Realer than Real
I had always in mind that I wanted something unique and iconic for ‘The Time Machine’ musical album cover, something like the “bent bell” on Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells or the prism on Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. I was convinced the impossible cogwheel logo had potenital, that this uniquely wierd and wonderful object would make a superb album cover, but something additional was needed. I had my eureka moment on seeing a photo-real picture of the impossible triangle made of dice. Rendering the optical illusion in this way made it completely convincing, looking at what is apparently a photograph of an impossible triangle made of stacked dice, it’s difficult to believe it isn’t real.
My mission was now to find an artist with a talent for obsessive attention to detail and passion for drawing metallic textures and metal objects and was up for the challenge of creating a photo-real rendering of the impossible cogwheel. After trawling the internet searching for pictures of photo-real cogs and other metal things I came across this incredible rendering of the inner workings of a pocket watch taken from a a real life photograph—the rendering looks realer than the photograph it was taken from. The picture was made by artist Luke Gonet. After numerous email exchanges and a few phone calls I was delighted that Luke wanted to be involved in The Time Machine—I’d found my artist.
Making the Impossible Possible
The first stage was to come up with a convincing 3-dimensional cage model of the cogwheel. More emails bounced backwards and forwards where we discussed details within details and Luke set to work to make the impossible possible. Now there is a problem with this: the cogwheel is not real object, it’s an optical illusion—it can’t exist in 3-dimensional space. How would 3-D CAD sofware cope with rendering an impossible object? Well, no big deal apparently, Luke seemed completely unfazed by the impossibility of the situation, just went right ahead and came back to me with the two low-resolution cage models shown below.
We decided to go with the first model as this seemed the closest match with the original pencil sketch. Luke went on to create a higher resolution rendering with a metallic surface. It was looking good, going good, and we were getting great pictures. The CAD sofware seemed to be handling everything okay, his computer hadn’t melted and Luke hadn’t lost his sanity, but I couldn’t help thinking that something had to wrong though—this was against the natural laws of physics.
Next Luke made a few tweaks to tame the weird geometry of the cogwheel, ironing out a few small imperfections in the curves and perspective of the shape. It was interesting to see how the software was handling the impossible reflections in the metal. I hadn’t given any thought to that beforehand and the groovy results were completely unanticipated. Luke then began looking at where to place engraved words, ‘THE TIME MACHINE’.
Seating the text so that it looked convincing was tricky because of the bizarre perspective of the cowheel. But as usual Luke delivered. He also began adding scratches, blemishes and distressing the metal surface to make it look more realistic. At this stage the cog was looking better than I could have ever imagined however Luke still had a few tricks up his sleeve and continued to refine and improve the renderng beyond all expectations.
Luke’s latest rendering pushes photo-realism to the absolute maximum limits—it almost seems like you pick the cogwheel up an hold it in the palm of your hand. The background still requires a little work to help the cog sit in the picture better. I’m wondering if a few pieces of metal swarf and filings might help with this.
If you’re attempting mission impossible, working on some weird and wonderful art project that stretches and bends the laws of physics then Luke is definitely the man for the job. I’m fortunate to have discovered such a talent and he’s very easy to work with. Luke’s currently working on creating photo-real, epic-scale artwork for lyric booklet that will accompany The Time Machine album.