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 primerI 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!**
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.
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!