Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Putting the wings together

I managed to get around to putting the wings on the dragon this weekend, and adding scales to the body.

Then I started building up the skin underneath the wings.  At some point soon, I'll have to figure out what I want to do with the head.  I have no idea so far, but I'll figure something out.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


Topsell's dragons have very interesting wings: they aren't quite bird wings and they aren't quite bat wings.  They have skin membranes supported on ribs, but the ribs don't look like finger bones as is the case with a bat.

Winged dragon
Image from here.

Instead, the wings seem to be supported by curved spikes of bone or cartilage.  But notice how the overall shape of the wing is based on a bird's wing, and scales have been drawn along the leading edge of the wing to imitate feathers.  I've used the same approach in making the wings for my project.

I've put a thin membrane between long curved spines set at intervals along the wing, and added scaly texture to the top edge.  I think this might look quite good when it's finished.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Dragon scales and legs

Overall, I think the dragon skin project is starting to show real promise.

The legs and tail each have a strip of wire inside to keep them in position, but other than that they are just paper.  By using layers of tissue impregnated with thin glue, I find I can create a surface that folds and curls in on itself much like a dried animal skin.

I've also had a little play around with some ideas for dragon scales.  I've got large ones in the center of the spine and smaller ones along the sides.  So far, I quite like this arrangement.  Eventually I'll extend it over the rest of the skin.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Time for a new project

I like anatomical specimens, and with that in mind it's time for another dip into the fertile imagination of Eddie Topsell.

I want to do a dragon skin.  Just the dried skin, not the innards, because I want it to look like something from Topsell's time.  Explorers who encountered strange new beasties often just kept the skin and left the soft parts behind because they couldn't preserve the animal for the trip home.

I've built a mould out of screwed up paper and duct tape, and used it to shape the inside of the skin.  Remember, this is just the inside of the skin.  That's why it doesn't look like an animal yet.

Head end on the left, tail on the right.

Once I add feet, it looks a lot more promising.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


I finished the Red Serpent with a coat of lacquer to protect it and bring out the colours.  This makes the speckled markings stand out a lot more, and shows off the contrast between the mostly reddish-coloured body and the green spots.  I think the result is quite lively.

  I'd like to mount it or frame it in some way, but I'm not sure how I want to do that yet.

Monday, 17 November 2014

That's better

My previous attempt at painting the Red Serpent wasn't a great success, but attempt number two was more productive.

You can see the contrast here between the old paint job and the new one.

This time the colours are blended a bit better and I've added faint green speckles.  The speckles contrast with the main colours and make the whole thing more interesting.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Painting screw ups

I had a go at painting the Red Serpent last night, and this was the result:

Not a success, really.  I think the overall idea is sound, but there's just something missing.  There's not enough depth and I think a few yellow and green tones might be a good idea.  It needs a bit of contrast.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Back to the Red Serpent

Now that Halloween has been and gone, I'm back to the red serpent project I started in September.  Yesterday I finished up the fins underneath its body.

It still needs pectoral fins, but other than that it's really just a matter of painting this thing.  Not sure when I'll get around to doing that though, because I want to make some clothes.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Happy Halloween everybody!

I put a final layer of paint on the zombie head last night, and now it's sitting on a windowsill ready to greet the trick or treaters this evening.  Here's hoping the rain passes over by then.

I mounted the head on a table lamp, which means I can do this:

Sure it's cheesy, but hey - it's Halloween.  In Old Norse you'd call this a draugljotr: a zombie lamp.  Sometimes zombies in Viking sagas are associated with strange, supernatural lights, so I thought why not?

The skin colour looks a lot like a bog body, with some nice blue undertones.  I've also put gloss varnish inside the mouth and on the scabby areas to contrast with the matte finish on the surface of the skin.

Thursday, 30 October 2014


How's that for a blog post title?  With a title like that, you know there's going to be something entertainingly disgusting coming up.  I'll try not to disappoint.

I wanted some crusty, scabby texture in places where the zombie's skin is torn, and spent ages trying to figure out think what would be the best way to achieve that.  Then I remembered an old episode of The Simpsons: Lisa pranks Bart and Homer by pasting fake scabs on their skin while they're asleep, and when they wake up they think they've caught some horrible disease.  The fake scabs are made with oatmeal.  

It's very simple to do this.  I just glued oatmeal wherever I wanted a scab and moulded some ripped skin around the scab using paper.

I've painted the scabs with a mixture of black and red, plus a little bit of yellow and brown, and the same goes for the muscle in the zombie's neck.

After that, I started on the skin.  I covered the lot in blue-brown undercoat with a bit of black.  In Scandinavian traditions zombies are typically a blue-black colour, so Thorolf  here is getting a dark skin with plenty of blue tones.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Neck muscles

Yes, this whole zombie thing really is just an excuse for gratuitous nastiness.  Here you can see its neck with the skin torn open, showing the neck muscles underneath.  There's absolutely no reason to do that beyond me having a warped fascination with anatomy.

To get this effect I've made strips of muscle tissue just like I did for the face, and stuck them in place.

Afterwards, I've added skin over top of the muscle structure.  The other side of the neck is intact, but it will still get some nasty scabby bits where the neck is severed.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Putting the finishing touches on the zombie face

So far I've made the zombie's mouth, nose, and eyes.  Obviously, the next job is ears.

I quite like making ears, because they're interesting.  Ears have all sorts of curves and bends, which makes them quite entertaining from a sculptor's point of view.  Especially when the subject is a zombie and it doesn't matter if the ears come out looking a bit wonky.

This one's not too wonky though.

In fact, my ears start with a simple twist of paper held in place with masking tape.  This gives me the outer curve of the ear more or less, and acts as a platform for me to build the rest of the ear on top.

This is the basis for the ear.  I simply glue it onto the head and go from there.

Doing the ears took ages though, because every so often I had to stop and dry out the ear before I did any more.  Unfortunately, this meant I didn't get as much done on the zombie tonight as I'd planned.  I'd hoped to make a start on the neck.  As it was, I only got a paper tube stuck on there to make the armature for the neck.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Not quite a scowling zombie, but he doesn't look happy either

Yesterday I wasn't very pleased with the way my zombie face looked.  So after work I did a few alterations on the brow line, and the result looks much better.

I haven't actually changed the face very much.  All I've done is given it a slight frown, but it gives the face some expression which wasn't there before.

I've also started playing around with skin textures on the right side of the face.  Again, the changes are subtle, but you can see that the skin is becoming slightly wrinkled.  Ideally I want it sagging off the head a bit. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

More zombie eyelids

Last night I made a start on the tissue around the zombie's eyes and forehead.  Because it's a severed head I wanted to give it a blank, slack jawed expression rather than a vengeful scowl.  Here's what I've got so far:

The eyes look abnormally large at this stage, but that's because only part of the eyelids have been painted.  Once the whole thing is painted the eyes will be back to their proper size. 

I didn't do any more on it last night because, honestly, I'm not sure about it.  It's not bad exactly, but there's something not quite right with that face.  Maybe it does need a bit of a scowl.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Moving further up the zombie's face, it's now time to install the eyes.  Like the mouth, I like to do these from the inside out.  The inside of the eyelid is brown paper with a line of eyelashes made from hairbrush bristles.  Hairbrush bristles are ideal for making eyelashes.

Unfortunately, these are the only photos of this step that came out properly.  It seems the camera eye has trouble seeing what's going on with the eyelids at this stage.  It's probably operator error, since I belong to the "point, click, and hope" school of photography.  However, the pictures do show how I positioned each eye in its socket and built the shape of the eyelid over top of it.  As in real life, each eye has a top lid and a lower lid.  I glue the lower lids in place first, then curve the upper lid over top.

Doing the top and bottom lids separately is important, because they curve in different ways and it really is a lot easier to get the bottom lids glued in position and dried so they won't move about, and then move on to the top lids.  Trying to concentrate on both at once is a nuisance.

The next step will be to build up the outer skin around the eyelids.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

It's amazing what a difference the nose makes

The zombie looks much better with a nose.  It makes the whole thing look like a face in a way that it really didn't before.

The nose turned out kind of beaky, because I was thinking of Rameses II at the time.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Zombie eyes

Cloudy white eyes are a zombie theme that really appeals to me for some reason, so that's what I'm going for here.  I don't know if dead eyes are actually cloudy white, but it looks cool.  On the right here we have the original test eye, and on the left is the final eye, which I think is a better version.  The colours are blended better in the eye on the left.

They're made from resin cabochons that went a bit wrong and are full of bubbles, making them unsuitable for the taxidermy-type eyes I normally make.  They're fine for white zombie eyes though.  

The first step in making these eyes is to stick a thin layer of tissue to the cabochon with polyurethane.  If you want to make your own, be aware you have to be careful as the tissue will tear easily.  It's exactly the same principle as the translucent membranes I made for the dragon project.

The bubbly cabochons.  Quite a lot of bubbles, as you see.  Resin and I don't always get on very well.

Cabochon with a layer of tissue over it.

So far so good, but it's not finished yet.  Once the polyurethane dried I painted an iris on the eye in thin blue-grey paint.  It's exactly the same colours of paint I used for the skin so far: ultramarine, burnt umber, and burnt sienna.  There's a lot more blue in this mix though.  Using the same paint colours helps the eye to blend in with the rest of the face.  The iris is darkest in the center, then gradually fades out into the white paper that covers the eye.

The finished test eye.

I finished up by adding a couple more layers of paper and polyurethane around the iris, but not over the cornea.  This makes a contrast between the cornea and the rest of the eye.  The whole eye is clouded over, but it gives an impression of the different parts of the eye underneath whatever made it cloudy.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Zombie muscle tissue

I'm always fascinated by anatomy, but I haven't really looked at muscle tissue before.  One of the fun things about a zombie project is that zombies are often shown with damaged skin, and muscle showing underneath, so this is a great opportunity to look at what's underneath the skin of a person's face.

For reference, here's a diagram of the human facial muscles:

Image helpfully provided by Wikipedia.

See how the muscle tissue is ridged?  We can replicate that really easily with paper mache.  All I've done is tear a piece of tissue into strips and twist the strips into little paper cords.  Glue a bundle of these cords onto some paper, and you have a strip of muscle tissue.

This is then stuck into place on the draugr's face.  A bit of connecting tissue, some ripped skin over top, and the job is done.

After applying the muscle, but before applying the skin.

After applying some skin.