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Sculpture of a couple kissing
Zaire and friend, resin figurine by Olivier Duhamel
Blue stylized dog sculpture
“Rodin,’s thinker” Resin by Olivier Duhamel
Nude figurine
Tata - Olivier Duhamel
The three graces
The 3 Graces - resin
white sculpture of a nude woman lying on her side
Flore - Olivier Duhamel

How are the resin figurines made?


This post is to illustrate and explain the creative process of my small resin figurines.

1- The inspiration
Regardless of the technique or medium used, it always starts with an idea. In my case, I derive my inspiration from working with a real person as a model. I rarely have a preconceived idea and this is very much a collaborative effort between model and artist.

I also sometimes work from one of my sketches or even from my imagination. 

Art model
Model and artist

It takes me a very long time to shape the sculpture, hours, days, weeks and I cannot ask the model to please keep still for all this time. Instead, I take several photos of a particular pose from various angles and points of view and use these images as references when modeling the form in the loneliness of my studio.

2- Design and shaping
I model the sculpture digitally on a software called ZBrush 

This is the most difficult and most time-consuming part of the process but also the most rewarding.

ZBrush allows me to manipulate “digital clay” using a variety of tools  to cut, stretch, push, dig, twist, add, remove, elongate, carve etc.. a bit like one would do on a real block of clay.  

I can make something like below in about 5 days work.

I used to model manually in wax or clay and modelling digitally has been a very steep learning curve requiring hundreds of hours of hard work. I am still not mastering the craft but getting better and better all the time at the art of modelling digitally.

I explain how it works in more details here.

But you can also watch the video below to get an idea of digital modelling. 

3- Manufacturing
My original is now a digital file instead of a lump of dry clay. This digital file  can be watched on a computer or other digital device. But I now want to turn it into a real-life object. 
This can be done using a number of techniques. It can be laser cut out of a variety of material, like I do for my laminated pieces in wood or acrylic. It can be carved out of a block of wood, or marble or polystyrene with a multiple arms CNC machine. But my figurines are simply printed in resin.

Once I am happy with the shape, I have to prepare the file for 3D printing. I have to hollow it out to a thickness of about 2mm. This is to reduce the amount of material that will be printed and therefore reduce the cost and the time of printing the object. The less material, the les time and money it takes to print it.

I do not own a 3D printer and contract this out to  Jierui Prototype  a studio based in Guangzhou, China  who print it in resin to the highest degree of quality using the most advanced technology.

Jierui Prototype printing lab

When I receive the model, it is hollow and very light. To give it strength, weight and stability, I fill it with epoxy resin. Below is a cut out figurines showing the thin resin walls and the epoxy core.

Once the epoxy has fully cured, I need to protect the resin from the damages of UV. I spray paint them with the highest quality automotive enamel. I like using neutral colours such as white or satin black which are not distracting from the shape, the most important aspect of a sculpture.

(If yours was not painted and has discoloured over time, it must be painted over. Please contact me for advice.) 

4-Advantages, disadvantages.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of working digitally rather than traditionally?

I used to model in wax or clay. I then had to make a mould to cast the copies in resin, bronze, or chocolate if I wanted to.  I have discovered several advantages in working digitally:
1- Crtl-Z. If you make a mistake, you can instantly undo it.
2- Unlike clay, your work in progress never dries out. There is also no need for an armature.
3- Scale no longer an issue. There is no sense of scale in the digital world.
4- Ability to work concurrently on several versions of the same piece.
5- Reuse. You can create a new piece by simply modifying an existing one. No need to reinvent the wheel every time.

There are also some disadvantages.
1- The main problem is that you need a means to turn your digital file into a real-life object. The existing technologies such as CNC carving or 3D printing are expensive and have limitations.
2- The learning curve is fairly steep. Modelling in clay by hand is an instinctive process. Most people will be able to make an OK shape in less than an hour, without any direction or tutoring. Children are particularly good at it. Modelling digitally is nothing like instinctive. You interact with your work by the way of a cumbersome interface which requires acquiring completely new reflex and gestures.

5-Is this art?

Is this art: Tattoo – ZBrushCentral

Digital art is certainly new and generally misunderstood, but the astute collectors will be the pioneers, the late followers will miss out.  The snobs of today often denigrates modern technologies in the same way that the snobs of the 19th century vilified photography, which has nonetheless since acquired its letters of nobility.

Artists have always been quick to make use of technological advances, otherwise we would still be drawing bears in mud on the walls of a cave. The grand masters of the  renaissance were using the camera obscura to project an outline and an image of their model to the canvas. See below David Hockney’s documentary on the subject.

That does not take anything away from the beauty, emotion, and mastery of the Girl with a Pearl Earring. Before becoming traditional, any technique has obviously started out by being new, modern, and contemporary.

What is important is the beauty, the emotion, and the enchantment emanating from the work, regardless of the technique used. And in that aspect, no modern technology will save us from mediocrity. Unfortunately, computers do not have a “make art” button to instantly create a masterpiece.  The artist still must have an idea, a vision, a sense of proportion and harmony, knowledge of anatomy, an eye and the skills, the expertise if not mastery acquired over hundreds and hundreds of hours of persistent hard work.

There is also a perception that if it is not done by hand, it is not really art, that the work is not imbued with the artist’s personality and soul. This is again a misguided perception, largely due to ignorance. It is indeed the artist’s hand and brain that is driving the computer.
Think of the computer simply as a tool. Having Microsoft Word installed on your computer will not make you an instant poet, novelist, or great writer. You still need an idea, need to have a good command of a written language, vocabulary, grammar, syntax, a very fertile imagination, or interesting things to share. You also need to learn how to type, fast.  

In fact, when you consider the amount of mediocre and mindless contemporary “art” being produced by hand in a few easy minutes, you have to say that digital artists are vastly more honest, creative, imaginative, masterful, hardworking, curious and are indeed pushing the proverbial boundaries of creativity. Digital artists are typically young and not afraid to explore. Using digital tools opens a world of possibilities not conceivable before. I like to say that if guys like Da Vinci or Michelangelo had access to computers, they would have most certainly been using them, not that I dare to compare myself to either of these two artists.

Some people believe that digital creation is too easy to be artful. Nothing is further away from the truth. If you think this is easy, I invite you to give it a go.

If you want to give it a go, read ( coming soon ) some advice from yours truly.

Feel free to react on :  olivieroduhamel@gmail.com

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