Friday, June 24, 2016

More work in ZBrush

 ZBrush continues to be a great way to test my sculpting knowledge and an endless source of fun and discovery. This is not an easy program to master. The quirks and bugs keep me on my toes, but when I want to just explore making things, ZBrush is hard to put down.

 I learned that I was running an older version with a bug that kept the Adaptive Skin feature from working. With the update, I was able to go from ZSpheres to mesh with much better results than I did with classic skinning.

Masking for painting creases and textures has also been a great technique. I can detail the model in much the same way I would with an airbrush, washes and dry-brushing.
 I saw so many great examples of hard-surface modeling coming out of the Games program at AAU, but I never expected to get my own work beyond pencil and paper or rendering in Photoshop. Thus far, I have been able to build models based on two of my favorite childhood creations: the Double Dodger and the Dart Fighter. These fighters were part of my Convoy Battles story and had several designs. Both had an issue with too many polygons, but now I have a slightly better handle on how to reduce polys and just how many is too many.

 I also too a stab at sculpting a clothed character over a ZSphere armature. Knowing when and how to reduce polygons is still a bit of s stumbling bock for me, but I think I'm getting the hang of it.  More to come...

Thoughts on the LMNA

I felt a need to share this update on the LMNA, especially in light of the recent expansion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the closure of the Cartoon Art Museum. Few things in SFMOMA have inspired me as much as the exhibitions at the CAM. I should preface this my mentioning Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, Lee Bul, Lee Bontecou and Lebbeus Woods as huge influences whose work I first saw at SFMOMA. From an early age I was instilled with a deep curiosity about all kinds of art and I value accessible spaces where we can experience modern art. On the other hand, some of my strongest memories of art come from mass-market science fiction novels, movie posters and superhero comics. Granted, local book stores and public libraries have made it easy to learn about the artists and the art from these genres, but here's nothing like seeing the real thing in person. I see things in actual paintings and comic book pages that the how-to books just can't show. Physical art is treasure trove of information and so much of the subtle materiality of a given work gets lost in a reproduction. I was probably drawn to work by artists who painted with an illustrator's imagination and specificity because they were master communicators. I could understand an illustration right away without second-guessing myself. Even when the work was hard to relate to content-wise, it inspired me to give this magical story-picture-making thing a try. So much of what ends up in museums today seems driven by educational trends, markets, culture and personal tastes. And that's just fine. We all can collect and preserve works that resonate with us in whatever forms and quantities you can. Whenever I see the names of founders, donors and private collectors on gallery and museum walls, I'm reminded that they did just that. The only difference is scale, wealth and access. 

Hopefully, the Lucas collection will find a home in California soon. It's just something I'd like to see either in the Bay Area, or at least somewhere in California. Maybe there are just too many cultural and political forces at play in most major cities to allow something like the LMNA to flourish. Then again, a place like Skywalker Ranch found a home well-outside the city limits of San Francisco. Pixar settled in Emeryville, not Burbank or Hollywood. It will be interesting to see how this saga ends.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


This Thursday night is opening night of the 18th Annual San Francisco Black Film Festival in San Francisco. Tickets are available now for opening night and the various screening venues. It's going to be another phenomenal festival!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

ZBrush Fun

 I've been having a blast bringing one of my creature designs "to life" using ZBrush. The Louisiana mud goblin was an amphibious feline creature created for one of my graduate courses at AAU a couple of years ago. The thought of sculpting it in Sculpey® had crossed my mind but never happened. Then, former student and ZBrush wiz did a sculpt of another creature in record time. We discussed possibly trading the production work for funding a 3D printing course, but I ended up declining the offer for financial reasons.

 After several hours of online tutorials and experimentation, I realized that it would be a better use of my time to work on a finished design rather than "sketching" new ones. The main problem was that everything I did out of my imagination lacked cohesiveness and direction. They often ended up as floppy "meat blankets" with weak design.
The mud goblin was fairly well-researched, giving it a good grounding in reality. Just about everything, like the shape of the tail or placement of the ears unusually close to the eyes, had some thinking behind it.
Using ZSpheres for fleshing out the base mesh turned out to be a good way to start. I still don't know why I can only get results when I use the "Classic Skinning" options in the Adaptive Skin palette. The Unified Skin gobbled up the tail and turned the toes into silly string.
Long hours of researching and drawing muscles for various vertibrates made the sculpting process a bit easier. We learned the basics of feline, bovine, canine, avian, dinosaur, and primate anatomy, but I still found myself winging a bit on the back and shoulder muscles.

My goal is to get a prototype 3D printed by the end of summer and possibly do a short run of plastic models at around the same scale as my Schleich animal toys. I'm keeping my expectations low for now since I have no idea if the surface details will hold up or if I will need to break up the model into multiple parts. For now, I will focus on getting strong pose with minimal kinks and realistic anatomy.