Ashland man combines his loves of art and technology into a profitable effects business.
Powerful computer processors combined with a technology background and an interest in visionary art have turned Goa Lobaugh's childhood dream of creating visual effects into a profitable reality.
Lobaugh, owner of Liquid Buddha Studio in Ashland, interweaves the intricacies of "sacred geometry" and digital animation to create special effects for film, broadcast and other media.
Although this artistic and spiritual approach to digital animation is something of a niche market, Liquid Buddha has garnered several high-profile clients, including HeartMath, a company that sells stress relief products; the WingMakers, a Web site that offers inspirational art and music; an international dance for peace event called EarthDance; and author and musician James Twyman, who hired Lobaugh to create visual effects for two films ("Indigo Evolution" and "The Moses Code").
"Sacred geometry to me is how the universe organizes itself into systems," says Lobaugh of the theory that was pioneered by American architect, philosopher and geodesic dome inventor F. Buckminster Fuller in the first half of the last century.
"From subatomic to human to galactic, everything can be broken down into a pattern."
Using extensive training and high-tech equipment, Lobaugh dissembles these patterns. Often he starts with some sort of sacred symbol or geometric shape — the Kaballic Tree of Life or a star tetrahedron, for example — then builds an entirely new animated environment.
"I look to my own instinct to look for the movement in that environment and then I look for interesting camera angles and vantage points," he says. "Reflection is also used to expose some hidden patterns. When these subtle patterns and things you'd never discovered are exposed, that's when it becomes play."
Lobaugh has a degree from the University of Arizona in information systems management and was a software engineer and consultant for American Online and other Fortune 500 companies before opening Liquid Buddha in 1999. He credits a childhood fascination with movies such as "Star Wars" as his inspiration.
"It was my dream as a boy to create visual effects," he says. "However, professional pursuits distracted me from the creative path and I ended up in technology."
A near crash while piloting a small airplane (he is a licensed pilot who sits on the Ashland Airport Commission) brought Lobaugh back to the creative side of his brain.
"I realized my life was misaligned and I was looking for a new direction and decided on some world travel," he recalls. "While visiting Tibet, I met thangka painters, and was marked by the notion of the art form as a spiritual practice."
Then he found his way to a monastery high in the Himalayas. That's where he remembered his childhood dream.
"I immediately recognized the potential for animation to be not just a professional direction, but also a spiritual practice," he says. "I returned from my travels a few months later and founded the studio."
For the first five years, it was just Lobaugh "in my house in Virginia with my render farm in the garage."
Now there's plenty of room for his twin set of gigantic monitors, a full-time administrative person, another graphic artist and the render farm: a six-foot rack of about 50 computer processors that "takes a month of work and turns it into hours."
Interest in the studio's work, which has won awards at a film festival in Seoul, Korea, and has been featured at the Tribeca Art Walk 2002 in New York City and Big Day Out in Sydney, Australia, is gaining momentum.
"He's an extraordinary talent who's very skilled with computer animation," says Foster Gamble, co-founder of Clear Compass Media in Santa Cruz, Calif. Gamble recently hired Lobaugh to create the digital visuals for "Thrive," a feature-length documentary that "explores what it will take humanity not only to survive our current predicament but also thrive healthfully into the future."
"We were looking for someone whose work was extremely beautiful, who is in touch with nature and has an understanding of the basic geometric patterns that nature uses to build with," says Gamble, explaining his theory that nature's basic building patterns and systems can be applied to how humans form their own financial, social, economic and cultural patterns and systems. "Goa has all those things."
Branching out from production projects, Lobaugh also offers DVDs that can be uploaded for use as screensavers or meditative aids, a 15-inch digital photo frame that's pre-loaded with Liquid Buddha art and giclee prints, greeting cards and magnets that all bear an original image.
Over 30 pieces of Liquid Buddha digital art and other products are featured in a show called "Geometry of Spirit" at Bohemia Gallery & Framing in Ashland during May. Liquid Buddha's gallery can also be viewed at www.liquidbuddha.com.
Jennifer Strange is a freelance writer living in Jacksonville. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.