The EU referendum: 10 points on my mind…

I avoid politics like the plague, but the very real prospect of Brexit has stirred me to set down some of my thoughts.

  1. Working with clients within the EU is straightforward and hassle free. More than half of my business is with overseas companies, so you could argue that I am dependent on exports. I don’t encounter any of the buraucratic red tape that we hear so much about. Working with non-EU clients is always more protracted and time consuming.
  2. If it’s easier for me to work with clients in the rest of the EU, then it’s easier for them to commission me if we are still in the EU. That’s good for business.
  3. Immigration cuts both ways. It is guaranteed that there will be recessions in the U.K. that don’t affect other parts of the E.U. and many of us will be glad of the opportunity to travel and work abroad. I’m 46 and studied as an architect. In the early 1990’s there was a recession that decimated the U.K. construction sector almost overnight. The willing, and the able travelled abroad in search of work. One of those major destinations was Germany, where we worked hard, learned new skills, earned money that we could bring back to the U.K. and didn’t take any money out of the benefits system back home. Many of the skills so essential to my business today, had their origins in my time spent working in Germany.  Baby boomers and their seniors won’t be able to tell you about this, because they had “never had it so good” and really haven’t got a clue about how the modern jobs market works.
  4. Being part of the EU in it’s various forms over the past decades has given us the metric system. Metric and digital were meant for each other. It’s a neat, interconnected and thorough units system. Standards and standardisation are good for business, trade and science. The Imperial system…that’s an antiquated and positively medieval system in comparison, and really should be consigned to the scrapheap.
  5. Although I would describe myself as British first, I am also European, and quite proud of that. I am secure enough with my own sense of nationality to understand that I can be both, at the same time.
  6. 59 years without a war, positives don’t come much bigger than that! There has never been a war or coup within a country that has been a member of the EU, or it’s predecessors. We are talking as far back as the Treaty of Rome, 1957. If you have even a fleeting grasp of European history, you will be aware that there was quite a bit of conflict before then. All evidence would appear to suggest that we are safer IN than out.
  7. We get legally protected human rights within the EU. We always hear about those really bad, excruciatingly frustrating cases, but there’s more positive stuff that we don’t hear about. Does anybody seriously believe we are going to get a robust British constition post Brexit?
  8. I hear lots of complaints that the EU is undemocratic, yet we have a power of VETO. And yet here in the U.K. we have monarchy, House of Lords, Quangos, Civil servants…I don’t recall ever voting for these?
  9. If Brexit happens, I think we can pretty much guarantee that Scotland will vote to leave the U.K. I think that would be bad for us collectively, and really don’t want it to happen, but who could blame them?
  10. In life, the more you put in, the more you get out. We should remain part of the EU, but we should be getting more involved. It’s not a perfect institution, but we can only re-shape the EU from the inside, by getting stuck in, getting our hands dirty and moulding it into something better. The EU isn’t going to just go away if we leave. It’ll be right there, on our doorstep, and we won’t be able to do a thing to influence it’s future direction from the outside.



One of my images prepared for ReplicaNation between 2000 and 2001. ReplicaNation was a late starting dot-com company whose fortunes reflected the dot-com bubble as a whole, growing rapidly, wasting money and then fizzling out with equal velocity. I could probably write a whole blog on what went on inside that company whilst I was there, nothing scandalous but certainly plenty of eye openers.

Despite the shortcomings of the company and its business model, I was able to produce some decent images to showcase the work we were doing there. Of the selected images in the portfolio, I prepared the meshes for the Tolomeo and the Wassily. The rest of the meshes were prepared either by my team or by sub-contractors.

ReplicaNation portfolio page.

From the archives…

The process of redesigning and re-building the lightwell website is proving to be a surprising trip down memory lane. In over ten years of designing and illustrating architecture and buildings I have amassed a huge portfolio of images, many of which get archived and forgotten after a few years. A lot of the images get passed over because technically and artistically they get superseded by better examples. Others, I just get bored of looking at.

Architects Journal Front Cover, May 2000

The images I created for Luz Vargas Concept House 2000 designs probably fit into both those categories now, but for a time they proved invaluable to me in starting out as a freelancer as Luz was managing to get them printed and showcased everywhere. As well being exhibited in the Royal Academy summer exhibition, they managed to make the front cover of the Architects Journal.

If nothing else, I think this particular project demonstrated perfectly the benefits of having an enthusiastic client with an interesting design to work on when illustrating or visualising architecture.

3D Forests

As an artist, every now and then you need to pull your socks up and catch up not only with the competition, but also the tools you use each day. I had one of these mini-epiphanies late last year after winning a comission to prepare a set of images for a new development set in forested hills on the island of Grenada. Usually, when forests and planting are required I would prepare the buildings and terrain using 3D but then add the trees and planting in Photoshop using photomontage and digital paint…lots of it. On this project I wanted to achieve something new and so opted to gamble on an all CG landscape approach.

Despite having tried various CG solutions to landscaping in the past, I found that either render times became prohibitive or the solution I was hoping for just wouldn’t work for me as advertised – Vue XStream comes to mind. As far back as 2003, I bought the Onyx Tree/Storm plugins for Max – I’d been amazed by a Tree Storm animation of some palms blowing  in the wind rendered using Electric Image at Londons DMW in 1997 and could never quite let go of that imagery – but the hardware and rendering limitations of that time meant that, as sophisticated as its trees looked, they just weren’t viable for a project with a deadline and the software remained uninstalled and pretty much overlooked.

River View Detail

What’s changed? A few things. Apart from the availability of more powerful hardware and software, I would cite  Peter Guthrie’s work using Onyx Tree as a motivational spur. Around the same time, I had belatedly discovered the performance benefits of using Vray Proxy meshes. Finally, I was pointed in the direction of a fantastic Max plug-in from Itoo Software called Forest Pack Pro.

Forest Pack Pro allowed me to populate irregular terrain with Vray Proxy models of tree and plant meshes (or rocks in the case of the river bed) with relative ease and because it references these meshes rather duplicates them, it keeps memory usage incredibly low and render times fast and manageable. The whole scene (shown in the aerial shot above) amounted to just 1,650,843 polys.

Aerial View Detail

I could have painted all of those trees digitally in photoshop, but given the number and variety of images required on this project I don’t feel I could have done it as well or as efficiently. Besides, I quite enjoyed playing and scattering trees about the landscape without having to worry to much about Max keeling over.