What is your given name, and user name on ZBrush Central?
My name is Khalid Abdulla Al-Muharraqi, my ZBrush Central user name is "Khalid72".
Tell us about your company, how did you start?
I set up Muharraqi-Studios to continue my family's history in the creative world and I am trying to continue to build on what my father started. The company was set up about two years ago after I left the commercial world of advertising with my partner Rashad who decided to leave a career in banking. We wanted to get together to make a place that allows us to be more creative. Since then we have been fortunate enough to work on some of the biggest projects in the middle east, and also continue working on our ideas and concepts, like our movie project. The most important thing for me is the work I do and that's what we are all about.
What is the size of your company?
The company is me and my partner, oh and our secretary... Keesha, a German Shepard! I am a hand's on guy and I do all the creative work myself. At first, I thought it was normal to carry that load because of the speed I work in, but later found out that I am actually very fast compared with bigger teams of artists in other studios. Finally I understood what people were telling me when they said I was 'unusual'. That’s why some of the CG magazines in Europe were amazed that a lot of our work is done by a one man team that puts all the 3D components together into a visualization. I work about 13 to 18 hours a day, I love 3D work, so my hobby and my work has joined into one, so … yes, very little time for a normal life.
What type of projects do you work on?
Well, I have been working on Architectural Visualizations since we started a couple of years ago, but I try to satisfy my urge to do what I really like, art!
You're located in Bahrain, somewhere most of us don't know about. Can you tell us how you learned your trade?
I love this question, Yes Bahrain is a small Island in the Persian gulf, we speak Arabic as our main language and English for the second, I will answer the second part in two parts, If you mean The art... I would say that I come from an artistic family, my father is one of the most well known artists in this part of the world, you can say that he is a household name in these parts. If you are asking were did I learn the 3D or CG art, I would say that I learned it by practicing for 8 hours a day after my official day of work, so I guess you can say I have been my own teacher in the industry.
Tell us a bit about your client base, mostly local, or do you have clients in Europe, Asia, America?
We serve clients from the Middle East, Europe and the Americas, I would say that I have been fortunate enough to have worked with some of the top people in the architectural industry, most of our clients are attracted to the type of work that we produce.
How long have you been an artist?
Since I was six...I think! Well, the first painting I have sold when I was eleven. I was always painting and trying to find new techniques that will help create the concept in my mind.
Tell us about your background, your education, your mentors...
I studied art in Houston Texas for over seven years between interior decoration, photography, Visual communication, and digital enhancement or photo retouching, from there I have continued my working career in the commercial world. My first mentor would have to be my father, learned everything I know from him. He gave me the push start into the art world and made me feel it. There are also the books and artwork he has exposed me too with some of the top art in the world. A lot of names come to mind but I would say Frank Farazeta, Boris, The Creepy magazine and of course all the original Mad magazines and books that were very hot in the early 80's.
When you became an artist, did you first use traditional media?
For sure, I started with Pencil then got into crosshatching with ink, then I started painting with water colors and gouaches. I finally got into air brush art before I tried CG art.
What was your first CG package? What is your first 3D Package?
Nice question... first CG software was PSD, version 2, it was like magic... It felt strange especially that I was a traditional artist at the time. My first 3D package would be Alias Sketch for the Mac since I was a Mac user for a long time and did not have much 3D developers for Mac at the time. It was a new world for me and I think I still have a dusty copy of it today even after the software was canceled back in the early 90's, it just reminds me of my past.
How long have you been using ZBrush?
It has only been about six months, but I was up and running almost a few hours after I purchased it.
What made you try ZBrush?
I was watching some of the tutorial videos on how to paint details on the Gnomon training DVD's, and that's when I was shocked to see that it is art on the computer! I did not believe it at first, but It was one of the happiest moments when I first installed my first copy of ZBrush and started painting geometry for the first time, it reminded me with the days when I was pushing and pulling real clay to make a small creature of my imagination when I was a kid.
What's your favorite ZBrush feature?
The ability to paint geometry like it is physically in my hands.
How has ZBrush enabled you to express yourself in ways other packages couldn't?
Well you cant really compare it with any other software, it's simply too different! It changes how a CG artist works, it changes how he looks at things, has changed the industry to the next future leap, and who would want to go back to the past....? I would simply say that the concept of the software is very smart and impressive, my only wish to add on it is to have a bigger view port :)
Now onto "Floating Islands"Tell us about your creative process, how did this concept emerge?
One evening when I was stuck in the studio waiting for clients approval on a project that I was preparing for the kingdom of Bahrain, I was trying to get free again and relax my mind from all boundaries, I started to sketch a concept that has bean in my mind since I was a kid, the island that was then discovered to be on the back of a whale, these were some of the old middle eastern stories about Sinbad's magical voyages.
Do ideas just come to you out of nowhere, or are there particular artists or work you are inspired by?
I am always inspired by everything that is beautiful, whether it is an artist or a design or just Gods creation, I would also say that I have always had my own style in my work and almost never try to follow a certain style that I have seen.
I love this piece, can you tell me about the process of creating it? Have you explored this style before? Or was this created for something specific?
The process was, a sketch or the map as I would call it, and that would be the basis of my creation, I almost never start without it, once I crack the direction then I would start thinking about the execution and the path to take. About the style, well I don't think of my work as style, I think it is more towards I do what I feel, it is only when I am finished with it that I say "Yes! That's what I was tying to do". I almost never tried to repeat a style that I have seen elsewhere on my work. I feel that It is like a code of respect between artists.
In your image "Floating Islands" where was ZBrush used?
ZBrush helped me sculpt the geometry and take it to the next level in a short time. Modeling, UVs, Painting and scenes setups was between Lightwave and Modo. With ZBrush I was able to put the final touches that would make it come to life. ZBrush helped me start painting the UV map textures and setting up the foundation of the look and feel. I also generated some of the whales textures by the amazing ZMapper ;)
"ZBrush is very specialized in what it does, it focuses on the need of the artist and helps the creator to complete his task sufficiently with a smooth flow, artists have never had it this good."
Tell us about your pipeline.
I start with Modo, then go to ZBrush, then finally render with Lightwave. The thing with software today is that they work hand in hand to complete each other, for instance ZBrush is very specialized in what it does, it focuses on the need of the artist and helps the creator to complete his task sufficiently with a smooth flow, artists have never had it this good.
What projects are you working on now?
We have just completed the visualization for the Master Plan for the Kingdom of Bahrain with one of the leading Architectural firms in the world, we have helped restructure and rebuild old and new cities for the country. Now I will be working more onto the movie project that we have been trying to get the time to start, hopefully I will be able to focus more on creating more Characters and environments for the movie.
"...I would like to thank Pixologic for some of the best tools ever created for the CG industry, I always expect the ideas to be fresh and most importantly designed for the end user, the artist, allowing the artist to continue being an artist without the restrictions
and boundaries of a computer."
Any last comments for us?
I would like to say Thank you to Manuel at Pixologic and Pixologic for appreciating the work I do. I would also like to thank all the development team and staff at Pixologic for there dedication to work together to help create some of the best tools ever created for the CG industry, I always expect the ideas to be fresh and most importantly designed for the end user, the artist, allowing the artist to continue being an artist without the restrictions and boundaries of a computer.