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Maurits Valk

Godfrey Harold Hardy – a British mathematician born in 1877 – was good with a turn of phrase. As he said to Bertrand Russell: “If I could prove by logic that you would die in five minutes, I should be sorry you were going to die, but my sorrow would be very much mitigated by pleasure in the proof.”

For those of us who tiptoe around memories of do or die math, the ‘will kill for theorem’ don is easy to imagine. Far more difficult to conjure is the mathematician as artist type. Yet, in A Mathematician’s Apology, Godfrey also wrote: “The mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or poet’s, must be beautiful. The ideas, like the colours or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.”

Maurits Valk is someone who vividly understands the seam between art and math. At 22, he has just graduated from UBC with a degree in mathematics, minor in economics. “The discovery in the equations fascinates me.”

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Now, he has launched Ornis Studios and is steaming right into a career in the arts. He has already been hired to design logos, storyboards, visual cases and digital comics. “I had a digital drawing tablet with me all through university.”

Valk has been balancing the analytic and the artistic since he was a child. “I always liked doing character sketches, gesture drawing and human anatomy.”

Born in the Netherlands and raised in Georgia, Valk applied and was accepted to the Savannah College of Art and Design. Even with the good news, he was torn between the artistic and the practical. “The debate was how reliable an art degree would be in terms of getting a job.”

Valk decided to break set, move to Canada and study math.  He did take lots of art classes – drawing, painting, studio. But the bulk of his time was in classes like Calculus IV, Complex Variables, Mathematical Biology and Partial Differential Equations. “I’m very happy I did it. I definitely feel much smarter coming out. The studying skills will also help me in doing my art. The focus, determination, problem solving.”

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In imagining his future, there are artists that Valk looks to for inspiration: digital artist Craig Mullins tops among them. “He is one of the most admired matte painters and concept artists for movies and video games.” Valk particularly admires Mullins’ work for the Halo series. “The amount of detail in his painting is unbelievable, even things way out in the distance.”

Valk was thrilled to use one of Mullins’ pieces as a source for analysis and replication in the Master Study component of his Advanced Open Studio class. “All in all, it was a brilliant learning experience.”

Valk’s Master Study of Craig Mullins’ Work

Master Study of Mullins

Valk’s 29 year old brother Dirk is also a visual effects artist and animator, working in L.A. “He was definitely an inspiration. Growing up, I would look at his work and try to better mine.”

In the short term, Valk is looking forward to doing in-house studio work in video and film, preferably here in Vancouver. He is, after all, a die-hard skier. “The fact that there are mountains right outside the city. That is surreal to me.”

In the long-term, he could imagine himself working on either end of the seam. “Working my way up from digital artist to the Creative Director of a studio. Or I could go the production route, learning the management of studios. If I was eventually running my own studio, I could help others make their projects along with my own.”

maurits profile

No matter where he lands, Valk wants to leave room for the mathematician and the artist to flourish. “I’m really keen on growing in the industry and in making use of my degree as well. I want to combine the two.”

 

Written by Elizabeth Newton
www.creatorsvancouver.com

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