Photogrammetry and clay sculpting visualization

Justin Zielke is a Kansas-based sculptor, installation artist, and adjunct professor. One of his latest works explores traditional and digital clay processes with the use of photogrammetry and RealityCapture software. Justin creates strategically posed clay sculptures that range in stages from armature to complete sculpture. He uses 3D scanning and stop-motion animation to create a repeating walk cycle, making a unique way to visualize clay sculpting.

Sculptures Justin Zielke

Sculptures Justin Zielke

Tell us more about the sculptures and where the idea came from

I am at heart, a lover of the human form and its movement. So, I dedicate my studies to animation, figurative sculpture, and abstract textures of motion.
From an art history perspective, my work is inspired by early locomotion studies by Carlo Urbino and Muybridge. In the contemporary landscape, Nauman’s earlier work of body movement inspired by gestalt therapy has always been a key influence.
From a psychological perspective, I enjoy exploring stop motion as a way to visualize how we adopt specific memories as key qualifiers of our identity. I'm also a bit of a tech nerd that just enjoys discovering happy accidents!

Workflow and different stages of production

My work marries traditional clay sculpting and 3D animation. For example, I sculpt faces morphing in and out of representation with stop motion. Each decision is photographed on a timeline to create a fluid movement. I will pause this process, create a 3D mesh using photogrammetry, texture, light, animate, and render one of these faces going through a sequence of facial expressions. I then seamlessly integrate the 3D mesh back into a stop motion process.

I use WED EM 217 clay from Laguna with a variety of sculpting tools, a Sony a6000 for photographing, Dragon Frame for stop motion, RealityCapture for photogrammetry, Zbrush for detail and blendshapes, Blender for 3D pipeline, and Davinci Resolve for final compositing.

Importance of photogrammetry in the process

As a traditional sculptor, photogrammetry is becoming more and more of a staple in my practice. For my newer video work, I use it constantly. In fact, I scan around eight sculptures to complete one work! Outside of my video work, photogrammetry has become a way for me to document my sculptures. It is quickly replacing traditional mold-making techniques. It saves money and space.
Another vital shift is the timing of my expenses. In traditional processes, a sculptor has to pay the upfront costs to market their work. With photogrammetry, a collector can experience the work with AR and help with the expenses of creating the final work.
Photogrammetry has been a part of my process for the past decade. I remember my first horrendously interesting results in my grad program! I stumbled across RealityCapture in 2019. It offers the best results, has a great forum of experts, and an unbelievably kind pricing structure that beats any competitor!

Screenshot from RealityCapture - Justin Zielke

Screenshot from RealityCapture - Justin Zielke

Upcoming projects and plans

I recently had an exhibition of my traditional work at Hugomento in San Francisco. As of right now, I share and sell my video work online with Foundation. I am also preparing for a public sculpture commission and an art residency for programs that I can't announce yet. Hoping to reveal these before Summer of 2022. For the future, I’m hoping to produce or collaborate with a gallery to show these movement studies in VR, video, and traditional sculpture!


Justin Zielke

Justin M Zielke