Chimp Turns Vector

Step four…Sculpting in 2-D

So far my steps are pretty standard for a lot of artists.
Now is the time I deviate from a normal process (or so I think). As most close
friends know, I adore working with Adobe Illustrator. I love the precision, the
ease of selection, the fluid ability to alter and change, and the Undo button.
I love that Illustrator allows me to build, to take a shape and combine more
shapes to it, or remove parts of shapes. I love that I can develop a unique
style by combining and playing with the abundance of tools. I have worked with
Illustrator for over ten years now, and have never grown tired of it. I feel
like this software is an ever-expanding medium. The more I know, the more there
is to know. Truly my creativity has grown faster and easier with the use of
Illustrator (and my Wacom tablet).

Adobe Illustrator is a vector drawing and design program,
which means that unlike Photoshop, in Illustrator we work with paths. Photoshop
works with pixels.  The paths in
Illustrator are constructed with anchor points that hold the path down, and
direction handles that allow the artist to pull and adjust the curve, slope and
direction of the path. For a typical circle there are 4 of these anchor points.
To make this all a bit clearer I developed videos for the classes I teach. Here
is the link to the series of videos that cover anchor points and direction
handles.

Anchor Points and Direction Handles

Back to my chimpanzee… since I studied (by drawing and clay
sculpting) the essential structure of the chimp, I am now ready to develop the
character using paths in Illustrator. I started with the overall silhouette
shape of the head. I asked myself what basic shape is the head? I decided upon
a circle. Then I asked myself, what basic shape is the muzzle? Or I should say,
what basic shapes could be used to build the muzzle since the muzzle is a
detailed and complicated portion of the face? In the following photograph (look
left to right, top to bottom) you can see the building progression from simple
geometric paths to final structure.

 
Shaping a character

As I crafted the chimp’s head in Illustrator, I noticed that
I was adding shapes to the head, which reminded me of adding clumps of clay to
the clay head version. I also removed pieces of shapes from the Illustrator
version, which reminded me of removing pieces of clay from the clay head
version.  Traditional sculpture normally
falls into three processes, either additive, or subtractive or a combination of
both. I realized that in essence I was using traditional additive and
subtractive methods in Adobe Illustrator.  So I decided to call this process Sculpting in
2D.

To further the comparison between my Illustrator and my
traditional clay sculpture processes I noticed that I would select an anchor
point and nudge or push the point to a new position. I would pull a direction
handle to adjust the curve of the path. This subtle pushing and pulling of
anchor points and direction handles was exactly like taking clay and subtly
pushing and pulling the clay into the desired form. I love this connection
between a traditional sculpting process and working in Illustrator.

2d sculpting


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