When I started in ZBrush and Mudbox years ago, the computer graphics world ( CG) would often say, “Why do you want to get things out of the computer?”  I felt like I was just told I had purple spots on my face.  I am a traditional sculptor who uses digital process to create sculpture in the physical form. I have a variety of things that I do that incorporate both traditional and digital or what I call tra-digi art.  I know my use of these digital processes is not the way others use them, but it is how I make my living.  Oh, and by the way, if you ever want to bring me in to lecture on this subject I would be happy to do so.

When I was at the ZBrush booth at SIGGRAPH last  year I saw that someone mentioned that others were translating their designs into the real world.  So, I’m not alone.

Over the years I have found one thing is a constant – I need a measuring tape!  The hard part about this is that in the computer your sculpture is not really any size. It lives in a virtual world with virtual coordinates.  However, to get this virtual sculpture to live in a real world I need to compare it to the real world.  Over the years this problem has come up again and again.

This simple sketch worked, but
I would still need to create this digitally.

PRESENTATIONS- Comparison to what is there.
This usually happens when I’m working out the design, For example the landscape architect gives me blue prints and I need to come up with something.  In the case of the fountain I could go and take pictures of what was created on the job site.  The client wanted two children, and I was to incorporate the fountain base, and another piece that would sit on top. I would have loved to create this in ZBrush, but I opted for a simple sketch because of the limitations of measuring.

I was luck enough to see the job site on this project.

I know that someone working in the computer may not be thinking about shipping their final product. But I ship bronze sculptures all of the time.  In many cases this is something I work out in the design process.  If I can figure out how to modify the sculpture sometimes, it can save thousands of dollars.   For example, I modified the design of the floor of the sculpture of the praying man to be able to fit the width of my van and still be life-size.   I was able to do this in the sculpting process when in my traditional studio but there are other times I need this as well. Shipping the Tiger sculpture from my studio in Houston, Texas to Louisiana is a massive investment 7,000- 10,000.  The tiger will have to ship on its side.  However, I need to be sure that it can do so and fit on the flat bed trailer with packing.

The difference between working things out digitally and the traditional clay piece.

Most of my sculptures, once created and revised in the computer are enlarged digitally in foam. This takes the place of doing the traditional armature of welding  and pointing up as done in the past.   Synappsys Digital Services does most of my enlarging. They figure out the mass if I give them the height, but it is often necessary to figure measurements out in the design. In

Doing greater detail in the enlarged milled foam of the Prairie View Panther.
Often in the design stage it would help to be able to say, if it is this height,
what is the width at this place in the sculpture.

the case of the Tiger sculpture I lowered the head and the arm of the tiger, mostly because I could not find a warehouse big enough to allow me to sculpt that size piece.  Subtracting a foot, by lowering the hand/head helped the design, but also give me a little more room to work. I would not have known to do that had I not measured in advance.

I’m taking time to write this post as I work diligently on trying to figure out the armature for the 13+ foot tiger.  Though I can twirl the image around in my computer by pressing certain keys, in the real world this sculpture will have gravity and weight to deal with.   The foam of the tiger, once togther will probably weight about 170 lbs.  Then we add a layer of wax and a fine layer of clay.  This will probably add about 400+ lbs to the tiger alone.  Having the proper armature to hold this tiger up is imperative.  Without it I could have the entire thing fall and, God forbid, be under it when it does.   If I had a measuring tape in zbrush I could be making a schematic for my carpenter to build my base and armatures.  I am also looking at a way to create the sculpture separately cutting the pieces in 1/2 so that I don’ t have to carve 15 feet in the air. Oh I wish I had a measuring tape.

A digital model of the proposed tiger sculpture.

Work around.
Yes there are probably ways to work around this.  For example, I know the man in the scene if 6 feet, I can make a long flat piece that measures 6 feet and work with that.  But being able to give one element a size, the man is 6 feet—and then able to click anywhere else on the sculpture to see what that size is in relation to the given size of the man- this would make my life a lot easier. So how about it Pixologic? Can I please have a measuring tape in the next version?

These are only a quick few ways I can see that having a measuring tape in a program like ZBrush or Mudbox would really help my work flow, and might even help to extend the buyers of these programs. In my speaking engagements I often tell my audience that I turned to the use of digital tools to extend my career. Pushing around clay with my hands has caused some great aches and pains over the years. Most of my audience wants to learn these processes as well, for just these reasons.  Please give a listen Pixologic and Autodesk lets see  how you measure up!


Bridgette Mongeon is a sculptor, writer, illustrator and educator as well as a public speaker.

Her blog can be found at https://creativesculpture.com.

She is the vice chair of the planning committee for 3DCAMP Houston 2012 http://www.3dcamphouston.com

She is also the owner and creator of the God’s Word Collectible Sculpture series http://www.godsword.net

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