Generative 3D Art Tools and Inspirations
#046 - Creative Coding / Generative Arts Weekly
“If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original.” -Ken Robinson
I’ve had a number of requests and personal interests where 3D imagery is used to create generative art. So I hope that this is beneficial.
Generative art can be done in almost every application. You will find that it can be done in Photoshop, using code, using simple code in the browser, or just by hand as one of my fellow generative artists (Dan Gries) has done.
In this write-up, I want to explore 3D generative art using Blender. First, I thought I’d start by providing a bit of the landscape of what software is out there and what else one might be able to use to create generative art.
3D Real-Time Engines
Other 3D environment platforms are built for real-time interaction. Use cases for these engines are generally used in the creation of games and VR experiences. A few examples of these engines are Unreal Engine and Unity. There are a few generative projects; one example is the work of Michael Kozlowski, in which some of his work was done using Unity.
Graphical 3D Engines
Then there are the commercial “Blenders, " including Cinema4D, Maya, 3DS Max, and Lightwave. These products have many of the same features, except some, have an easier learning curve, more efficient rendering algorithms, and what someone is comfortable with because of what they learned in school or a job. These do have programming languages that help extend the outputs to provide more generative results.
Much of the 3D work done for commercials, Instagram, and movies are done using these software pages. Some of the larger movie studios do have their own internal workflows but these are going to be the tools used for most of it.
Procedural 3D Engines
I do think that it is good to point out one tool which specializes in procedural 3D animation from SideFX called Houdini. It has been used to create a number of amazing outputs. I am a huge fan, of its outputs as they have helped create some amazing work.
3D Programming Frameworks
These 3D frameworks will include things such as OpenFrameworks, Three.js, or AFrame.js. Most of these are going to start with code and no GUI. However, they are built on top of core graphics libraries making it easier not to have to write boiler code or build a cohesive library around them. It is up to the imagination of the user to generate interesting compositions of the work that comes from it.
Then there are the core technologies that have been built Most of these are going to start with code and no GUI. It is up to the imagination of the user to generate interesting compositions of the work that comes from it. A pure generative example of this is Piter Pasma’s Skulptuur project or the recent work of Monotau on FxHash
Programming Language Libraries
As you can see, the landscape for generating generative works in 3D is a rather large ecosystem of frameworks. that are currently being used to create 3D content in a variety of different pieces.
So let’s focus on Blender.
Why learn Blender?
In the generative art community, there has been always an openness to sharing code and knowledge. This has become limited due to the NFT craze of 2021 and the blatant plagiarism from the $$ of the market.
Open source breeds innovation, community, and quality feedback. In the case of Blender, it has one of many great numbers of communities that have made some beautiful software.
Easy entry-level workflow
I might be wearing rose-colored glasses here, but I really do find that once overcoming the jargon of 3D development Blender is a tool that can be understood without months of practice.
Secondly, if you haven’t worked in 3D environments, it’s a great way to really dive into the world of creativity.
Code-based w/ Python but also node based
It could be that I am not plugged into the community quite enough to have found many of the generative blender artists, I think there is some fascinating work that comes out of it such as the work in the video by David Mignot.
Extensible - the plugins within Blender provide some powerful ways to extend its usage. For example, check out the following plugins just to show some of the power of procedural/generative work.
Large supporting community
Many Youtube tutorials, Patreon accounts, and toolmakers exist in the space. I suggest taking the time to get to know some of the community. Even if you aren’t interested in 3D work, there is so much inspiration that can be gleaned from these communities.
Why not use Blender?
If you want to play boss mode, then don’t pick Blender; you probably should work with GLSL in order to give it a go.
Blender Usage in Creative Coding / Generative Art
So the first person I think of generative art and Blender is Yann Le Gall. You can find much of his work on Instagram. He has a playful and “mind mending” aesthetic as he uses flow fields, circle packing, and all the fundamental algorithms used in many generative artists’ toolkits.
Matt Deslaurier used Blender in one of his earlier data artworks called Crystal Towers, which used Three.js to generate the models and then used Blender to render the images.
And there are others who have used Blender in different ways to produce work that is generative or at least procedural.
Of course, there are plenty more examples of stellar work, but I hope that this at least will help motivate new explorations in different tools to see what can come out of other unique worlds.
Additional Generative Blender Resources
A few articles I’d suggest reading as you venture into Blender are:
These have all been in various editions of the newsletter over the past couple of years. However, I might put it together here as these have been the best tutorials I’ve come across in the last couple of years.
I hope this gives you some resources to explore some more 3D generative work further.
I hope all is well with you!
P.S. Send me your work or others that I may have missed.