Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Secret Christmas Sculpting Gift - Why I've been so quiet :-)

Hi everyone,

I know that I've been very slow with blogging recently and I apologise for that. Lots has been going on and I just got back from twelve days in England with the family. That aside though, why hasn't there been more posting recently on the blog about gaming / painting / collecting?

It's pretty simple really. I've been working on a sculpting and display painted piece that I gave to my girlfriend for her Christmas present. It took a lot of my time as I had to work on this in addition to teaching full time and doing my best to do things when she wasn't home.

Here's where it started. I was sketching out some ideas for a Lord of the Rings diorama and then something completely different came out. I looked around and found some good models to use from Reaper (thanks to Andy Walker at Lair of the Breviks for his advice)

This was my first mock up using the miniatures from Reaper mounted on some pink foam to get an idea of how it would look. I was getting a bit worried about how to make these complex and smooth shapes really work as carving the foam was difficult. My new gaming buddies helped me out though....

...suggesting I use polymer clay to build things up. They gave me a spare box of sculpey to work with and it didn't take me too long to get started. You have to bake at just over 100C so the wood was alright and I used crumpled cooking foil to bulk out the basic shapes and save putty.

And here is the result with the basic shape put in. At this stage I baked it and was ready to add the details so it would really stand out.

Here I started with the stone details. I was planning to make nice, circular stones in the centre but with the knight having stones integrated in his base, I had to go with a more random appearance that better fit in with his sculpt.

After much work and several times considering whether I should just bail out on the project and get her a pair of shoes or something, I managed to get the stonework completed with pathway stones. At this point I knew I needed some more work to get the edging stones for the path done as well as put a ring of frame stones around the whole base.

Here it is after the final baking. At this stage, I'm running short on time, having pulled my hair out more than a few times because of the challenges involved. I'm mostly proud of what I've done, annoyed that not all of the stones are perfectly arranged, impressed by what professional sculptors can do, worried that I'll not get everything painted in time and excited to show it to Edina when I'm done.

Here's a quick break from the sculpting to show the painting as it progresses. Because the stones will be light in colour, I've decided to make the miniatures darker, though hopefully still vibrant. These are the early stages as I start to put on the paint layers. 2-3 layers down, at least seven more to go.

My sculpt looks a lot like chocolate cake with its undercoat added. This part made me feel hungry :-)

Now this is where my sanity started to really go. I drybrushed the basic stone details to break them up away from the flat brown look. Once I'd hit them with a shading wash, the remaining colours weren't bright enough for me. I went over a couple of stones with P3 Menoth White Base and decided that it looked really good. Then I kicked myself because I had to paint each of the hundred plus stones individually to make them look nice, wash them all to keep the shadows, then go over them again with P3 Menoth White Highlight to make them work as a whole. The idea of just getting a necklace for her present was more and more appealing.

Finally finished with the stones, I put down a layer of green under the parts I was planning to flock. I expected some flock to come off in transit and I wanted a neutral colour underneath if and when that happened.

Flocking in front of a youtube debate with Richard Dawkins. It went a lot more quickly than I expected and I was more and more happy with what I'd produced.

Here are the miniatures getting much closer to completion. I'm happy with the woman's dress but the knight needs some more work.

Here is the final piece with a picture taken just before I packed it to travel to England. 

Here's another shot taken in England after I gave the present to Edina for Christmas.

Overall I'm really happy with how it came out. It was a lot of work but I was much happier giving this as one of my presents than something from a shop. It's 100% unique and hand made (as I hope you've seen) and it impressed her. Unfortunately I didn't manage to keep it 100% secret (small apartment, lots of work needed for the project) but she never saw it in its entirety, so I'll count that as a small success.

Big thanks go to Andy Walker (as mentioned above) and Tim at The Tau of War, who posted the pictures up in their early stages to help get feedback and keep the project private. Thank you to all of the people who commented on Tim's blog with advice and ideas for how to make it all work.

And, of course, thank you to Edina for being so great and supportive of what I do and loving the Christmas present.

Hoping you all had a great holiday and New Year's Eve.

Happy 2013

Pete :-)

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