(Edit: Here are Parts I and III.)
As you can see, our fellow emerged from the oven unscathed. I was quite pleased and relieved (and so was he).
For the past few days (several? I’m losing track of time here) I’ve been steadily sculpting, sanding, and priming all the details that will go along with our little soldier. That’s right guys – it’s time to accessorize.
In the original painting, there are tons of little details to consider: his mask-hat, those branches with tiny flags dangling in the breeze, mushrooms, flowers, and – let’s not forget – his sword of course. Oh, and his bolo tie. Geez, that’s a lot of details. This was going to take longer than I thought.
Given their delicate nature, it was time for APOXIE SCULPT. This stuff is radness in two little buckets. If you’ve never used it before (as I hadn’t, but carefully researched), it’s a two-part compound you mix together that gradually self-hardens in about 3 hours. After 24 hours, it’s hard as a rock and you can sand / drill / paint / throw angrily on the ground and it WON’T BREAK.
While my sculpture baked, I gave Apoxie Sculpt a try. I mixed it together and let it “rest”, then tried to make his tiny mask-hat. The stuff was horribly tacky. Like, it wouldn’t stop sticking to my fingers and tools. I left it alone for another hour. STILL sticky. And worse, it would droop sadly and lose it’s shape. Frustrated, I gave up for the evening.
The next day was a new beginning y’all. Reading that it would help temper the stickiness, I’d stored my Apoxie Sculpt in the fridge overnight. It made a huge difference! And, in one of many Ah-Ha! moments, I realized I needed to structure the medium over a base, like wire.
But first, a note. As I thought about my process, I decided that I wanted to make most of these elements removable. Transporting a sculpture of this nature in one single piece just didn’t seem logical. So, prior to baking, I created holes for the branches by inserting these rods into the clay.
Following the recommended instructions from this forum, I baked him, verrrrry slowly, then let him cool down just as slow. All the holes and details, even the tiniest holes, maintained true to form, and he didn’t have a single crack! Beginner’s luck.
Knowing this, and also knowing I could bake my sculpture multiple times, I added more clay and created more insertion points. I made flowers with Apoxie Sculpt and some very thin, but sturdy, brass wire I had hanging around, which really came in handy.
And I made super duper small mushrooms! This is ridiculously fun. I was making the world’s smallest garden. On a moss capelet.
Next came the branches. I kept discovering that all the materials I had on hand served a perfect purpose. The brass rod was hollow, so I cut it down and inserted a few strands of the thin brass wire. I shaped them into branches, then molded Apoxie Sculpt around them.
And we mustn’t forget the bolo tie. This one took me a couple tries. Actually, a bunch of things did. I was so hyper-focused that three hours would pass in the blink of an eye. I haven’t seen the sun in a week. (Well, that’s also because I’m in Portland.)
Oh look, a patch of moss. With some pebbles.
And a paw! This part reminded me of a scene from a movie, perhaps Harry Potter, when Voldemort gives Wormtail a new hand.
Then I made his sword. I used two pieces of large armature wire and twisted them together for the base, then tried building up the shape with Sculpey. This wasn’t working though, the edges were too smooth. I switched gears and layered flat sheets of clay around the wire to form a block, then carved the shape of a sword from it. Just like carving a real wooden sword! I’ll have a finished picture later.
The Apoxie Sculpt pieces were nearly set, so I gave them all a test. So much excitement. Everything looked good, so I documented all the little insertion points, removed the pieces, and slowly baked the sculpture one more time.
This second time around, he developed two tiny hairline cracks, in the meatiest part of the sculpture. I don’t think I let him cool slowly enough. No sweat, I patched them up with some Apoxie Sculpt.
Next, a lot of sanding. Regular sandpaper sheets were too cumbersome for these pieces, so I found an unopened package of miniature emery boards in a drawer. Seriously? How long have I had these, and how are they so perfect for this task?
Another bump in the road: priming. One of my resources cited plastic primer in a spray can, so that’s what I had. I tested it on these two pieces, and I must say, I hated the results. Like, I get angry looking at this picture. The primer pooled in the cracks and wasn’t evenly coated, and it was sticky for FOREVER. There had to be something else.
GESSO. Duh. With a brush, for total control. In a couple thin coats. Why anyone would use spray primer is beyond me (but I invite you to prove me wrong).
I started priming his head when I realized I almost forgot about his whiskers! “How dare you, Miss!”, I could almost hear him cry. Thanks to the tip from this video (about 1:34), I found an old bag of feathers (seriously, how do I have all this stuff), stripped them, and inserted the quill in a pad of Apoxie Sculpt. Voila.
There you have it – all primed and ready for some color, the really fun part. Oh who am I kidding? This entire process is fun.
Stayed tuned for the final part of making my Battle Raccoon maquette.
And I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has left such lovely comments about this project, here or otherwise. I’ve been blown away by the response! Your support means the world and I’m happy to share with you.