Russ Schwenkler aka “Dangeruss” is a professional computer graphics artist that put a lot of details in all of his works. Driven to create, he has in his years released several photo-realistic art pieces that is nothing but stunning.
We now invite you to get to know this Texas-based legend — in an exclusive interview with PixelTango.
Hey, welcome to PixelTango! Could you please introduce yourself to our readers? What is your current status in life and what is your background?
My name is Russ Schwenkler, but lots of people know me better as “dangeruss”. So who is dangeruss, anyway? I’m a 49 year old, deliriously happily married, professional digital artist specializing in product design and visualization. I work and design for a diverse array of corporations, manufacturers, enthusiasts, race teams and digital entertainment firms. Much of it you’ve never seen displayed publicly. I also create video graphics and art direct product and training videos for Siemens and the USPS. Most people know me from my car illustrations in 2D and 3D. Cars and motorcycles are my “thing” I’ve always loved them. Working in digital media allows me to “own” them, customize them and collect them in ways my finances would never allow.
I started in the design and illustration business about a billion years ago (1979) using traditional media. So for years, I did my thing with pen, ink, airbrush, markers and pastels. As computers became an option in the early 90’s I transitioned to digital media. I’m completely self taught in all my digital skills. It’s been necessary to pick up skills in 2D, 3D, CAD, Page Layout, Video editing and more as my career has progressed.
What is your work station like, and what are your tools of the trade?
Basically it’s a dual Processor i7 workstation, with 12 GB of RAM and an Nvidia high-end graphics card. I use a dual-monitor set up each running 1680 pixels. What might surprise your readers is that I don’t use a tablet for 2D painting. So much of my work is tightly defined and derived from vector masks, that a tablet just isn’t all that valuable to me. In some way’s it’s counter productive.
What inspires you and what gets you in the mood for creating?
Nothing specific, yet everything. I have always been driven to create things. It’s not so much a matter of inspiration, as a need to be busy and challenged by what I do. While it sounds corny, it’s a lot like asking me what inspires me to breathe. I just do. When I’m not creating or working on something I feel unfulfilled. I will tell you it’s not music. Having “grown up” before digital music and portable music was commonplace, having music around at work just wasn’t an option. So I’ve become accustomed to working in silence. Music is almost a distraction. I find myself intently listening and not working.
What are some of the current projects you are working on?
I’m doing lots of wristwatch design for various firms – sometime entire product lines. I’m also a watch collector and enthusiast and was able to get a few people in the right places to have a look at my stuff . Largely through word-of-mouth, that part of my freelancing has really taken off. I’m also working on some promotional art for a Moto2 MotoGP team. Since I’m an ex motorcycle racer and avid MotoGP fan, this has been a really fun gig.
One of your latest works is actually not a vehicle, but a Portable Stereo Tape Recorder. How come you modeled a 29 year old tape recorder?
I love intricate mechanical things. Watches, machinery, motorcycles, techno devices… That Nagra IV tape deck, just had the type of detail, shapes and techno-geekiness that made it really attractive to me. Since I do lots of product visualization, it’s important to keep my gallery interesting with a variety of non-car projects.
While browsing your DeviantArt gallery I noticed quite many different GUI designs and interfaces. Have you ever worked with interface design and as an Interaction designer maybe?
Yes, I used to be really interested in the whole PC customizing scene. I was rather well known for that too at the time (blushes). I even co-developed an OS shell known as Hoverdesk. That was pretty much a labor of love and there wasn’t any real money to be earned doing it. I tired of it after a few years and really haven’t been back at it. I do keep some of those skills in play though. Siemens has used me to create the U.I. for some of their products and software. So it actually did come in handy.
Judging by the high level of detail details in your work, it seems you put in a lot of hours for each piece. Can you briefly describe your regular workflow?
Like I mentioned, I’m driven to create and I’m not a slave to hours. I put in a ton of them, but rarely keep track of them. I need to when doing client work, but that’s a different beast. I have a different standard when working for myself. I want it to be “perfect” – yet I can’t spend endless hours. So I balance the time available and work to a level of “perfection” that’s attainable in the time allotted. Sometimes, I know I have 8 hours, so I challenge myself to complete a work within that time frame. Sleep pretty much pi**es me off. I’d rather have that 8 hours to work.
As a rule-of-thumb a 3D effort (modeling) takes about 40 hours. Materials another 12, and rendering, about another 8 to 12. Everything is dependent on details and specifics, but I use that as a baseline for estimating works. So when you count up the number of hours, a 3D car, easily eats 60 hours +. Sadly, there are not than many clients that can afford the 3D projects, as they typically cost 4 to 6 thousand dollars.
Your love for vehicles is pretty obvious by now, but which one is your favorite vehicle if you got to chose one? What do you drive?
Favorite Vehicle? That’s a really difficult question to answer. I’m super fickle when it comes to having a favorite. It changes all the time. I’m really a slut when it comes to car loyalty. I do profess a love for small lightweight cars, so Lotus Exige, Mini Coopers, BMW, and GT cars really appeal to me. I’m not all that fond of the super exotics. Don’t get me wrong, they’re cool, but I just can’t see myself driving a Pagani Zonda. As far as what I drive, here’s where it gets all boring. Since I enjoy mountain biking, camping, sport bike motorcycle track-days and generally haul a lot of gear, I need to have a utility style vehicle. So right now I drive a Supercharged Nissan Pick-up or a V6 Saturn Vue. Boring, but practical. I do have a fast bike though. A full racer-boy Suzuki GSXR1000.
Thanks again for letting us getting to know you a bit better. Do you have any final thoughts or advice for our readers?
I encounter lots of people who get wildly “inspired” to create stuff similar to what they see from other artists. That’s cool, but they seem to want to download a 3D app, spend a weekend doing some tutorials, then are discouraged when they can’t barf out something that’s taken a guy like me a lifetime to perfect. Not that they can’t do it – they just don’t want to take the time to learn the myriad skills and techniques it requires to be a well rounded 3D artist. They try to model a full LeMans car, with engine and interior, pulling into a fully outfitted and populated pit row, with predictable results. My advice is to start with small projects that you know you can accomplish. Then add one or two things you haven’t figured out yet to the next small project. And so on. Build on small successes rather than give up after one giant failure.