Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Wrecking Crew: Part 2

So with the Wrecking Crew mini busts shipping from Bowen Designs, I figured it would be a great day to revisit and round out the previous Wrecking Crew entry where I went on about Piledriver and Bulldozer. This blog has been a long time coming, but as time slipped away from me there for awhile, I decided I would just get back to this when the pieces were released. Well here I am bitches!

While I think visually Bulldozer is the coolest member of the the Crew for a sculptor to get his hands on, certainly Thunderball and Wrecker are probably the most exciting of the foursome for fans of the Crew.

These two pieces presented their own unique challenges. With the many sculpts I have worked on, I've never had the chance to sculpt an African American face, even if it is based on a comic book. Thunderball presented that opportunity and I think I did his portrait the fastest out of all of these guys. There's something to be said for sculpting something you haven't before. If you are excited about it, the inspiration tends to flow.

On the other hand the Wrecker was a bit of a problem child for me. I say this not because he posed difficulty in actually sculpting his portrait, but more in the expectations that were had with the sculpt. These characters have been around forever, but the Wrecker is the most popular and everyone has their own vision of how he should look. Some think he should look exactly like Kirby drew him. Some feel he should be more inspired by Byrne or Buscema. Neither of these options completely fit with whatever the hell it is, that is my style. I tried to not let all of that get to me though and instead opted to just make him look mean and nasty, beefy and cool. Everyone can agree the Wrecker is at least those things. The rest is up to me to just make a great looking piece.

Thunderball is the brains of the outfit. He has tried on several occasions to screw everyone over in the Crew and take all of the power and "glory" for himself. I wanted to give him a different look than the other sculpts, even if it was a bit more subtle. He does not have an open mouth, a sneer, a growl, or the need to be ferocious. He knows he's gonna beat your ass, he doesn't need to talk about it, even if he at times chooses to. Also, Thunderball has a slightly different musculature in my mind than the others. He's huge of course as they all are, but he's not thuggish like the Wrecker. He's not as big as Dozer and he's not as shredded as Piledriver. This was my distinction... He has enormous muscles, he's just a bit smoother and not as ripped. I don't think anyone else on the planet but me will think of things like this, or even care, but hey, whatever works for me as an artist right?

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click here to enlarge image

I had a lot of fun on Thunderball. Like I said before, it was something new and that can always get your creative juices flowing if you embrace it. Randy sent some chain for his wrecking ball and I had the ball itself "in stock" as I had some Styrofoam balls left over from my Hawkman sculpt. If you spray a little primer on... emphasis on LITTLE... it will eat away at the foam just enough to appear like scuffed up iron. I love it when a plan comes together.

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click here to enlarge image

The Wrecker... the biggest douche bag on the planet... how fun is the idea of sculpting someone that has absolutely zero in the redeeming qualities column? I even sculpted his head twice on my own, even though Rand liked the first one because I didn't feel the first was douchelicious enough. The Wrecker is not a ripped guy. At least in his earlier appearances he wasn't. He's this giant and thick guy, like a 1940's dock worker. He's also covered in something that I can only compare to a mechanics jumpsuit with a welding flap and a ski mask. These make for a visually exciting piece that stands out due to him being the only one with folds and wrinkles in his costume. The challenge was to add these elements without making him seem like less of a bad ass.

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click here to enlarge image

I actually borrowed a mechanic outfit from my brother and had Marie shoot pictures of me in it, in the Wrecker's pose. These pictures will never ever surface mind you, but having the proper reference material is always a good thing. Not only that but I actually have access to a 4 foot crowbar that came in pretty handy as well.

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click here to enlarge image

Overall I had a blast working on the Wrecker. I took steps backward just as much as I took steps forward because I was looking to impress with him the most. I can only hope that I delivered on that once these guys start hitting collector's shelves. It seems many folks only want the Wrecker and could care less about the other three. Of course a sculptor never goes into a project hoping that people could care less about their work, so I gave it my all on all four of these guys. Again, I truly hope that it shows and that collector's love them as much as I loved sculpting them.

How could you not love irredeemable bastards like these guys?

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As always and until next time, thanks for lookin'

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rage of the Red Armature

The other day I was looking down at my hands and more specifically my fingers. I made the realization in my brain that my hands felt pretty good, and that it had been awhile since I have nicked, sliced open, or scraped any skin off my digits. Everything is nice and healed... must be time to tie a new armature and cut the sh*t out of my fingers and hands all over again.

... and here we are today.

I am getting ready to begin building up a new piece for a most excellent friend of mine. The piece I will be working on is a character from the Green Lantern comic book series and more specifically, a character from the red part of the emotional spectrum. Red in this version of the visual spectrum signifies the emotion of rage...

It's time to test the limits on how angry I can make clay look and I am excited beyond belief. This is one of those pieces that I can cut loose on. There are no rules to a character that is this pissed off, except that he has to look like he is pissed off.

I think I can handle that.

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I thought it might be fun to blog about the process here a little bit.

Before the clay, before the wax, before anything else, you have to have an armature. I thought it might be fun to blog periodically on this piece as it progresses from bent 10 gauge galvanized wire, with smaller floral wire wrapped around it, into something that resembles a pissed off Red Lantern.

This character is a pretty big fella, but not the biggest fella there is. He's somewhere between the monstrous Arkillo sculpt I did and the more "average" human sized Kyle Rayner piece I also sculpted.With that said, I know that the piece will be around 6.25 inches tall from waist to cranium, and so my first step is to bend some wire to those specs.

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After I have bent the wire into shape, I mark certain points on the wire that can later serve as landmarks to make sure that certain body parts are equal length on both sides. You don't want 1 forearm to be half an inch longer than the other right? These "tick" marks I leave are only the beginning, but for a good portion of the build up, they keep me in check until the time comes to use calipers instead.

After I have bent the heavy wire into the desired "M" shape, I then use smaller, finer, easier to bend wire to wrap the thicker wire with. I try to spiral down the wire and when I have hit certain "tick" marks like the waist or the wrist, I wrap it a couple times and spiral back up whence I came. This creates nice and tight little "x's" to which the clay will stick to the armature as it gets lumped on. I always leave myself room (extra wire) at the spine, and the hands. It's very easy to go in after you have your figure built up and clip the wire shorter. The alternative is having something too short and needing to start over 20 hours in.

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The next step in the process will be to put some apoxie putty around certain parts of the wires to kind of bulk up and at the same time strengthen and solidify the armature. Using apoxie this way creates the ribcage area as well as locks in the additional wire I tie in for the neck to a point where the armature is bulletproof. Another thing I always make sure to do with a bigger piece like this is, when I build my apoxie rib cage, is to shove a piece of square brass tubing in the back. When the apoxie cures, you now have a means of further anchoring the piece and having it be stable while you sculpt. More on that bit with the next round of work in progress shots which I will post soon.

For now however, I have a little mini update on the 1/5 Thor piece I am working on. I have been spending a little bit of time progressing this piece after it has been sitting on the shelf since July. I have been working on his legs this week and have affectionately dubbed it, the "quad of thunder" sculpt.

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More to come, and as always, thanks for lookin',


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sculpting with Wax: I love you, I hate you

I have used hard tooling wax in my sculpture for years now. Somewhere along the way I was able to strike a balance in using it though. Recently I have decided that I am in a "I hate you" phase with it.

Why do I hate wax you ask?

It's an evil temptress with pouty lips blowing you kisses with one hand, and in the other hand holding a prison shank, waiting to stick a sculptor where it hurts the most... His ticking clock.

I've had this discussion quite a bit lately with a sculpting pal of mine Tony Cipriano. Why is it that somewhere along the line, I decided to use wax to sculpt? I haven't attempted to sculpt a head or hand with clay in ages, but why is that? What made me think that I couldn't achieve what I wanted in a medium that is faster and easier to alter? Those damn pouty lips I tell you... they made me do it.

When I started learning wax and how to sculpt with wax, I was a relative sculpting noob. I had no skill, I had no touch with clay. I saw the wax work that these top tier sculptors were doing and listened to them go on about the control they had with it. Much like a damn informercial playing non-stop at 3AM Sunday morning, I was sucked in to that temptress blowing kisses. What I wasn't clearly paying attention to was all of the other top tier sculptors that were still using clay to do pretty amazing pieces in their own right... Enter that shank waiting to stick me under my ribs.

In truth I have learned wax and how to manage it somewhat efficiently. I have molds laying around of heads and hands in all of these different scales and for a time it was easy enough to pour a "blank" and just spend a bunch of time modifying the blank into the new piece.

There's some hilarity to that statement though. I said "easy enough" and "spend a bunch of time modifying" in the same breath.

Why would I spend all that time dripping and scraping and changing a portrait from Thor to Surtur? That makes little to no sense, but at the time it sure beat building one from scratch in wax right? Time is money isn't it? There I go again... how is this method a time saver again? Lots of guys work this way, it's not a new concept, it's just part of the process... The incredible detail and clean surface you get at the end make all of the dripping and scraping worth it.

Never again will I pour a blank and modify it. If a project is worth that much work and effort, why not focus that on building up the head in clay first and then if needed finishing in wax? It's a much faster method, you can still get amazing detail and polish, but aren't frantically scraping and dripping to somehow sculpt the unique features that the "blank" doesn't have? Why not grab some mushy Super Sculpey and rough out the head and features with clay? Need to add a helmet? Bake the rough, add more material and bake again?

What you are left with is something that looks a lot more like the particular character you are working on, something that you can mold and cast in tooling wax, and ultimately add all of the finishing touches that wax is known for. Art directors won't know or care how you got there, only how good it looks and how many they can sell.

So that brings us to the "I love you part" of wax sculpting.

I still use it, I still love what I can do with it, I still love the look and the feel of it. I've gotten pretty good at delivering the quality I want to be with it. I am merely dropping the tedious effort it takes to get a piece looking like there is life in it. I am ditching the act of annihilating one sculpt to create another. Thor is NOT Surtur so the work it takes to get there is stressful and time consuming, so why not trust in my ability to rough one in instead of using the "Hot" material that has been brought in to save all of sculpture? Wax will be that much more powerful when you use it to refine and detail rather than create. If it's worth using, it is worth making it easier on yourself when you get there.

I understand now what Tony C, has been telling me for years. Feel free to give the temptress with the pouty lips a smooch, just make sure you see the prison shank coming.