GauGAN Rocket Man: Conceptual Artist Uses AI Tools for Sci-Fi Modeling

by Lauren Finkle

Have you ever wondered what it takes to produce the complex imagery in films like Star Wars or Transformers? The man behind the magic, Colie Wertz, is here to explain.

Wertz is a conceptual artist and modeler who works on film, television and video games. He sat down with AI Podcast host Noah Kravitz to explain his specialty in hard modeling, in which he produces digital models of objects with hard surfaces like vehicles, robots and computers.

To make these images, Wertz has taken to using AI art tools such as GauGAN, a real-time painting web app that allows users to create realistic landscapes using generative adversarial networks.

Rather than use GauGAN in the traditional manner, Wertz makes the tools “trick themselves” by putting a mountain in the sky, or snow falling at the bottom of the page, to create a unique image. Then he incorporates his signature spaceships into the scene.

Artist Colie Wertz uses the GauGAN landscape to inspire some of his ship designs.

Wertz appreciates how easily GauGAN builds a background. He says, “Coming from the hard surface world, that’s the kind of stuff that’s kind of always been a curveball for me, like matte painting and background composition.” Now, Wertz is able to focus on the ship and how to “integrate it into a background.”

For some of his creations, Wertz uses the GauGAN landscape to inspire his ship designs. He views AI art as a “creative partner” rather than a replacement for more traditional forms of art.

Wertz’s artistic career kickstarted after he left an architectural design firm in South Carolina and moved to Los Angeles to develop his digital art skills. There, he entered one of his spaceship models created with Photoshop into a contest put on by visual effects production company Electric Image.

Colie Wertz views AI art as a “creative partner” rather than a replacement for more traditional forms of art.

Caption: Wertz views AI art as a “creative partner” rather than a replacement for more traditional forms of art.

The judges were impressed, and Wertz ended up with a job at Industrial Light & Magic, a visual effects company founded by George Lucas. Wertz’s first job was working on the rerelease of Return of the Jedi, building digital models for matte painters.

For listeners curious about Wertz’s current work, they can look at his portfolio, visit his website or follow him on Instagram.

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Image credit: Colie Wertz