I could use everyone’s help here. I hope you all will tune in to MAKE’s new series about the people turning fantasy into reality. I’m calling it [b]Make:Believe[/b].
MAKE Magazine has supported and enabled me to take my sculpting hobby and turn it into a video series. I passionately believe these stories need to be told. Scott Hensey has been sculpting some of you favorite action figures for the last 20+ years. This is our first video interview and story, and our Fon Davis interview is coming up next.
In addition to profiles, we’ll present tutorials and tips on miniature-making, sculpting, molding, figure modding, latex mask-making, and much more. http://www.makezine.com/go/believe
All you people that fabricate real things for fantasy worlds, please feel free to contact me! Right now, I’m focusing on Northern California, since I’m located just north of San Francisco and it’s easier/cheaper to travel to. But early next year, I’m planning a trip to Burbank/L.A. for a week long visit to studios I’m beginning to line up.
I hope you all can support this series simply by watching it, and even commenting on it in the YouTube comments. And spread the word to your communities if you really love it.
Here is a small update to the Fire Rift minis… I’m thinking of doing a run of 10 or so for these guys. I’m trying to keep costs down, but waiting for the lighting kits costs to come back. I’ll try to keep the cost under $200 for sure, more details to come. Email me if you want to be on a waiting list for these! Three are already spoken for…
Starting to apply some paint to the rocks:
Here is another version, with more red dye. Lighting kits hopefully will be done by next week!
After I posted about my Rift sculpture that was broken in transit, I had a lot of great feedback from the community (thanks everyone!). Some folks expressed interest in smaller versions, possibly a series of Rifts, so I thought “why not?” Plus, I would like to give one to my friend over at Rift who hired me for the big version. I got cracking on a smaller version, with the intention of making these around 7″ tall, and around 7″ wide, and still be able to light them up inside.
Here is the base: with the pipe that serves as the core of the pillar.
To the top of that pipe I glued a tuna can and sculpted around it all. The can and the pipe all ensure that I’m building a level piece. The interior of the can will also serve as the housing of the lighting kit. This will all be cast in clear resin.
And here is the top: I’m thinking of adding magnets to keep the top secure, but if they show up in clear resin, I’ll leave them as pegs that fit into those two holes seen above. This top will also be cast in clear resin, just like the larger sculpt.
A close up of the base details:
And basically the three parts I need to mold. I’ll start on that this week.
The top and pillar of flame don’t really look like flames, but that is actually on purpose. When you cast in clear resin, you lose a lot of detail, but you need deep recesses, valleys and hills for light to refract within. It’s how I approached the first first big sculpt and the results looked really good.
I’m making molds this week, and should have some early cast pieces by the end of the week, or this weekend. I’ll have lighting kits sometime in the next few two weeks to really show this off.
Please email me if you are interested in buying a copy.
Back in November of 2010, an old colleague of mine emailed me, asking if I still sculpted. The company he works for, Trion Worlds, was looking to create a one-of-a-kind sculpture for a promotional giveaway. He asked if I was interested. He didn’t have to ask twice.
I jumped at the chance, and thus began a two-month journey that was great, but ended up in disaster (more on that later). It was my first paying sculpting commission and I was stoked.
Trion Worlds is a game developer in Redwood City. Their game “Rift” is a fairly new MMORPG that has been met with rave reviews from the industry. I highly encourage everyone to check it out. The “Rifts” are actual portals that open up in the game, spawning hordes of monsters to slay, and there are six of them, including “Fire“, which I ended up sculpting.
Here is the Fire Rift teaser and a short turnaround of the sculpt.
During the discussion of which Rift to actually sculpt, the first rift we discussed was the “Death Rift”:
The first problems I saw were 1) How to support the structure of the clouds with only those small “tendrils” and 2) Sculpting lightning seemed to be a bad idea. I was worried that they would break, even being cast in resin or Magic Sculp way too easily.
The Life Rift was too detailed to do in the time I had, especially if I wanted it painted well.
And the other rifts weren’t really released at the time. But the Fire Rift had promise in my eyes. I proposed that the column of fire would support the sculpt just fine, and to make it really stellar, I would cast the pillar and vortex in clear resin, and light up the sculpture.
They loved the idea.
So I began by finding a lazy-susan, and start building a support system. Using Magic Sculp for almost everything, I started laying down the lava and stalagmites.
After the rocks were generally formed, I took a dremel to carve the lava and give the rocks more texture and sharp ends.
I don’t have any WIP shots detailing how I sculpted the pillars, stalactites and the atmosphere but you can sort of see from the unpainted pic above (and video) that I sculpted a column of sculpey around the metal pipe, making sure I got little swirls in there. Later, I would make a mold of the column, and cast it in clear resin. When the pillar was done, I started on the stalactites, which I glued to the pillar when I was done. The ring of stalactites were hollow inside, so I could insert the lighting kit. The top disc of swirling clouds actually was removable. You could lift it off and get at the lights to turn them on.
I actually used orange dye to dye the resin. The color gradient is from the light being on. Here are some pics of it painted and then with the lights turned on. I both painted traditionally and used an airbrush to paint the lava.
In my infinite wisdom, I did not take more professional shots or video, thinking to myself: I’ll get them when Trion publicizes this piece in the giveaway.
A few weeks after I hand-delivered the sculpture to a happy group over at Trion, my friend emails me pictures of this sculpt, asking for a cost to repair…
It was shattered. Destroyed. Would have to be majorly re-sculpted. The sculpt was destroyed during shipping to the game site for the actual contest…
I was crushed, more crushed than the sculpture.
Still, the experience was amazing and I don’t regret a single minute of it.
I have been sitting on this one for a bit, added some sand to the base, still haven’t decided what to do about the base. I’ll take some better pics soon, but here is a little taste of this bad boy. He’s about 16″ long, made from sculpey and MagicSculpt, and one-of-a-kind!
And here is the Diablo III Dune Thresher concept work it was based on:
EDIT: A quick note, I finally tracked down the illustrator of this piece, Mark Gibbons. Please check out his work over at Red Knuckle Studios!
I’ve been in love with this illustration of a World of Warcraft Archer Troll for awhile now. It was created by a company I used to work in the same building as, and they did this piece for Upper Deck. Just a great piece, all around.
I wish I knew how to take better pics with my homemade lightbox, but you get the hint. This piece is 11″ high, and I had to make it in 25 different pieces, which was a lot of resin and silicone, to say the least. I reached a milestone with this piece. When I went to paint it, I realized after priming and painting how unfinished the piece is, in terms of a polishing and sanding, etc. Paint can hide some sculpting shortcuts, but not all of them.
This was sculpted with Zen Wax from Gary Overman. The piece below is the first test paint job I did. I used my iwata hp-c plus airbrush on most of him, but the armor was mostly hand-painted, due to the raised scrollwork. Speaking of the scrollwork, I created it by first scratching in the design I wanted, and then I literally dripped wax on it. I then took a rounded wax tip and tapped it all over the armor to get that hammered metal look.
My painting skills need some help, and paint can highlight toolmarks where you don’t want one, so I may just cast up another copy and really go to town on it with some sandpaper.
Even though you can’t see it, his shoulder spikes, bicep armor and shield are all removable. I’ll take pics of it soon, as well as all the pieces it took to make this.
The base I did in resin, then shook out some Woodlands Scenic Snow over the top, and even though you might not see in these pics, I made fake ice and icicles with Vallejo Water Effects (check out this site which compares some fake water products). I stuck some Woodland shrubbery in there too, before I shook the snow, to make it look a bit more realistic. I may still go back and and put some snow on the Troll, but haven’t decided yet.
Oh, and the raptor pet behind him?? Working on it, but I need to finish up some other work first.
Here’s the latest work-in-progress 1/6 sculpt I’ve been playing with: Bug from Micronauts. Micronauts was this crazy comic from the 80s, based on line of toys from Japan. Refresh yourself on the whole universe over at Micro Outpost or Wikipeida.
Bug was (is) my favorite character from Micronauts and I’ve always wanted a toy of Bug as a kid. So naturally, he was always at the front of my mind as a personal project.
I wanted him in a very dynamic pose over his species’ natural predator, the Reptos, but as you can see, the Reptos’s armored version of his head, in both color and shape, aren’t that interesting to me as a sculpt.
I tried to scratch-build a broken-up armored version of a Reptos, but I don’t know if I like it much. Plus, when I go to paint these up, Bug and Reptos’ colors are very similar. So I think I might just put Bug on a Hornetroid, which is black and red (which I probably lean towards purple), as this combination will make Bug’s green colors pop. I’m such a geek, I also bought the Hornetroid toy just for reference 🙂
On a side note, please go look at Ken Kelly‘s distinctive artwork for the toy boxes. They are truly unique.
I still need to do a lot of work on Bug, but I am taking my time, slowly working the main body up from baked sculpey. The head and hands are going to be finished in wax. The head of the Reptos was from baked sculpey, then styrene and bits of sci-fi kits and circuitry.
I may also add in the distinctive gliders that some of the characters wear, as Bug sported them a few times throughout the comic. Might be too much though. Thoughts?
Here is how I made the Unburied tattered clothing.
I cut/rip up an old t-shirt to fit, then transferred the cloth to cardboard and cut out a pattern to make cutting future pieces faster. I put on some rubber gloves, made a grungy base color in a bowl with some craft paints, and rubbed the t-shirt in the bowl until all the fabric was painted. I then laid out the t-shirt flat on a piece of cardboard to dry. I finished up the paint job with some blood splatters and black nasty splatter using an old toothbrush.I take the x-acto knive, and cut holes or fray edges too.
The fabric dries fairly stiff, and I glue it to the painted sculpture. After I get some creases/folds in the place I like them, I hit the fabric with some fabric stiffener. I take the hairdryer to it to dry it almost instantly, and BAM, perfect clothing. I’m thinking of including the fabric with the kit, it’s so much more fun than just gluing and painting up 4 pieces of resin that make up his shorts.
The new base has been molded and cast up. It fits his feet better and is a bit more dynamic. The rocks look like they are giving way under his immense weight.
Here is the body, it is in 5 parts, and already anchored together by epoxy. This shot does not include the parts of the head or side mouth, but you get the idea.
How crazy is this, I entered the “Diablo III: Unburied” in the Marin County Fair this year and I won first place! Now, this isn’t your regular fair. Oh no… the Creature and Model competition is judged by the guys who formed Industrial Light and Magic (now known as Kerner Optical)!!
I’m completely floored.
Getting this thing to a state where it was showable was a crazy adventure in itself. I didn’t even have time to cast up the tattered clothes he wears. I had to make a base from scratch. Leading up to the submission day, I had bought and studied the ModelMania DVDs to learn airbrushing.I spent 3 hours airbrushing this thing (the first thing I ever painted) the night before I had to submit it. Then, at 3:30 am, I go to put a wash on the guy to bring out all the painting I had done and I STAINED THE WHOLE THING. I just sat and looked at it, realized I had not put a coat of Dullcoate on it at all, and realized I had to keep going. It totally sucked, but there was nothing to do but keep going.
Anyway, here are some pics of the piece. I will be casting another version, after I make molds of the new base I sculpted, that will have real cloth for the tunic. But I am also scuplting clothes that can be molded and cast, and added to the sculpture, since fabric is another step some might not want to deal with. I want to redo the entire paint job too, add mottling, make his mouth shiny like it is wet, etc.
I want to thank everyone at the Clubhouse and the Shiflett Brothers forum for giving me so much information, and to Rey Hernandez, who is one of the nicest guys I’ve been able to meet from the boards.
I’ll update pics of the new base and a version of the sculpt with real clothing that I’ve made grungy.
I made this tutorial awhile back and posted on my site and on various forums. However, I coordinated with Gary Overman (owner of Willow Products and maker of the wonderful wax I use) to package this up and allow people to download. I happily obliged because I want to get the word out on his wax (my favorite is FUSE), and there are not a lot of tutorials out there showing how to work with wax.
Ok, so here’s our zombie dude, sporting some clothes. The white leg is a actually the resin cast of the leg. The perspective is off, the guy is really 9″ tall
To save some time, I am going to make a mold of the left arm, make a cast in wax, cut off the spikey ball, flip it 180 degrees and reattach to the bicep. Maybe it will save time. Maybe not.
Give me a kiss
Here is the wax tongue on top, and a cast.
His back in the process of being detailed.
This skull has a little helmet, I need to add another skull to the right yet… here you can also see how the mouth piece is cast separately and fits inside.
Right Leg detail
Left leg details
How the head is assembled
So, the interesting thing that I discovered along the way was how to make the teeth sturdy. I sculpted the original teeth with ends of party toothpicks. When I went to cast, the teeth would break out almost all the time when I pulled the resin out of the mold. Then it hit me… put toothpicks into the silicone mold before I pour the resin. BAM! Perfect casts, and when you paint the teeth, you don’t have to worry about breaking them off. Oh, and they stay nice and pointy too, unlike the resin counterparts.
Experimenting with a base
I am making a simple stone base, with two big slabs from a ruins, and a two-piece skull. These pieces are cast separately so each diorama can be custom built. The ornate piece is actually molding I found at a craft store, more for dollhouses I think, that I just added to the clay slab.
So, as I mentioned, I am using wax to build up a model. My problem is wax is getting it to look organic (wavy lines, folds of the skin, etc). Here is my meager attempt at doing so, using Gary Overman’s Zen Wax.
1. Planning the “cuticle” around this claw-thing
I take a warm piece of wax, roll it up and make a snake. I press it where I want the bulk of the cuticle, or fold, to be. (more…)
I roughed this guy out last night… he’s a bad guy from the upcoming video game, Diablo III. Called “The Unburied”…”Being born out of pits of human misery, these beings feed on human suffering. Wherever bodies are dumped together unceremoniously, the unburied may rise.”
This hulking brute is done with Fuse, right from the start. I think I am going to start my sculpts with clay or sculpey from now on, then switch to wax with wastemolds. I am having a hard time getting organic shapes, like folds, etc right from wax, so I need to practice more, especially before Diablo 3 comes out.
I’ll put in a lot more details as I go, refine, fix the skull sizes and shapes, etc.
I think, after seeing how other sculptors work, that I will begin my sculpts, rough them up, in SuperSculpy or clay, create some wastemolds, pour wax in and finish off.
The reason I want to do this is that I cannot get the organic folds and lines I want, if I start in wax. I’m not saying that wax won’t allow me to get organic folds, I can’t manipulate wax to do it for me yet.
And that is OK. I still get amazing results when I start in wax, but it’s easier to sculpt, say, wavy lines like hair, in Sculpey, I can push it around, reconfigure a curve, while wax hardens to fast for me. See below:
If you haven’t joined the Clubhouse, or seen Erick Sosa’s site and his Mutant Chelonian, PLEASE GO THERE NOW.
Look specifically at the folds in the neck. He did that in SuperSculpey first, baked it and then transferred to wax.
Some people have asked how I sculpt the wings. The first time I made the wing, it was to get a feel for how to do it. Since I wanted to redo the wings to make them not only consistent but also more dynamic, I figured I’d take a few photographs along the way. I’m open for suggestions on how to do this better, so please comment.
1. Keying up the wings
1. First, I drilled a hole into the back of Illidan. The wing is going to be heavy, so I wanted there to be enough mass of the wing that gets inserted into the back of Illidan to support the weight. I filled the holes with Magic Sculpt (I found Magic Sculpt to be a lot cheaper than aves, but they are very similar products). I then inserted a brass rod, and then inserted wire I twisted into that brass rod. I let that sit overnight to harden. The red dots you see are where all the elbows and joints of the wing “fingers” will be.
2. Adding rest of wing joints and "fingers"
2. Here you see I added the rest of the wing “fingers”, all pre-measured for both wings. They are connected by quick curing plumbers epoxy, to speed up time. I then wrapped floral wire around each finger for the wire mesh and clay to stick to later. Repeat for second wing.
3. Adding bendable mesh to wings
3. Because the wings are so massive, I decided to add mesh as the base of the membranes. I think smaller pieces would be fine with thin layer of Magic Sculpt, but the size of the wings would have caused the sheet of Magic Sculpt to droop. I highlighted in red holes I made where each elbow of the finger would be. I think threaded the wire through those holes to help keep the mesh more secure.
4. Adding glue and "pinching" the mesh
4. After I threaded. I “pinch” the mesh around the wire fingers, so that the mesh sort of falls in the half-way point of the finger. This is so that when I add Magic Sculpt, the membrane will look more realistic, like the membrane is really attached to the middle bone like a bat. I also run a little superglue along the finger, kick it with some Zip Kicker to cure instantly, to hold the mesh in place for the next step.
5. Adding Magic Sculpt to the mesh
5. The last part of preparing the wing for clay/sculpey/wax is to further strengthen the membrane. Here I have pressed bits of Magic Sculpt into the wire, as thin as possible, to create the membrane foundation. I used disposable vinyl gloves for this, and dip my fingers in water, sometimes dipping the chunks of Magic Sculpt into the water directly. This softens it, almost like a slurry, and helps spread it out a bit more easily.
I will let this all harden overnight, and begin adding super sculpey or wax (I still don’t know what I’ll use, I have to see if I have enough wax left to do this.
I’ll add more pics in the next week of the detailing process.
A quick update for now, I’ll fill in some details later this week.
I restarted the legs in ZEN wax, lovely stuff. You’ll notice I’m simulating threads in the pants by inserting bits of wire I’ve curved with pliers, heating it up and putting them into the pants. I’m still pretty unhappy with hoof armor. I’m having trouble doing intricate work right now, but with a bit more practice, maybe I’ll add more scrollwork. I have a lot to do yet, so I may just move on.
The base is rough, but there will be some broken architecture, more flint-like rocks jutting out and some crystals.
I’m planning on making a version of the sculpt with an LED in it. His magical tattoos that are carved into his body should glow slightly, along with his eyes (even though he has none, and his eyes are bandaged, they should be glowing green). I would also like the crystals in the base to glow slightly, or at least look “crystal-like”. Figure I’ll clear cast his head and torso for the LEDs.
His wings still need to be finished up (you can see them at the end of the video, I need to complete his hair and had strands that will be blowing across his front as well. I can tell already this piece will have many pieces to cast, but my local sculptor/kit group has an amazing mold-maker that is going to help me make a fully built version, not to mention a great LED guy. Critiques are VERY welcome please! It’s the only way I’m going to get better.
A quick update on the torso of Illidan from World of Warcraft… I think I’m finally getting the hang of working with FUSE. Mineral spirits knocks it down nicely, going to use Gary’s castor oil idea next. I’m not too terribly happy with the anatomy of the hand, but I want to keep pushing along with this sculpt. I will add some longer nails on him, I want his hands to look slightly oversize and paw-like. I’m also keying his arm to make casting this piece a bit easier for me. I’m adding some leather straps to his wrist later. I may just cheat and use real leather for it and cast it from that. I need to work on his horn, I think the base of his horn that goes into his skull is a bit too big. The pics also make his ear looks smaller than it is. They are very very long, will be keyed and cast separately. I think the beauty of wax, and perhaps FUSE in particular (this is the only wax I ever used) is that I can get such clean lines cut into his body where his tattoos are. More updates in a few days. Critiques are especially encouraged. Gary, I love your wax. I will use ZEN on his bottom half, can’t wait to get to it…
My first major sculpt that I have been working on is Illidan (above), a character from World of Warcraft. In fact, this is only the second thing I have sculpted and it’s a doozy. I have only recently started to sculpt (around the beginning of 2008) and I wonder if I’m crazy taking on such an ambitious project so soon. If I had thought it through, I would of done something very very simple.
But I didn’t.
Take my advice, when you are just starting out, sculpt simple things to learn the material, then work on balance, anatomy, etc.
About the project
I started this project using ProClay. I heard about it on a forum and was drawn to it because of its high-wax content, and hardness. I want a lot of detail in the project, and Sculpey didn’t click with me at first (although, I did use it on the wings and will start using it more in the future). The ProClay wasn’t hard enough for my liking, and I decided to switch to wax. I built my own wax pen (that’s another post) and read about FUSE, an amazing wax from Willow Products. I bought a bunch and that’s what I am using for the upper half of the body. I am trying Gary’s Zen wax next (his latest and hardest wax).
Last weekend, I took the sculpt I had roughed in with ProClay and started to make wastemolds with OOMO30 and alginate. I poured the wax and started to key the arms and now I am working on adding details (more posts to come. It has been a long road, but I’m less than halfway done, all things considered. I have re-sculpted every part of Illidan at least twice. I sculpt, figure out what is wrong with the pose, form, anatomy etc, and then basically start from scratch.
Here are some pics on the construction of the wings:
I use apoxie sculpt to make the “arms” of the wings. I used wire to make the “fingers” of the wings and put them in the apoxie before it hardened. I then took thin wire mesh and threaded the mesh through the wire fingers, and cut it to shape the membrane. (I don’t have a pic of this process, so I will take a pic when I do the other one.) I cut the mesh to fit, and then pushed a thin layer of apoxie sculpt into the mesh to form the membrane.
After that hardened, I put a layer of Firm Super Sculpey over that so that I could add detail. I know of some sculptors that actually do the detail in the apoxie as it hardens, but my skills aren’t up to that level yet.
After I had most of the details done, I baked the wing, and then took a dremel tool with a cutting bit and drilled into the wing to form ragged holes. I also used the dremel tool to make the edges of the wings look more tattered as well.
Now that it is baked, I’m going back with mores sculpey to add spikes, fix some cracks and add more detail. I use a heatgun to bake the new sculpey.
Now I have another issue. Do I go through the hassle (and money) of making a mold of the wing, pouring in wax, let it harden, and then warm the wax under hot water and try to reshape the wing to bend the other way? Or make the right wing from scratch, as I did the first.
I think I’ll post my failures as well as my successes. Here’s a tip that you can file under “Had to learn the hard way…” The character I’m sculpting has a fabric over his eyes, so i thought I’d skip a step and just make a mold of his head with a thick piece of gauze around his head.
Bad idea. Silicone, as we all know, goes into every little hole, so a pourous fabrice like gauze is a bad idea. The silicone pretty much enveloped the guaze. The only plus side is that I was making a waste mold, and the head was perfect, just minus the cloth look over his eye. Maybe this is the Sculpting Gods telling me not to take shortcuts and just sculpt the darn fabric myself. I need the practice anway.
This model is called “Planes of the Head”, or the Asaro Head, named after the man who invented it, John Asaro.If you want to learn more about Asaro’s history, check out stories California Art Club article, Lines and Color article and his website. (There is also a small booklet he wrote with more drawings of the planes of the head, but I have only seen one copy of it on ebay.)
I was having a very hard time sculpting my first head a few months back. My first two ended up close, but not really good enough. I came across this model a few weeks back, and was instantly struck dumb by it’s simplicity, well, struck dumb and then regained my senses, hastily pulled out my wallet and bought one on ebay. One of the best learning aids that helped me instantly. I did not realize what I needed as a solution until I saw all the answers.
Move your lamp around the head, and you’ll see how the light falls. Right off the bat, you’ll notice the left and right hemispheres are different. The left side (your left, really, as you are looking at the model) is the simpler of the two, so I suggest to start with that if you are new to sculpting. There are less planes, and whether you are sculpting or drawing, you’ll see how light falls on the face at the cheek, or brow. One of the realizations I had in reviewing my work was my misplaced cheeks… only off slightly, but enough to throw the whole thing off.
I used the left side to do the main sculpts of the head, and as soon as that was done, I turned my attention into refining the face more by looking the right side. You’ll notice the cheek on the right side has many more planes to take into consideration. The first time I sculpted a head using this aide, I hit it right on the head (yup, pun intended). I was pretty impressed what it allowed me to do.
Ever since I saw my first monster movie as a kid, I wanted to make monsters. Sure, every kid wants to make monsters, but I really wanted to make them. I drew a lot as a kid, and I would give my left foot to have all those drawings I did as a kid, back in my hands. My friend, Scott and I would draw these detailed underground dungeons where little stick figures would be fighting all manners of creatures, and always at the bottom of the page, was a huge dragon of some sort, chomping away at fearless warriors. We were always in competition and I remember the day he drew a dragon with two heads. Whoa…
Needless to say, our “talents” were not so appreciated by our teachers.I kept drawing through high school, but as I got older, I was designing instead of drawing I was working, instead of wondering. Well, that time has come and gone. I’m going to be making monsters again. But this time, I’m sculpting them.
This is my first attempt: I drew this Orc for a project (check it out in my Illustrations section of my portfolio), and I decided it would be a fitting model for my first sculpt.
I’m hooked. I started this site to focus my energies into assembling tips that took waaaay too long to gather, to reach out and interview some of the amazing artists I’ve come across, and of course, to showcase my meager attempts at sculpting. Stay tuned, it should be a fun ride. My first big piece will be Illidan, from the World of Warcraft game.