I remember the first time I heard 3D printing discussed by other sculptors. There were three of us at a foundry. One picking up new castings to get ready for a show, the other two dropping off waxes for the same purpose. It was mentioned in the manner that one might the Grim Reaper -a harbinger of doom likened to what photography supposedly was to painters. Since then, most professional and aspiring artists I’ve talked with feel similarly: Technology will ruin anything based in ancient or traditional methods, or make it to easy for just anyone to reproduce anything. It’s an apprehension that need not exist, and one that really limits creativity rather than preserving it. Many still unfamiliar with 3D Printing and its role in art still see it like a magic box: a desktop device capable of copying any object with just the push of a button; thereby, rendering sculptors obsolete. It’s that kind of anxiety that keeps us from really growing, no matter the subject in question. Technology is a tool, nothing more. Ultimately tools serve as an extension of ourselves, and their value lies entirely in what we are able to use them to do.
That meander brings me to what I’m really writing about in this post, which is 3D modeling and a program called Zbrush. I only recently learned of Zbrush because apparently I live under a rock. To give the brief description: It’s most amazing digital sculpting program ever created. It’s been used in the production of major films and video games; Avatar and the Avengers to name just a couple. Not only can Zbrush be used to sculpt, but can even animate the models you create. The price tag is a little high for the casual hobbyist, but when you consider what you’re getting, it’s well worth it for a serious artist.
One of the factors that most sold me is how quickly I was able to translate my skills sculpting in physical clay to digital clay. I was really impressed at how similar the process is. In my case, the learning curve was way more about understanding the basic functions of the program. After spending some time going over Zbrush tutorials, I was able to get the basics down well enough to create the two creatures pictured here, and really only scratching the surface. Some of the most accomplished Zbrush artists I’ve seen create breathtaking work. With the ability to build armatures, pose, and even paint within the program, it’s scope in a project is tremendous, and something I plan on continuing to integrate into the work I’m already doing. It’s the perfect opportunity to blend new technology with traditional sculpting methods, including 3D printing, into the lost-wax casting process. If all goes as planned it won’t be long before I start doing some resin and perhaps even bronze casts using Zbrush sculpts. In the very least, I’m certain it’s a topic I’ll frequently be discussing as I continue working to master it.