Things are starting to get more grim for our hapless spider. And he’s looking sufficiently realistic that his torment strikes me as cruel — I like spiders — in which case, just in case, I’m letting you know it’s not a real spider.

He’s affixed to the cross with a giant spike. Above you can see how I modeled it on some picks. I also modified the cross (there’s a source] so that the beams are hexagonal rather that rectilinear, in which case the spider rests on a slanted top surface. There’s a reason for this, but I also prefer the more elaborate cross design. I’ll scuff up the wood and put some more details in it later.

Aaaaand, no giant spider crucifixion would be complete without some proper gore. Here’s a close up of the spike and some anomalous goo (or “gop” if you prefer), seeping from the wound.

Looking down, the spider appears large, but the spike looks like a big nail. This is a trick of perspective. Not that you’ll ever see this in a final render of the whole image, but, I’m particularly fond of how the spider hair can be seen within the membranous glop.

I had to recreate much of the spider because of some mistakes I made that compromised the integrity of the combination of the mesh and multires modifier. It’s a little complicated. Let’s just say I F’d up a bit.

So, I made some more adjustments, like thinning its legs out a bit more so it looks less crustacean than before. You might notice that I haven’t posed the legs very specifically yet, and they merely mirror each other perfectly symmetrically. I’ll get around to that.

When you look up at the spider it appears much larger. That’s the companion optical illusion. In the final composition, or one of them, you will see the spider straight on, as below:

There will be a landscape, background, environmental effects, and more. As I said, there’s a source painting by a modestly well-known, now deceased, dark, surrealist, apocalyptical variety of artist, but I’ll share more about that later. This is a tribute piece, but it’s turning out to be very much my own version, largely due to the process of making it using my own sensibility, and the entirely different medium (from painting to digital sculpture).

Above, there are endless lighting options, and I was just scrolling through some of them. This screen capture is rather gritty. And as I was trying out various lighting scenarios using HDRI images, I could see the spider at night, dusk, afternoon, and so on, and seeing it pinned on a cross over an illusory length of time made me feel a bit sad for the spider. There’s much more to the content here than just brutality to an eight-legged bug, which I rather don’t approve of. The tragedy of it should outweigh the sadistic quality in the end.

Yeah, there are larger issues to do with the human condition: death, transcendence, faith, delusion, belief, disappointment, betrayal, the collapse of civilizations… That may be more apparent in the full image with landscape, background, atmospheric and other effects… We’ll have to see if I can pull it off, and if my computer can handle it. I’m already using particle systems for the hair, but there’s going to be some “physics” involved in two or three simulations. Don’t worry, I don’t do any of the math myself. That’s up to the infallible mind of the computer.

Incidentally I have to work on a laptop (with a separate larger monitor] because I get kicked around the globe frequently enough that I just can’t have a desktop powerhouse. So, my system is a gaming computer that I tricked out with lots of extra RAM, including on the best graphics card I could get at the time. The program I’m using — Blender — is free, but you need a pretty decent and newish computer to do your more sophisticated projects.

I really enjoy working this way, which is as new for me as it is for most who take it up. It only uses my drawing skills obliquely, though an ability with Photoshop comes in handy.

Here’s a little insight of sorts I had the other day. This kind of virtual reality sculptural realism was completely unanticipated when I was in grad school, except as a very vague theoretical possibility decades in the future. We were still marveling at an early version of Photoshop. And the thing here is that our ideas at the time about art, art history, art theory, and contemporary art don’t apply.

Conceptual art is supposed to have taken over from painting, and especially the kind of painting that was a “window” into a three-dimensional universe. Everyone knows about the “flattening of the picture plane”, and then enterprising young artists like Picasso and Braque pasting bits of newspaper and whatnot on the surface of their paintings. And then art moved entirely outside of the real-estate of the canvas and into performance, installation art, earth art, and other forms of more contemporary art. And we’re still kind of stuck in that paradigm, and only in the last couple years has digital art — especially with the advent of NFTs — become acknowledged as serious art at all.

In the archives of my blog you will find my several defenses of digital art over the last 8 years, and the kind of, well, shit people said to me personally in their utter dismissal of my digital art because it is digital. Meanwhile they’d accept a sketch I did as a teen with a ballpoint pen on a piece of notebook paper during math class as valid art.

But this new medium can — as even in this image — be both unanticipated, and connect to traditional art. I can’t help thinking of famous crucifixions, for example by the likes of Matthias Grünewald. It’s outside of the dominant paradigm of art, and at the same time this kind of art creation is so popular there’s a revolution of artists working in the medium. Representation is back in art. So is the imagination, and skill, and beauty. So is the forsaken window into the artist’s private universe.

On a darker note, none of that really matters so much because the value of art today is determined by popularity and money. Popularity can make money, and money can make popularity. If one takes a look at the top selling NFT art works, well, it becomes obvious that very much of it is so arbitrary and relative that art becomes whatever whomever is willing to pay for it, and for whatever reason, no matter how ridiculous it or the art in question is.

The intrinsic worth of art is only for artists and connoisseurs, assuming they can disentangle themselves from the influence of the spectacle of art in the art world proper, where art it is used as a money-making/moving/laundering enterprise, and a political tool, outside of the sanctity of one’s own head. Art itself is dramatically less significant — almost to the point of irrelevance — than how it is perceived.

Speaking of the sanctity of one’s own head, this is the view inside the spider’s head.

The reason I haven’t embarked on attempting to sell NFTs of my digital art is I lack both the requisite popularity and money to participate in that market just yet, without it being an insulting kick in the teeth. Y’know, selling something for tens of dollars (or much more likely not at all) while someone sells their tweet for thousands or millions. Perhaps in the not too distant future the winds will change.

Note that less than 1% of NFT art sells for more than $1,500, and 75% sells for less than $15. Meanwhile the cost of putting an NFT up for sale easily exceeds $75. There’s even a “gas fee” because of the astounding amount of electricity needed between all the interacting computers. I may be too cynical about it, but not cynical enough to stop working. Which reminds me…

…gotta get back to work.


And if you like my art or criticism, please consider chipping in so I can keep working until I drop. Through Patreon, you can give $1 (or more) per month to help keep me going (y’know, so I don’t have to put art on the back-burner while I slog away at a full-time job). See how it works here.

Or go directly to my account.

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Or you can make a one time donation to help me keep on making art and blogging (and restore my faith in humanity simultaneously).

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2 replies on “WIP, and no spiders were harmed in this production

  1. Wow! He’s killer! Or ‘killed’? No, this is some radical stuff here!! I wanted to go into computer graphics at Carnegie Mellon back in ’82’, Dad said it was ‘unrealistic’…if he could see what is done now!!! If only I had fought harder for my future! If, if, if!!!
    I was so afraid of spiders growing up that I couldn’t even hold a book with their images in it!! But I have made myself appreciate their amazingness’. And yours? Well he is totally incredible! I am so looking forward to watching him progress, the whole piece is going to be mind boggling!
    the way he’s ‘built’, even inside his little spider head! It’s just nuts! I wish I could watch over your shoulder as you create him… I must learn how to do this, even if I’m 80 before I do! Thank you, I am a fan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have the same sort of reaction to the media that I do. You expressed it so well. It was a difficult learning curve, but is possible. I used Blender, which is free software. It’s fun to play around with, but it can get uber complicated. Glad I can share the fun parts without all the tedious and frustrating research and memorization that goes into making it.

      Liked by 1 person

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