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Nik Daum, creator of Meatland, lists his favorite books

Nik Daum talks about his creative techniques…

READERSVOICE.COM: When drawing the stills from Meatland on your website, like the “Wider view of shoppers in the megamart”, what were the steps involved and what medium did you use?

NIK DAUM: The technique for making the images starts with a doodle in my sketchbook or on an index card or two. Since I don’t have a scanner in Thailand, I take a decent size digital photo to get the drawing into the computer and I color and photo montage in Photoshop. I am not that good at drawing, but I love coloring and composition, so the faster I can get it into the computer the better. A lot of the backgrounding textures are from a collection of my own photos and found images on the internet.

RV: Regarding your picture “Tycoon tower and megamart during a rainstorm”, and other pictures, can you talk about how you blend photographs or real locations with computer imagery?

ND: I have started modeling some of the city in a free open-source program called Blender.
I have the whole town planned out in map form, for which I will do a rough model for establishing shots, with more detailed set pieces for the real shots. Again, this is all preliminary and slow going now as I haven’t modeled in 3d since high school. Ultimately, I don’t want the 3d animation to look like computer animation. I don’t want it slick or polished; I just want it to blend with the hand drawn elements. And it is far easier to get a good-looking and drawn-feeling environment than it will be any type of character.
RV: Where did you collect ideas from for inclusion in your animation imagery?

ND: Most often I am just looking at something and daydreaming about the weird things that could happen to it.

RV: Do you carry around a sketch book at all times in case you see something interesting you might want to use?

ND: I don’t carry a sketchbook anymore, but I am prompt to write down or forcibly remember an idea I have. Of course, I forget just as many ideas with this system, too.

RV: When you go to create a picture do you open your scrapbooks first and look for ideas there, or does that come after you’ve had an idea for a picture?

ND: I keep a jumbled idea for an image in my mind first. It is lucky if it is ever written down at all. For those, the doodle often is colored and set into an environment to give it a quick mood. As I just started this whole process, it is less about the particulars of the place, but the feeling. It helps me figure out the characters better before refining the details.

RV: In your character studies for “‘Gramps’ and the birdmen”, what was the medium you used there for the color and black lines?

ND: The drawings are done in my sketchbook with pen and I color them on computer in Photoshop, laying down a base layer of shadow colors and painting light values on top of them, just like doing a real painting.

RV: Some of the stills from Meatland are spectacular. What sort of movie or art influences went into pictures like “Father on the loose!”

ND: Some of my movie influences are Lilo and Stitch, Les Triplettes de Belleville, Nightmare Before Christmas, Pixar movies, Steamboy, Pica Towers by Studio AKA, among others.

RV: “One of the shipyard’s glory ships in its final days: The Grande” is an awesome picture, too. What was the ship illustrated with?

ND: Eventually the ships will be modeled and textured in 3d, but that image approximates the effect with 3d rendered water and a hand drawn and colored ship. The ships are a side story to the town.

RV: Is it difficult to juggle commercial art work and your fine art projects, and what percentage of your time does each take?

ND: I find it really hard to do both even though both are related. There is a finite amount of time and creative energy in a given day, so if I use it in one area I lose it in another.

And in many ways, I found commercial work just as satisfying because the problems were more tangible while still requiring artistic solutions.
Working on an animation alone is a self-imposed problem.

RV: Will you be using your trip around Thailand for creative purposes and can you talk about that?

ND: I will be thinking about the story more with the friend I’m traveling with. He has an animation project in the works too and will be a good person to talk to.

– See Nik Daum’s website at http://nikdaum.com

Bonus reading suggestions:
I went to the Brisbane Writers’ Festival in October and asked a couple of fantasy writers for some reading suggestions. Jeff Vandermeer, author of City of Saints and Madmen, and Veniss Underground recommended the fantasy novel A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin. Also he liked Jerusalem Poker by Edward Whittemore, published in 1978 and part of the Jerusalem Quartet.
Paul Brandon, author of Swim the Moon, and The Wild Reel, said he liked the fantasy novels of George R. R. Martin, which he said showed him that something good and new can still come out of fantasy novels.
He also liked George R. R. Martin’s short stories, and he said Martin’s novel Fevre Dream was the best vampire novel he’d ever read. It’s a gripping 1982 novel about vampires on a Mississippi steam boat in the mid to late 19th century.
Also I spoke to crime writer Leigh Redhead, author of Peepshow, about a stripper- private investigator. She said she liked Miami Purity by Vicki Hendricks, all of Val McDermid’s novels, Sue Grafton, and anything by Peter Corris.