New media artist Simon Wilkinson expertly fuses his two passions in life: art and 3D animation. His provocative pieces analyse, dissect and reassemble the emotions and experiences that make us human.
History and Background
Born in Normanton, West Yorkshire, only child Simon discovered his love of art by drawing cars. If he couldn’t find any paper, he’d scribble them on the furniture and walls of his house – much to the chagrin of his parents!
After completing his A-levels, Simon studied art at Wakefield College. Here, he became passionate about storyboarding and animation; particularly the work of Ray Harryhausen, famed for Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts.
When a tutor warned him that in order to make any money from his talent, he should focus on 3D animation (then in its infancy), Simon took it on board. Following the completion of his English Literature degree at the University of Leeds, he set up his own animation and post-production company.
For the next 20 years, he enjoyed a successful career in the television and film industry, working with clients such as the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky. Then after walking into our gallery in Harrogate two years ago, Simon became determined to at last combine his passions for art and 3D animation.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Ideas and Inspirations
Simon’s surreal, conceptual sculptures are inspired by his everyday life. His characters’ generic body shape and lack of personalising features render them unidentifiable. In short, they could be any one of us.
He explains: “They represent a sort of ‘everyman’ figure that reflects my own creative aspirations and conflicts, along with personal emotions such as tenderness and loneliness.
“Degas once said: ‘Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.’ I would like to think that my work is not just a reflection of my own feelings, but a reflection of what other people may feel at any stage of their lives.”
Simon is also inspired by Futurism: an artistic and social movement that originated in twentieth century Italy and intertwined concepts including speed, technology and violence with objects such as cars and aeroplanes.
Further inspiration is derived from Cubism, which sees objects analysed, dissected and reassembled in an abstract form.
From Palette to Picture
All of Simon’s work is created digitally using software called LightWave 3D, which is often associated with Hollywood films.
The first step is to construct a 3D model out of geometrical vertices, faces and edges. Much like a traditional clay or plaster model, they are sculpted to specific details using various tools. The 3D model is then painted to achieve the desired effect and texture, before a bone/joint system is set up to deform it – a process known as rigging. Various controllers and handles then allow the figures to be posed.
Following this, the figures are placed in what Simon describes as a ‘virtual movie set’, complete with lighting and special effects. The final piece is then rendered at high-resolution and printed onto aluminium.
“I love this freedom," he says. “Just changing the lighting or camera angle slightly can give the piece a completely different feeling or emotion. I feel like I can tell my own stories, instead of someone else’s. This is my little world.”