Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Teaching Myself to Sculpt - Embiggening a Spacefarer

Over the course of the last 10 years or so, I've done dozens of conversions. Some have required minor gap filling, whereas others have needed completely resculpted elements. But I've never considered myself to be able or willing to sculpt a full figure from scratch. But some taunting and encouragement (mainly from theottovonbismark) prompted me to at least give it a go.
 
Donated armature gratefully received
 
A kind person over at the Oldhammer Sculpting Facebook group donated an armature and some corks. I already had the requisite sculpting tools, clay shapers and a micro-scalpel, so all that was left to so was to decide on the subject matter.
 
After some deliberation, I elected to upscale a character from the old 25mm Citadel Spacefarers range - the Interplanetary Merchant. Why select the Interplanetary Merchant as my first sculpt?
 
  1. I figured that I might be able to do an approximation of the character, being a relatively uncomplicated and forgiving shape.
  2. I was frustrated that the excellent and characterful Spacefarers range is just a fraction too small to be compatible with Rogue Trader figures.
  3. He's just the sort of character who might see use amongst my other Rogue Trader civilians.

The Interplanetary Merchant. Pics courtesy of David Wood.



With that decided, I sought some tips on where to begin. The one phrase from theottovonbismark that struck with me, was to 'sculpt either structure or detail at each stage, not both'. I also checked back at some of the work in progress sculpts I'd seen from various professional sculptors, and decided to imitate the 'inside-out' approach - building layers of structure and mass, then detailing at a later point.
 
 

Stage 1 - Building up mass

I wanted to try and capture the Interplanetary Merchant's bulk, so spent a bit of time building up his belly, man-boobs and fatty back. This required some research, and I googled some reference pictures (note of warning, search results for 'naked fat man' include some alarming images!).
 

 



At this stage, I didn't really bother with sculpting the legs - as it was going to be covered with robes. I suspect I should have actually sculpted the legs for practice, and to help with the anatomy.




Stage 2 - The Emperor's new clothes

Once the structure of the Merchant had cured, I started adding some clothing. I started with the skirt of his robe, using clay shapers to smooth off the greenstuff and add folds. After the robe, I added the jacket - here I made an error by incising the edges of the open jacket (trying to copy the original Spacefarers miniature). I realised that this was going to look pretty poor, so I had to fill the incised lines and repair the damage.




The fur hanging from his belt was simply a strip of greenstuff that I attacked with my sculpting tool. I suspect I'll need to improve my fur sculpting in future though! At this stage, the Merchant also receive some structural pieces for his shoulder pads.



Stage 3 - Adding limbs and head

The next thing on the list was to add some structure for the arms. I positioned the armature in the right place and bent it for the right elbow, before adding some structure to sculpt over. I also trimmed the shoulder pads at this point, and added the two edges of the jacket (much more effective than the incised lines).




Up to this point, I'd been making my approach up on the spot, using the techniques I'd used in my conversions. And you can see from the melon-shaped head exactly the point where this approach failed! I honestly had no idea how to go about making a head, and just blobbed on a big piece of greenstuff in the hope that it might be a good starting point. Which it wasn't - it looked crap!



Stage 4 - The finishing touches

After some feedback, I trimmed the 'head' back and watched Tom Mason's excellent video on sculpting faces. Five or six times.

I won't claim that my Merchant's new head is perfect, but it's passable, and significantly better than Mr Melon above! The head was done in about three sittings, by sculpting a basic skull shape, then dressing it with cheeks, ears, nose and beard.




After the head, it was just a case of adding a few final details - collar on the jacket, puffed sleeves, hands, little tech thingy I made out of a square of plasticard.



Stage 5 - Finished?

At this point I was pretty satisfied. I even announced that he was finished. But then someone commented on the lack of feet.


 

'No problem', I thought, 'the feet are hidden by his robe'. Except that the reference figure has feet that show. And the robe is too narrow at the ground to be hiding feet underneath.




So I went back to the green, and added some feet, and resculpted the base of the robe accordingly.



 
Only now his feet were clearly UK size 2 micro feet - far too small for his body!
 

Stage 6 - Definitely finished

So I attended to his feet again, and added a pair of shoes somewhat more fitting for a man of his girth.

 
At this point I am definitely calling the figure finished. I think he is acceptable enough for me to be able to paint and use, and any additional time spent refining him would be better spent sculpting something new.
 
 
Whilst I haven't made an exact replica of the Spacefarers sculpt (mine appears to be a little less flabby!), I think he's recognisable. As a first ever complete sculpt, I'm pretty satisfied!



31 comments:

  1. You have all rights to be satisfied, it's excellent !

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  2. That's an excellent first sculpt, well done! You may well have inspired me to have a go one day too...

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    1. Go for it Stuart, and good luck!

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  3. You absolutely shit all over the original Jon! Yours looks 100 times better, well done man :)

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    1. I'm not sure about that, but it's kind of you to say :D

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  4. Absolutely wonderful! A fantastic first sculpt! Keep at it! ^^

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    1. Thanks for the support! Glad you like him :)

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  5. Great work! Like you, I've done conversions for years, but when I've made any attempts at sculpting, they were nowhere near as good as yours!

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    1. Thanks Evo. It was definitely a long and studied process - I don't like having to take tiny steps and wait for something to cure - it tries my patience! But that was the key part...not doing something was almost as important as doing it!

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    2. Very much so! The three 'P's; Patience, Practice and Perseverance! ^^

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  6. Damn nice! All my puny attempts to do such a work have failed miserably, you have my total admiration!

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    1. Very kind of you to say so. I'm in awe of your level of output, so we can be mutually admiring!

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  7. Top banana! So what's next to sculpt? :)

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    1. Good question. I want to try something else I could potentially use, but something different - perhaps with more anatomy on show?

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  8. Top stuff, yet to tackle a full sculpting rework. Nicely done Sir. :)

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  9. Great tutorial. I think, I will try it out. :D

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    1. I don't know if I'd call it a tutorial - more of 'what I did and the things that worked/didn't' ;)

      I'd love to see your results!

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  10. Fantastic Jon. Calling that finished and moving to another subject is certainly the best way to proceed. You could spend extra weeks on something like that and gain very little.

    Did you see any familiar faces in that Google search Axiom? Surely a few gents from the tournament scene were present ;)

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    1. The images were largely from the back, so I couldn't see their faces. I think I recognised a couple of haircuts though!

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  11. Top draw mate - I'm so impressed with the face!

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    1. It's a good job you can't see the face under that beard ;) The eyes came up OK though!

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  12. Bloody nice work Jon! Not only an excellent first attempt, but a rather fine piece of miniature fat man all things considered. As The One so eloquently put it, this new sculpt far surpasses the original.

    Only thing to mention is the height of the lower body. Shouldn't he be slightly taller in the leggy area? He has the same silly proportions as I myself do. I could almost use it for a mini me. Give him a full beard and a more egg-shaped noggin and it's yours truly! :)

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    1. Thanks! If only I'd known I was sculpting a lookalike, I'd have asked for some reference photos!!

      I know what you mean about the short legs - I suspect it's partially to do with the fact that he's leaning slightly forward and has an overhanging belly. But the proportions might well be off too - I'll keep an eye on it for the next one :)

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    2. Yup, after commenting I had another look and seen from the back he's more proportionate. The overhang (I'm not quite there yet myself) gives the short legged look.

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  13. Quite nice work, particularly for a first try!

    Maybe you should consider something reusable for your next attempt, a "standing around" sort of bloke that you could add different heads and details to to populate the background of a scene.

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    1. Something neutral & modular? That's an interesting idea. Thanks for the feedback :)

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  14. He looks great. One of the things that intimidates me most about sculpting from scratch is building an armature. Getting one donated . . . that would ease the process. But man, you make me think it's time to give it a try. (I have one conversion sculpting project on the table that I may still finish first, but it's time, darn it.) Well done. Very nice work. I like yours better than the original, actually.

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  15. None too shabby :)

    I'm in a similar situation myself - I've done makor conversions (90% rebuild), and a few demonic beast type things, byt never quite got round to doing more than a base layer on a full figure yet... even with getting some pre-cast bare heads from hasslefree....

    Though I must admit, if I can find the vid you mentioned, I'm tempted to give it a shot again now

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