I’m No Michelangelo, But I Can Pretend!

Sculpting has always been an area of curiosity for me, but I never had the patience, tools, or mentor necessary to get me going. I remember doing one project in sixth grade with some clay, but even that was not quite what I was looking for. Or, at least, I can’t remember a single thing about it. I blame my sixth grader brain. I’ve personally tried working with wood, stone, and even chalk. Wood resulted in cutting my best friend’s hand wide open and stabbing myself in the leg the following day. I was never able to create anything beyond a blobby mass or a pile of splinters or shards. I’ve always felt that even a little guidance would be all I need to get my creative juices flowing.

So, being the tech nerd that I am, you might ask why I haven’t tried modeling in some kind of CAD software. Well, I have. I have found that I get a sort of creator’s block for any creation I attempt to make when using CAD. The hardest part is figuring out what I want to do in the first place. I have used various CAD software titles throughout the years, including TinkerCAD most recently, but that has always seemed so limited to me and doesn’t give me the ability to just mash around an incoherent mess and play. Math can be fun, and I do mean that, but sometimes it’s a real deterrent to creativity.

So why am I talking about modeling now? I have been wanting to design a project for 3D modeling for the Dabble Box. Many customers wish to use the 3D printer and a handful have even tried their hand at TinkerCAD. There is a good tutorial set on the TinkerCAD website that helps anyone willing to put in the time to get through it. TinkerCAD has been my go-to for anyone requesting to make their own models, but I have found that most seem hesitant to really delve into the software. I can kind of understand why as the inorganic angles and mathematical precision necessary in the software can be downright daunting, especially for those of us who really want to travel down the more creative rabbit hole. Given the “open lab” dabbling nature of the Dabble Box thus far, I haven’t really been able to give much instruction on modeling. I usually point them to the same resources I’ve used and hope they enjoy it. I began looking for alternative solutions to add to my list of useful modeling tools.

I stumbled on this amazing list of some of the most popular 3D modeling software titles (https://all3dp.com/best-3d-modeling-software/). It contained both the insanely overpriced software that we’d be just as insane to invest in, as well as the free stuff that most of us are more interested in. It also provides info on difficulty level, supported file types, and OS support. I, of course, immediately gravitated toward the beginner level, free stuff. I love a challenge myself, but I needed to consider who I was planning to provide this for rather than what I’d be interested in personally. I also decided to steer away from the more mathematical CAD programs and wanted to try something that allows for a little more of a messy creativity, so sculpting rather than modeling.

Three programs stood out to me. ScultGL, Sculptris, and a surprising third. I learned that Blender, a program I’ve used several times in the past for various projects, has another tool I was unaware of. Sculpting! So, three products came up with sculpting options, and I began to dig deeper into each. The first I checked out, as I already have some familiarity, was Blender. I know I will personally continue dabbling in Blender as time goes by, as well as provide customers with access, but I know that Blender intimidates me and its learning curve was far too much for beginning users, so I went on to SculptGL, which was listed as a beginner level app. Not only that, it’s also available through a browser much like TinkerCAD. No installation is required. This seemed to be very promising, so I looked further into the option. I really liked what I saw, but I reminded myself that a third option was available. I reluctantly downloaded and installed Sculptris as well deciding to give it a chance. Well, I found that both SculptGL and Sculptris seemed to be about as good as one another on the surface level. So, what was the tie breaker going to be?

Tangent warning. A couple of months ago my coworker, Michaela, informed me of a website that we have available to our customers that provides courses and video tutorials for various software and web apps called Lynda (https://www.ecpubliclibrary.info/online-learning). Lynda is a resource I’ve heard mentioned before, but it never clicked what exactly it was. After perusing the various lessons in Lynda, my gears started turning. I began digging for software names to see how much we had access to. Blender, a free GNU licensed 3D swiss army knife of software, came up with over 700 videos tutorials and 22 courses alone. Some of the paid software titles had about the same or more, like zBrush at 18 courses and 686 video tutorials, 3DS Max at 61 courses and 3,436 video tutorials, and Maya at 91 courses and 3,779 video tutorials. My curiosity got me and I decided to branch out and look at Photoshop. 477 courses and over 23k video tutorials! And finally, Sculptris, with one course! SculptGL had no tutorials or courses through Lynda, so I found my tie breaker. The over-the-top cuteness of the seal themed course might have helped a bit too.

Once I found my outstanding connection to our library resource, I only had two steps remaining. Learn the software and make the project card. I had played around with Sculptris a bit, but I really didn’t know what to do with it. So, I logged into Lynda and spent a few days following along on the course. The software that seemed so complex and overbearing before was suddenly letting me make some coherent creation. Others could even tell what it was I was trying to make! I was ecstatic! I even worked on it at home. And then I started working on my own models at home. I ended up creating three models in all, a seal, a tree with an old man’s face, and human female model. It was set in stone for me. I was going to teach this software to others. As soon as I was able to find time to chat with Jen, my fellow Dabble Box person, I told her I wanted to do a modeling themed month, and Sculptris was to be the center of it. I looked a little while for an idea on what to use for my Project Card, and settled on a horse. I spent a few days developing the horse model and taking screenshots and explaining the process for the project card. I am excited to say that the project card is in its first draft and the model turned out quite successful considering it was only my fourth. I hope anyone reading this can come check out the Dabble Box modeling scheduled for September 2017!

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