Kicking It

In the interests of bettering my technique I wanted to enter into a project incorporating the full body. My thinking was to bring something interpretive to life. To attempt to bring a sense of movement into a static statue in the great Baroque spirit of old. Expressing the essence of a physical endeavour, such as dance or sports.

David (1623–1624) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Borghese Gallery)

David (1623–1624) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Borghese Gallery)

Referencing great works of art, for which few could say they got close either physically or artistically, may appear to be hitting above one’s weight; or simply pretentious; these are the works that have inspired shear joy and wonder for centuries. Obviously I am nowhere close. But referencing the sublime might, if I’m lucky, carry over a spark. And it is surely best to look at the greatest in any endeavour?

Lofty art references aside: I asked at my local karate dojo if they would mind my capturing a high kick of one of their pupils. And they were graciously accommodating. Thank you, Twins Martial Arts (here)! One of their many high achievers, Alyna, agreed to pose for me. She is a black belt, with a strength and poise only possible through hard work. My thought was I’d be able to capture this with my 3D scanner. I was wrong! Even with her impressive skills it was not possible to hold a strong dynamic pose for the time it takes to successfully capture using the 3D scanner.

High kick pose not being capture in 3D

High kick pose not being capture in 3D

So the plan became labelled “B” and the task was to capture the segments of the subject for recreation in software. Photo references were taken and 3D scans of specific features were taken from the live (and patient) subject, with focus on the feet, face and hands.

Photo reference, karate black belt, rear view

Photo reference, karate black belt, rear view

Photo reference, fist

Photo reference, fist

Photo reference, karate black belt, mid figure view

Photo reference, karate black belt, mid figure view

Photo reference, karate high kick foot

Photo reference, karate high kick foot

The construction and execution did take a little thought to allow a decent construction, as much for the final look as stability and composition. I arrived at a concept of accentuating the belt. The belt is the symbolic measure for karate, giving focus in the form might be considered as giving respect.

Scan reference, face

Scan reference, face

Scan reference, fist

Scan reference, fist

Scan reference, foot

Scan reference, foot

The body was to be generated entirely in software, using photos as reference. For the record, I used Autodesk’s Mudbox for this modelling work. Beginning with a sphere in the software, I used the virtual sculpting tools to scrape, smooth and cut my way to the form of a karate gi (the robes) in the pose being referenced.

3D modelled karate gi, rear (early draft)

3D modelled karate gi, rear (early draft)

3D modelled karate gi, front (early draft)

3D modelled karate gi, front (early draft)

Folds and creases in virtual clay.

In a similar way I then took the scans and honed them off to something more suitable for 3D printing.

3D model from scan, eyes and hair refined in software

3D model from scan, eyes and hair refined in software

Eyes and hair modelled from reference, the core facial form maintained from the life subject 3D scan.

As mentioned, some thought had been given to construction of the statuette as a whole. The assembly parts had to maintain orientation, allowing room for bonding resin within material constraints. The rule of thumb I adhere to is 0.25 mm to 0.5 mm clearance for a snug fit, depending on shape of fitting. YMMV.

Construction approach, right foot

Construction approach, right foot

Construction approach, right hand

Construction approach, right hand

To emphasise the belt I used a different material and therefore separated the body / gi form into two, three including the belt. This gave me a large selection of elements for the complete model: hands, feet, two body parts, belt and head were all printed separately. I also separated the girl’s long ponytail. The reason for maintaining these elements as separate is not due to the capture or modelling process, as they could easily have been merged in software, but to give the final piece a clarity of line between what is the cloth of the gi, and what is the flesh of the person wearing it, as well as playing to the peculiarities of the 3D printing process.

3D printed construction elements, partially assembled.

3D printed construction elements, partially assembled.

As an aside: 3D printing is a specific set of material manufacture processes, with its own caveats. Experience and experimentation teaches better approaches to creation of objects within this environment. This includes decisions of how to construct an object to allow for maximum finish quality, as well as other factors such as print orientation, print materials, and design decisions allowing maximum quality.

With the manufactured parts ready assembly began. The belt was of a different surface treatment to the other parts and so the assembly lead to 3 main elements requiring finish treatments. Once complete, these elements were finally brought together, a finishing treatment applied. Finally the object was mounted on a block of reclaimed Australian red gum.

Stages of object acquisition and creation :

Reference photo

Reference photo

Construction overview

Construction overview

Assembled object

Assembled object

As an execution this project is relatively successful. However there are a couple of refinements I am working on at the time of writing which I feel can improve the project, before I present the dojo with their own version. Given the opportunity I would happily work on a (much) larger version of the same project as the current print, standing at a little over 30cm without the mount, does not convey some of the detail I would ideally like to see. As an object in it’s own right I feel it does illustrate an individual performing a well prepared dynamic feat, and I believe this, and similar processes may be applied to other individuals and sporting arenas in the future.