Monthly Archives: February 2016

Touch Narrative Sculpture – Proof of Concept

This Thursday I should have a hollow 22cm tall 3D printed sculpture of the bust of Vanessa. This is being printed by the Digital Fabrication Department at Chelsea (CCA). I will use this to test the same touch narratives as my ‘Talking Pictures’ painting. If this works, and I cannot see any reason it won’t, I will make a full body version.

I also aim to use this 3D printed model to make a mold for a bronze sculpture using the facilities at Camberwell (CCA).

Making a full body version has already presented several issues even before adding the touch narrative features. These are size, detail, weight and cost.

A sculpture made by a CNC machine is very much cheaper than one made by 3D printing, because of the difference in material cost. A CNC version can also be larger than a 3D printed one because of the capabilities of the different machines (the size of their ‘banding box’). However, the sculpture detail in a CNC version is less than that in 3D printing, unless a 5-Axis CNC is used, but UAL does not have one. With a 3-Axis CNC I would need to carve some of this detail myself (such as inside the ear). External manufacture comes at a much higher price as they charge for set up and machine time and this is substantially more than the cost of material (London Metropolitan University quoted £1,200 for a 50cm tall solid sculpture in dense foam). Only a 5-Axis CNC can make a hollowed out sculpture which is ideal for hiding the wiring needed to make the touch narrative. The material used for the CNC machine is also very much heavier than that for 3D printing, which is very light.

I therefore investigated making a 3D printed full body version with holes as this could potentially reduce the 3D material cost by up to 75%. I discovered that I can import my Vanessa 3D model into Autodesk Meshmaker to hollow the sculpture and insert holes. This diagram of rabbits from a Meshmaker tutorial shows an example of the kind of result that can be achieved.


Using the two following images you can use your imagination to visualise the full body life sized hollow patterned sculpture of Vanessa that I will make.



This should reduce the cost to a more affordable amount and also make the sculpture more contemporary and aesthetically pleasing. I will then paint the ‘wiring’ for each touch narrative on the body of the sculpture using conductive paint. These lines will follow the pattern down the body with each circuit ending at Vanessa’s feet and entering the sculpture’s base. I will then paint over the circuitry so that it will appear to the viewer that the sculpture does not have any!! How the multiple touch narratives work would then be much more of a puzzle. I think that this mystery adds a lot to the artwork.

I aim to get a quote for this from the Digital Fabrication Department at my next appointment with Bill Dickinson when we meet this Thursday afternoon.

I still need to finish recording and start editing Vanessa’s narratives for this artwork. I am meeting her again quite soon so that we can continue this together.

I am reviewing progress with Prof Stephen Farthing when we next meet at his CCA studio on April 20th. I am particularly keen to discuss the nature of the narratives as these will be crucial to adding depth and truth to the finished artwork.

I think that Prof Farthing’s suggestion to add narratives to the sculpture instead of the painting is inspired and I am very excited by the prospect of making this a reality. I am beginning to think that this could be a piece for my MA final exhibition.




Talking Pictures

I have made a ‘talking picture’, a proof of concept for ‘Giving the Model a Voice’. This now resides in our MA Fine Art Digital studio at Camberwell. It is planned to be displayed at the ‘pop up’ show during our upcoming Low Residency later this month.

It is a canvas 4 feet by 3 feet called ‘Unrequited Love’. The viewer is invited into the woman’s private thoughts by touching parts of her image. Seven thoughts are there to be revealed (analogous to ‘the dance of the seven veils’).

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The painting is of Michel Canetti’s ‘Red Lips’ of which I already have a framed print. I wanted to learn how to paint in this minimalist style using conductive paint. Areas of the canvas have to be isolated so that when you touch each one a selected narrative is played. My final work ‘Giving the Model a Voice’ will be of my life model Vanessa, in the same style but twice as large. Life Size.

My work ‘Unrequited Love’ will eventually end up in my daughters keeping as she loved it – but without the voices as they are recordings my wife (an actress) made, and my daughter thought that would be ‘weird’ in her bedroom!

You can listen to the recordings below. So go ahead. ‘Touch’ and listen to the emotions and thoughts of this heartbroken woman. She is talking to YOU.

I hope you like it and are not too upset by what you have heard from someone who obviously loves you.


I have now also started work on a ‘Talking Sculpture’ as suggested by Prof Stephen Farthing when we last met. Again this will be of Vanessa in pose. Bill Dickinson who runs the Digital Fabrication Department at Central Saint Martins was most helpful. Their facilities are Amazing!

A sculpture is much more challenging technically. The ‘wiring’ for each narrative has to pass from the surface of the sculpture through its core to an Arduino microprocessor (in my case the Bare Conductive’ Touch Board’) hidden in its base, and from there to a speaker system hidden in the pedestal on which it stands.

More on this later in a future blog.