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Goings on at the Because We Cannery

Sketches to Sculptures via Blender!

Our friend, Michael Christian, a well-known local artist, approached us with an idea to produce some small, more affordable pieces for a more down-to-earth show he was going to have.

Frank Eyes Frank Faucet Frank Drip

Our friend, Michael Christian, a well-known local artist, approached us with an idea to produce some small, more affordable pieces for a more down-to-earth show he was going to have.

Frank Eyes Frank Faucet Frank Drip

Typically, Michael makes huge metal pieces that look like this:

Flock

But he wanted to make a series of smaller pieces that didn't require a crane to put up! After meeting over what was easily possible via our CNC table and workflow, the idea emerged to do these 'portraits' of characters based upon his rather surreal ideas. Michael then produced some small hand sketches with smooth shading and nice highlights.

Frank Drip Sketch Frank Eyes

These sketches were scanned into Photoshop, where they were touched up, and then were brought into Blender. There they were used to produce nice 3D models directly from the sketches. This was quick and easy, taking very little time and producing great results.

First we used the Displace modifier on a subdivided plane, making the image itself 'punch' the plane geometry up. Then, using the Multires tools, we further subdivided the plane. Then we did additional sculpting, smoothing and inflating, while using the image as a brush to bring out more detail where desired. Finally, we selected all the surrounding flat faces, deleted them, and then Decimated and cleaned up the meshes to get nice, clean, smooth models. Each one took no more than twenty minutes to model this way.

Blender Model

Those 3D models were toolpathed in Cut3D, then carved out via our CNC table, taking anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour depending on the size of the figure. Custom frames were designed and cut for each figure as well, which took no time at all, for they were simply beveled edges and mostly flat.

Frank Drip Carving

And then Michael sanded and sculpted the figures further, and then hand-painted each figure and frame.

Michael Sanding

And here are the final pieces, twelve in all, hung in the space.

Each piece was affordable, for the workflow of pencil sketch to CNC was quick, and now Michael can produce more in different runs of colors, sizes, frames, and finishes too.

This was a very collaborative project. We really love working with other creative folks to produce interesting things, for it always pushes us to learn and try new things!

Jeffrey McGrew