The Transition From Artist Rendering to 3D CAD Rendering

Update: My former boss, Johan Valentijn, transferred a ton of drawings to me, and in one of the tubes I found a few Ed Bullerjahn concept renderings complete with martinis and tulip chairs. They are now on the bottom of this blog. Enjoy! 

I was cleaning out a file cabinet, and came across a pile of these sketches. In the world of computer 3D rendering, classic artist renderings have become a thing of the past.

When I worked as a yacht designer, my boss used a true artist/designer/draftsman, Ed Bullerjahn, to provide artist renderings on various designs. Artist renderings were far from inexpensive, even then, and when we obtained a fancy McDonnell Douglas Unigraphics 3D CAD system running on a DEC MicrovaxII computer for our America’s Cup Campaign in 1987, I used an intermediate approach to make artist renderings on our yacht designs. This system actually could do solid renderings, and did an excellent job at evaluating hull shapes, but it was still quite primitive for artist style renderings. Furthermore, in those  days, one could take a photo of  the computer display (with my custom built cardboard hood), but there was no way to make color, or even grey tone, prints.

Instead, I would plot a wireframe perspective of the 3D yacht design at a useful angle on our huge HP pen plotter, and then use tracing paper to make a pencil shaded overlay.

I could do this pretty quickly, and for this particular design (a conversion of a 50 foot Frers IOR racer to a cruising yacht) I mailed the renderings to our client for his input.

He was thrilled with the drawings, and asked for additional copies that he handed out to his friends and family, and he even posted them around his office.

This effort did have an unintended consequence.

Before this technique, on boats this size, all we provided were interior plan views. I had never realized that, for the vast majority of customers, plan views are not easy to visualize. However, when I started to do these quick renderings, I was hounded by customers who had all kinds of comments on issues, ranging from door handle design to the size of pillows, that had little to do with the actual design at that stage. They even asked me to provide them with updated drawings that showed their preferred door handles, etc.

Their enthusiasm was much appreciated, but it was difficult to charge for the additional work that was needed to deal with their premature detail design wishes. I did learn to be very careful about providing too much info too early in the project. Still it was fun to sometimes work more as an artist rather than as an engineer, and I even sucked in my wife, Anne, who sometimes would watercolor the renderings.

In many ways, I think these renderings are more enticing than the, rather too perfect, computer renderings that we can generate today.

I really like the chair design in the wheelhouse rendering. I created the 3D model of the famous Saarinen Tulip chair, because Ed Bullerjahn liked using the chair design in his hand drawn renderings. He told me that the chair design always looked good from any angle even if you were a little sloppy with the perpective. In CAD it became even more obvious that other chair designs could look clunky when drawn in perspective (see the picture at the bottom), but the Tulip chair always looked slick.

He also was really good at drawing slinky 60’s cigarette smoking, and martini drinking people silhouettes in his renderings, but I never got that to work in CAD.

I searched for some of Ed Bullerjahn’s work on the internet. Only one reference showed up, and that was for the interior design of a 1980, 90 foot, Stevens built, and Hargrave designed, trawler yacht named J-MAR. There was a picture of the saloon and I would not be surprised that the late modern interior, if it still exists, is worth more today than the boat itself.

Ed Bullerjahn Concept. This eventually became the mid 1980’s Endeavour 51. This drawing was penciled in 11 by 17 original size!

Martinis on a 100 foot sailing yacht concept rendered by Ed Bullerjahn. Note tulip chairs.