Don Webster's life has been immersed in imagery.
He started his adult life as an aerial surveillance officer in the 1960s, broke into conceptualizing technologies in the '70s, video and television production in the 1980s, and software development in the '90s led him to 3D modeling in his retirement.
"When I retired in 2003, my wife and I built a home near Middletown, Virginia, at the entrance of the Civil War Shenandoah Valley," Webster said.
It was there in a tall stand of pines that Webster found a spot where his passion for history and art intersect.
He and his wife had been participating in Civil War re-enactments at Shenandoah Nation Park when he began documenting the other re-enactors with a Nikon digital camera and transforming the photos into canvas giclee pre-productions with a tablet.
"While this was an enjoyable activity with many loving to come by the tent after a day or reenacting a battle and seeing themselves depicted, there was always a few who just had to tell everyone in the tent that they could easily do this in Photoshop," he said.
He tired of the critiques and switched to a more technical medium, VUE, which he used to create scenes to print on canvas.
A Different VUE
E-on's VUE is designed for the generation of scenery and environments, specifically outdoor landscapes. According to E-on, the software has been used by Industrial Light & Magic in movies such as Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and Pirates of the Caribbean.
But Webster uses it to create scenes from his own imagination.
Now he is bringing his full catalog to the Renderosity community .
"The advantage of VUE for me is it provides me an unlimited environment where I can create my own terrain from simple yard around a house to the Grand Canyon, even earth itself or distance worlds," he said.
The different terrains can be anything he desires, rocks, soils, water.
"This unlimited environment can be covered in vegetation, trees, and flowers; ponds, rivers and oceans teeming with fish; the air filled with birds; just as in real life," Webster said. "My created world is then ready to hold my buildings, ships, aircraft, people, animals lit by the sunset as a location and time on earth and highlighted with countless types of lights..the Carrier Hanger scene had 67 lights in the ceiling."
In particular, Webster likes the seemingly endless number of atmospheres available and the option to adjust lighting after rendering.
"Regardless of how large, complex, how long your render takes, once rendered I can go back and adjust the lighting," he said. "Now I don't mean make small adjustments. I'm talking about turning off every light including the sun in your render and start turning on each as a lighting director would do on a closed Hollywood set, yet here we are also doing it to a worldscape."
If you get done with an hours-long render and don't like the lighting, there's no reason to do it again, he said. VUE lets you readjust the lighting and even change the color of the light.
In all, Webster has more than 200 products for purchase, most of which he is beginning to offer on Renderosity.com under his username London224.
"Initially I will be bringing over 60 of my existing models some of which may also be converted to DAZ by an associate," Webster said.
After the first batch is complete, he will continue to offer other products to the community.
"Now I am not a landscaper as is the main feature of VUE, but I will be modeling assets that take advantage of VUE's ability to provide an artist with a world size palette in which to create their visions," he said.
He suggested taking a look at his gallery to see what his total offerings may be.
"In all cases, they will be complex, high-poly items within some cases many accessory items that can be moved around, duplicated or removed," he said.
A family affair
His oldest son, Dean Webster, pushed him to try his hand at 3D modeling. The younger Webster teaches 3D computer animation software at Virginia Tech.
"I started to do my own basic modeling needs around the major models of people I would eventually become friends with," Webster said. "Always into submarines, my first modeling effort was, naturally, the Civil War Union submarine, the Alligator, which after completing on canvas wound up in state museum at Cape Hatteras, N.C."
Then he tried to model a gift for a friend in Siberia. The model, Dora in her Tunnel, appeared in EXPOSE 7 and in 3D Artist Magazine.
"I was hooked," Webster said.
His hobby has grown into a modeling business. Webster sells his scenes and models for VUE and DAZ Studio on Cornucopia3D and Renderosity.com.
"I like detail and complexity," Webster said. "While it might be wiser to texture map/bump many of the details of an item in my models, I enjoy modeling the surfaces where one can see real shadow displacement. What would make my work better is more attention to figures, which at the moment I do in Poser."
Webster loves to create buildings and interiors, likely because of his background as the chief operations officer at an architectural CAD software firm, but he also creates sci-fi models and military models.
"Military efforts on this scale allow me to not only model the carrier hanger, but take apart the aircraft models of others and rework them as in repair and prep," Webster said.
If you look closely at the scene, he has included amazingly small details, like a pack of Lucky Strikes on the metal staircase.
"This is a somewhat tribute to my dad along with all the other servicemen of WWII that were given these cigs and eventually became hooked on smoking. My dad died at 47 from a four-pack-a-day habit," Webster said.
From his father to his son, Webster finds inspiration in his family and the world around him. And thanks to VUE he can recreate it in exacting detail.
Michelle Willard, Editor of Renderosity Magazine | Former newspaper reporter. Recovering archaeologist. Political nerd. True crime junkie. Read her articles here