Students enhance artistic process with technology


    A TCU art class is teaching students how to use technology to bring their ideas to life.

    The new art class teaches students to use 3D scanning and rendering technology to make their artistic ideas a reality.

    Assistant art professor Nick Bontrager said he was hired two years ago to help develop the new media program.

    “It gets [students] to start to think about conceptual ideas in their work and also teaches them ideally the principles and elements of design,” he said. “So they’re learning a lot of things in that class as we go and experiment with new media.”

    Bontrager wants students to understand that the 3D tools they are using are just tools and that they are not intended to replace traditional art practices. He said they should be used in conjunction with traditional practices.

    Sophomore finance and real estate major Lee Larcher sculpted a chair out of clay, then digitized his sculpture using a 3D scanner.

    “After that, we put it into this program called Sculptress. And Sculptress allowed us to manipulate our clay piece using different techniques,” Larcher said.

    Bontrager said every student has a different approach and a different idea of what they want their finished product to look like.

    First year studio art major Joelle Nagy designed her sculpture entirely using 3D software.

    She created what looked like a moose antler after playing with a digital ball of clay in Sculptress.

    “There’s these material options,” she said. “I found this rainbow one and I was like,

    ‘Man, this looks like a unicorn.’ So I added a unicorn horn, and that’s basically how it came about.”

    Students can then upload their creations to a laser paper cutter, which cuts cross sections of their designs out of paper which can be pieced together to create skeleton-like representations of their objects.

    “They can use this paper model as a way of editing,” Bontrager said. “And so they can add things if they decide they need more support on a base or if they need to actually cut a part out that they don’t like anymore.”

    He said it’s like drawing or sketching, but in a 3D space.

    “We want students to gain a confidence with all these tools,” Bontrager said. “In the job market, yes, having the ability to make a 3D model or understand what a 3D model can do is a big plus, and that might get them a job very quickly as opposed to someone who doesn’t have that knowledge.”