“Fire Rift” sculpture from Trion World’s “Rift” MMORPG

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.




World of Warcraft sculpture: Illidan


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.