3D technology has been applied to many industries and is being utilized in various art mediums, including sculpture. Traditional sculpture described the process of creating a 3D object from a pliable material, whereas digital sculpture involves the use of technological tools to manipulate virtual objects as though they were clay. While other types of art have integrated digital technology, including painting, drawing, and most commonly, photography, sculpture is a relative newcomer to the digital world, as the technology necessary to create digital sculpture is much more complicated.

Digital Sculpture Tools

Traditional sculpting uses a variety of tools, depending on the medium used, surface texture desired, and size of final work. Some involve the manipulation of the existing material, while others are used to add or remove materials, either of the same type or different in texture, density, and color. Digital sculpting uses digital tools called brushes. Digital art tools appear as applications, and come equipped with a variety of brushes and other tools useful for creating a wide variety of sculpture, like:

  • Multi-resolution sculpting
  • Layering systems
  • Brushes, stencils and stamps
  • Mesh projection

Oculus stands on the cutting edge of digital sculpture technology with their virtual reality program MEDIUM, which allows artists to enter into a virtual reality experience, using joystick-like hand controls, immersing themselves into the artistic experience.

Digital Sculpture Process

Much like a traditional sculptor, who begins with a mass of material and simply begins the process of manipulating it, adding and removing pieces, creating new dimension, color, and detail, the digital sculptor tackles much of the same work with digital tools. One advantage the digital artist has is the ability to create the sculpture on a small scale, then later expanding the size while maintaining the proportions. With options like mirroring, an artist can create one side of a work and then “mirror” the other side to have perfect symmetry. Once the digital artwork is close to completion, the artist has the freedom to look it over and easily make large scale changes in a brief period and without the loss of material which may harden or is not capable of being manipulated again.

Other Advantages to Digital Sculpture—No Physical Limitations

Often used to create animated or moving objects, digital sculpture lends itself to works which can be created quickly, recreated with ease, and turned into something with movement. Unlike traditional sculpture, no framework is needed to support the sculpture while in the process of creation. When traditional sculptors are in the process of forming their art, the material may not be strong enough to support the work throughout its development, maintaining its shape until it reaches its final state. However, a system of controls called a rig allows the digital sculpture to maintain its state throughout the creation process, then have the capability of animation.

Digital sculptors can use their tools (computer applications) to create sculptures anywhere, if they have their computer. The creation can be shared with others, left during the process and picked up later, and then printed with a 3D printer at any time.

Digital Sculpture for Preservation/Recreation of Sculpture

One truly amazing use for digital sculpture is to recreate pieces which have been, or are at risk of, loss due to varying causes (degradation, war, poor preservation or neglect). Imagine all the irreplaceable works of art which have already been destroyed which could be recreated for future enjoyment and education thanks to digital sculpture. With digital recreation, art historians can learn more about culture during the period the art was created, salvage what is left of their value, and even use the recreated works to teach future generations about historical context.

Digital Sculptors

Due to the nature of digital art, most examples can be found online and not necessarily in a brick and mortar gallery. Adam Martinakis is one example of a digital sculptor blending traditional sculpting, both in material and ideas, and blending them with the technology available. His work has been exhibited both in groups and solo exhibitions, from Greece, to Paris, to London, in a variety of galleries and art festivals.

A museum currently being designed and set to be built in Exposition Park, Los Angeles is the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. It will feature works by Barry X Ball, an innovative digital sculptor creating both original works and re-inventing works he admired from the past, using wood, metal, and a cutting-edge stone mill.

Human Reaction to Digital Sculpture

When one gets to the “heart” of digital art, of any medium, the question arises: “Are digital artists true artists?”; and “Does digital art touch the hearts of viewers like traditional works do?” There are several ways to answer these two questions. First, art enthusiasts, like most people today, are found online, along with vast quantities of art. Artists are beginning to understand the value of digital art, in any medium, and because tools are being introduced to expand their abilities and support the artistic skills they already have. Regarding the second question, it is more of a personal question. Can digital sculpture replace traditional sculpture? When it comes to sculpture, there is something about an artist putting his or her hands on their work, something about the experience of being in the space of the art they are creating. However, part of what makes art the creative outlet that it is, comes with the freedom of the artist to express feelings, to tell a story, to share a creative work which represents their individual style. As artists discover the usefulness of digital art, the depth of the experience for both exhibitor and viewer is sure to expand.

We at Sybaris Collection understand the importance of learning about, and collecting, digital art. Let our experts guide you through the journey of understanding, selecting, and purchasing works of digital art which fit your taste and budget!