Penultimate sculpture course!

DSC_0001 cropKinda between projects at the minute, which is a little odd for me as I’ve been busy for the last six months or so.  Don’t really know what to do with myself (fnarr).   I’m also nearing the end of my sculpture course – only one more week to go.  It’s kinda flown by (how did it get to march exactly?) but I’ve quite enjoyed it.

We’ve been working on our portraits again this week.  Mine’s coming along quite nicely.  As I mentioned previously I’ve steamed ahead with this as the sessions aren’t that long.  I’ve got the proportions as close as I can in the time given.  The tutor’s had us pay particular attention to measuring the model in order to get our sculpts as close as we can.

This is something abit new for me too – I’ve never sculpted from a life model.  Any sculpts I’ve done previously have either been done over a life cast (in which case the measurements are automatically there) or created from scratch in which case you’ve more leeway to make things up as you go.

DSC_0008DSC_0010Having someone to actually measure up is useful, but weirdly kinda counter intuitive in someways.  I’ve found myself sculpting something that looks right to the eye, but then having double checked my measurement found that the models head is in fact smaller than I thought.  Weird.

I’ve been working on the details this week – we only have an hour or so of next session to finish the piece – so I’ve been concentrating on the eyes and ears.  I’ve not tried sculpting likenesses much in the past, but when I have I’ve found that it only takes a very small angle or piece of clay here and there that really makes (or not) a sculpt look like the person in question.  In this case having got close to what you might consider a finished sculpture, I suddenly realised that the nose was pointing up slightly too much.  Whacking a few bits of clay on there to make the underside a little more of a right angle to the lip suddenly made the whole sculpture look alot more like the model.  It’s not an exact likeness by any means, but I’m certainly fairly happy that it has a passing resemblance at least….!

New Project

The course is finished after next weeks session which will really leave me with no projects on the horizon (a melting head I was going to do for a film promo fell through due to lack of cash), I do have an idea for the next one though which is going to be a werewolf transformation sequence.    I’m still running through in my head exactly how I’m going to do it.  I think it’s going to be a small video sequence abit like the oldroid video though likely a little shorter.  I’m probably going to make a couple of rubber puppets and I think it’s gonna involve another old dude for the simple reason that they’re more fun to sculpt!  You can get some great textures doing all the wrinkles.

I’m not sure it’s possible to do a completely original werewolf transformation – everything’s probably already been done by now,  I do have a few ideas to give it abit of a twist though……..I did a small experimental sculpt of  a deformed wolf head recently, it kinda looked abit like a manic cartoon fox though.  I really wanted an evil look to it.  I’ll stick a pic of it up later anyway.


tinsil01This is probably a little boring unless you’re into such things, however I’ve been testing the new rubber I bought – I didn’t want to cast up anything without having a go with it first.  Some types of silicon are inhibited from setting by certain materials so it’s a good idea to get used to using them first before you try anything major – you don’t want to turn your mold into a huge gooey mess and waste £xxx of rubber in the process (this  stuff ain’t cheap).

Luckily Tinsil seems pretty good stuff.  It’s a little less viscous than the old stuff I was using which makes it a little easier to mix and inject into the mold.  The colourant is also really good.  I had been using a combination of talcum powder and makeup powder to make the rubber opaque and give it a flesh tint, however the colourant makes the rubber completely opaque and flesh coloured with a small amount which is great.  It also seems to act in the same way as the previous silicon I was using which means I can carry on using the same method to paint and glue it which is also great.

Next step is to give the Platsil Gel I’ve bought a go.  This stuff is apparently a little more picky about what it chooses to react with.  It’s also very quick setting (about 6 minutes) rather than the 12+ hours for the ‘condensation cure’ silicons I’ve been using.

Sculpture, of course.

sculpture03We’ve started a new sculpt on the course this week, which I’m quite relieved about as I wasn’t really that happy with my previous one.  This time we have a lady model and I started this sculpt without worrying too much about measuring out proportions which is how I usually go about these things.  I just started sticking blobs of clay together and let things progress.  The tutor had us take the slightly unusual step this week of working on each others sculptures for a time.  I think the idea was to try and give us a different perspective on how other people view things.  I think everyone felt abit uneasy about interfering with someone elses work at first, but we eventually got used to it.  When I got back I found someone had actually added to the back of my sculpture which I’d been working on and started the arms which was nice!  I’m quite pleased with the way this one is going actually, so I’m looking forward to next week.


We’ve also been asked to give a short talk about two artists as a kind of small research project I guess.  I volunteered to kick things off and I think I’m going to talk about Stan Winston and H.R. Geiger.  Both are obviously abitpredator‘filmy’ as you may expect and perhaps not the ‘traditional’ artist that the tutor may have been envisaging, however I think they have  something over more ‘traditional’ art and artists.  While your ‘average’ sculptor make create his piece perhaps in clay, then fire it, at that point he’s pretty much done.  Your FX artist will sculpt it in clay, but then cast it up in rubber, paint it, add articulation to it and turn it into a living breathing character (more or less).   Then it gets lit and filmed, and perhaps augmented by a dude with a computer (or these created entirely on computer, but that’s another story ;0).

There seems so much more to it in the film world, or is it just me?


In other news I’ve ordered 5.5 L of TinSil Gel silicon rubber and 2L of PlatSil Gel plus some pigments.  This may not seem particularly exciting, but believe me this is abit like christmas.

The  reason for this rubbery splurge is that the place I get my usual silicon has stopped selling it as the manufacturers gone bust so I’ve been forced to go elsewhere.  This is kinda good as TinSil and PlatSil are the more ‘pro’ types of silicon so I’ve bought these partly to finish off a previous project, but also to have abit of a practice with them.  I may start this werewolf idea I’ve had knocking about in my head as well.

Should probably finish off the Oldroid one first……


This is a slight departure for me in that I usually only write about my own projects, and this isn’t exactly a review, but I went to see Avatar for a second time yesterday (courtesy of the lovely people at Dolby) and a few thoughts occurred so I may wallpaper_04_1280x1024as well write them down here, this is a blog after all and it was James Cameron (and more specifically Stan Winston) who got me interested in the whole field of special effects in the first place.

Specifically it was the Terminator which I saw when I was ten at a friends birthday party that did it (yes I know it was an 18 at the time ! ;0). We also saw Creep Show II which gave me nightmares, but I was absolutely fascinated by the scene in the Terminator where he repairs himself. I couldn’t believe someone had actually built, not only the robot, but also a replica Arnie too.

I enjoyed Avatar perhaps even more than I did the first time around and having read a few reviews I wanted to comment on the criticisms of the plot.  Mostly to say that I agree – the plot is Dances with Wolves in Space, or Pocahontas (Smurfahontas) etc etc, but (for me at least, and I think for many people) that doesn’t matter.

Later Cameron and Winston productions (T2 and Aliens) cemented my interest in SFX along with Predator (also a Stan Winston film) and Alien, Robocop, even Alien 3.

Now what do all these have in common?  Namely that it’s the production design and special effects that make or break them.  Now you could argue that they have to – ‘these worlds don’t exist, you have to create them’. A case in point is Predator.  The production actually stopped filming once the initial alien design failed and they were left with what was basically a fairly standard eighties action film set in a jungle.  Then Stan Winston got involved (interestingly it was apparently James Cameron who suggested that the creature should be given mandibles) and transformed the film into a cult sci-fi classic.  The quality of the special effects lifted an otherwise humdrum film to be much more than it otherwise could have been.

Similarly with Alien – would we have heard of that film if it hadn’t had HR Geigers staggeringly, well alien designs?  Ridley Scott’s sets helped of course ;0)  But my point is if it hadn’t had those two things it would probably live in the bargain bin priced at £2 and still be called Star Beast.

Describing Avatar – it’s about these twelve foot tall blue elves who live in a giant tree right…? – sounds ridiculous but it’s a testament to the quality of the FX that the incredible is portrayed so credibly.  The CGI is actually astonishing, for the avatar-neytiri-wallpapers_16285_1920x1200most part completely photoreal – it really does look like they went and filmed in actual jungle locations.  If you haven’t seen it yet I really do recommend you make an effort to catch in the cinema, it simply won’t be quite the same on DVD or Blu-ray.

There’re alot of bad special effects out there (you only need to scroll down this blog to see some examples ;0) but when they’re done well they make a film much more than it otherwise could be.   There’s no substitute for the story of course, but I say they can turn an otherwise familiar narrative into much more.

So it is with Avatar, yes the plot’s familiar, yes you’ll instantly recognise the walking robot suits, drop ships and space marine stereotypes of Aliens (so much so that my brother swears it’s set in the same universe), but the production design, the special effects and the world are realised in such a believable way that you can happily lose yourself in the world of Pandora for 2 hours 40 minutes and even take comfort in the fact that the plot delivers everything you expect it to.  And that’s the power of good special effects.