A possible downside of creating this vintage desk in Blender is that now I want one, and can’t have it. Even if I could track down one of the extant remaining models, and have it shipped out to SE Asia, not only would I have no place to put it, but it wouldn’t be my modified design. In other words, I quite like this configuration. The desk seems mobile. It’s four legs and low-hanging, metal spine give it a migrating animal quality; and the painted desk part reminds me of a gas tank for a motorcycle. When you saddle into this desk, you’ll be learning quickly, in classic style. I’d want it just to eat on and store stuff in. The chair swivels, and I can just see this as my kind of a throne. I want it in the future art studio of my dreams.

Adding the materials is a fun stage, not because it’s easy — it’s not — but because it really brings the mesh to life. There were a lot of complications, and I had a hard time tracking down a free material I could use for the painted metal. I almost gave up on it, but then I found some yellow painted material that I liked, and changed the color file to blue in PS.

I couldn’t find a suitable, conventional wood texture I liked, until I ventured off into “planks”. Probably a school desk/chair wouldn’t use planks, but with a little modification, it gives the best older wood feel of the materials I could find.

My semi-elaborate technique for melding the, uh, bolt housings into the brackets on the side of the chair paid off when small details enveloped them.

The UV unwrapping stage is what makes adding materials difficult. You have to add seams to your mesh to tell the program how to unwrap the mesh, as if it were origami. Basically, you are superimposing a flat image on a flat surface, so you have to unfold, or “unwrap” it first. This doesn’t go quite the way you plan if you have a complex object, like the side brackets.

Above, the checkerboard pattern lets you know if you are distorting the wrapping paper image, so to speak. It’s a weird process, and programs like Substance Painter skip this (to my understanding) and just allow you to paint over a mesh without unwrapping it and wrapping it back up again. Ultimately, that’s the way to go, at least if Adobe hadn’t bought them out and tagged a heavy $20 a month subscription fee on a program only pros are going to make any money off of to compensate for the ongoing cost.

For now I’ll add my textures the old way. There are a lot of add-ons and such to make things a lot easier, but I want to get the fundamentals down in my own noodle first. The one easy cheat I used was a built-in function to create ready-made bolts. Probably saved me an hour or two figuring out how to do it on my own (the top isn’t very hard, but I’d have had to research how to do the spiral threading]. Everything else I made from the basic building blocks of cubes, cylinders, planes, and spheres.

Is it a work of art? We are to understand that when Marcel Duchamp relocated a urinal in a gallery space it was art, but recreating something like this from scratch is not currently understood to be art. There would have to be a conceptual reason for doing so, and then that idea would be the art. But having produced it myself, I see it as a vibrant sculpture (even without texture and color). An new art paradigm is unfolding like UV unwrapping. Rember when the photograph changed art history, supposedly, and sidelined painting’s role as documentary image maker? This enormously more sophisticated software, we should assume, has no impact on art or art history. There’s no framework for it within the contemprary art paradigm. It’s off the rails, which is a good place for art to be.

If you read my last post you know I made the desk for a little side project to produce an image about “modern learning”. Next up I’ll work on a background or scene element.

Don’t touch that dial.

~ Ends

7 replies on “Making a Vintage School Desk in Blender: Part 2, Materials

  1. I can’t say what should be considered art, but you’ve created something here out of thin air (with a lot of effort of course) that is incredibly convincing to my other senses. I can feel the weight of it, and hear the sound of it scraping across the floor when dragged or shifted. I know what that desktop feels like, how stiff its hinges are, and how the seat would feel to sit on. I don’t think my other sense would be engaged without the attention you’ve put into the details. Maybe art is just about convincing somebody they are feeling something…

    Thanks again for showing the process as well as the result. I’m quite excited to see what you’ll create as you get accustomed to using Blender in conjunction with your other capacities!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mike. It’s great to have a small audience of people who appreciate some of the things I do.
      I can’t take all the credit for the realism, since that’s one of the things Blender does well. It’s much more difficult to achieve that through sheer imitation, as in digital painting (ex., my “Ant Man”). The program does the infinitely difficult lighting and small detail procedures for you. So, for example, changing lighting in a digital painting is a very difficult procedure, but Blender can do it on the fly, instantaneously.
      That said, there’s a very steep learning curve to getting it to all work, and even oil painting has conventional procedures that work for realism if you follow them. My artist’s eye probably makes a difference in Blender, and it might distinguish even something like this – a straightforward recreation of an existing object — from what other people create using the program. Of course, as you rightly articulated, the visual effects you like are the same ones I worked hard to create (because I also like them).
      I’ve been holding off a bit on doing my own imaginative works with the program because I want to get a better handle on it first, so I’m not constantly struggling with how to use it. Even projects like this feel like they are my own, but I’ll probably start to really shine when I attempt more ambitious and experimental projects, assuming I stick with it and get there.

      Liked by 1 person

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