you use?
I really wouldn’t want to be without Photoshop as it’s pretty central to bringing together the output from other apps and for digital painting. Apart from that ubiquitous tool I use a program called Inkscape for most vector work. I found it a few years ago and was instantly fond of its minimal interface. For me, it was a more intuitive approach to manipulating paths than I found in other apps. For most 3D i’ve been using Blender, which is open-source like Inkscape. Its interface is a little more involved but it’s supported by an amazing online community of users sharing techniques and knowledge. 3D Studio Max and some of the plug-in renderers are things I am learning more about at the moment.
SATO & SOTO (2012)
SATO & SOTO (2012)
What piece of equipment can you simply not live without?
I like to think we adapt pretty quickly, and reinvent tools to fit our needs when forced to. So it’s good to not become too dependent on any one thing, because that dependency can then become a limiting factor on creativity. Only doing what you think the equipment will allow you to do is a fairly nasty place to be stuck in. As I admitted above though, I would personally feel pretty lost without Photoshop, and also speakers. Speakers are definitely one bit of equipment that has to be there!
If money were no object, how would you change your current set up?
I would be absolutely wonderful to convert the bedroom into a render farm, and leave my main PC’s resources free. As much RAM as possible for large files in Photoshop would definitely be the next thing. I think after that it would be two large monitors, allowing me to have tools or source-code on one. Having the working canvas on the other would make things a little easier and save time rearranging the screen layout for different tasks. I would like to have a digital SLR camera, tripod and studio space for painting and experimenting with installations. Maybe I got a bit carried away with this question? I would love to get one of the new 3D printers as well.
Abstracts (2008 – 2010)
Abstracts (2008 – 2010)
Is there any piece of technology that inspired you to take the path you did?
A bundled copy of Adobe Photo Deluxe many years ago was probably quite a critical point, I would say it was a large part in convincing me to pursue the digital path further. I guess it is hard to say, but without that and seeing what people were doing with the then fairly new 3D software, I might not of been inspired to explore digital art myself.
What is your favorite piece of technology from your childhood?
Sega Master System which shows my age I guess, but I loved that thing when I was a kid! I also borrowed a four-track tape deck and tried to make music on it with a drum machine I had. It was no Roland 808 and the setup never produced anything worthwhile, but it was still fun trying. In those days there weren’t mobile phones or social media, and all that black plastic with colored buttons on the drum machine evoked ideas of a future with robots and hover boards.
What fantasy piece of technology would you like to see invented?
Volumetric digital sculpting chamber. This is a room utilizing motion-tracking and holographic projection to give a different level of user interface and experience. Grab a tool palette from the wall and make a selection with a sweep of your arm, arranging your layers on the other wall. In the middle of the room is your 3D canvas where you can sculpt and paint using the current tool by directly interacting with a holographic model. Reach out and model with your hands, make arm gestures to zoom into the details or scale and rotate. I think something like this would allow the creation of entirely new forms of digital sculpture and would be an incredibly kinetic way to work connecting artists back to the dexterity of artistic creation found in all previous centuries.
This Is Our House (2012)