Advance 3-D Design Class Final Illustration Project
This was my final project in my Advance 3-D Design class at Northwest College of Art & Design. We had free range of the 3-D mediums we have been using and after being inspired by some amazing polymer clay figure work I came across online, I could hardly resist. I am a sucker for those old Science Fiction and Fantasy novel covers. Especially the cliche ones, even if I haven't read the book. I have always wanted to illustrate one myself, and this project was the perfect opportunity.
I began this project with a few thumbnail sketches, but not as many as I usually do, I had a pretty solid idea in my head already. I drew a more detailed image, but left it unfinished because I was too excited to get to the polymer clay. I made two very sturdy wireframe armatures. The smaller figure could stand on its own, but the larger one required wires coming from the feat that I secured to a wooden stand. I planned to use these feat wires as support that I would stick into the dirt when I took them outside for their photoshoot.
After I made the wire armatures, I wrapped them in tinfoil. I formed the basic shape of the anatomy, but much smaller than I intended to have it in the final figure. I knew the clay would stack and I wanted to keep control of the shape without being forced to make a bulkier figure than I intended in the sketch.
Once the tinfoil was tightly wrapped and packed around the wireframe, I flattened out long thin strips of polymer clay using a Craft Clay Pasta machine. If you want an image, I essentially made a bunch of skin-toned polymer ribbons. They were about 25mm thick. I wrapped them around my tinfoil figure, smoothing it out evenly over the entire model, giving it a layer of skin. I wanted to work with clay on clay when I was putting on the details, and so after covering the entire model evenly, I drew a guide for the muscles I would be laying on the figure later. I baked my models with their skin layer first, before adding any muscle structures.
Finally the really fun part came along, I began to work the anatomy. I had good references, both human and animal, and they informed my model heavily. I layered small muscle shaped strips over each other until I had what looked like a rough sketch of muscular fantasy creature anatomy.
After I had the muscles all finished, I smoothed over all the gaps and cracks with my fingers, effectively covering the muscles in skin. It came together fast after this, and I got pretty excited for the finer details.
I had put off doing the heads, hands, and feat until this point becasue I was traveling too and from the school studio often, and I did not want these parts to break off or chip, (which they did, despite an extremely high level of caution on my part. anything not supported by a wire armature gave me a little grief, but that is what superglue is for. For this, I thank God.)
I worked the details with a few blunted metal tools I found at the craft store when I was buying more clay. I was going to use my exacto needle and blade the entire time, but that would not have worked out so nicely. The blunted round tips of these tools didn't puncture the clay, it smoothed it, and I am glad I found them just before I began working the details. The fingers and toes were pretty easy, just little noodles with a few bulges in them, that's all phalanges really are on the outside anyways, just knobby cylinders. I molded them onto the wireframe, creating the feet and the hand in the process. They held their shape well I never needed to rig supports for them before baking.
The heads and faces were quick as well, I cut in to form the mouth on each figure, making sure to make a realistic sized mouth on the inside, just so that there would be the normal amount of darkness behind the lips. It took a few minutes of poking and smudging to get the features and expressions just right, and they turned out exactly as I saw them in my head. I only needed eyes for one of the figures,( as the taller one has antlers coming out of his,) I was blessed by a friend, (thank you Rose,) who gave me some of her glass beads to use. I was going to go to the store and find some glass beads, but she saved me the long drive. I knew I needed glass beads, and not plastic beads becasue the plastic would melt in the oven. I then added fur textures to the centaur creature's more animal side.
After finishing every detail, I baked my figures. There was minimal cracking from travel, and I fixed that using some of another friend's painters putty, (thank you Morgan.) My next step would be covering any other skin deep imperfections, and that would be painting. I used Acrylic paints for these models. It worked well, but only after I used a matte medium in the paint, (which I also borrowed from a friend. Thank you Toni.) The painting took a few days becasue I was working in thin layers that I let dry completely before adding another. If I went on two think I would have covered the small details I worked so hard on.
I made the tall one's loincloth out of a leather ink rag I had laying around using a pattern I found online. Earlier I had bought extremely curly doll hair for the tall figure. This was a bit of a mistake, it was a pain straightening it out the way I wanted it. I tried a few different ways, but none worked too well. I eventually ended up using a candle for a heat source while running long locks over it just high enough to keep from burning, but just low enough to become pliable. It was plastic after all. That technique worked out the best. I then glued the hair onto the head, starting from the bottom until I reached a bald spot on the top of the head, (the process is very much like reverse balding,). I covered the bald spot up last, made a part, wet it down a little bit, and finally used some gel to get it to stay how I wanted it.
The last two steps were to take them outside and photograph them. I used a blue LED flashlight diffused by some packing foam wrap as moonlight, because the moon was hardly a sliver in the sky when I was taking pictures. It was very dark and I had to set my shutter speed to be pretty long. I didn't have a stand for the camera that could hold it still when I was so low to the ground, so I stabbed my needle nose pliers into the ground and used the handle t steady my lens. It all worked out well.
After a few hundred shots I came inside, brought the best one into photoshop and went to work. I messed with the contrast just a bit, darkened any distracting things in the background. I arranged all the text, applying a blue gold leaf effect to it for that scifi/fantasy novel feel, which was pretty simple, and then compiled it all together. Maybe I should write the novel to go behind the cover. Instead of judging a book by its cover I would be writing it based off of it. But I suppose that is how my mind works. Images and stories cannot be separated in my mind, one always has the other with it. I suppose that is why I am here at NCAD in the fist place. I just cannot stop making things up.