Friday, August 17, 2012

How to Build a Dinosaur part V

Links to the other posts in this series:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part VI

When last we left our Deinonychus, he was more or less rounding into shape.  I had sculpted all four limbs, the head and the tail.  Most of the claws were done, sculpted from polymer clay, as well as the teeth, also of polymer clay and set in epoxy clay.
Full dry assembly
I knew that parts of Mr. Deinonychus (or Ms. depending on how you feel) were going to be covered in feathers, but for the parts that wouldn't be--the legs, feet, hands and snout--he would have to be painted.  I also needed to figure out a way to make scales and eyes.

For the eyes, I initially thought I could paint them, then glaze them with some kind of transparent resin to give them a liquidy feel.  But a cursory look around the 'net at dinosaur sculptures with painted eyes shows how lousy that looks.  Painted eyes lack depth. I decided I would go with taxidermist's eyes, because they use a thick layer of acrylic resin or glass to create the necessary luminosity I wanted.  I ordered monitor lizard eyes in the correct proportions for my Deino (basically Ostrich-sized) from Tohickon Glass Eyes.  I dremeled out sockets in the head, obliterating a lot of carefully-sculpted work, and set them in place with epoxy clay, in a slightly forward-looking position.  Fitting taxidermy eyes
I then placed epoxy clay "eyelids" above and below the eyes to cover the edges of the sockets.  It was upon doing this that I figured out how I might tackle the scales for this guy.
Eye number one

My first idea had been to make a scale "stamp" from polymer clay that I would ostensibly press into wet epoxy clay already smoothed onto the surface of the sculpture.
Making a scale pattern stamp
It didn't work so well.  Even wet, the stamp kept picking up too much epoxy clay and I though the impressions were weak and rather repetitive.  To truly look natural, I realized I was going to have make each and every scale by hand, and my experience with the eyelids showed this would be possible, if time-consuming.  I started with the face, thinking I might get away with a "scattering" of scales:
Adding scales
This might have worked, but I couldn't leave well enough alone.  So I went for broke with the scales on the face, and this was the result (the face is also primed here with acrylic gesso):
Priming the head

It's at this point that I realize I have a new problem to solve.  Since our Deinonychus is only made of blue insulation styrofoam, he's not very durable.  In case you've never played with the stuff, styrofoam breaks and dents very easily, and will only support its own weight to a point.  For this reason I constructed the tail of vertically-oriented planks of styrofoam and built a support rod for the chest so the legs weren't bearing the full weight of the sculpture.  I also used wooden skewers and PVC pipe to reinforce all major joints between any heavy segments.  So what to do for more support and rigidity?  I knew from internet research and the advice of a few friendly folks on Flick that foam sculptures are often reinforced and made rigid by coating them in fiberglass, a self-hardening plastic called Styroplast, or plaster-impregnated cloth.  The first two options would also weather-proof the sculpture.  Since I knew my Deino was staying indoors, I decided to use plaster cloth to coat the whole sculpture, before going in and scaling with epoxy clay.

The process is simple--strips of cloth are dipped in water and then wrapped and smoothed onto the sculpture in overlapping layers.  The more layers, the harder and more durable the surface.
Wrapping the tail in plaster cloth

Wrapping entire sculpture

In the heat of a South Texas spring the plaster dried quickly, and so the work of wrapping the entire Deino only took a few days.  Joints between the heaviest members were doubly and triply reinforced, especially at the base of the tail and where the head meets the neck.  Below is the fully-wrapped Deinonychus with a partially painted head and the beginning of the leg scales going on.  Kinda looks like a dinosaur mummy here.
Fully assembled and plastered


Part VI: more scaling, paint and feathers!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Some non-Moleskine sketches! (and some Moleskine sketches too)

A busy week for me, drawing-wise.  Did quite a few treks into downtown from LoHi with my sketching stool and supplies.  Here's what I got:

denver city and county building
City Hall, during a concert in the park.

chamberlin observatory
Chamberlin Observatory, near the University of Denver campus.

brown palace
The Brown Palace and environs.  Such a cool building.

16th street mall, denver
A view from 16th street mall of two beautiful Richardsonian Romanesque buildings.  Reminds me of San Antonio's Bexar County Courthouse.

16th and welton
Just a moleskine sketch from the 16th street mall.

union station
A meh sketch of Union Station.  Will have to go back and give it the proper treatment.

Figure drawing at Redline

I went to a life drawing session here in Denver for the first time since the Coppini in San Antonio.  Still a lot of rust to shake out, and I rushed out the door, so I didn't bring ideal materials with me, but fun nonetheless.
The location was Redline, a very cool "urban laboratory where arts, education and the community merge," according to the website.  Also has a nifty artist residency program.  Very cool.

We did mostly brief poses, ranging up to half an hour.

redline figure drawing session
10 minute

redline figure drawing session
10 minute

redline figure drawing session
5 minute

redline figure drawing session
30 minute

redline figure drawing session
30 minute

redline figure drawing session
redline figure drawing session
1 minute

Friday, August 10, 2012

How to Build a Dinosaur part IV

Links to the other posts in this series:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part V
Part VI

Okay, so I had to make some claws and teeth.  I'd thought about this from the beginning and decided I would make them from polymer clay (Fimo was the brand I used), a material I'd never worked with before.

I had all the measurements at my disposal, thanks to The Dinosauria
More claw sculpting
I built the claws around wooden skewers (not really visible here) so I could punch them into the soft foam of the Deino, then hold them in place with epoxy clay, another new material for me.  The brands of epoxy clay I used was called Apoxie Sculpt, which I ordered online.
Fimo clay claws
For the teeth, I used sewing pins instead of skewers.
Making teeth on a cookie sheet
If you're not familiar with polymer clay, it's a kind of malleable plastic that's as shapeable as clay, but only needs to be baked in the oven to harden.
Putting the teeth in the oven
I created a bead of epoxy clay--a self-hardening, extremely adhesive two-part clay that doesn't need to be baked--for the "gums" on the top and bottom jaw.  Before it was dry I stuck the polymer clay teeth in, and the pins held them in place until the epoxy clay hardened.  This had the added bonus of naturally deforming the epoxy clay around the pressed-in teeth to resemble gums perfectly, and therefore needed little shaping on my part.
Adding teeth

I have to say, as soon as I saw the jaws with teeth in them I was very pleased!

All "pinned" together with skewers, with hand claws and teeth:
Arms temporarily pinned in place

Part V:  Eyes and scales!  (And plaster?)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Moleskine update

Some more moleskine goodness.

After dropping off Linda at work, I walked around downtown Denver for a while before doing this sketch of historic Larimer Square:
larimer square denver

The kitchen in our new abode.  Notice how well-used it already is.
in the kitchen

A more finished sketched of our new living room.  What a mess:
living room

The waiting room at Linda's place of work:
waiting room chairs

The following sketches were done at the Museum of Science and Nature:
various fossils at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

gomphotherium at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

sable antelope diorama at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

dunkleosteus and trilobite at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How to Build a Dinosaur part III

Links to the other posts in this series:
Part I
Part II
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

Because you can't sculpt something in the round without a way to hold it up, I made a stand from scrap plywood and 2x4s, and some threaded rod and nuts.  I drilled a hole in the the chest of Mr. Deinonychus so he could be propped up tripod-like on the stand.

Making a stand with threaded rod

Stand is built.

Next, I set about making the tail.  Because I had cut them to fit into the car, I didn't have any sheets of foam long enough for the tail, so I knew it would have to be spliced together from shorter pieces.  It's hard to see here, but the finger/splice joint is in the center.
What's this foam for?

The tail in its infancy

To attach the tail to the body I used two lengths of PVC pipe like dowels and drilled holes in both the body and tail to stick 'em together.  The reason I used two and not one is I didn't want the tail rotating/spinning at the joint before the glue dried.
Adding a 2nd PVC pipe

Only after the tail was attached did I really begin shaping it, as I wanted to make sure it matched to contours of the body well.
Now it looks like a dinosaur.

All the while I was also working on shaping the neck:
Taking shape

The head is not permanently attached yet because I know I'm going to have to add teeth and acrylic eyes, and paint the inside of the mouth, so I need to be able to get into all those spaces easily.
Head closeup

Oh yeah.  Arms!  He'll need those.
Arm beginnings

Rough cutout of arm

Inside of the right arm/hand

Outside of the right hand

Pinned in place with wooden barbecue skewers:
Arm pinned in place
There are no claws at this point either, because I will be making them later from polymer clay.

Check out Part IV.