Queen Gwendolyn the Grumpy probably never expected to one day grace someone’s shelf as the Grumpy Gnome. This AI artifact was a fun one to write about over on Walking Papercut. Let’s see whether it will be as much fun to come up with how to recreate it in real life!
The biggest issue – Sculpting?
There are two major ways to make a statue like the grumpy gnome – or anything that is a lot more organic than it is geometric. One is to sculpt it, and the other is to 3D-print it, which requires sculpting it digitally first (and a 3D printer). Depending on your current skills, your willingness to learn new tools, and your tollerance to frustration, either of those could be the better option for you.
As a side note, the sculpt does not have to be 100% picture accurate. Mainly because this image has been generated by AI, and thus may not work outright in reality, but also because the finer details can be added later to make it look more realistic. So leave out the braids and tassels when sculpting.
Sculpt in Clay
This could be air-hardening clay* or something that you bake in the oven (like FIMO*). Using actual clay that needs to be fired in a kiln requires a whole other field of skills, and is not something I would try unless I already had the expensive equipment at some expertise – or someone on hand who does.
Basically, you take a lump of material, push it into something resembling the thing you want to make in basic shapes. Then you go to town using sculpting tools to push, crease or remove the clay to get closer and closer to the image and the vision in your head. That sounds a lot easier than it will be, especially since the Grumpy Gnome requires at least a bit of symmetry. It might also need a wire superstructure to keep the arms and ears from drooping or outright falling off.
Sculpt in Bits
There are many different programs that allow you to do what you would with clay in a digital realm. The one I have used (not in no way mastered) is Blender. It is free and open source, and can do a lot even beyond sculpting. It does come with a learning curve, though, and in my experience, even a cheap drawing tablet (like this one*) can go a long way to make things easier for you.
This is a great skill to learn when you want to get into sculpting for 3d printing, or designing things for a virtual space (like a game or an animation). I still find Blender daunting, and I have a background of working with 3D and CAD software. Letting go of measurements and angles for the benefit of organic shapes was quite the leap for me.
For this path, you also need a 3D printer* and at least basic knowledge on how to slice a print and get a good result from the machine. There are cheap beginner models available, but they do require time to get to know the technology.
Tangent: Commission Work
If you do not feel up to something like sculpting the Grumpy Gnome that’s perfectly fine. Not only is this a thought experiment, but nobody has to be able to do everything. Collecting skills is fine, but knowing where your limits are is even better. And that is where other people come in.
There are many talented and practiced individuals out there who can finish things you (and I) would need months for within a couple of hours. And guess what, some will allow you to pay them money in order to benefit from their skills. There’s Fiverr, for example. For all things 3D, I found Reddit to be a good place to find a 3d-printing subreddit where people do commissions. And that goes for 3d sculpting as well as 3D printing.
Just be aware that just like your own, other people’s time and skills are worth money. Be prepared to spend good money to get a good product, and help an artist stay in business. It’s fine if you cannot afford to have someone do the work, but you should never try to get them to do it any cheaper. Most freelancers tend to undercharge anyway.
Paint & Decoration
Once you have the basic shape, you will need to make it look the part. That can be achieved through a combination of a good paint job and a selection of decorative pieces. With the gnome, that would most likely be pieces of leather and small braids made of some kind of rough fiber, like twine.
As for the paint job, the easiest way to achieve that is to give it a base coat in the main colors – grey for the stone, brown for clothing and pale green for the skin. Now, you could learn how to paint multi-layered designs that look hyper-realistic, and there are some awesome mini-painters out there for you to learn from.
But the easier way is to give it a wash. Dilute black or dark green in water and dip the gnome in. If the dimensions don’t allow for that, slather it with a brush. The idea is that the paint will stick to the creases and crevices and leave shadows mostly where they need to be. It’s a quick and dirty method, but worth a try. You can always paint over it again.
While I do feel that sculpting and/or 3d printing is the best way to go about this one, I do feel bad that it’s basically a single thing covering the whole item. It feels like saying “to recreate it just do it” – no breakdown of techniques and ideas like the last one. But this is only the second entry, and I’m sure there will be items better suited for that kind of thing.
As a half-hearted remedy, I offer the two crystals that are part of the Grumpy Gnome – the “arcane” yellow one in their right hand and the purple one at their feet. There are ways to cast them from resin, but I think in this case the easiest way to go about them would be to get some unmarked resin dice. You might find them for sale from one of the many dice manufacturers, or you could ask them directly whether they have a piece of matching color, maybe with minor defects that make is unusable as a dice.
Both ways to sculpt allow for the use of LEDs in these gems if you are so inclined.
What do you think of the Grumpy Gnome?
This was an interesting one, seeing how it is very hard to break down into pieces. The techniques for the ears are pretty much the same as for the feed. I hope this still helped you get ideas (weird or not) for your own projects. Since I have been slacking on this series I know for a fact that the upcoming AI artifact will be at least a bit easier to solve than this one. The one after that? Not so sure.
Thanks for stopping by, and remember to Be Inspired!
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