How And Why You Should Draw A 3D Dinosaur
- Published 21-01-2017
There may come a time in your life when you need to draw a wicked cool dinosaur in three dimensions, but your stupid regular 2D pencils aren't up to the task. This was exactly the problem I faced a few weeks ago when one of my regular clients - I Fucking Love Science - asked me to produce several skeletal forms of everyone's favourite extinct land dwellers to display on their stand at this years' Brand Licensing Europe show.
Fortunately the popular science content creators had the solution to that conundrum literally in hand.
The 3Doodler 2.0 is an intriguing piece of kit that combines the mechanics of a glue gun with the application of a common pen. It feeds strips of extruded coloured plastic in at the top, melts them in the middle, and then forces them out through the nib in soft, ductile 'lines'. Like a regular pen on paper, you move the 3Doodler in the manner you wish and the plastic trails after, cooling slowly and hardening as it does to solidify each motion you make. But here's the awesome part; as the plastic hardens it takes on structural and load-bearing properties, meaning that any subsequent connecting lines you draw are supported in any direction, including straight up in the air. With each layer you draw, the easier it is to create stronger, taller forms, like buildings and towers.
Drawing 3D dinosaur skeletons in streams of plastic at fluctuating temperatures is no simple feat. I'd wager it's easier to excavate actual dinosaur bones from the earth, but nevertheless, the brief had been issued and I had only a matter of weeks before the BLE2015 show to familiarise myself with the device and learn the knack to drawing with it.
The first skeleton I attempted was that of a triceratops instructed by a tutorial in the accompanying guide book. The tutorial was a two part process; first, I needed to trace the outline templates on its pages of all the component parts of the dinosaur (its spine, horns, collar bones etc.) and second, fuse them together using blobs of further plastic. Tracing out the shapes was straightforward enough, but the welding step was where I came unstuck, pun most definitely intended. The device is a relatively cumbersome beast and is terribly unwieldy when faced with the nimble work of attaching rickety spines to oversized horned skull flanges. Let's just say that during my attempts, bones were broken...
So the result of my tutorial effort was a disproportionate creature of fragile disposition that, despite possessing four legs, would only remain upright with the precision placement of a neurosurgeon and in areas entirely concealed from even the slightest of draughts. If the actual dinosaurs were as internally inept it's little wonder they went extinct.
For my second effort I threw out the rule book and went totally rogue. I wanted to draw this next dinosaur entirely freehand with no plan at all. Before I knew what I was doing I had splodged four skeletal feet out onto the design grid and was already elevating the shin bones. This was going well. Next came some structural bracing between the leg pairs, followed by a skilfully drawn undulating spine and tail made by allowing the plastic to droop and cool to obtain the curves I needed. Before long I had the whole, erm, 'skeleton' for my skeleton set and freestanding, making completing the rest a doddle/doodle. The head, the ribs and the spines were all eked onto the sculpture as easily as piping icing onto a cake. By adding a few more lines of plastic to strengthen some of the weaker areas the model was complete; the greatest bright blue synthetic brontosaurus the world had ever known.
Once I got the swing of it, a sturdy green frog and delicate multi-coloured flower swiftly materialised on my table, again, entirely without direction. The freehand, from-the-ground-up approach came a lot more naturally to me it seemed, which is interesting as I am predominantly a 2D artist who has struggled with 3D development as far back as I can recall (that time the clay bust of my own head exploded in the kiln owing to air pockets I had trapped behind my eyeballs for example, or the clay flower pot I made when I was young that more closely resembled those little base dishes you normally place flower pots in for drainage purposes. Actually maybe I'm just rubbish at clay...).
Remember those exercises you're asked to do in life drawing classes where you have to scribble the model using a single continuing line without taking the pencil off the page? Going freehand with the 3Doodler is a lot like that, except the obstacle isn't the no-disconnection rule, it's gravity.
After bubble wrapping my newly created fragile friends into a box and carrying them precariously through London's unforgiving transport network, I arrived at BLE2015 and was ready to showcase them on the IFL Science stand. I also fired up a 3Doodler pen to perform live demonstrations and within minutes I was attracting scores of visitors eager to see how I was producing up-turned wireframe pyramids and text seemingly written on the air itself. My time at the show was very exciting and countless people trialled the device, looping and curling and blobbing all over the counter top. I predict it will be a highly sought-after gift this Christmas from the IFL Science store.
I often talk about the three most unusual commissions I've ever undertaken during my creative career and this project has definitely unseated one of them, rocketing to the top of the chart.
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