Thursday, 28 November 2013

Dragon drumsticks

Having finished my dragon's wings, I'm now getting started on the legs.  At this stage they're just the basic shapes of legs made out of paper and wire, with some little claws on wire toes.  They don't look much like toes yet, but they will.  Since this is an avian dragon and its body plan is based on theropods like gigantoraptor, I have the perfect excuse to give it a set of raptor claws.  Excellent!

For sculptures in this sort of size range I find paper pulp is the most durable material for making the little claws.  Polymer clays and air dry clays are too brittle and tend to break.  Ceramic would probably give great results, but I don't have a kiln and I doubt it would have the same tensile strength as celulose fibre anyway.

Here's a good shot of the half-finished feet.

Friday, 22 November 2013

I finished the dragon wings

Here's a close up of the final texture on the wing membrane.

As you can see, the wing texture is much improved since the last time I posted photos!  I didn't like the small raised bumps in the surface of the paper; they were too regular, too round, and looked fake.  Now the wings have a wrinkly, organic texture that looks like crumpled skin.  I got this texture by simply adding layers of my favourite paper sculpting material, toilet paper.  Similarly, I've given the skin on the fingers more texture by applying - you guessed it - toilet paper.  I tend to apply the pieces of paper to the sculpture and paint glue onto them, otherwise the paper just disintegrates.

Here's another close up of the wing texture.  I've also used paper to shape and define the knuckle joints on the fingers, particularly the long third finger that supports the wing.

Monday, 18 November 2013

More dragon wings

These wings aren't finished yet.  I'm not happy with the texture.  If you look carefully at the next picture you can see that the surface of the wing membrane is covered with small round dimples, which don't look at all convincing or appropriate.  The wings have that unfortunate texture because I made them out of paper towels, which are absorbant but still able to hold their shape quite well when I saturate them with glue.

I always enjoy doing things like fins and wing membranes and hands.  I especially like doing fingers, because fingers are really interesting.  They have lots of fun little bones and they articulate in interesting ways.  On this project, I designed the wing structure to look like it was adapted from theropod forelimbs, like a bird's wings are.  Although the wings have membranes instead of feathers, they're modelled on the wing structurers of early avians like archaeopteryx.  That's why it has three fingers on each hand.

With this archaeopteryx, you can clearly see that it has fingers.  It has feathers growing out of the wrist and that’s basically the end of the wing.  In a modern bird, the “hand” bones fuse together to create the tip of the wing and the bird doesn’t have any digits as such.  The archaeopteryx has three digits and the reason for this is that archaeopteryx and its modern avian cousins evolved from theropods with three digits on the front limbs.

Picture courtesy of Scientific American.  Click on the link for a very interesting article discussing the possibility that archaeopteryx could be the ancestor of modern flightless birds.

Bats are a bit different.  They have membranes stretched between their finger bones, which forms the wing.

Picture from Brown University.  Click the link to see their robotic bat!

Pterosaurs were different again.  They used very long, well developed pinky fingers to support their wing membranes.

A great comparison of pterosaur wings, bat wings, and bird wings from the USA's National Centre for Science Education.

I’m going the pterosaur route here.  The first finger and thumb form a little “hand” for the dragon to grip things with, while the second finger is hugely enlarged and supports the wing membrane.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Dragon wings

Right now, I'm building up the wings on my dragon project.  I like to use layers of paper pulp to represent the muscle layers in the wings, but it's slow going waiting for each layer to dry.  As you can see, I still have to add the biceps and triceps. as well as the forearms and fingers.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Back to my dragon project

Now that the Halloween countdown has finished, I'm getting back into my dragon project.  Last time I blogged about it, I'd finished the head.  Now, I've attached a rib cage to the head.  The wires sticking out to either side will eventually be wings.

I like to cut all my ribs in one unit as pictured below, bend them into shape with the aid of some wire, and paper mache over them.  From there it's a simple matter of taping the bits together.