Saturday, November 26, 2011

An Elf is Born: Part 1

This Post Has MOVED!! Click HERE for updated post with full-color images

SPOILER ALERT! For those of you anxiously awaiting the 'grand reveal' in my Dec 1 newsletter, be warned, this post may give away some of the details. However, the final product will NOT be shown here till AFTER the newsletter is distributed. (subscribe HERE)

There are certain rules/formulas that a sculptor is expected to follow. I DON'T like to follow the rules, but I do take them into consideration. So if my methods appear a bit 'off'... rules are meant to be broken after all

In my Last Post I gave you a quick tour of my studio/tools. And while that was important for the set-up, we're still a long way from the actual sculpting

Sunday 20 November 2011 (Playing catch-up on the blog)

Certain rules should not be broken, and the important one is following a plan, sketch, or model for sculpting a larger magical creature. While I had a basic idea of the creature I intended to sculpt, I had to take 2 important things into consideration

1 - the size of my oven. I use a Deni Table-top convection oven which is dedicated to clay only. The oven is about 12 inches in diameter, but only gives me about 4 inches in usable height. This limites the height of my seated creatures (I can sculpt a standing creature and bake it lying down)

2 - the pose of the creature. The more 'complex' the stance of the creature, the more internal support will be required, and the more difficult it will be to complete. For this creature I wanted to go with something simple and thus 'faster' to complete (days instead of weeks)

Taking these into account, I have chosen a 1:10 'scale' creature, seated on a flat surface.

A scaled sculpture is one that has similar proportions to a life-size model, but on a smaller scale. Imagine looking at as 4x6 photo of a real life person. Proportions are the same, but everything is smaller (to fit your photo size)

A 1:10 scale creature will be one tenth the size of a real model. For every 10 inches of 'real' there will be just 1 inch of sculpture

But that is too 'strict' after all, this is a magical creature, and so I let the magic 'speak' to me. I will give this magical sculpture a larger head (than the 1:10 rules) and somewhat childish features to help capture her 'magical' essense.

The Pose

(photo blurred due to 'adult content' so as not to offend)
At times I will work from random 'models' or envision my own pose, however, since this is my first 'sculpt-n-blog' here I will keep it straight forward. Using my online Magical Modeling Agency I have chosen a pose that fits my basic idea.

Magic Sculpture has a great 3D program that allows me to view my model from every angle. While I will continuously refer to my 3-D rotating model on my computer screen, I still print some basic views so I can measure and compare at each step in the sculpting process. My print includes a Front view, Back View, Right Profile and Left Profile

The Skeleton

Clay is a very soft medium, and like the softness of human flesh, it requires an internal skeleton for structure and support. The internal skeleton for my sculptures, also called an 'armature' provides strength and support for my desired pose, but it also provides me with internal 'bulk' helping me reduce the overall thickness of the clay used. A thicker layer of clay will require alot more time to bake in the oven. A project that has too much internal clay may not bake properly, increasing the chance for the sculpture to break down or crumble in the future.

A standard armature is made with these 2 concepts in mind. I will first start with a thick gauge wire and follow the basic shape of the torso/head. This will provide strength. The next step is to create a foil core for any areas of the sculpture that are greater than 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Since the head and torso will be the thickest parts of my sculpture, I create a foil core for these areas.
This is achieved by crumbling and shaping standard aluminum foil over the wire, then molding to the desired shape.

The head will be egg-shaped, about an inch tall. So I start with a smaller egg shape on the wire. I like to sculpt the head unhindered so I prepare the body foil core but will only add it after the head is completed

Preparing the Clay

There are many different brands of polymer clay out there, and while each has its own advantages, every sculptor will gravitate towards 'their' brand. My favorite brand is Sculpey, specifically the Premo Sculpey. For sculpting flesh-tone creatures I will also use Original Sculpey and Sculpey Living Doll. Perhaps in future blog I will break down the differences in great detail.

Clay type - overview
Original sculpey: This is a soft and very easy to use clay. It is very forgiving (you can 'erase' mistakes) but this feature doesn't make it ideal for sculpting very fine details like a face or fingers. The flesh tone is also a bit on the darker side (See my Valentine's Day Troll )

Sculpey Living Doll: 'medium beige' is great for sculpting detail, but this in turn makes it very unforgiving and will show minor flaws. I also find the color to be a bit too light

Premo Sculpey: While Premo is my favorite brand, they come in very small (2 ounce) packages, and somehow is not ideal for sculptures by itself.

Left to Right: Living Doll, Premo, Living Doll, Original Sculpey

Soo... I mix them all together. And this is a perfect example of 'not following the rules'. I don't have a color recipe. I take a guestimate of how much clay I will need based on the creature to be sculpted. Then I randomly mix them together untill I am happy with the results. The Original Sculpey gives me softness and workability, the Living Doll gives me a paler color, decreases the 'softness making my 'mix' easier for sculpting finer details. Then I add some Premo Translucent (honestly, just for an excuse to mix in my favorite clay) while the premo translucent 'color' disappears, it gives my creature a bit of a 'doll' look and shined finish. (Premo bakes to a beautiful smooth shiney-looking finish)

I slice each clay thin enough to go through my pasta machine (used ONLY for clay) Notice how the Living Doll crumbles as it goes through (left), but the original sculpey is too soft, and easily yields to the pasta machine. (middle)
and then I mix, mix, Mix, Mix, MIX, MIX, and mix some more.

Polymer clay is a 'plastic' clay, and the components sometimes separate in the package. A properly conditioned (mixed) ball of clay will yield a stronger and more enduring project.

Guestimation for the amount of clay needed


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Before the Sculpting Begins


Click HERE to read all about what happens in my studio before the sculpting even begins.  

As promised, there is a magical creature in the works to be released in my newsletter Dec 1 (subscribe link in upper right corner). While the actual sculpting began today, I'd like to backtrack for a bit into the pre-sculpting phases to give you a quick peak at what goes on inside my studio (and my head? nah, too complicated).
Sculpting a magical creature can take hours, if not days and weeks. But that is just part of the process. Before we embark on the magical journey combining sculpture and blogging, follow my on this quick detour into the background and behind the scenes.

Dreaming - The PRE-Planning phase

I am a dreamer, so this phase can take days, weeks, even longer, but we'll dream about that another day. Once a dream is vivid enough to work from, the planning begins


The planning phase still takes a decent amount of time. Going into a sculpture blindly can yield interesting results, but is not always ideal.
The planning phase is about deciding on the creature, pose, costume, props, and anything else desired for the final process.

My magical creatures are inspired by a combination of the things I see, hear, read, dream... but I still need a model to sculpt from. If it's something small like my little Sock Monkeys I can go right from my imagination or a quick doodle.
If I am sculpting something more complex, especially of human form, I prefer to use 'models'. These usually come from my favorite online 'Modeling Agency' linked below


The next important step is an inventory check to make sure I have all the proper (or make-shift) tools and material required. The photo below shows an overview of everything to be utilized for the duration of the process. Missing from this photo is my ruler, convection oven, baking rack and baking pan.

A quick overview of the tools featured starting from the left:
- lamp: I need bright light focused on my work to help me see/sculpt tiny details
- baby wipes and rubbing alcohol: to remove staining clay color from my hands and clean my tools and work area
- Laptop: this is my lifeline to the world, quick checks for poses, ideas, costumes, models and more
- aluminum foil: helps build up a strong armature (skeleton) or core for larger projects
- Different Guage wire and wire tools: to build a strong armature (skeleton) for larger sculptures

Right Side

- Clay: Premo Sculpey is my primary and favorite. Super Sculpey, Original Sculpey, Living doll: for flesh tones, Granitex sculpey for the 'fabric' or 'sock' effect in jeans, and of course my Sock Monkeys
- Pasta Machine: to mix, smooth, and roll clay (NEVER use clay tools for food)
- Plexi-glass: My favorite smooth and sturdy work surface
- Variety of sculpting, smoothing, rolling and cutting tools: used for sculpting, smoothing rolling and cutting (what else?)

WHEW!! that looks like a whole bunch of tools, how on earth do I remember to use all of them? In truth, I hardly ever do. Below is a photo of my FOUR favorite non-conventional tools. If all else were taken away, these would be enough to sculpt just about anything.

No, you're not blind, you count three, I count 4

4 = the ink-well of a standard BIC pen. Its small diameter, tube strength and flexibility make it the ideal smoothing and rolling tool

3 = A tapestry needle with a sculpted handle. The needle portion is great for peircing, connecting, rolling smoothing and so much more

2 = X-Acto knife blade with a hand sculpted handle. The small sculpted handle makes it easy to hold and control for tiny figures. Good for cutting, shaping, smoothing, shaving and more


1 = MY HAND!! No Joke!! My hand is the best tool I have. The combined softness and firmness of the hand allows for for holding, shaping, smoothing, blending. Using my fingers to 'sense' as I work allows me to use the right amount of pressure, pull force... Sometimes I wish I had smaller fingers because a man-made tool cannot be as effective as a human hand.

And let's not forget a simple metric ruler. Yes, math is required for sculpting. Proportions are very important when sculpting realistic creatures. They are even more important when the creature is posed so that you cannot measure directly. And so the sketch gets marked, feet turn to inches, ratios are converted, and I'm ready to begin
(If I stop dreaming long enough to start working)


Here is a TINY sneak peak at my first sculpt-n-blog magical creature
The BIG REVEAL takes place on DEC 1 through my newsletter
Subscribe today and get the results right in your inbox
(along with $8 gift certificate to my shop)

Click on the Sneak-Peak photo to subscribe or use the link in the top-right corner of this blog

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

News, Newsletter, and a GIVEAWAY

As my readers will know, I am brand new to blogging here on my MagicByLeah Blog, and this is really exciting. I already have a long list of topics that I want to blog about, from the birth of my fairies, thought process behind my many sculpting lines, failures of the burnt princess, and even a handful of clay tutorials for other PC artists out there.
In addition to my blog, I am planning a MagicByLeah Newsletter, for those interested in receiving highlights to their inbox ever few weeks. This will be reserved for the best of the best, showing off my latest work, my polymer clay and related news, and whatever else happens to tickle my fancy at the time


To help spice up (and build anticipation) for the first newsletter issue, I am hosting a $8 across-the-board GIVEAWAY
But this is not the type of giveaway where you ‘do this and maybe you get a chance to win’
EVERY subscriber is a winner, no gimmicks, no requirements, (well, other than joining my newsletter)

Here’s how it works:

- Sign up for my Newsletter by December 1
- Receive your $8 gift certificate to my Artfire Shop (on Dec 1)
- Go shopping in My Artfire shop
- Receive your gifts before the holidays
- Wrap your presents and give them to yourself, family friends

The first issue of my Newsletter is scheduled to Debut on December 1; this issue will include a MagicByLeah on Artfire Gift Certificate code which can be redeemed in my Artfire shop
Gift Certificate can be used towards ANY items in my shop INCLUDING custom orders and shipping fees.
And don’t forget to share this joy with your friends, so go on share using Tweet, Facebook, Stumble, and more

Click the Certificate Below to Sign Up

My Artfire Shop

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Very First Blog Post

Good Morning and welcome to my very first blog post on my very first blog

Since this is my first post, I will use this opportunity to introduce myself. And I ask YOU, my fellow readers, to introduce yourself in turn using the comment section below

My name is Leah, pronounced ‘lay-ah’ as in princess Leia, and no I have never seen Star Wars (I know, I know..) I cannot tell you how many times my name gets mispronounced. I often get ‘Lee-ah’ and once even got ‘Lee’
But enough about my name

In the ‘real world’ I work as a private educator. I help high school and college students dissect the mystery that is science, prepare them for their standardized exams, and help them get into the medical field by helping them prepare for their MCATs, DATs, OATs and the application process.

I believe that if you work hard you will achieve your goals, it may not be easy, but it’s certainly not impossible. I learned this valuable lesson in the 'middle of nowhere' on the North Arabian Gulf (ABOT)

After graduating high school I was torn between adventure and education, so I settled for both by joining the Navy Reserves and attending college full time. I studied the sciences during the week, and served my country on weekends.

In 2010 my unit was called up for deployment to the Middle East for OIF/OEF, where we served a dual mission between security at Port Ashuaiba – Kuwait, and the training of Iraqi military in security on the Al Basra Oil Terminal (ABOT) Iraq. Here’s an excellent clip from CNN showing my unit working with the US Coast Guard and Coalition forces on this exciting yet tasking mission

CNN clip featuring my unit on ABOT

After returning from deployment I settled in for the 'nice and quiet life' by starting my own tutoring business: Leah4sci (Tutoring/Educating mentioned above)
When the students are gone and the academics are cleared away, THAT is when the real adventures begin. Papers are replaced by clay, and writing instruments are replaced by sculpting tools. Polymer Clay, my hobby/addiction, allows me to bring the magical creatures from my fantasy world to reality. Sculpting helps me deal with the stressed (read: adventures) of the day, relieves tension, and gives me something fun to do

I love to imagine which creatures will emerge next from my blob of uncured 'plastic' (polymer clay). Inspiration for my sculptures come from the things around me. I will get ideas from the things I see in my daily routine, on TV, and all around me. I will sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to jot down a great idea from my dreams, or rush out of the shower to record yet another brilliant (read: hair-brained) scheme

So join me, on this magical journey, and together we can explore even deeper fantasies, and unlock the mysteries hidden in the world of polymer clay

You can find a gallery of many past works on my website: MagicByLeah

Some of my artwork is available for sale in the following of my shops:

My Artfire Shop
My Etsy Shop - Sculptures
My Etsy Shop - Trinkets and Jewelry

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