My Process: A Marriage of Art & Technology
My passion as a sculptor is to capture the tension of motion – and my favorite subject is the grace and athleticism of the female dancer. I use variations in form, scale, and material to explore how we perceive the motion and the female body. The start is almost always sculpting a figure in wax. Sometimes the original figure is cast directly in bronze or glass. Often, though, I use modern 3D technology to explore how variations of the original figure affect our sense of the figure and it’s motion. Here is a brief explanation of the process.
Step 1: Hand-Sculpt Figure in Wax
I start my work sculpting a figure in wax. With the wax original I’m interested in capturing the essential muscle tension and attitude that creates the dynamism of the movement. The image, right, shows 2 examples of original wax figures. In the foreground figure you see the raw wax. In the rear figure, the wax has been coated with a matte finish and with some color to make it easier to use photogrammetry to create a 3D scan of the figure.
The sculpture can take as little time as a week but usually takes more than a month to capture the motion to my satisfaction.
Step 2: Digital Scan
I use a process called photogrammetry to create a digital scan of the wax model. A matte finish with some color definition aids the process. I take 100 or more images of the figure from all angles and feed those images into software to create a 3D digital file (called a mesh) that I can manipulate digitally. Right, are 12 of 180 photos taken of this figure for the photogrammetry process.
Step 3: Digital Manipulations:
To the right is the 3D digital mesh (top,left). And top, right is the same mesh with a skirt digitally added to the figure. [The image shows the mesh with a solid “skin”]
Other manipulations might include slicing the figure for fabrication with a CNC machine (for wood) or a laser or water-jet cutter for metal.
The bottom 2 images shows a figure not yet fabricated but envisioned in steel. I use a variety of 3D modeling and CAD/CAM software for the digital explorations.
Step 4: Fabrication of Finished Artworks:
Once the piece is digital, the variety of available fabrication techniques is vast. The Irma series, right, so far has used 3 completely different techniques that each explore different aspects of the figure. The first image shows the piece in bronze — the most realistic of the pieces. The second was fabricated in corten steel — after the figure was digitally sliced into layers. The third shows the piece with the digital addition of voronoi motion lines and was 3Dprinted using stereolithography.
All 3 started with the same wax model. They range in size from 10” tall to 84” tall.