Above is a mech I made in Blender (v2.83.3). This was fun and compulsive, much like playing a mech war computer game I got into recently, before cutting myself off for wasting too much time on it. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the program, and this creation was my version of a beginner tutorial in a Blender course I’m working on. You can see the tutorial version below.
When doing the tutorials, I like to basically copy whatever the instructors does, and then go off and do my own version. That’s where the real learning happens for me, because I need to be “hands on”. Inevitably, I’ll forget techniques I just learned in the tutorials when trying to apply them to my own creations. But once I go back and check how to do it, it starts to really stick.
Here’s my design in a modeling view:
Mine’s a bit more like the family car — the station wagon the mechs — going out on a science field trip, but equipped with weapons because, uuuuh, it’s a dangerous world. It does seem less a battle mech than one with some other purpose. There could be a whole group of people in there, and one person to man the ball-turret gun in the front.
I somehow or other ended up with army camouflage type colors, though.
If you are thinking about telling me whey the legs are really ineffectual and wheels would work so much better, and so on, it’s not really about the concept: this is a practice exercise to learn the building blocks of hard-surface sculpting. I’m much more geared to organic sculpting, which is coming up, but this kind of work is really growing on me.
See a video version on my Instagram, below, if for some catastrophic reason you aren’t already following me.
Painting with Virtual Reality
This is more sculpting than painting, obviously, but I’m not being that literal here. I’m using “painting” as shorthand for traditional visual art. There’s something really intriguing going on here that I hadn’t quite realized before delving into learning the 3D software.
If you have a traditional sort of art background, working with this program isn’t painting and it isn’t sculpture. I rarely use the drawing tablet so far, and while you can make 3D prints, in general the creative process doesn’t take place in the material world. This is creating in virtual reality. A whole new window has opened up for visual artists, and it’s onto a vast vista of abundant possibility.
I’m sold on it. At first I just wanted to make organic sculpture on which to base digital paintings. But now that seems barbaric. Why bother painting it? Rather, I can learn how to paint within the program (and ancillary programs), and otherwise tweak out the image into something I’m proud of without doing a 2D interpretation. My new goal is to see what I can create using virtual reality as my canvas, and the possibilities are so expansive I don’t think I could ever run out of ideas. And I’ve got something I’m planning that will definitely demonstrate how this can be used for unmistakably fine art purposes.
From above my model looks like a toy. It pretty much is. Sure, it’s creative, but my mech is not that sophisticated in construction. The surfaces aren’t painted, I just assigned them colors and a bit of texture (mostly regarding how reflecting they are). So, yeah, I made a kid’s toy. But notice the long shadow. Man, just by moving around a “sun” lamp, I could angle the shadow virtually wherever I wanted, and make it as long as I wanted.
A little part of me, in the past, felt a little like, “Hey, that’s cheating”. Because, well, I’ve done lighting the hard way, where I spent hours and hours trying to paint each little shadow and reflection realistically. And when I was done, I only had one angle [see below]:
You can see the whole process from sketch to finished design below.
I think my bat girl took me about a month. Soon-ish I’ll be able to digitally sculpt her if I choose to, and then I can just change the lighting position, color, intensity, and bloom on the fly. I can rotate her head. Why do it the hard way when there’s an easier way, er, once you get over the learning curve and put in the hours?
The objective for me is not to make the best image I can using a given media, but to make the best image I can period. This is why I already work digitally rather than analogue.
There are two choices, I’ve found, when dealing with digitally created art. One is to resent it and turn one’s nose up at it, telling oneself it’s cheating or whatever. It is astronomically harder to do lighting yourself, drawing and painting it, than it is to merely set up a light in a 3D program! The other choice is to learn the software myself and take advantage of it. One soon finds out, however, that the shortcut isn’t that short. There is a learning curve that can be more difficult for many people than drawing and painting.
I love that I could make a model, put in some different background HDR images — the program actually lights the model with the inherent lighting in the photo (and you can add your own lighting on top of it] — and make a series of images if I want.
There’s more, where you get to, and have to, deal with every aspect of realistic imagery. You navigate 3D space, and arrange forms within it. You develop lighting and shading situations. You create textures and tweak out their properties. You paint directly on 3D objects. Every aspect of visual reality is included. It’s not for everyone, but I think I can really get into this.
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