Check out the website for the two-day workshop, Imaginary Worlds: An Introduction to 3D with Blender, held in November 2022.
More than a decade ago, I chose to take Art as an A-Level subject.
In recent years, conversations with my junior college art teacher about art education and the role of technology in art-making led to some realisations:
As a graduate of that same art curriculum, I felt uniquely positioned to contribute. I loved my time studying art, with all its opportunities for critical thought and developing a personal artistic practice. I also loved the possibilities - how much could be done, and how easily - opened by the knowledge of specific software, techniques, and workflows. The goal was not to merely teach Blender, it was also to provide a conceptual framework to approach computer-generated imagery (CGI) as a medium, and to eventually make thoughtful, sensitive artwork with it. With the digital world becoming increasingly important to all fields, it’d help to equip students with a basic understanding of virtual 3D space, its rules, and common operations.
A series of introductory workshops using Blender as the 3D software of choice.
Blender is amazingly powerful. It’s also not very user-friendly. It’s free and open source, with modelling and rendering (and a lot more) capabilities. It’s popular with students, hobbyists, artists, and, increasingly, professional studios. I felt that structured guidance could go a long way making this medium and software more approachable.
First, research. So much of what we see every day involves some element of CG, and there was so much work that I already knew and loved, and artists that I respected greatly. It was an exercise in categorization: making sense of different styles, techniques, and use cases.
Next, establishing a framework: I wanted to draw parallels between art history and CG, allowing art students and teachers to understand a new medium through a familiar framework (one, which, incidentally, the students are tested on). Coming from architecture and architectural visualization, I was familiar with a very specific 3D workflow, split into the two distinct processes of modelling and rendering. I believed that 3D modelling could be productively compared to sculpture, and rendering to photography. Through the lens of established analog art media, we can approach digital processes: sculptural processes such as chiselling, casting, construction, and even assemblage can find their digital cousins. An understanding of light, colour, composition, and materiality is essential to photography, cinematography, and animation, both analog and digital.
Then it was time for a deep technical dive: the interface and techniques specific to Blender. Needless to say, this meant hours on tutorials and forums and googling everything I knew I didn’t know. Coming from a host of other 3D programs (Rhino, SketchUp, and 3DS Max) meant that I generally knew the what but not the how. Each software has its own mental model, and, sometimes, some things just don’t translate. Two main takeaways: I cannot learn everything, but I can learn what I need for my purposes. Don’t rush to customize hotkeys before you know what you’re doing.
Finally, there were test runs.
This was the setup:
I was aware that with multiple students, I wouldn’t be able to reach out and point to their screen or see exactly what they were struggling with. Nevertheless, like with any user test, I learnt a lot about how to improve the content and my delivery, and gained new ideas for future lessons.
The work of Philipp Schaerer is a great inspiration, as is the Time Frames class taught by DBOX, which I was fortunate enough to take at Cornell AAP NYC.