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