Landscapes of skin and coal, pt. 2

This is probably the image I’m happiest with from this semester’s work. It’s based on terrain data from the Black Mountain mine, on the Virginia-Kentucky border.


Rendered in Maya, with some post in Photoshop. Getting this to 8-bit for saving to web does some bad things to the contrast – the print looks substantially better, I think.

Landscapes of skin and coal: procedural skin displacement map

In this semester, I’ve been working with mapping coal mining data. As much of my work deals with materials, I’m playing with the combination of coal and mineral materials with human skin. I’m also referencing pictorial landscapes and trying to pair the aspirational feel of some of that style of photography with the visceral and emotional impact of familiar human skin.

This work has taken quite a bit of development time, as the technical aspects of subsurface scattering, map creation, render optimization, and rendering at print sizes has been a challenge.

One of the first problems to solve for print was optimizing map size and texture space. Even using 8k maps, printing at gallery sizes (30″, ~200dpi) means pixelation for the compositions I was choosing. So I developed a procedural skin bump/displacement map. Here’s a render, Maya lambert, one spotlight, depth map shadows.



As a flat render, it’s not going to wow – but when you put it on a modeled form – or use it as one part of a good skin shader, it works pretty well. It actually performs better with a bit of UV distortion, which for my current project was perfect.



Here are some concept materials I’m working on. I’m really not sure about which idea to pursue with what changes.
In order:

1. Elevation/’building plan’ for the architecture/typography project. The blue shape is the camera angle seen in the first color plate.
2. Color plate/texture study for the architecture/typograph project.
3. Color plate for the larva loop project.
4. GIF loop animatic for the larva loop project.



Concept: In both cases, I’m hinting at a process without literally showing it. In the first, I’m trying to show the action of a hay baler while abstracting the machine itself. In the second, I’d like to make a parallel between the architecture of a city and the architecture of the brain. Information will look like traffic flows.

Premise: What if…these are non-narrative, so concept and premise are similar here.

Color plate: