Digital: Z Brush Miscellaneous

by Beauchamp Art

Zbrush - Figure 2 - I assumed a body electric

Z Brush Miscellaneous

The title of this piece I Assumed A Body Electric came from listening to a radio production of Ray Bradbury’s (1969) I Sing The Body Electric!, in which a replacement matriarch is created in a family after suffering the untimely loss of the mother figure, replacing her with a custom made Grandmother Automaton; the perfect, undying embodiment of the domestic women, designed to fulfil the empathetic roles of the mother (the father figure remains mostly absent, and is not acknowledged as having any specific role within the household, in strict accordance to standard patriarchal dogma).


I Assumed A Body Electric


The title of this piece I Assumed A Body Electric came from listening to a radio production of Ray Bradbury’s (1969) I Sing The Body Electric!, in which a replacement matriarch is created in a family after suffering the untimely loss of the mother figure, replacing her with a custom made Grandmother Automaton; the perfect, undying embodiment of the domestic women, designed to fulfil the empathetic roles of the mother (the father figure remains mostly absent, and is not acknowledged as having any specific role within the household, in strict accordance to standard patriarchal dogma).

The two male children rapidly accept the replacement grandmother, but the daughter remains hostile, though not due to the automaton’s reflection of stereotypical gender role within Western society (at the time, and still present now), but because of the fear that she will leave as their mother did through dying, so is unwilling to accept the replacement for fear of the emotional backlash as a response to the machine’s potential demise (one that indicates no free will, that is totally willing to serve; hence the male figure so quickly accept the simulacrum).

This was during a series of programs and discussions on the radio around similar matters, regarding the notion that the worst thing a parent may do to their child is to die, as the child will never forgive the parent. As Susan Sontag points out (one who may have been eager to crisis the lack of validity of the gender stereotyping in Bradbury’s fable) “too much remembering […] embitters. To make peace is to forget. To reconcile, it is necessary that memory be faulty and limited” [Sontag, 2003: 103].

Without the presence of the other to be forgiven, then the individual may face a greater crisis in how to reconcile the differences with the memory of those are felt to be blameworthy. Without the possibility for discourse, then the only means to resolve an emotive discord is to address the matter through in teal dialogue, or to construct a simulacrum onto to which the characteristics of the perceived antagonist can be projected. Whether this be constructing a machine made from memories, in the Bradbury’s car, or finding another means of substitution (this may involve projecting features onto another person, or finding a means to healthily vent emotion without negative consequence to people in one’ periphery – such as may be accomplished by attaching a picture of Margret Thatcher to a punching bag, for example).

In the case of this model, it could be seen as a vessel for the frustration at the inability to define a clear form or mental image from which to base the sculpture, which like other 3D sketches, has taken on features of self-portraiture without being directly self-referencial. The figure is intended to be fairly neutral, though not featureless; there is a distinct furrowed brow of one concentrating, and the stubble an half-grown moustache of a young adult male, contrasting to the sinews neck and gunsmith texture of the skin. The overall form was not particularly successful as a detailed model, and could be seen to resemble an old mans face stretched over a young man’s frame (which may be a reflection of my own identification as being elderly before his time, such auto-biography seems inescapable when undergoing figurative work).

No single area of the bust has been effectively resolved, though the protruding tendons of the neck pulling up from the collar bones was a fairly satisfying accomplishment, but again reflects a discord between the flayed textures of a skinless figure and the desire for it to seem life-like, resulting in a zombie-like digital uncanny, which also may be furthered by the computer’s rendering of the human form offset by the pre-established knowledge of the concrete body, reflecting jammer Hunt’s suppositon, “We are unsettling the neat distinctions between humans and machines, us and them, public and private, and lively and inert” [Hunt, 2011: 55].


Chomsky 3D [WIP]

Chomsky 3D

This is an incomplete 3D model of Noam Chomsky’s head, based on various images of the individual found online, that was sculpted whilst listening to a series of his talks. In this instance, one shape was used for the head, and the hair was edited as a separate block, which was unlike the face as it was not symmetrical, but was designed to form a side parting of the hairline to offset the rest of the sculpture; the eyebrows were also independent shapes, but the eyes were not separate spheres, which could have been amended, if I were to return to this sculpture.

Some sections of the model were reasonable successful, such as the cheeks and jowls, going under the chin. However, the nine itself was too wide for the rest of the face, and a fair amount of remodelling would have had to be done if this were to be resolved. Moreover, the bags beneath the eyes were also a fairly successful component. With it being an elderly face, the flesh needed to be seen to be hanging more loosely from the skull and bone structure, with the worn in wrinkles from frequented facial movements worn into the flesh. However, this was not the most life-like representation of the individual in question, but at thievery leaf it was not totally inhuman. It serves as a allegory for the inversion of Chomsky’s role as a speaker and writer, where the presence of his body becomes second to the presence of his words.

The concept of embodying Chomsky in a 3D form was continued in the Sculptris model, Chomsky’s Body.



Zbrush - Figure 4

This is another example of a Zbrush experiment, attempting a 3D digital portrait, made without a reference, but primarily being informed by my own appearance. Like most of the previous experiments, this was created from one sphere, moulded into the rough shape of a human head and the features added in with increasing levels of detail, including some skin and hair textures, the eyes left as independent and unaltered spheres.

After working on the sculpture with the symmetry tool activated, so that all the features would appear equally distributed on both sides of the face, this was then deactivated, to create deliberate asymmetries and imperfections between the two halves of the face, to give it a more human, organic aesthetic. I believe this to be one of the more successful attempts at creating a model head with some level of character, so as to not simple resemble a featureless replicant, but some areas were still proving difficult to mange, particularly where there were creases or folds, that frequently caused issue wit the software.

As it involves a press-and-pull style modelling, where a single shape is built up into the desirable form, then this may produce an effect like working with clay. However, one cannot simple add or cut away whole sections, the have to be pressed out, or additional 3D shapes added in (as has been done with the eyes). Developing this technique will undoubtably be a product of mostly trail and error lead practice, although online learning tools may be of service, and a number of the processes are transferable from digital painting in Photoshop, both of which remediates many of the principals of working with physical.

As I have experience in using a broad range of mediums, in terms of an array of paints, brush techniques, clay moulding and model making, then I have a reasonable platform from which to develop. It is interesting to see how skills such as those associated with fairly traditional techniques, like using multiple layers and washes to build up  an effective and life-like texture can come into use.

The digital interface acts as a contact point between the processes of physical interactions and the processing of digital interaction. It may be considered like using the hands of a puppeteer to put on a shadow show in Plato’s cave, both the outcome and the tool is simulated, with material consequences. The image of a human face, however imperfect, may trigger a level of empathy. the decapitated bust will always seem more disgruntled when deprived of a body.


Headache 1

headache 2


Headache was another fairly quick 3D bust made in Zbrush, mostly as a software exercise, with not inanition to paint, 3D print, or otherwise resolve the work.

In this instance, the preface ‘Digital’ may be considered part of the main title, as it could be seen to embody a ‘Digital Headache’, in other words, the strain on the physical body that occurs whilst working on these 3D sculptures; the blood shot eyes the lingering migraine symptoms, mild dehydration, artist cramp, saw back, and the general discomfort of being locked in a interface embrace with a computer, with physical actions feeding back onto the screen, into the modelled figure, back into the real odd gazing at the monitor. Moreover, ‘Headache’ is frequently used colloquially to denote something that is problematic enough to cause the individual or groups having to deal with the subject to discomforted by their interaction, but not to a significant degree, or in such a way that will leave permanent damage.

For this model, I used four separate shapes for the different parts of the figure; the main head, the two eyes, and the hair. This meant that sac could be altered independently, and if this were to be painted or otherwise colorised, then a greater distinction between the texture of the hair and skin, allowing for further modifications or the possibility of animation.

This was not one of the most successful models, however, it served as a useful exercise nevertheless. Some individual parts were relatively satisfactory, such as the ears, jawline, hair and forehead, but the overall bust was let down by the clamminess of the collective forms, as well as the overly forward jutting mouth, meaning the nose was distorted, and the neck and should areas were not given enough attention.

Some of the texturing was also fairly patchy, but the use of a stubbly head texture under the hairline works well to convey that depth at least, and meant the overall shape of the head around the back was fairly well accomplished. It may help in future to build up from a basic skeletal model, possibly with a separate lower jaw, mouth cavity, and tongue, to enable further animation or more emotive repositioning of forms. However, to make this truly worth while I would have to build up the muscle and soft tissue, program in elasticity, before applying a translucent skin layer that would enable light to pass through the edge of surfaces (such as the protruding cartilage rich areas, like the nose and eyes, and the glossy reflectivity of the eyeball). This was not particularly successful, and in an attempt to create a neutral expression, these heads always look forlorn.


  • Hunt, Jamer. (2011) Nervous Systems and Anxious Infrastructures. Ed. Antonelli, Paola. Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. USA
  • Sontag, Susan. (2003) Regarding The Pain Of Others. 1st Edition. Hamish Hamilton; Penguin Books. London, England.