Kyle A. France, Mechanical Engineering Sophomore
Prior to my time at WPI, my primary experience with art-making has been with model building, painting, and photography. Several years ago, I began by hand painting Warhammer 40k miniatures for tabletop gaming. As I learned, I began using an airbrush with a variety of paint types. The most enjoyable part was in experimenting with different techniques to create eye-catching effects or especially realistic scale details, such as metallics, shading, and drybrush weathering. After a while I discovered my love for the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise and began to collect and paint “gunpla” plastic model kits. I continue to pursue new painting techniques, and I also have begun to more heavily experiment with customizing the shape of the model itself with scratch building, kit bashing (swapping parts between kits), and detailed etchings. When finished with each build, the last step for me is to photograph the piece to share it online or just for my own documentation. I’m only just beginning to take this step seriously, with things like light boxes and photoshop adjustments, but it is also very rewarding to show off my hard work to friends.
I have mainly focused on digital art mediums at WPI, furthering an interest I discovered many years ago at a summer camp. Ever since my first project in Autodesk Maya years ago, the idea of creating whatever I could envision in a virtual 3D world has excited me. Most recently, I have worked with Maya, ZBrush, 3DS Max, Substance Painter, and Unreal Engine to create props, characters, and environments with a range of detail levels, textures, and functionalities. Drawing and photo editing are other areas I have begun to develop in conjunction with my digital pursuits.
Regarding electronic experience, I have just completed the introductory electrical engineering course here at WPI as reinforcement for my background with competitive high school robotics. I have worked with Arduino and similar controllers, although not extensively. Alongside my artistic modelling work, I am very familiar with parametric modelling in Solidworks particularly when designing for manufacturing on 3D printers. I am excited for the opportunity to merge my technical and artistic designs.
Other artistic passions of mine include music and some dance. I have played several instruments from a young age. Most notably, I played the bass in an orchestra in high school and had the pleasure of taking part in two international tours. Especially in a group setting, music making is an emotionally expressive art, and opened numerous exciting travel and social possibilities for me. I do not currently practice for practical reasons, but I plan to pick up music again in the future. I took part in a Zumba dance class in high school and am experimenting with more performance-oriented dancing in free time. The self-control and expression of dance resonates much the same for me as it does with music. I found myself caught between two majors in preparing for college: Industrial design and Mechanical engineering. I ultimately decided on engineering, but my focus on the intersection of form with functionality remains. While this practicum is ultimately going to produce a work of art, I believe that the experience of integrating technology into the expression of the piece will be valuable going forwards. Career paths I am considering pursuing are in the areas of automotive or product design, both of which have technical requirements but are also strongly dependent on user experience and impact. By learning to apply my artistic interests, I am sure that my future work will benefit in its completeness and desirability.
Gallery, top left clockwise:
- 3D model of R.O.B. as depicted in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, created and rendered in Autodesk Maya
- Vector tracing of a photograph, created in Photoshop CC
- Exterior view of environment inspired by Nier: Automata, created in Autodesk Maya, Substance Painter, and Unreal Engine 4
- Interior view of above
- Head sculpt of Sir Hammerlock from Borderlands 2, created in ZBrush and rendered in Keyshot
- Covered lamp lit by LED light. Fabric backing, tissue paper, and balsa wood