WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BLOCK OUT THE BIG FORMS?
Judy Wright, California
Digital sculpting, just like traditional sculpting methods, has its rules. Although digital sculptors have a lot more freedom and the option to go back and undo any changes, there are still a few principles to follow in order to make this process smooth and successful. I often recommend that beginner artists try their hand at traditional clay sculpting before they even open any 3D application. It is a good practice and excellent exercise that tests your manual skills and provides valuable experience. Considering that, it is a much harsher environment and a messy encounter limited by the clay drying out quickly, which forces the artist to work faster. It means you need to have a plan of action prepared and a well-organised workflow. That in itself is an important starting point. For many artists, sculpting in 3D software is by far more relaxing than clay, as it does not give you that sense of urgency a drying clay does. However, it is not just the material and speed we have to think about in the process. The thing that tends to elude the inexperienced students, is the importance of the big forms.
Big forms are what artists call the most simple, basic geometric shape used to block out the general outline of the model. We look for the basic shapes in everything we model to break it down to the primitive forms. For example, a house could have its basic form built out of a cube and a pyramid. We build the big shapes and then carve into them.
I like to think of it as chipping away in marble. It would be extremely hard to chisel anything impressive out of a block of marble, if we started off with details. The correct process would be to block out the big forms/shapes and then remove more material, layer after layer. It is very much the same when it comes to sculpting in Zbrush or Blender. Let’s have a look at some of the important considerations we need to take into account when blocking out the big forms.
Whenever possible, use reference images to help you form the shapes correctly. It is a very important step that will make the process much easier and quicker. Gather as many images as you can, and from various angles.