Behind the scenes at Z4 by JD

When BMW commissioned a project that brought together leading automotive designer Adrian van Hooydonk and avant-garde digital artist Joshua Davis, they soon found they had a lot in common.

When BMW commissioned a project that brought together leading automotive designer Adrian van Hooydonk and avant-garde digital artist Joshua Davis, they soon found they had a lot in common.

Did you know that many of the drawing tools in Illustrator and Photoshop owe their existence to the automotive industry? In fact, the Bzier tools that feature in 2D applications such as Photoshop and Illustrator in the form of the Pen and Path tools (as well as many of the spline-modelling tools offered by modern 3D packages) were developed by a pair of French automotive engineers – Pierre tienne Bzier at Renault and Paul de Casteljau at Citron – working on early CAD systems back in the 196sites/creativebloq.com/files/images/2006/06/0s.


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These tools, along with developments in engineering, have paved the way for innovative car designs that would not have been possible with previous design techniques. Fittingly, to celebrate the launch of its new Z4 coupe, BMW has turned to another computer graphics innovator, Joshua Davis, to reinterpret the car’s design for a series of limited-run digital illustrations.

Davis won acclaim in the late 199sites/creativebloq.com/files/images/2006/06/0s for his website, Praystation, which showcased his experimental Flash work and served as a rich resource for many creatives looking for inspiration, with source code freely available for much of his work. Today Davis is still pushing the boundaries with Flash, using the application in an original way to create illustrations dynamically by transforming shapes through a series of algorithms.

“My process is dynamic or generative. I write programs that dictate the canvas, the paints, the brushes, the rules, the boundaries,” he says. “Among modern artists I conceptually identify with Jackson Pollock, because he always identified himself as a painter, even though a lot of the time his brush never hit the canvas.”

Concept car
BMW commissioned Davis to create original artwork inspired by the new BMW Z4 coupe, a process that began with a meeting between Davis and Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW’s chief designer, at its Munich headquarters. “I asked him about concepts surrounding the car, and it was about this play of light – that everything was a hard line – but also about how when you tilt these certain areas some become shadow and some become highlight,” remembers Davis, who spent hours at the Munich plant sketching and photographing details of the car to try to capture these ideas. “He also talked about how some lines would appear as if they were behind fabric.

“Generally, I try to think of the ideas myself. If I’m not working for a client, I’ll have a look out the window and see leaves getting blown about in the little wind tunnel in my back yard and I’ll think: I wonder if I can program that? I wonder if I can program that movement and then map my artwork on to it?” says Davis.

He then took these elements back to his studio and began the process of creating the artwork, generating images using what he terms as “generative composition machines”, a proprietary process that combines Flash and open source code, which he has developed in conjunction with Flash developer Branden Hall.

He began by creating a motion algorithm with a series of parameters that defined a path, which he then stroked with a shape. By using this algorithmic approach, Davis created a subtly different image each time. He used sketches and photographs taken while at the Munich plant in the process, and applied some other elements to them – geographic notes and scales from a German school atlas, which give the images a sense of mobility.

After three months spent perfecting his designs on screen, Davis turned his attentions to printing the images. Because of their complexity (each image contained up to 12sites/creativebloq.com/files/images/2006/06/0,sites/creativebloq.com/files/images/2006/06/0sites/creativebloq.com/files/images/2006/06/0sites/creativebloq.com/files/images/2006/06/0 layers and 5sites/creativebloq.com/files/images/2006/06/0,sites/creativebloq.com/files/images/2006/06/0sites/creativebloq.com/files/images/2006/06/0sites/creativebloq.com/files/images/2006/06/0 vectors) they were too complex to supply to a commercial printers, so Davis opted to print each one himself from his Epson Stylus Pro 98sites/creativebloq.com/files/images/2006/06/0sites/creativebloq.com/files/images/2006/06/0 printer.

In print
The result is a set of unique abstract images that, while not being representative of the car itself, capture some of the concepts that informed its design. So what did BMW feel about such a radical interpretation? “There was discussion about making this recognisable, including details from the cars, but it wouldn’t have made sense in terms of Joshua Davis’s work,” says Thomas Girst, BMW’s head of cultural communication. “Every time we involve an artist it’s beneficial to cultivate them and not impose restrictions on their work. Being innovative is something we were trying to achieve, and as a company we are happy to test the limits.”

INFO Find out more about Joshua Davis and BMW’s collaboration at www.z4byjd. com. Prints are available from EUR275. The BMW Z4 is available from £22,945.


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