Friday, 23 August 2013

Saurian/amphibian Update

I've carried on working on the saurian/amphibian/lizardman described in my last post.

Lizardman WiP
I gave him a loin cloth, then extended it, then took the extension away as it looked rubbish. I tried sculpting some chains to hang instead but that was a complete disaster (anyone have any tips?). I added some scales onto the upper thighs and some horny projections to the lower shins, as well as some feet. The claws are rubbish and I need to sculpt some better ones. I've added on some fine digits as templates for hands as a first trial of a new approach.

The paint job has changed as well, and I'm still not satisfied with it, but I think some of that now is due to the quality of the head sculpt - i.e. it's not very smooth or well-defined.

I also came across Scibor - some true artistry displayed there!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Reptilian Amphibian/Amphreptile/Reptiloamphib

As tortoises are one of my favourite reptiles, I thought I would try making a tortoise man. He has now ended up being some sort of cross between a tortoise man, lizard man, turtle man with a dash of saurian. He's still a WiP so here's the latest:

I used the usual stripped steel wire armature and an initial layer of ProCreate. The head was the most important component for me, so I shaped a turtle-like skull and dropped a couple of 2mm antique glass beads for eyes (which I knew would be facing laterally rather than ventrally). I then built up the head using a couple of turtle images for guidance, using ProCreate, but including a protruding orbital ridge given this creature would be largely terrestrial. I liked the look of the skin around the turtle's head and tried to replicate this by cutting lines in, but as you can see from my paint job, it hasn't really come out well. The solution for a next one would be to drop on patches, rather like GW saurians. The sculpt stands 41mm to eyes and 44mm to highest point.

I then built up some armour plates, a dorsal ridge and a tail. I'm not happy with the paint job on the head, but I can't really strip it off and I don't want to lose more detail by re-priming it. So probably back to a very long-winded patch-up job.

Elephant again

I finally managed to get around to finishing my second elephant. Although for some reason lost to the mists of time, I cut his legs ridiculously short, I completed torso, arms and slapped some paint on. He also seems to have lost his tail along the way too.

I still have no idea what to mount him on with his truncated legs. Any thoughts?

Monday, 1 July 2013


There seem to be as many ways of making an armature as there are sculptors, and I have tried several different ways without really forming a view on a favourite, other than it being dictated by the eventual form of the sculpt. Here I discuss the approaches I've tried.

Jeweller's Aluminium Wire
One of the first places I looked for help on how to start sculpting, was
StormTheCastle on YouTube. Will has a particular approach to forming armatures, and I went to Hobbycraft to grab a load of different types of wire. I started with yellow anodised aluminium wire for making jewellery, which was easy to handle and shape but actually nowhere near robust enough to stand up to a lot of the pushing and pulling that goes with sculpting (well, in my hands anyway). 
I tried 0.6mm diameter wire, which worked reasonably well (see The Woodsman) but is really far too flexible. 0.4mm aluminium wire I find occasionally useful, as when braided this is quite robust but still fine enough to use inside arms, for example. Here's an aluminium armature:

Copper Wire
Copper wire is a bit more robust, whilst remaining easy to shape, and I still use it occasionally. Even 0.8mm diameter wire is a little soft, particularly for fiddly bits of sculpting. Here's another armature, made the same way as I normally do, this time with the anatomical landmarks indicated in black.

Steel Wire
My current normal armature material is steel gardening wire, with the green plastic sheathing stripped off. Although this needs rougher handling to get into shape, it is robust and doesn't move when I work on it, which is particularly helpful when trying to get the armature's pose correct. Aragorn Marks recommends steel wire in his Miniature Mentor tutorial, which is why I tried it. This worked especially well for my elephant men, as the trunk did not move at all, despite how much I was working the putty.

Whole Body and Part Body Armatures
I mostly create one part armatures, with all four (six) limbs, as I find this easiest to visualise when checking proportions, posing the armature, and coming to lay down the muscle layer of putty.
Some sculptors like to build the armature up by gluing/soldering/epoxy-ing spine and arms (e.g. Heresy, Ebob) whilst others prefer to have an arm-less armature (e.g. Aragorn Marks, Ramon Laan). The advantage that part body armatures like this have is the ease with which the torso can be finished.
I've tried both ways, but prefer the easier way by building a whole body armature. 

More to come in due course...

I love elephants!

As elephants are my favourite mammal, it seemed logical to have a go at sculpting one or two of them. 

Elephant One

Without having a clear idea of scale, I made a large-ish stripped steel wire armature, and built the body up with Green Stuff. I made tusks from Green Stuff and dried, before building the head up with Fimo (1:1 MixQuick). Small antiqued glass beads formed the eyes. One I baked the head I was very happy, particularly with the trunk, and sculpted the rest of the body from Fimo (1:1 MixQuick). This took a bit more work, with lots of sanding and replacing with ProCreate, until I was reasonably happy. The flexure lines on his skin haven't worked very well, despite trying to stick to nature, so I will treat them more like human flexure lines than pachydermal. I ummed and ahhed about manipulatory appendages, particularly how anthropomorphic I wanted him to look, before settling on what you see, made from ProCreate. The idea is that - eventually - he will wield weapons or other instruments in each hand. 

Overall, very happy with Elephant One. He stands 35mm tall, 27mm to the eyes, and I think very much in proportion. His trotters are buried in the base, not least because I became lazy and didn't finish them off properly.

Elephant Two
I made a batch of stripped steel wire armatures, using StormTheCastle approaches to including a tail, for some more Loxodonta. This elephant's head is very different from the last, despite being made in the same way, although again I am very pleased with it. Unfortunately, his legs are too short, so he might have to be mounted on something other than his legs, when finally finished. His body is Green Stuff and the head is Fimo again, over Green Stuff. The back of his head could do with some improvement work, as the flexure lines aren't great and the overall shape is too uneven to be natural.

The Mummy Returns

The Mummy
Obviously when considering zombies, one considers the others of the Undead, so I thought a good old mummy would be fun to play with. Around a stripped steel wire armature I built a Green Stuff shape, filled in the gap between the legs with Fimo and considered how to do bandages. I decided to roll very thin cylinders of Green Stuff, flatten it between two sheets of wet baking paper, and wind the resulting thin, narrow strip around the sculpt. I then aged and ragged these with a plain probe. When set, I used some ProCreate to build bits of rotting flesh into gaps. I then noticed that I'd put what looked more like the front face of the mummy onto what was the back of the armature, so s/he is lurching good and proper (quite by accident). I think it's a she as I've ended up with a bit of a bust under the bandages.

Haven't not recovered yet from the hand sculpting traumas of the Blue Horrors, I  opted to leave the manipulatory appendages quite plain. The right arm terminates at the elbow (or near enough) whilst the left ended up with some sort of huge ProCreate paddle, which just looked silly. After painting, sanding, painting, scalpel slicing, sanding and painting, I cut the whole thing off and put an axe head on instead. This looks better, and after some sanding, I made some extra bandages from ProCreate to "hold" the axe head in place. Green Stuff made better bandages. Mummy stands a whit under 34mm top to bottom.

Tentacles and Tongues

An urge to make something with lots of tentacles came upon me, so I started with a plain length of steel wire, put a bit of Green Stuff on it and made some tentacles from Fimo (1:1 MixQuick). I then shaped a mouth and a tongue, and used a Derwent embossing tool to play with the grabbing tentacle. I tried to fashion a sort of lure above the mouth, from Fimo, but without an armature it eventually snapped off. Humph. I slapped a bit of paint on to see how it would look, with a darker wash, but haven't got around to painting it properly. My aim is to dot on some chromatophores to make it look more squid-like, although there aren't enough appendages. Squidley stands 26mm tall.

The Woodsman

I found an old jeweller's aluminium wire armature at the bottom of the box, so decided to try to make a sculpt more close to 28mm than I have previously. I used ProCreate for the initial forming layer, then Fimo (1:1 MixQuick) to build the rest. The eyes were made from very small ProCreate balls. His head ended up being unfeasibly large, and the very poor expression led me to adapt the sculpt to make it look like it had been carved from wood. I took off the initial rear part of his cranium and replaced it with ProCreate to put more carve markings in (a grain, mostly). Following the Undead theme, he's got tools rather than manipulatory appendages. Again my usual splat-and-splash paint job. He ended up being 32mm top to bottom, 30mm feet to eyes.

Bursting Tissues
I had a very large stripped steel wire armature, and decided to experiment with making some different tissue types, from ProCreate, Green Stuff and Fimo. The left leg is Fimo, the right leg is Green Stuff,the torso and spine are Fimo with ProCreate tentacles and skin. The mask is ProCreate, and I have now added a band around the back to make it more mask-like. No idea how to paint him or finish him off; he's still in my sculpt block just washed with black to highlight edges and cavities. 

Any suggestions?

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Hellmouth Pensioners 2

Lady With A Flail
I think Lady With A Flail started out as a mini in the pose of Billy the Kid from Black Scorpion, with a copper armature. Again, a Fimo (1:1 MixQuick) dress, and I then decided to put a Ratigo Fear-Woman head onto her (see Jack Vance's Nightlamp), which I modelled in plasticene first. The head was made from ProCreate, using some very fine antiqued glass beads cut in half for eyeballs. I added a plain flail, made from fine jeweller's aluminium wire, braided together and glued onto the arm. I left the right arm as plain bone. I added a horrible knitted blue busby, like Granny Ifness used to have (maysherestinpeace). 

 I then decided that I wanted to repaint the head... and got the Nitromors paint stripper out... disaster! It dissolved most of her head. So I had to resculpt again, from ProCreate, using what was left as a foundation. So, she now has some lank hair, a better tongue, but a less expressive face. I added some leather bands around the flail handle, to make it look a bit more natural. 

I think the expression is better first time around, so I am tempted to go back and add some more features, like a brow ridge and more noticeable cheeks. The dressed was ragged with a plain probe.

Corpse Bride
I put together another quick armature, this time of steel wire (more on armatures in a later post), slapped on a body of Green Stuff and a dress of Fimo. I was going for a bridal dress look, and tried texturing the dress before baking with a trimmed end of green plastic-coated garden wire, ragging the skirt with a plain probe. I then slapped on some coats of red with a dark red wash. Sadly the train snapped off as I was trying to mount the sculpt onto a base :(

Steel wire is now my favourite armature material. You can see here the terracotta colour Fimo I use, which immensely helps with contrast; you can also see several clumsy fingerprints - as these are experimental sculpts, I'm not too worried, but it would ruin this for a professional piece of work. Not sure if I will finish this with head and arms; it's more interesting to consider painting it. The red will go, to be replaced by a grubby white or ivory I think.

Hellmouth Pensioners 1

Given that I struggle to sculpt natural creases in cloth, I considered ways to improve my mediocre skills. I read a copy of Dynamic Wrinkles & Drapery by Hogarth, which helped with the theory but not with the practice.

I decided to have a go at making some over-creased clothing, using some old disaster sculpts or armatures that I hadn't used. I chose Fimo (1:1 with MixQuick) as the putty, simply because it is cheap and I can fiddle with it endlessly before baking it. I drew the Fimo into thinnish sheets with my fingers, and then draped it round some armatures, trying to get it to form folds and creases. From there, the notion to make them into zombies occurred to me, then zombie pensioners, and finally I lost the plot completely and began customising them with ProCreate. So, here are my Hellmouth Pensioners.

Snake Eyes

This one began life as some sort of knight, with a copper U armature (0.8mm diameter) and ProCreate base layer. I added some armoured shoes (thank you Citadel skaven) and for some reason got bored with this sculpt - although it was looking quite good. I then added a Fimo twin set, trying to maximise the number of folds, before ragging the edges with a probe to make it look a little more undead. A lacklustre purple paint job followed, before I thought to do something with the head. This ended up being some ball bearing eye balls with tentacles...

Snake Eyes is 32mm top to bottom, and I am working on a better hood with ProCreate.


Again, I think Squashy started out as a knight, with a copper armature (arms included this time) and ProCreate base layers. I slapped a sheet of Fimo around, aiming for a hooded cloak look, and then daubed more purple around before putting her into the box. Later, I added some ProCreate scythes for arms and a nice swollen tissue green Stuff head, which I experimented with painting. Squashy stands 30mm top to bottom.

Madam Choppy
I have absolutely no idea what Madam Choppy began as, but she has a copper armature and (I think) a Green Stuff base layer. More ragged Fimo sheeting for a twin set again, before daubing on some orange. I used a brown wash for shading, and didn't do much else with it. I decided to give Madam Choppy a big scythe and a spear instead of limbs, from ProCreate. This sanded really well to produce lovely clean edges. I baked on a Fimo head, sanded it and got carried away with adding some cybernetic touches; her brains are leaking out the back and the left eye is actually a small tentacle. What look like ruffs on the sleeves are meant to be swollen tissue again, reacting to the metal arms, but they look more like ruffs :( The proportions of the upper torso and arms are wrong - she's got a seriously dislocated right shoulder and a bizarre bust.

I went with "pensioners" because I thought they would end up wearing horrid nylon dresses that Grandma Ifness (maysherestinpeace) used to wear, along with a really nasty selection of knitted busbies. I think I went with undead because it's just more fun, and I don't know where the last customisation ideas came from! With the Fimo dresses, again I used multiple short bakes as I went along.

Fimo notes

The debate about using Fimo rages on - Miniature Mentor have a tutorial video in which it is used, and 1listSculpting has some very useful observations and resources on the material. 

Here are my personal observations on using Fimo, which I will periodically add to. Comments, other hints and links to decent Web resources are most welcome, and I will post here.

  • Aragorn Marks in his Miniature Mentor video (the Barbarian)  recommends always using Fimo in a 1:1 mix with Fimo MixQuick. This helps enormously with kneading the clay and handling it, and I thoroughly agree.
  • Fimo dries out - wrap it in foil or clingfilm and keep it in an airtight container.
  • Fimo with MixQuick will melt plastic sheeting, such as polystyrene plasticard - always keep it on baking paper (silicone paper)/ foil or something similar. If you don't, plastic will melt into your clay and ruin it for you.
  • I find a darker or richer colour clay really helps with contrast. I tried "champagne", which is too light for me, especially under artificial lighting. I now use a terracotta colour, which is great, although any rich colour would probably do.
  • Some sculptors will boil Fimo rather than bake it. This has an advantage in that you know the water's temperature is 100°C - handy if your oven is flakey or you don't have one. However, I did this once and the water got into a crack that I didn't see - and promptly ripped the Fimo off the sculpture, ruining it. So I always bake at 110°C.
  • I like to do several short bakes of a Fimo sculpt, particularly if I'm layering clothing on top or something else. Fimo recommends an overall baking time of no more than 30 minutes, so I bake for about 10 minutes each time, keeping a note of the total accumulated baking time.
  • Fimo is really good for clothing, flesh and tissue, as the baking softens the edges slightly, making it look much more natural. However, Fimo does get brittle, so trying to file/drill/sand/machine small parts will damage it.
  • Raw Fimo does not stick to baked Fimo!
  • Raw Fimo does not stick to bare metal! You can make it by dropping a thin layer of cyanoacrylate superglue (e.g. Bostik) onto the metal and let it dry, or by painting the metal with a standard primer (e.g. Halfords or a zinc primer from B&Q). However, you may run the risk of generate cyanide fumes by baking Fimo models that incorporate superglue, so please read the Manufacturer Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) first. 
  • Fimo with MixQuick will stick to things, especially under pressure, so be careful when flattening or shaping it on plastic, paper etc.
  • I find Fimo very difficult to flatten out into thin sheets. Some authors recommend using a pasta machine (I can't justify buying a pasta machine to make pasta, let alone for sculpting!). I have tried pressing it out on baking paper (silicone paper), clingfilm, plasticard, melamine, wet plastic - and it sticks every time to the surface, ruining the flat sheet. The only method I have found that works, is simply drawing it out with my fingers carefully. This means that I struggle to get a thin enough layer for clothing.
  • Baked Fimo will neatly slice with a scalpel, which is fantastic for things like buttons or cylinders. 

Suicide Sid

My next idea was to sculpt a proper human figure, and after a lot of looking through miniature company websites (particularly Excalibur and Stan Johansen) and Google Images, I settled on a suicide bomber. 

The armature again was copper (0.8mm diameter) and I used ProCreate exclusively. Arms were added later, which made sculpting the torso a lot easier although more care had to be taken about measurements and proportions. I chose a series of high explosive charges linked with detonating cord as the improvised explosive device, with a simple switch in Sid's right hand. The left hand ended up being a prosthetic, because I trimmed off the armature too short and felt lazy... Slipper to turban is just a mite under 37mm.

Again I surfed a lot of the mini sculpting community on the Web for tips on sculpting heads, and came up with my own hybrid approach:
  1. Skull roughly shaped on the armature
  2. Key bone structures marked out - orbits, zygomatic arch - leaving a raised area for the mouth
  3. Eyebrow ridge, nose and lips added with a mandible line
  4. Ears added ( a little big but I decided he's a pensioner bomber) and an impressive beard

I haven't painted Sid yet, even though he is finished, as I consider him my best miniature to date - I don't want to spoil him by doing a bad paint job! I also want to resin cast him a few times - if anyone has good brands for room temperature vulcanised silcone moulding (RTV) and decent casting resin, which I can get in the UK, I'd really like to know!

Blue Horrors 2

I carried on with my idea for Faceless Horrors (although they aren't very horrible). I also experimented with different armature and sculpting materials, and using photos from life.

This Blue Horror started out well, with a copper armature (better than aluminium) and using a ProCreate base layer. I continued using Fimo (1:1 MixQuick as always) for the upper layers, but something went wrong when I came to pose this sculpt's left arm. I think I thought it was too long - cut it, bent it back medially and began on the left hand. Bit of a disaster now - this guy clearly doesn't have any bones in his left arm! I painted but didn't finish this one. Lots of lessons there about accurate measurements, and that hands are difficult.

This one was a copper armature, with Green Stuff base layer, Fimo upper layers and a ProCreate head. Unfortunately he now looks like an elderly she with a large somewhat dropping bust. The arms again are a disaster - incorrect bone structure, too think and the creases don't look natural.

Using the same design, I sculpted again, this time using a different shaped armature (an elongated U) with ProCreate base layer, Fimo upper layers and the arms sculpted once the torso was finished. The armature for the arms was another U shaped piece of wire, superglued into place. A much better job of the arms I think, and the clothing creases are a little more improved. However, the thickness of arms against legs/torso is still not correctly balanced.

This was actually the earliest one I started, but went back in the box until last. An aluminium armature (bad), a bizarre mix of Green Stuff and ProCreate base layer and Fimo upper layers. I discovered that dropping cyanoacrylate superglue onto the armature provided a layer that Fimo would stick to (see Superglue Notes, below), enabling me to build the Fimo up from scratch. The left hand I sculpted flat, baked and glued on - making it look like a prosthetic hand rather than a real one. The right hand looks upside-down - I didn't get the finger length ratios right. The clothing creases look more natural, but again this sculpt looks a little under-powered.

Here they are against the same skaven jezzail as the last post:
 The Blue Horror on the left is 36mm bottom to top and on the right 29mm bottom to top.

Here is a closer look at all the hand sculpting horrors:

Some are better than others!

Superglue Notes
For all of these, I did up to three bakes of ca. 10 mins each, at 110°C. Using cyanoacrylate superglue limits your casting options, as heating up the mould to vulcanise it runs the risk of liberating cyanide fumes. There is also a risk of doing this in the oven, although superglue is routinely used as a fume at 60°C in forensics labs. Please always read the Manufacturer Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) first.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Blue horrors 1

I had some ideas for what I wanted my first humanoid sculptures to look like... I made some pretty shocking attempts, which I might show in a later post. With my design settled and my mental visualisations pretty constant, I began sculpting. This is the first design:

The armature was made from jeweller's aluminium wire, which was not a good choice as it was too flexible. The first layer was of Kneadatite Green Stuff, which was roughly shaped, and I then used Fimo (1:1 with MixQuick) for the body and clothing layers, with three short bakes of ca. 10 mins each time roughly at the stages shown above. At some point I will sort out some weapons for each of this guy's hands.

I debated on a colour scheme when I came to paint, and picked blue because I don't use it very much. I was clear on having these figures as Faceless Horrors, but I remain unsure about whether I like the heads painted as they are. I am far from an artist, so I tend to use just four paint layers after priming: base colour; dark wash; light drybrush; finishing touches (e.g. the gold buttons). I'm slowly getting to grips with blending and glazes, although using dirt cheap acrylic paints probably doesn't help!

I'm pleased with the proportions and the pose for the sculpt, but I still have some work to do on sculpting natural-looking creases in cloth, e.g. the medial aspect of the inner arm:

This sculpt is 29mm top-bottom, making it about 27mm eyes-feet. Here he is compared to an old 28mm Citadel Miniatures skaven jezzail:

The difference between the deliberately-oversized limbs and paws of the skaven and the more anatomical proportions of my sculpt make my effort look quite puny and under-powered; hence the need to exaggerate those elements, which I haven't quite got to grips with yet. And yes, the paint job on the skaven is even worse than the Blue Horror.

I like Fimo because edges always soften slightly after baking, which I think lends a more natural appearance to clothing and flesh. However, it is not good for very thin layers, and can get quite friable. The colour of the Fimo ("champagne") was suggested in a video series (Miniature Mentor) but I really didn't get on with it as the contrast wasn't really good enough. I now use a terracotta red Fimo, which is easier on the eye and has a much improved contrast. More about Fimo in another post.


My first attempts at sculpting were of nick-nacks; a couple of treasure chests:


A couple of battle standards:

I then decided that I was expert enough to move on to animals...



I wanted to have a place to post some of my miniature sculpting attempts, so I thought I would give a blog format a try.

Let me know what you think.

If you'd like to know who Ifness is, please read some Jack Vance - the Durdane trilogy.

My plan is to alternate discussions about some of my sculpts with observations on tools and materials; I will update old posts with fresh pictures or text every so often. A links page will go in as well.