Digital sculpting, is there a bridge between computers and sculpture?

I started with a well defined project which is on a back burner, until I master the many skills required: rubycocoa for the window interface, multithreading for the real time processing of data, HID interface.

This led me to object oriented programming, and Ruby, the onlyl sane programming language – Objective #C and Java are too formal, too in your face in their requirement
of voodoo incantations. — I like Ruby. I have written a program to read data at least 3 different ways, and gained some confidence, and I am eager for more.

And then my nephew showed me some 3D head rendering he made in lightwave. He claims that working with 3D and interacting with the shape/aspect has helped his drawing ability. It occured to me that digital sculpting might be a way for me to work on modeling, that is on seeing a simplified structure underlying the figure or the head.

Here is an example of what can be done.
 http://3dny.org/?p=11

As far as the figure is concerned, 3D realistic programs like poser is not for me. What folks do is model a bone, and then model a muscle on top of the bone. The animation gives no information on how a real human being’s butt difforms as they walk. It is moving bones, the muscle information on top goes along as cosmetics. Even if they corrected every so many frames, what you get is one person’s understanding of anatomy, not the physical reality.

Bone animation can still be interesting. “Introducing Maya for beginners” has a skeleton with joints, and I thought this would do as well or perhaps better than the skeleton dangling in the studio. At least it would be possible to set it in all kinds of impossible gravity situation.

The next question is whether to move the skeleton manually with a mouse, or whether to animate it with a script. The advantage of the script is that you can reproduce everything exactly, the disadvantage is that the script required to go from one position to another may not be obvious. With some experience, moving the body manually in Maya may not take long, but Maya is not cheap!

This lead me to OpenGL which seems the base of computer graphics anyways. If I could transfer the skeleton from maya or elsewhere to OpenGL and find how to move the joints in code or with real time mouse interaction, I could have a nice dedicated tool to teach sculpting. I think that is a great idea for an inexpensive software, but I have not seen it out there.

Luckily I found that one can program OpenGL with Ruby, so now I have ruby, ruby-openGL and rubycocoa to learn, along with rubyonrails of course — which requires MySqL — which I installed to try to set up a wiki. And maya or zbrush to see what I can figure out about modeling the head.

Why do I suddenly have so much to learn, when for years, it was routine. Why the explosion of technology I want to master? Sure, the prospect of looking for work is a great incentive, but it just seems to me that things are finally moving and coming to a sync. For years it was C++, and then C++ and Java, and that was all I knew of.

I think things are moving because of the internet and the many folks who help others in dedicated discussion sites. Without them, I could never have found the instructions or the help to install the various things I have tried to install. In each case it took me days, but I succeeded. I think this means the internet is helping many moderately techie “newbies” like me to get on the wagon and acquire skills which before where unreachable except through a structured class.

Wouldn’t it be amazing, if my knowledge of computers and my love of clay and sculpting the figure could come together in one activity, and all that mostly at home, where I can watch my mother, and make sure she is ok! Who knows, maybe in a year or two!

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