Jen Zen
Issue: Volume: 27 Issue: 1 (Jan 2004)

Jen Zen

A professor of art at California State University Long Beach, Grey now creates unusual pieces of art by experimenting with atypical digital tools. A few years ago, she and fellow artist/collaborator Sheriann Ki Sun Burnham began beta-testing various offerings, including Steven Schkolne's Surface Drawing software, which enables artists to create 3D shapes through hand motions. As the hand moves through space, the trail of its motion is recorded by the computer as a stroke, which appears to float in mid-air, thanks to a head-tracked stereoscopic display environment. Using this program, Grey (Zen) and Burnham began creating models they termed "zenki" figures, a name derived from parts of their individual monikers.

The artists created figures by patting, or tracing, a live human model using an Immersion CyberGlove linked to the software running on a Caltech Workbench, a proprietary semi-immersive drawing environment. According to Grey, her cyborgs exist as life-sized 3D "motion-captured" figures in virtual reality. She exports the images as SGI Inventor files to Corel's Bryce for editing, texturing, and lighting. Then, she "flattens" the images and composites them into a digital scene crafted in Adobe Systems' Photoshop or Corel/Procreate's Painter.

A selection of Grey's images appears on these pages. Additional pieces can be viewed at her faculty Web site ( —Karen Moltenbrey

Centaur The first 3D freehand drawing Grey created in Surface Drawing was this centaur (half man/half horse) that looked like a metallic cyborg with a tail made from "liquid fire." The resulting work, called "Centaur," is now on tour with the ACM SIGGRAPH 2003 Traveling Show, following its public debut in the conference's Art Gallery this past summer. A number of images from that series appears here, along with an image from her new "Fire and Ice" series inspired by her memories of the Alaskan ice fields.

Leap (dual image is from the "Centaur" series)

Badwater (from the "Centaur" series)

Dante's View (from the "Centaur" series)

Fire and Ice (from the "Fire and Ice" series)

Weed (from the "Centaur" series)

Final Spin (from the "Centaur" series)