Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Making a skull: the basic shape

UPDATE: to see what the skull looks like now it's finished, click here.

Today, I'll be talking about making the basic shape of my skull and getting all the important bones in place.  In my next post, I'll talk about fine tuning it to get it nicely finished.

Here's the first stage of the skull. 

Today's post is all about cranial anatomy.  Here's my proto-cranium which I made in the last skull chalice post, along with a slew of various pictures of skull anatomy that I'll be using to make my skull: 

How difficult and frustrating this step will be depends on the level of detail you want from your skull, and in my case the answers are "very" and "a lot".  The skull chalice is, in many ways, a proof of concept, but I still want to make something I'm happy with and that will make an impression at parties.

You can see I've started with what is essentially half a sphere.  The next step is to build the facial bones out from the sphere, using those anatomical diagrams as a guide.  I start with the eye sockets and upper jaw, then I block in the eye sockets, brow ridge and zygomatic arches using paper pulp.  I started with the brow ridge, purely because that's easy. 

The eye sockets start out as paper rings...

...then they get filled in.
 One of the important things here is to pay attention to the inside of the eye sockets.  They have little holes in the back of 'em where the ocular nerve passes through the skull.  Making those little holes takes just a couple of seconds spent poking around in there with a nail, but it makes a big difference to the look of the skull.  Also, if you're looking to do one of these for yourself (and really, why wouldn't you?), keep in mind that the surface doesn't need to be smooth.  Bones aren't really all that smooth.

This photo shows the little bones inside the nasal cavity.  I just used glue-imprenated paper curled into place with a pair of tweezers.  I was putting it off because I thought it'd be difficult, but it isn't really.

Detail of nasal bones

Yes, I did make all the individual teeth and glue them in.  Teeth are one of those things that look pretty intimidating at first glance, but really aren't all that hard to do.

Molars waiting to get glued into the jaw

Paper pulp sets like concrete when it's dry and can be sanded, which makes it quite good for making teeth.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Sculpting muscles

One of the things I really like about working with paper pulp is that it's very easy to build up muscle tissue from the inside out.  I can add muscle tissue wherever it's needed and put the skin over top of it.  That's what I did with the legs of my big specimen, and that's what I'll be doing with the torso and arms.

Shoulder muscles

Shoulder muscles covered with skin

Now, of course, it's a case of more waiting for the damn thing to dry, which takes forever because the muscle layers are so thick.  I realise that part is just as boring for you as it is for me, so in the meantime, here's a happy cat: 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Making a skull chalice: part 1

UPDATE: see the finished skull chalice here.

I recently saw this on the net, and oh boy do I want it.  Unfortunately it's $400 plus shipping.  That's not an unreasonable price for something like this, depending on how it's made, but I don't have that sort of cash lying around and in any case I can make one myself. 

Skull chalice from http://www.themysticcorner.com/

The Chalice of Herne the Hunter from http://www.abattoirlarue.com/

Those are my two main inspiration images for this project: the skull chalice from The Mystic Corner, and The Chalice of Herne the Hunter, an amazing work by Rick LaRue who describes himself as a modern primitive artist and who has been making incredible art for longer than I've been alive.
Step one of the Anderson method for making a skull chalice involves a trip to the Salvation Army store.  There’s no point in having a skull chalice you can’t drink out of, and that means I need a washable, waterproof liner.  Some kind of small bowl or vase would be ideal.

One like this, for example
Yes, I know the faux-rustic glaze is a dreadful '70s cliche, but I think it suits this project.  I want this to look as if it originated on the Eurasian steppe circa 1200 AD.

Step two involves paper mache.  Paper mache is not a material you tend to associate with beverage containers, but there are ways around that which I'll be talking about later.  A ready made skull would also be an option, but I don't have a ready made one and this way I get one sized to fit the liner. You can see how I've wrapped the liner in a plastic bag and paper mache'd around it. This area will be the cranium of the skull.

No doubt Dave Lowe can see where I'm going with this.  Go on Dave, make one of your own.  You know you want to.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sculpting a body

So far I've talked about sculpting a face, and I've talked about sculpting hands and feet.  Now it's time for the (to me) less exciting but no less important process of making a body to connect those things together.  Now, where did I put my number 8 wire?

Here we go.  We've got a very simple armature here made from scrap paper (pro tip: use the glossy junk mail that's no good for anything else) with a wire spine.

And here it is with legs attached.  The key here is to get the shape of the muscles under the skin.

Finished legs with skin on them

And that's it for now.  Why?  Because I have to wait for the legs to dry before I do anything else and my God does it take forever.  This is why I hate winter.  Nothing dries at this time of year.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Making hands

My favourite parts of a sculpture are the face and hands.  These are the areas that establish the kind of personality the piece will have, so for me they're the most interesting parts. Previously, I talked about making a face, and today I'm going to talk about making the hands to go with it.

Finished hand. 

Because it's not a human hand, and also because I miscalculated and found I didn't have quite enough claws, I've made it with three fingers which are slightly webbed.  I made the claws out of cold porcelain, the same way I did with the teeth, and you could do ordinary human fingernails with that stuff as well, though I've had great results with paper.

Fingernail made with paper

Each finger is made separately, and then they're glued onto a piece of card that forms the palm.  After that, it's just a matter of building up the soft tissue areas.

Naturally, I also made a pair of feet using the same method.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Mongolian death worm larva

The Mongolian death worm is one of the most popular posts on here, although in my view it's not my best work.  It is a cool subject, so I decided to make a death worm in its larval stage.  Here it is in the process of hatching out of its little egg:

As with the big guy, the death worm larva is all about the paint.  It's a very simple sculpt, just an undulating tube coming out of an egg, with a little bit of detail to suggest that the egg is membraneous like a snake's egg.  What makes it interesting is the paint job, which uses several layers of polyurethane to make the egg look translucent.

Close up of the larva's teeth

The larva before painting

Friday, 13 July 2012

Puttng skin on the sculpture

This post is going to be all about putting skin on my sculpted head, and doing the various bits of fine tuning that will make it look like a head, instead of a work in progress.

This is what it looks like now.  For an in-depth look at how it got to here:  

...from here, which is what it looked like at the end of the last post:

...see after the jump.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Sculpture eyes

Remember the lizard eyes I posted a while ago?  Today I’m going to talk about putting them in a sculpture. 

Taxidermists use glass eyes when they stuff animals - you can get a wide variety of different animal eyes for taxidermy purposes, and they’re also useful for sculpture.  Forensic artists also use artificial eyes when they reconstruct faces.  You can use doll eyes, and they’re a great option if you can’t be bothered making your own eyes or don’t trust your ability to make suitably realistic eyes.

My technique for building up the face is actually quite similar to what forensic artists do.  I build up soft tissue in layers until I'm happy with the result.  For more photos and a description of the process, see after the jump.


Thursday, 5 July 2012

Adventures with cold porcelain

Or, more accurately, cold “porcelain”.  This stuff’s not actually porcelain; it’s made with PVA and cornstarch.  See this Instructible for details if you want to try it.  Yes, it really is that easy.
This seems to be a very versatile medium, and one which allows for a lot of possibilities.  Brazilian sculptor Katya Tchervev produces incredible work in this medium - you can see some of her work by clicking the link.  This being my first attempt with the stuff, I'm not doing anything as ambitious as Katya does.  I'm starting small and making some little teeth. 

Only the teeth themselves are made with cold porcelain.  The jaw and tongue parts are paper mache.  Here are some shots of the teeth in progress:

Teeth in a pile.  Not very exciting looking at this stage.

Attaching the teeth to gums.  At this stage, I call them Satan's dentures.

For my review of cold porcelain as a sculpting medium and some tips based on my experience, see after the jump.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The pitcher plant with legs

This is one that’s been sitting in my disgracefully large box of Things I Need to Finish for some time now.  Like maybe a year or so.  Recently, the excellent and inspirational Dave Lowe quite rightly told me to get my A into G and finish it.  Here it is, folks.  Enjoy!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Making lizard eyes

Finished lizard eye

It's been a wee while between posts, for which I apologise.  Things have been pretty busy this last week because I've been involved with organising my mum's 60th as well as my work milestones for the end of the financial year.  Today, however, I'm back with a tutorial on making eyes for sculptures.  They're really easy, and lots of fun.

Eyes are really important.  They can make or break your project, so it's worth spending the time to get them how you want them.  For some seriously awesome sculptural eyes, check out Arturo Balseiro's web page.  You'll probably remember his work from Pan's Labyrinth.

Naturally, they're called eyeballs for a reason and it's best to start with a couple of suitably sized balls.  There are lots of things you can use; wooden beads are good, or even the ball out of a bottle of roll-on deodorant.  These eyeballs are made with DAS.

I'm making lizard eyes here purely because they come in a range of fun colours, but of course you can make human eyes in much the same way.  I start by painting the eyeballs with a half-and-half mixture of raw umber and Reeves' metalic bronze.

Then I gently stipple them with raw umber.  Thinning the umber with water makes the stippling subtler and therefore more suitable for eyes, but you have to be quite careful with it or you get a wash instead of a nice stipple.

Then I add a very thin wash of the half-and-half raw umber/bronze mix and add black pupils.

Finally, I finish them off with many, many coats of clear varnish.  To get the right glossy, eye-like finish I'd recommend you use at least eight coats of varnish.  Waiting for each coat to dry before you apply the next is boring, but it's worth the effort.  I suggest you drink mojitos while you do your varnishing; I did and I found it makes the process considerably less boring.

I changed the pupils because I decided vertical ones looked cooler
 And there you go - easy lizard eyes.