I decided I needed to learn a 3D rending software. I found Blender which is Open-Souce, and, hence, free. I read a bunch about the user interface and found it quite daunting because it was unlike any software I had used. Well, it was like all the software I had ever used, just mashed-up in a way I hadn't encountered yet. In 2 hours I had made it through most of the tutorial to make a gingerbread man and had a better understanding of how it worked. I was rather elated at the progress I had made. I recalled what it was like to learn something new and get good results—the kind of thing that fired my obsession with computers in my teen years.
I was reinvigorated to work on the temple again. I want to make a structure that is so appealing (visually, emotionally, and otherwise) that nobody will want to burn it. And I want to integrate the community so they are fully invested in the project.
I drew some more sketches, trying to focus on the appearance of the end product rather than being fixated on the ability to construct it. I started in on making a model again. I took a couple 2×4's and hot-glued them together for a "trunk". Then I needed something to make branches. I was looking for inspiration outdoors when I decided to use some sticks from my magnolia tree. I cut them and glued them on then added bamboo skewers as branches and small scraps of paper as the "leaves". For some kind of scale, I added Vince.
I basically built 1/4 of the tree and took some test photos against a colored backdrop. I had four photos, each with the model rotated 90 degrees—all set up with the same camera settings on a tripod. Then I pulled it into Gimp, did a rough removal of the colored background and composited the four rotations on top of one another to create a pseudo-representation of a full model. I added a photo of the Playa from Vittorio Carli's artinterviews.com to make it look like it was at Burning Man.