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Sometimes, in my most depressing moments, I mourn the fact that we live in a society where dragons, dinosaurs and giant reptiles are no longer a thing. I sigh heavily whenever I rewatch Jurassic Park. I cry when I realize Godzilla isn’t real. No Draco, no Smaug, nothing! All these majestic beasts are either long gone, extinct or just plain imagination. It’s just too much to bear! Well at least bears are real, I guess.
Thankfully, there’s people on this Earth with the power to bring fiction to life – people like Roman, a 23-year old Minecraft builder with a talent for sculpting. Not only can he make gorgeous life-like carvings with Minecraft blocks – he is an avid fan of everything lizard-related, and has a profound fascination for dragons.
“I like everything about them,” he tells me. “From the nose to the tip of the tail, from [their] strength and character to [their] size. I began to show interest [in] them more than 13 years ago. After all this time I know a lot of things about them. And since dragons are essentially large lizards...”
Roman discovered sculpting just four years ago when he decided to try out working with 2D models. It was initially only small builds, ranging from 20 to 50 blocks in height, placed one at a time, but soon his interest turned to bigger scales as Roman realized he had greater ambitions with his newfound interest.
His projects not only grew in size – he also decided to switch it up a dimension and begin sculpting in 3D. “The dimensions of 3D and 2D sculptures were the same. 50 blocks high? Not enough. Need more! I like dragons – why should they be small?”
Of course dragons should be big! Otherwise they’d just be second-rate iguanas. But creating enormous dragons block-by-block turned out to be a difficult and time-consuming process for the young artist. He began looking for tools that could assist him, experimenting with in-game mods such as Voxelsniper and WorldEdit. They were handy, but also demanded a lot of computer power, which Roman’s old equipment had trouble handling.
The solution was MCEdit, which cut unnecessary rendering and focused solely on the model itself. Two years later and armed with a stronger computer, he still uses the same editor. “I'm terribly used to it. But small details sometimes have to be done in the game itself.”
Since starting making sculptures, Roman has created one terrifying reptile after another, often with an extreme amount of detail. The number of blocks in his builds can nowadays consist of thousands of blocks. While the height is always close to the maximum cap of 256, the width can range from 600 to as much as 1000 blocks. As an example, one of Roman’s latest builds – the cheerfully named ‘Come to me into hell’ – measures 501 width x 514 length x 252 height!
“I don’t like to make small sculptures.” Roman explains. “They look square and not alive. In contrast to small organic sculptures, large sculptures turn out to be much more round and lush. With sculptures of large sizes, you can make an excellent detailing of the body relief. Plus, all this can be done [with] excellent colouring, or even texturing.”
Making sculptures in greater sizes allows for more detail, which is key for Roman. His goal is to make every sculpture as beautiful and realistic as possible, and he uses every aspect to achieve this – from the shape of the model, to its colouring.
This process begins in the ideation phase, where he scours the internet for inspiration. “I have a very strict choice. I can make a project [based] on one picture or combine two pictures into one project.” Roman explains. “In addition to the internet, I can generate something in my head. I can also find inspiration in real life.”
Roman then aims to give his sculpture a ‘live pose’ with motion. However, the most important thing for him to get right is the eyes and colour of the sculpture’s body. Roman describes colouring as working with gradients rather than a clear palette of solid colours. Thanks to the size of the sculptures, the gradients can be made to look quite smooth and also enables shading and texturing, which contributes to the life-like feel of his work.
“When I make eyes I want them to look the same [as] when you look straight at the face. The best example of this is the project ‘Come to me into hell’. This project was created with the aim of breaking a fourth wall. Here the dragoness herself is looking into your eyes, and not you.”
Having a big powerful dragon staring into my very soul sounds scary, especially if they’re so life-like that they can break the fourth wall! Trust me, I had a staring contest with one of his builds and lost almost instantly.
However, I did say just 14 paragraphs ago that I wanted more dragons in my life, so I’m going to stare at all of Roman’s builds for another 48 hours until I learn my lesson. Be careful what you wish for, readers!