17. Healing Art

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Games From The Garage: Croquet

Some time on my hands

My studio closed some months after 9/11 and what I couldn’t sell or wanted to keep was put in storage. The studio in which I could produce high quality images was no longer a part of my present or something I could build on for the future. It became something I would look back on and tell stories about going forward.

I felt a need for the kind of solace art often provides and decided to create a new image.

I thought about the croquet set I had as a boy. It was kept in our garage. In fact, all the magical things of my youth seemed to live in our garage. We never had a car, so the garage was used for storage.

“Where’s the this or where’s the that,” I would say. And the answer my mother or father usually gave was, “It’s probably in the garage.”

My croquet set was one of the things I saved from the garage after we sold the house. I kept it in the storage loft of my photography studio and now it was in my apartment sitting on the desk next to the computer. I always wanted to photograph it, but never got around to making that happen. I had learned how to use my 3D tools, though, and as I looked at the box and its contents I decided to create a 3D version of the the photograph I always envisioned. I would build my  croquet set and put it on a sweep of black plexiglass in a virtual environment.

I was inspired. I took calipers and measured all the parts. The sizes were written down and then I laid out everything the way I wanted it to look in the final scene. It was a rough layout. The final one was in my head. This would require total immersion, much like a deep sea dive when you leave your boat and dry land behind.

There must have been mice in the garage, because something had nibbled away at the box. Parts of it were warped too because the air had been damp. With temperature fluctuations as the seasons changed, the dovetails of the box were out of alignment too. There was dirt on everything and the croquet gates had developed a patina. Those elements gave the game pieces character.

I began building my models using Form Z software. The shapes were pretty basic: a box, spheres, the gates and mallets. Not so tough. The challenge was to make everything look real and believable.  In 3D everything is perfect. So it was up to me to offset the dovetails. It was up to me to add the wood grain and look of dirt over the “paint” of the balls, mallets and box. I loved the process. It was the closest I had been to my croquet set in many years.

I then brought all the modeled objects into my Electric Image software, because I knew the scene would render most beautifully in that program. One of the big challenges was to create the look of a plexiglass surface for the pieces to sit on. The plexiglass had to have just the right amount of reflection to appear realistic.

It worked. The final image came out just the way I wanted it to and there was great satisfaction in being able to honor this old friend with a portrait, if you will, which captured its essence. I felt unburdened too, because I had wanted to do this project for a long time and I finally got it done. I think it is one of my more successful 3D illustrations.

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