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Meet the artist: Brad Albright

Brad Albright

The most awesome puzzles usually have the best backstories! Wanna find out more about the artist behind our epic new 3D jigsaw puzzles SPACE and DINOSAURS and his journey – via pinball, death metal and oodles of good coffee – to become the gnarliest, most talented 3D artist ever to grace the interwebs? Nerds and nerdettes, please let us introduce you to Brad Albright from Texas, USA!

Hi Brad! Why choose 3D art, out of all the art styles out there? 

The short answer is that the 3D effect still thrills me! You get somewhat immune to seeing your own work after awhile, but adding that little interactive dimensional surprise never gets old.

As a viewer, I’m fascinated by artwork that defies the usual physical boundaries and does more to engage the senses. And with pop culture, I always jump at things that expand on the traditional experience in some way to provide interactivity and a sensory overload. 3D movies and surround sound are familiar examples, of course, and now virtual reality is happening in a big way! It’s a remarkable thing that just has to be experienced first hand.

But as an artist and illustrator I’ve always been interested in interactivity, narrative, strong use of line, and densely layered compositions. All of that makes 3D a great fit, and what started as an experiment to entertain myself grew to be an ideal presentation of what I was already trying to communicate in 2D.

Brad Albright makes 3D art

You made two incredible puzzles for us. What is the general design process for 3D projects like DINOSAURS and SPACE?

My process is largely identical between 2D and 3D pieces, with most of the work devoted to sketching out the composition, refining the shapes and determining how your eyes move around the scene. Even for traditional 2D work, I’m focused on stacking elements within the composition to suggest depth (this thing overlaps that thing, etc).

I work digitally on an iPad Pro and that gives me added freedom to work loosely and try different things. I use a soft round brush to scribble in elements, push and pull, resize and rearrange elements until I’m confident starting on a clean layer to ‘ink’ it cleanly. Once the outlines are drawn, I start playing with light, shadow, and color. It’s kind of a big mess that gets cleaner and cleaner until all of a sudden it feels done!

Making it 3D comes rather late, like icing a cake. It’s a final piece of the puzzle (punny!) that helps engage the viewer and reveals something more. It also helps to better communicate my original vision for these scenes, which always seems more dynamic in my head than it looks on paper.

How did you come up with the idea of these two puzzle designs in particular?

I was approached about doing a prehistoric piece based on a 3D dinosaur illustration that I had done 10 years prior. I really enjoyed the opportunity to revisit the concept with a newfound attention to anatomic detail, color, depth, and cleanliness. The earlier example makes me cringe a little now, haha. So I was happy to revisit the general idea and more successfully communicate it to a new audience!

The 3D puzzles from Cloudberries feature art by Brad Albright

It’s really cool that you’re bringing a modern twist to anaglyph art. How do you imagine the future of 3D art?

It’s a funny thing because this style of 3D art is inherently retro, which gives it a nostalgic appeal. My art, in particular, is well-suited to 3D due to the heavy lines and generally accessible subject matter. It’s especially nice to be able to present it on paper, with a pair of disposable 3D glasses. It just ties together so nicely. It’s purposefully low-fi in a high-tech world.

But it’s also fairly incompatible with social media and small handheld devices. Anaglyphs do look excellent on screen, but unfortunately demand a large screen to see proper depth. And it’s asking a lot for people to have a pair of 3D glasses and then go to a particular website or social media page, all the while viewing it on a large enough screen.

What I see changing in the future is expanding the ability to preview the effect on screen. Whether it’s through actual 3D screens, augmented reality glasses, or just subtle sliding animations as we’ve used to preview these two puzzles (which I’m very excited about, by the way. That’s a brand new technique I’m trying!)

How was your experience working with Cloudberries for the two puzzles?

So great! They’ve been exceptionally kind and enthusiastic, and a breeze to exchange ideas with. Their excitement and willingness to explore 3D for the first time, and then the overwhelmingly positive response from fans has been so nice. Couldn’t be happier with the final product and quality of printed art.

What inspires you as an artist?

I’m attracted to bold illustration styles and tight draftsmanship. A lot of my favorite artists are just incredible with a pen, and can create these ridiculously detailed drawings with the tidiest use of crosshatching you’ve ever seen. I always aspire to get that precise, myself, but naturally end up working a little looser to different effect. I do strive to gain more control of my lines and value over time.

“You might be surprised to know how much coffee and death metal I consume”

Process-wise, I’m a pretty mellow guy, so you might be surprised to know how much coffee and death metal I consume, haha. For doing the actual work of sketching, I find just sitting down and listening to music with headphones is as critical to my process as anything else. Something with an aggressive rhythm and weird time signature like progressive metal works best for me. It just gets me moving in a way that is conducive to scribbling and keeps me in a flow state. Meditation is excellent for exploring ideas, as well, and that’s something I should make an effort to do more often.

As subjects go, I’m strongly inspired by pop culture and retro arcade gaming, pinball in particular. There’s a wonderful collision of disciplines that come together to make a pinball machine… electrical and mechanical engineering, choreography of lighting and sound design, music, visual art, gameplay design, storytelling, and collaborative interactivity. It’s remarkable!

How did you find your passion for 3D art?

Growing up I was of course familiar with 3D glasses from theme parks and comics. Some people remember getting glasses in a cereal box, or from the gas station or TV guide to see a particular movie on television. But somewhere around 2010 I was working on a graphic novel idea and thought how cool it would be if I could make it work with 3D glasses. I mean, 3D comic books were a thing back in the day, somehow, right? I managed to track down some glasses at a local party store and started playing with color. Eventually it dovetailed into making 3D posters, which 10 years later has become kind of my thing! It keeps me interested, you know?

Space 3D puzzle from Cloudberries
The 3D puzzle SPACE by Brad Albright and Cloudberries

Are you preparing a new project that you’d like to share to our readers?

I’m almost always juggling a small handful of client work and passion projects at the same time. Right now I’m scribbling ideas that could make their way onto the usual range of posters, t-shirts, stickers, holiday ornaments, and puzzles. I’m also working to expand my portfolio of physically layered woodcut illustrations, which combine my full color art with laser cut wood to make a dimensional piece of wall art. Still interactive and 3D, but in more tangible, gallery-style way without the distorted color of anaglyphic 3D.

What does a typical working day in your studio look like?

Most importantly, first thing is making my partner and I good espresso drinks. We’ve been spoiled, in fact, staying home this past year! So much good coffee! After breakfast, she and I work together to fill orders from my Etsy shop. Then we’ll go to our separate corners of the house to work on our own things. She works on knitting and fiber projects, and I’ll do my best to tackle a checklist of freelance and personal tasks. Bouncing back and forth seems to help propel both sides of the business at the same time and keep it interesting. I don’t actually get to draw as much as I would like, since so much time is spent exchanging emails, printing and cutting things, and just thinking about projects. But if I can force myself to stop moving and put on my headphones, THEN I’ll finally get lost in a drawing for a couple hours.

What do you think makes 3D (anaglyph) jigsaw puzzles unique?

I just finished putting together my Dinosaurs puzzle and I must say, even for me it was a challenge! The natural offset of colors and distortion of the finer details really remixes the experience. Not to mention, the 3D glasses don’t finally work as intended until the full image is constructed. But with the occasional peek during the process? The depth gets pushed forward and backward in a pretty wacky way depending where the holes in the image are and which pieces are turned upside down and sideways. I think it’s exciting to give viewers an added incentive to finish the puzzle so they can finally see it as intended! And also having a bonus full-size poster is extra awesome.

3D jigsaw puzzle designs

Where did you learn about Cloudberries and what did you first think of the brand?

I seem to remember seeing an instagram post or two about Cloudberries puzzles and thought, that’s an unusual name… let me see what this is all about! Which led me to the official website, which very much impressed me with the cleanliness of design and consistent beauty across the product line. I was particularly struck by some of the less figurative puzzles, like gradients and abstract patterns.

Why Cloudberries?

The average customer might not know it, but Cloudberries has the absolute friendliest people on board! It’s been a joy collaborating with them, and I think the accessibility and simple beauty of their final product is a testament to a team of creative, passionate people. They are their own audience, and that means they really care about putting more interactive beauty into the world.

Can’t wait to get your SPACE puzzle? Click here! Or maybe you’re eager for the DINOSAURS puzzle? Go ahead and get yours here!

BRAD ALBRIGHT IS A COOL DUDE – CHECK OUT MORE OF HIS STUFF:

Brad’s Etsy store
Brad’s website
Brad’s Instagram

Check out the 3D designs from Cloudberries!