We spoke with Ryan Kittleson, a talented 3d designer/ 3d model who lives in Portland, but designs for clients in New York and across the country. He’s made several popular products available at his Shapeways shop and has created a successful freelance business designing objects for 3d printing. His clients vary from individuals to product design consultancies, advertising agencies, and large companies. In this conversation, we asked him about his practice and background.
How would you describe the type of work you do?
Ryan Kittleson: I make 3d models, which is what I’ve been doing for a long time. In the past, the models were output to either video games or animation. But, in the past five years, I’ve been focused in 3d printing output. It’s a really similar skillset in the way it overlaps, in the end there are some different steps in how they are prepared, but most of the steps in making the models are the same.
What’s your typical client?
Ryan Kittleson: I’m not sure there is a typical client, but alot of them are artists who want to make a sculpture or a limited edition run of a sculpture and they don’t necessarily have 3d modeling skills. Another type of client is more corporate where they may want a 3d printed version of their logo or mascot. Also, there is product design. Product design firms will draw up sketches – for me the projects are typically pretty sculptural for me – although other products may be more mechanical. Let’s say a product is being made for kids and needs some sort of fun cartoony character associated with the product, I may be involved with making a sculpture for that and getting it ready for prototyping with 3d printing.
The type of client also goes all the way to a project I did recently for a normal guy who wanted to make a gift for his girlfriend which was a statuette of his girlfriend holding their dog.
What is your background?
Ryan Kittleson: I got really fascinated with using computers and 3d technology to create art back when I was a teenager and I saw Toy Story and Jurrasic Park and I learned how they used digital technology to create those films. It was a long time until I had a computer that could even handle any of that software but I would go on the internet – very early 90’s internet – and read everything I could about how the software works and how to use it artistically so then when I ended up going to school I was able to dive into the software. I actually studied traditional illustration so when I was using this software, my teachers didn’t know what to do with me.
What’s the most marketable skill for someone doing 3d modeling professionally?
Ryan Kittleson: I would say it’s the ability to observe a photograph or sketch and really understand what structures are making a 3d dimensional object. You have to really train your eyes to understand what the shape really is so you can even start translating it into 3d. Although some of my work is more creative and creating my own shapes, but alot of it is spatially reproducing or translating a two dimensional sketch or photograph into a 3d model.
And then, just general professionalism. I think there are alot of people with those skills but they may not be great with time management or communicating with clients so they may shoot themselves in the foot that way. So I think it’s professionalism, and being able to visually analyze images and understand the software.
You sell a few 3d printed figurines on Shapeways. How has that gone?
Ryan Kittleson: It’s gone pretty well on Shapeways. A lot of things don’t sell at all, but I’ve had some big sellers that have compensated for those. It averages out to being totally worth it. The biggest seller is probably “Success Kid”. After I was selling it, I got contacted with Success Kid’s lawyers and we worked out an arrangement where we are splitting the profits (laughter). So even then it’s still profitable, but Success Kid is a good kid. I met him in Florida. He loves horror movies and drawing creepy clowns he’s a cool kid.
Pixel Practice: He’s gone Hollywood. I can’t believe he lawyered up.
Check out Ryan’s online classes: https://www.lynda.com/Ryan-Kittleson/811297-1.html
Check out Ryan’s Shapeways store: https://www.shapeways.com/shops/rksculpture