Animal Battle: Making a Sculpture



Hey girl.


Some time ago, I decided I wanted to start making my Animal Battle characters 3-dimensional.  I love drawing them so much that I want them to really come to life.

Quite suddenly a few weeks ago, my brain decided it was time.  It was like a switch flipped and I needed to start making that dream happen NOW.  I was really curious about making maquette sculptures, so for about a week and a half I scoured the entire internet for everything I could find about sculpting with clay.  I watched dozens of video tutorials, pored over countless blogs and websites, read through a couple books.  I looked like this:


But, you know, like happy, I just wasn’t blinking.

Then I made supply lists, thought a LOT about the process, made several important clicks on Amazon, and a few trips to my local art and hardware stores.  Some things I bought:

  • a pasta maker (for softening and squishing clay into flat sheets)
  • a Dremel tool
  • Super Sculpey firm clay
  • Apoxie Sculpt
  • an assortment of sculpting tools
  • a spinning base
  • spray-on plastic primer I highly recommend Acrylic Gesso instead
  • a plain wooden base
  • armature wire (various sizes)

So, as prepared as I could ever be, or so I thought, it was time to embark on a new adventure.

**DISCLAIMER: I’ve never sculpted with this clay before, or sculpted much at all for that matter, so a lot of this process is a little (a lot) of trial and error, based on all the things I read and watched other people do.  Please be kind to the n00b, and also – advice is welcome!**

UPDATE: Parts II and III are posted!



First, I traced the basic skeleton of one of my favorite soldiers, Battle Raccoon.  In this print he’s about 10″ tall.  I cut my armature wire and assembled the skeleton.


Next, I drilled some holes into my base (Yeah! Power tools!) and inserted my armature.

Okay, I know what some Armaturists out there might think: what the hell?  Even now I’m thinking that to myself.  This ain’t the prettiest armature you’ll ever see.  The two “legs” that extend up the sides of body are actually sturdy brass rods, with everything else kind of goofily attached to them.  But, my main concern was making sure our man’s tiny little legs would support his much-bigger body (and head).  And, I was too impatient/didn’t have epoxy putty to meld the joints together, so I used clay, which was awkward.

But it worked.  So moving on.



Time to bulk up with some aluminum foil.  You can see how I’ve bent the rods a bit at the “knees” (hopefully without compromising them too much).  I also had to gently tack in a couple snips of armature wire at the “feet” because the holes I drilled were too large.  I’ve got smaller bits, but I need to buy the adaptor for my Dremel tool that’ll let me use them.  Sigh.

It’s working.  So, moving on.


Next, I spent maybe the next hour slicing off chunks of Super Sculpey, running them through my pasta maker, and slowly blocking out our main man here.  You may have noticed how much foil I didn’t use.  I might be realizing this later.  First time, guys, first time.

So there’s my loveable lump.  At this point I retired for the evening.


The next day I continued blocking out shapes until, slowly, a raccoon began to form.  A battle raccoon.


And suddenly, a head!  I became so engrossed in sculpting I forgot to take pictures.  I found my sculpting tools easy to use and fun to work with, and the stylus with the tiny round ball at the end quickly became my favorite.


He’s coming alive!  Excitement.



Annnnnnd here’s my moment of realization.  Just as I was about to start working on his mossy capelet, I thought to test the thickness of the clay.  The blade of my X-acto pushed right into his shoulder and hit nothing.  Way waaaaay too thick.

So, I stripped all that clay off and bulked him up with more foil.  I knew there was probably too much clay on the head now, and maybe on his torso too, but there was no turning back.

We continue.


That’s better.  All bulked up.


I carved out and texturized the moss cape.  I looked around my studio for something that I could use for just the right texture, and found a nice old sturdy, crappy brush.  Perfect.


I made his little mask-hat just to see what it would look like, but I didn’t leave it on there.  I knew I’d be making that part with self-hardening clay later.


This little stylus tool is really versatile.  I used it to make a sort of inverted “chain mail”.


And there’s his sleeve, with another flat piece of clay ready to be turned into chain mail on his other arm.


Next, I rolled out a suuuuuuuper thin slice of clay to make the hem of his tunic.  Like prosciutto.  (Mmmm….prosciutto.)  Then I used my X-acto knife to carve out the pattern before attaching it to the torso and blending the clay in.



For all the bottom detailing, I had to elevate the sculpture on a shoe box so I could see what I was doing.  But, there’s my workspace, and there HE is!




After I took these photos, I decided to add a little more detail to his clothing – stitches for the pocket and heart, folds in his tunic.  And I gave him a nice brush-down with alcohol to smooth out the clay a bit.  I’ll be adding the rest of the details later with Apoxie Sculpt, like his paws and sword, and his tiny, tiny bolo tie (that should be interesting).  And then – painting!

But for now, our hero is in the oven, AS I TYPE THIS.  He is slowly baking and turning into a (hopefully) sturdy little statue with (hopefully) not too many cracks.  I’m particularly worried about all those little chunks of hair on his head, I left them there as a test.  OH THE DRAMA!  I can hardly stand it.

Stay tuned for the next update on my Animal Battle maquette!



102 responses to “Animal Battle: Making a Sculpture

  1. amazing workk . . . <3

  2. Thank you for sharing! <3

  3. Oh wow, you’re amazing! I love this little guy! Also, I love the idea that a Battle Raccoon exists in the world. I’m currently reading a Mouse Guard graphic novel and love the concept of animals in battle gear and fighting their little hearts out. This is so charming.

  4. Maryanna, I have followed your blog for a while and LOVE it. But this particular post that shows the creative process may be one of my favorites. It grabbed my attention and kept it. Fascinating. Thank you for showing us the behind-the-scenes, your work is amazing, I hope you keep sculpting! :)

    • Aw shucks, thank you lady. I don’t have as much time as I used to for posting. Apparently, waiting for something to bake in the oven is a good time to update. I’m glad you keep following along!

  5. Wow! Add my name to the long list of fans who are blown away by your creative process – I am so impressed with the steps in your cation and the excellent way you presented. Kudos times three.

  6. That must have been quite an exciting process! Makes me want to really give sculpting a try as well! :)

  7. your post was like a huge sign… i’ve been toying with the idea of translating some of my characters into a 3-d form. now i feel i have to do this! thanks for sharing. needless to say – love your work.

  8. I LOVE THIS!!!!!!!!!!

  9. WOW Beautiful, out of the world art……Amazing. you are perfect, you know ?

  10. Your perseverance and research paid off. He is a loveable little guy. Nice work!

  11. Just amazing, I am in awe! To bring him off the page into the world like that must be so exciting… And you haven’t really sculpted before? Thanks for sharing this with us non-handy-creative types! :)

  12. Oh my goodness! That is almost unbearably good!

  13. That looks amazing! I’ve only encountered ceramics personally once at PCC in Pasadena. I took a ceramics class there and saw a lot of great work. but the detail in your sculpture is awesome! good work!

  14. Loved this sculpture so much that I looked through all your portfolio stuff too! I draw comics too, though strictly on an amateur level. You can see them at:

  15. Really enjoyed reading and viewing this. Fascinating insight to an artist at work :-)

  16. Was this your very first time sculpting? Impressive!

  17. I am inspire by your detail. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  18. I had to follow your blog… can’t wait to see how your little guy will look in the end, after the paint and everything. I’m excited for you. He looks great already! Now I’m off to snoop around on your site.

  19. It looks beautiful! That texture really makes the character come to live, keep posting <3

  20. this reminds me of art school. my boyfriend there was making a stop motion animation. super fascinating to watch him make armetures for the characters :)

  21. Fascinating creations. Excellent master class in their making.

  22. Fantastic! I’ll be waiting to see more!

  23. This is seriously your first time sculpting?! Wow. That’s just amazing. You have talent, my friend. What an adorable little battle raccoon.

  24. As someone who is assembling materials to create my own sculptures, I am enthralled. Well done! I love your illustrations as well.

  25. Wow he looks incredible! Hope he turned out perfect :)

  26. I love working with apoxie sculpt it has to be one of my farvoutie mediums – happy sculpting…=^_^=

  27. Wow. I have no words. Wow. :)

  28. Great sculpting! When I went to college to study Fine Art I chose a school for their sculpture facility.
    My major was sculpture. But guess what the pre-requisite was? Drawing I and Drawing II ! We were not allowed to take a sculpting class until we completed drawing classes. Now, do you see why you are such an excellent sculptor? You are an excellent renderer of your subject that you know intimately in a visual and creative way. Keep it up you are on the right track!

    • Thank you! I think you are exactly correct! It wasn’t the actual sculpting I was worried about – I know this fellow so well in my head that it was a real adventure making him 3-D. But I had to familiarize myself with the process and materials, since they are so completely different from drawing. Super fun.

  29. Fantastic :) he looks lovely.
    A similar impetus happened to us this week. I mostly work with cloth or draw my characters and ideas , but after about 4 years of saying that we will start to work in clay – We’ve gone ahead and bought a kiln! So me and my husband ( who used to work as a potter for 24years) can now work together in new ideas in clay and make new exciting things. Very exciting :)
    Good luck with your venture- looks like you’re heading in the right direction.

    • Yep, new year, new adventures. Cheers to that.

      I wonder how much temperature control you have in a kiln? Right now I’m limited to my kitchen oven, and I have a feeling I’ll be wanting to go bigger soon.

      • Yes there’s a controller … I think our kiln starts at a 600degrees programme , but I’m not sure … that’s my husband’s area of expertise at the moment :)

  30. That is brilliant – well done

  31. I really like your eye for details, the little sculpture sure turned out great! What a unique character . How nice to have found your inspiring blog, I will stay tuned ;-)

  32. Well, I just feel like saying “hello !” to him and expecting he will answer… will he ?

  33. wow.. awesome creation

  34. ceruleanstarshine

    If you use a conventional oven for baking clay–the tip that helped my husband most when he was making maquettes was to let them cook to the desired “firmness” level..then turn off the oven and leave them in there. Don’t open the door to peek. Don’t take it out until it has completely cooled. For whatever reason, this seriously reduces the amount of cracking in statuettes. Including small ones!

    • Yes, I followed a very slow bake method – gradually increase the temp, then cool just as slowly. He ended up with just two very tiny hairline cracks in the really meaty areas, but otherwise okay! I probably didn’t cool down slow enough. I think shocking the clay with temp changes causes the cracking. Thanks for the tip! :)

      • ceruleanstarshine

        No problem. I think he turned out really great! I love the detailing on the fur, and his battle armour.

  35. Hanging up the bottle so to speak?
    Very, nice work.

    You’ll do well pilgrim

  36. Very cool. I always liked clay animation.. Very nice

  37. Just brilliant!! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! :)

  38. This shows that when we try new things amazing things can happen. Great job! This makes me want to sculpt one of my funny pigs.

  39. I’ve always wanted to work in scuplture, but have been scared to try. Thanks for the inspiration! Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

  40. oh my! you are SO talented. your creation warms my heart :)

  41. That’s some mighty fine sculptin’ ma’am.

  42. That’s absolutely lovely. I especially love the detail you were able to get in the fur.

  43. I really enjoyed watching your process. The head looks really great. :)

  44. amazing work adorable little creature!

  45. oh my god, just amazing. :D

  46. Great job! Cute little critter!!

  47. Amazing output. Love it. Such great talent.

  48. Really sweet to see your process. I appreciate all the pictures.

  49. Christina Kwan / tide & bloom

    PROPS to you. I know how difficult it is to sculpt 3-D objects but it looks like you’re just a freakin’ genius. Love it.

  50. amazing. wish I could sculpt like that.

  51. I loved this post. My husband is getting back into sculpting and will be using polymer clay for the first time. I love your detail and the raccoon came out awesome.

  52. Reblogged this on JudeSpace and commented:
    heyyyy this is so cool

  53. Battle Raccoon is very cool. Nice one Little Wolf

  54. So cool! I love what you’ve done! Really really fun adventure :) Keep it up. Cheers!

  55. Brilliant and Great Post

  56. Cassandra Reilly

    I cannot believe I have only just stumbled on your amazing blog! Your characters are amazing and I will be your newest most avid follower! You’ve inspired me to attempt a sculpture! Thank you for the step by step pictures =)

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