After months of working on hard-surface modeling, I’ve finally started doing organic sculpture in Blender. I did some work in ZBrush before, so this is more familiar terrain. The real magic is going to happen when I combine organic and hard-surface modeling, and start making complex scenes. This was just an exercise I knocked out in a a couple hours or so.

If you have a drawing tablet and a pretty decent computer, you can get a free copy of Blender and make an alien yourself. Here’s the tutorial I worked with by Grant Abbitt:

I got carried away playing with the brushes. Digitally sculpting is a marvelous technology. This is why I got into Blender in the first place. Over time I’ve become more interested in realism, and it’s extremely difficult to digitally paint figures at unusual angles, and to paint the lighting and shadows, etc. But if you sculpt a figure, you can easily rotate it at any angle, and play with the lighting to your heart’s content. It’s not exactly an easy way of working — there’s definitely a learning curve — but it’s an intelligent approach.

I really struggled with the angles, or example, when I made this digital painting:

Bat Girl Bites Back, by me.

But it’s only really rotated on one axis, the Z axis. The Bat Girl above was a order of magnitude more difficult for me than this alien I knocked out doing a tutorial. I can do much more sophisticated angles with very little effort once I’ve made a digi-sculpt:

Any angle is just a movement of the mouse away.

Drawings like the above might be helping me in my organic sculpture. Note that my vision was so bad when I did this that I couldn’t see sharp details, hence it’s all a bit blurry. But I did achieve reasonably good illusionistic sculptural depth from the imagination. I should sculpt this guy at some point.

If the goal is sophisticated realism, sculpting is the ticket. And, surprisingly, sculpting a form is a lot easier than drawing it. You can see it from every angle, and thus your mistakes are obvious. You are working in 3D, in which case you don’t have to create the illusion of 3D. That’s what’s so difficult in drawing/painting realism when working from the imagination. It’s not enough to be able to render what you see, or to understand anatomy or lighting and shading: you need to create the illusion in 2 dimensions. So, for example, anyone could get a lump of clay and model an egg out of it. When it comes to lighting and shading, you don’t do anything because it’s supplied by whatever the environment is. But try to draw an egg, and you need to do some geometry just to plot the shadows, and the reflected light, etc.

Even the instructional drawing above is only so persuasive.

To illustrated this point further, just compare a sculpture to a painting by Michelangelo:

Above, despite the artist taking liberties and exaggerating forms for dramatic effect, his David is very persuasive, while his Adam, despite the incredible skill at rendering, doesn’t look like a real person. That neck tho! The shoulder looks almost like a mutation. There’s artistic license, but there’s also being a bit off on occasion. Yes, folks, even the old masters made mistakes. A young Leonardo grappled with anatomy and perspective.

In the Annunciation above, Mary’s right arm is tortured at the elbow so that her forearm reverses direction. Don’t hate me for pointing it out. I got it from Waldemar. And Leonard was in his early 20’s when he did this. All hail the incredible virtuosity! The point is just that sculpture doesn’t need to painstakingly create the illusion of three dimensions: it’s in three dimensions. Meanwhile, the best all-time painters can only ever approximate three dimensions. It’s never going to be 100% correct. It’s impossible.

So, digital sculpture is a shortcut to bad-ass rendering.

I also did a tutorial where I made a caricature of a bear.

My bear is much more faithful to the tutorial than was my alien:

Doing this kind of caricature is a lot harder for me, and less fun. I picked up some really good masking techniques from the tutorial, and it’s always good to learn how another artist works, but this really isn’t my cup of tea. All the more reason to do more of it at some point. I may need to make soft, rounded objects that are highly specific.

There’s another alien sculpt tutorial I’m going to attempt next, I think.

This should be fun. I’ll probably slap on some ear holes or something, turtle nostrils if need be, and a less human mouth and jaw, just as a matter of course. I’m lucky so many artists and tutors have put their tutorials out there. It’s very instructive to compare techniques and pick and choose methods that suit me.

~ Ends.

8 replies on “Alien Tutorial Results

  1. This does look fun.

    I definitely see what you mean about Mary’s arm, but not sure I agree about Adam’s neck and shoulder. I think the average person back then was much bulkier from all the hard physical labor. I have noticed Michelangelo will sometimes go to portray a woman, and he’ll basically take a muscular peasant man and stick some breasts on. I’m thinking of his sculpture Night.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, not really breasts so much as coconut shells. Art history is litered with bizarre breasts.

      Take a closer look at the neck. Look at how much neck there is behind the ear. Even in full profile, that’s too much. Typically, the back of the head sticks out further than the back of the neck. Compare the width of the chin to that of the neck, and notice the adam’s apple is well to his right of the chin. You can’t unsee that once you pick it off. You are seeing the back of the neck from the right as if in full profile, while you are also seeing much of the left of the neck, which is physically impossible. There’s some of that same problem with the body.

      Michelangelo deliberately gave Adam heroic proportions, but his attempt to create the illusion of 3D is flawed. It may even have been deliberate mannerism. He pushed it as far as he could. So, it isn’t a question of how muscular the man is, but how believably the exaggerated muscles are rendered. Look at that neck and think about where the back of the head is. It’s utterly ridiculous.

      Ever take a close look at Botticelli’s Venus. It all works and she looks beautiful, but if you isolate parts and really look at them, she’s a freak. Her shoulders are low, her heck too long, and her left arm is an abomination. And yet the painting is absolutely masterful.

      Incidentally, I’ve made some atrocious anatomical and perspectival errors in some of my best art. I merely take some solace in knowing the “old masters” made comparitively small errors, and in their relative youth, or while attempting the impossible.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It is so interesting to hear / read about the thought process: the struggles, the victory. What worked, what didn’t, what you would like to try next, what you stuck with, what you didn’t. Your final piece or sculpting from a video tutorial side by side.

    I am having a field day with your blogs, you’re one of the best discoveries for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

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