Senior Environment artist Toni Bratincevic talks to 3dtotal about his journey from humble beginnings in the 1990s to becoming one of the senior artists at top studio: Blizzard.
Inspired by an old man in Croatia with Alzheimer's Disease
3dtotal: Hi Toni! Before we start, can you describe how you first got into 3D - Your first trials and errors, any support from friends and family and any other highlights in your journey through university and first professional years?
My first contact with 3D graphics was during the 90s. A friend of mine had an Amiga 500 and we played a little bit with programs like Fantavision and Real3D. Some of the computer magazines at that time published images that were rendered on an Amiga in 4096 color and they were just so impressive. I remember seeing those and having some strange feeling that somehow it will be a part of my future.
Later during the 90s I got my first PC and I installed 3D Studio 2.0. I've spent some time learning 3D Studio, and in first 2 years I produced almost 40 illustrations. During that time there was a gallery in the Croatian computer games magazine Hacker, where people from around the country were sending their art pieces. Seeing some of those renderings, I decided to send some of my images over there, and that was the first time that one of my images was ever published in some form. Later that year I won an award, it was first place for best art of the year and I got some nice prizes.
In 1998, after graduating from high school, I went to study computer science, where I spent almost five years. I didn't have any art classes during college, so I spent a lot of free time learning 3D applications and creating new illustrations. After college, I landed my first job in the capital city of Croatia, Zagreb, and that's where my professional career started.
About a Mad Scientist conducting experiments on living subjects
3dtotal: At the time you were doing 3D and studying, internet, Google and YouTube began to appear. Would you consider your early works as pioneer adventures? How did you go about getting information about 3D in such a remote location?
Most of the information I was getting, was actually based on the help materials I had with the 3D software I was working with. During the time when I was in college, I had a small freelance job at a local television station and I remember using the first version of Maya on a SGI workstation. That first version of Maya came with a couple of books explaining everything from modeling tools to simulation, animation and rigging etc. I remember going over every single book and absorbing all that knowledge.
Internet during that time was not so developed, but even the small amount of information that I was getting online was very helpful. The community of 3D artists in the 90s was much different to that of today, they were much more excited about their discoveries and wanted to share them more, and people really helped each other to make progress. When I was studying I didn't have much money to spend, so I just bought like two books about 3D in four years. It was hard to gain knowledge during that time, but everybody was so passionate, so we made it somehow, even without all the learning materials available today. That was one big adventure indeed, like going into unknown territory with a very high risk of positive outcome.
An accident with a reactor left a huge plasma bubble around the facility, which later imploded – killing all life.
This is the resurrection tree
3dtotal: Looking back on things, how huge of a decision was moving to Blur, and what it meant for your life, not only from an artist's point of view. Was it the most daring thing you ever did?
The decision to move to Blur, was one of the most important decisions in my life. It actually meant a restart and going from zero again, since I had my life already established in Croatia. I remember we (my wife and I) were talking to our friends a lot about going abroad to work, but nobody thought we were serious. One day it just happened and everybody was shocked. Blur was a great choice for my first experience in a new world, I just loved that company, it was so much fun and people working there were great. It took me a couple of months to get used to tempo we had at Blur, but after that everything was going smoothly.
The experience I had from moving to another country was something that everybody should have, learning about a new culture, speaking a new language, getting used to how things work, it's priceless. I enjoyed ever single minute of it. I really like my life here in the US, and finally I feel that my skills are valued.
With a blue hue to represent life, this is about memories and the promise of creation just around the corner…
3dtotal: I grew up with your image Bounded by Destiny, it had everything I was looking for in 3D, plus the story and the ability to explore. Put aside one of your 3D artworks, describe it and explain what makes it so special to you?
With Bounded by Destiny I wanted to reflect upon the life of my grandfather, who passed away a few years before I made that image. I wanted to describe the progress of life, how you feel in that moment of happiness and innocence while you are young, and then on the opposite side I wanted to balance image with that same person, but having him as an old person that's remembering all the steps he took during his life and trying to deconstruct if all these steps were predestined for him or was he the one that made decisions freely. Most of my images in one way or another are a reflection of the life itself and were motivated by asking some of the basic questions about it.
Dedicated to one of the most important inventors of the 20th Century: Nikola Tesla
3dtotal: Most of your images are 3D tales for me, especially when one gets to read the underlining story that's behind it. How do you come about representing a thought in 3D? Where do you start, struggle the most and how does it end? Do you have any advice for the creative minds reading this?
The idea for every image I made was not solidified before I started creating it in 3D. It's not like an idea happens and it's that clear that I just take 3D tools and realize it. The development of an image is an on-going process and as visuals are developing, so is the meaning. Some of the images were made by just doing simple tests without any backup story to support it, and then as it aesthetically becomes something, I just stick a story to it, which defines the direction for further development.
As I am working on images, I struggle a lot after some point to make the direction of progress clearer to me. The first 80% of the progress will usually consume 50% of my time, while the last 20% will consume the rest. Making an illustration more complex takes a lot of time and patience, but knowing what I will achieve in the end and how people could react to it, makes me push my art further with every new piece.
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