This artpiece, known as “Culmination 20”, is one that I created using a large number of the D20, or 20-sided dice, prototypes from previous projects. This piece allowed me to touch base with my own traditional skillsets, while exploring a variety of new ones. As an experiment in its own right, I was able to learn new techniques, but where did this piece begin?
This piece started out as a collection of unwanted failures over the course of three years. You see, creating a D20 is very difficult, especially when you want to make it balanced, and with a unique shape. Add to that this challenge: the fact that I had never used, let alone owned, a 3D printer, or any of the necessary tools. You see, 3D printing isn’t currently at the point where you can just click and button and have what you want printed. There’s a lot of calibration involved in the initial stages, along with new software requirements. Since I was 3D modeling my own products myself, this also meant I needed to re-learn how to 3D model in a new workflow. Add in the fact that my first 3D printer wasn’t the best choice, and I was given many headaches in the first year of the project.
This is all fine and dandy, but when did I actually start making the dice? Well, while working with the machinery, I was also learning the moulding techniques that would be required, and casting some prototypes at the same time. I had been doing this by using traditional casting and sculpting techniques in order to figure out what kinds of obstacles I would face. In the end, I ended up with a bucketful of failed prototypes, varying from small imperfections to missing half of the casting.
Ok, so I had a bunch of failed dice to work with. What next? Well, I needed to work on a basic concept, and honestly the only one that seemed of interest to me was having something eat the dice. This entire visual kinda personified my frustrations towards how long this project took to complete. There were days when I simply “rage quit”, or had to do some boxing to vent my frustrations. So, yeah! Having something munching on them made sense.
If you’ve watched videos on my YouTube channel, you will know that I love drawing skulls. Do you know why? I love drawing them because of how intricate the structure is, and anatomy studies are still something I truly enjoy for some reason. It didn’t matter that I had to do these day in and day out when I was in school; there’s just something I find interesting about them. So, a skull it would be! But it had to be an interesting skull.
For the initial sculpture, I decided to use paper maché clay, a hybrid material. It was a product that I had only used once before. Unfortunately, I didn’t look at the instructions, and it took way longer to dry than it should have. The good news is that when it was dry enough to add some more, I now knew what the ratios should be. It went a lot faster, especially with the use of a heat gun. When the major shapes were sculpted in, I began smoothing out the surface slightly. I still wanted a certain amount of texture, but it currently had too much for my tastes, so I sanded down the major areas and covered the rest with some art medium. This made it a lot easier for the painting process as well, because it helped to seal the surface so that it wasn’t overly absorbent. When using lightfast paints, this can save you a lot of money; with the quality comes a substantial price tag. I wanted to make this piece last, so I made sure to use lightfast paints whenever possible.
The first painting attempt looked way too gruesome, and I had to tone it way down. It initially looked like the skull was ripping itself out of a living creature, which wasn’t exactly what I was going for. I added a lot more silver elements, but in the end I had to go with just straight titanium white to tone down the colors dramatically. When I achieved the level of success I wanted with the painting portion, I was forced to address the sculpture itself. The silhouette just wasn’t working. I decided to use some paper to help add some intricacies to the shapes, which helped a lot. It required many coats to help straighten the shape afterwards, but it was well worth it. The cracks along the surface were all added using a calligraphy pen, and although they took quite a while, it was well worth it.
After around one week of work for the sculpture itself, the piece you see before you is what I ended up with. This piece represents a lot to me: it symbolizes my frustrations, my perseverance, and the victory of pushing through all of the hurdles that came before me in this self-imposed process. It is, for better or worse, a physical representation of what I went through in creating my dice. Although I’m happy it’s over, I’m also a little sad, because it was one of the best challenges I encountered in quite some time.