Touch-screen computers have replaced the pens and paper Trevor Whitlock used as a kid, changing how he draws but not the passion that followed him into adulthood.
The 44-year-old Garner native has established himself in the 3D modeling arena, with his computer-aided design skills utilized by customers – including television news affiliates – across the country.
He’s also a featured artist on TurboSquid, an online 3D product marketplace from which he has sold his work all over the world.
“When I got into computers, I abandoned drawing on paper,” Whitlock said. “I got into CAD work in the early ’90s and from there wanted to get into 3D CAD work, so I took a six-month class and got a certificate in 3D computer art and animation.”
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Whitlock’s beginnings in the field included mapping out gas mains for PSNC Energy and designing cellular tower renderings.
He worked more than 10 years and made thousands of 3D models of houses and trusses for a construction supply and services company, but that ended about the same time the housing market declined in 2007. From there, he put in some time building 3D layers for Google Earth.
“I told people this is a hobby and I enjoy doing it, and I can probably sell (models) one day,” Whitlock said. “Most everyone told me I was wasting my time and doing nothing more than taking pictures of buildings.”
A foot in the door
A big break for Whitlock came in 2010, when he was contacted by the local ABC affiliate news station requesting 3D models of athletic facilities and cityscapes to use for its programming. News stations are able to manipulate weather conditions displayed in the models for their weather reports.
He worked two weeks and earned $500 for the first model he turned in, of Five County Stadium in Zebulon. He was pleased with the arrangement, he said, because he got to see his work featured on television – even if only for a matter of seconds that first time.
Plenty more times followed as other ABC stations in major cities called on Whitlock’s services since 2013.
“I became their go-to guy and got my foot in the door and am very fortunate,” he said.
After branching into Philadelphia in 2013, the same year he designed a model of Cary’s WakeMed Soccer Park, Whitlock was contacted by the Los Angeles affiliate in 2015.
He took a week touring the stadiums there, taking pictures of them for future models.
“I got all that ready for them and came back to Raleigh, then Chicago calls up and said we want to pull the trigger on this,” Whitlock said.
Worth the effort
Currently, Whitlock’s focus is back on Philadelphia.
He’s working on a 3D model of the Walt Whitman and Benjamin Franklin bridges, and updating the entire city model to include new skyscrapers and changes to athletic facilities in the City of Brotherly Love.
Whitlock says the work has been testing at times, even after he got into the television market. It’s helped on the income end that he is also invests in real estate.
“It’s been feast or famine ever since I started,” he said. “Even when I had a lot of work, I was still selling myself pretty cheap. It’s paying off now, but early on it was a real struggle.”
But the 3D models he creates have taken him on journeys he won’t soon forget.
“It started in Zebulon and now I’m doing it in Hollywood,” Whitlock said. “I’m having fun. I have a good life and feel really lucky.”