When Kevin Rupp was hired to be Maxon’s social media manager in 2017, he didn’t know a lot about Cinema 4D— but he wanted to. Inspired by 1995’s Toy Story he dreamed of working at Pixar as a kid. Years later, here he was in the perfect position to learn how to use the 3D software he was being paid to promote.
So he dug in, balancing the needs of his full-time job, and wife and two young children, with learning C4D whenever he could. And his effort has paid off. Earlier this month Sevens Foundation, a new NFT platform developed by Tim Kang and dedicated to helping emerging artists, selected Rupp—and his 3D animation “Will Check Grammar for Food”—as a grantee for its Genesis Drop Exhibition on May 14, 2021.
The animation, featuring Clippy, the helpful paperclip from Microsoft Office’s discontinued Office Assistant interface, is currently on auction as an NFT.
Like the other artists selected for the exhibition, Rupp is selling his art as an NFT for the first time. We asked him to tell us more about his animation and why he wanted to break into the NFT market, as well as his process for learning Cinema 4D and how he intends to use his skills going forward.
Tell us about your “Will Check Grammar for Food” project.
Rupp: Love him or hate him, if you used Microsoft Office from 1997 to 2003, you might remember Clippy, the invasive, googly-eyed paperclip constantly popping up to propose updates and changes to your document. Clippy was widely criticized, and I imagined what it would be like to peer into his world decades after his position at Microsoft was terminated.
While I was doing research on Clippy’s history, I came across a hilarious parody news article from 2015 about Clippy being arrested for DUI. That sparked my idea for a poor, down-and-out Clippy, sitting on the sidewalk surrounded by empty beer bottles, begging to exchange his grammar-checking services for food.
“Will Check Grammar for Food” is the first of three pieces for this NFT series. The second NFT, which will be released in the fall, is going to feel much more cinematic with cuts, edits and moving cameras. In the third NFT, Clippy will be back at home with his wife, Clippette, and their little Clippers. Well, he’ll be back home if the NFT drop goes well. I’m putting his fate in buyers’ hands. These will be the only three NFTs I release this year, as I focus on refining my craft.
How did hear about the Sevens Foundation and then apply to be a grantee?
Rupp: One of my favorite artists is a 3D designer and illustrator named Billelis. He is one of the artists on the Sevens Foundation committee, and he put out a tweet about the Genesis grant. At first, I didn’t even think about applying but, after a couple of days, I thought ‘Why not?’ I’m so humbled that I was selected. About 720 artists applied for the Genesis grant and only 175 were selected.
Walk us through your process for making the animation.
Rupp: Once I had a basic idea of what I wanted to execute, the process was quite straight forward. One of the reasons I love Cinema 4D is because it’s so intuitive and easy to use. To make Clippy, I created a tiny circle as a contour spline, and then a spline path in the shape of a paperclip. I threw those two into a Sweep Object and boom—a paperclip! I added a couple of spheres for eyes, hemispheres for eyelids and cylinders with a Taper Object for eyebrows. It was that easy.
For the environment, I placed a couple of cubes into a cloner to create the sidewalk and dropped a plane in for the back wall. The content browser came to the rescue for tons of the assets, like the manhole cover, the trash can and the beer bottles. Even all of the textures, like the bricks and stone, came straight from the content browser. I created several lights and added an HDRI to finalize the scene.
I bounced over to Mixamo and selected a variety of characters and walk sequence animations to create all of the pedestrians walking past Clippy. All I had to do was downloaded them and import them into C4D.To add an extra sense or realism, I included a couple of extra details, like the graffiti on the wall and the Amazon logo on the discarded cardboard box.
What has your learning process been like?
Rupp: I’ve done a lot of learning on my own, but School of Motion’s courses have been a complete game changer for me. They’re structured with so much thought and careful consideration, and the teaching assistant feedback is invaluable and always very constructive.
I took E.J. Hassenfratz' Cinema 4D Basecamp and Cinema 4D Ascent, and I learned more valuable tools and skills than I did from my entire undergraduate degree in Media Arts. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast in college at the University of New Mexico, but they didn’t offer any 3D or animation courses. The closest thing they offered was a Final Cut Pro editing course.
Now I’m excited to take my skills to the next level with David Ariew’s School of Motion course Lights, Camera, Render! I’m looking forward to expanding my cinematography skills in Cinema 4D in order to become a more effective and efficient digital director of photography. The course covers a ton of content, including how to light a scene properly, how to create dynamic compositions, how to direct purposeful camera moves and how to tell a compelling story.
What made you want to jump into the NFT world?
Rupp: NFTs have been around for a few years, but Beeple’s recent success has really raised awareness in the motion design community. I’ve been interested in art, specifically digital art, since I was young. My Father had a Macintosh LC II when I was only 8 years old.
He was one of the first architects to utilize CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) by creating his own architectural schematics on a personal computer. I remember him telling stories about how his colleagues at work disapproved: ‘Architecture plans are drawn by hand, not made on a computer!’
My dad’s innovation made a lasting impression on me, and I was fortunate to have access to computers at such an early age. Once I discovered the bitmap drawing program Kid Pix my imagination exploded with the endless possibilities. I was very active in scouting and regularly read Boy’s Life magazine, which is where my first piece of digital art was published when I was 11.
I like the way NFT platforms empower artists by providing a means to connect directly with prospective buyers. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to make money from your art, and I’m excited to give it a try with these three Clippy pieces.
Do you envision yourself working as a motion graphics artist in the future?
Rupp: I think this is just the beginning for me. I used to dream of working at Pixar, but now there are plenty of studios on that level that I would be happy to work for. I’ve been doing social media and community management for more than six years and, at some point, I would like to make the shift and become a professional motion graphics artist, character designer or concept artist.
My plan is to use 2021 as a learning period. It’s really important that I get a solid foundation and have a broad skillset. I just need to keep pushing myself to learn more and get better. However, I have no immediate plans to leave my current role as Maxon’s social media manager. Maxon is the best company I have ever worked for, and I am continuously inspired and humbled that I have an opportunity to work with such a supportive and phenomenal community.
All of my coworkers are fantastic, too. And I believe in all of our products. I’m more than happy with my current role and I consider myself lucky that I enjoy coming into work every day.