Wednesday, August 5, 2009

WIP #1 - Green Dragon - Part 2 - Big Horns, Face Scales, Start of Body

Before I begin, I will mention that the following is entirely my own work. I used other artist's tutorials as guides and basic how-to instructions only, making my own interpretations and changes as I saw fit. All of the following instructions, pictures, and teachings are owned solely by me, and may not be used without permission from me. Copyright laws will be enforced.

At the end of Part 1, I left off just after inserting 3 facial horns, adding more detail to the eyes, and snout.

After adding in the top horns, I did the same thing in his mouth for teeth. Chose 4 of my little teeth/horn/claw bits that matched, and used the same method to insert them. I only put in 4 total, because I didn't want a huge mouthful of teeth. As the artist, that was my choice ;). I also took two small balls of the pinkish clay mix I used for the underside of his mouth/tounge, and using the rounded end of a tool, gently flattened them in his nostrils.

I wasn't quite done with the details on the face yet, but wasn't entirely sure what to do. I was thinking ahead to the rest of his body, and what I was going to do to texture in some scales. I had seen several ideas and was tossing them around, combinations of them, and leaving his skin smooth.

What I ended up doing was a bit of an experiment... but hey, this whole sculpt is one big experiment! I took another small, and I'm talkin', TINY, snake of translucent sculpey, and flattened the bottom against my work tile. The whole thing was maybe 2 inches long, and barely 1/16th inch in diamater. I wanted very, very small scales to layer on his snout to give more dimension, interest, and reptilian feel.


Turned out rather cool! It took a LOT of time to do even just this little bit, and keep in mind there's 2 sides. So what I did on one, I repeated on the other. They don't match, but that makes it more real, IMO.

My next step, was to figure out what type of "Big Horns" this guy was going to have. Surprisingly enough, there was no argument here from the dragon in question when I decided to use a piece of extra wire snipped off from when I was making his armature. This piece was about 2 inches long, and had been wrapped around another piece and then removed, so it was quite twisted and curled in a wonderful way. I took another piece from the spool and started randomly curling and twisting it so it was different in shape, but similar in style to the original one. I cut it to as close to the same length as the first, and proceeded to cover them with clay.


This was actually somewhat difficult as the clay would not stick very well to the wire, so after pulling the clay off a few times I coated them in a very thin layer of TLS, re-ran the clay through the pasta machine to get it very soft and pliant, and started again. I'm using untinted SS for the horns.

Well, that made it worse. The TLS just made things slip and slide more. So, the clay came off the wire again, and I wiped down the wire with some rubbing alchohol and q-tips, and conditioned the clay ... again.

That time was a charm as I tried a different way of things. Instead of creating a snake with a big slit to insert the wire into, I made a small sheet, and wrapped it around the wire like a blanket. As I pushed the clay to follow the twists and turns of the wire, it started working and sticking much easier. Maybe it was the alcholol bath to? I'll have to try that again next time I cover bare wire with clay.

Once the wire was completely covered, save for a small bit on the bottom end to insert into the dragon's head, I took one of my favorite tools, the end of a cheap kids paintbrush, and started to texture the clay slightly by beating a bit with the paintbrush. I didn't want the clay smooth - I wanted craters and bumps and ridges and a very natural looking texture.

Afterwards, I was looking at them, thinking the texture was great, but the color was BORING. So out came the Pearlex powders. I had never used them before, and this seemed like as good a time as any to try them out.


As you can see, they turned out quite colorful! They went in the oven for 10 minutes to bake while supported by the ever handy empty & trusty toilet paper roll. (Sometimes its the best thing to use to prop things up while baking. I've seen them used to hold up all sorts of sculptures! *giggle*)

When the horns came out and were cool, I gently rubbed my finger against them to see if the powders would rub off ... and not a single fleck came off. So, while I had the powders out, I also dusted the newly formed facial scales with some of the light green sparkly powders for more color dimension. Since they were not going to rub off, it opened up all sorts of other uses for them.

So now that we have our horns, how to attach them to our dragon's head without it falling nose first into my work surface, and getting himself a broken nose?


Ah. ;) Gotta love that empty TP roll. It was a bit tricky getting the horn to stick into the head, so another stab with a long needle tool, some more TLS (just a tiny squeeze), and some more translucent sculpey rolled around the base to help secure the rather large, heavy horn. This method also allows for some repositioning after its in, just have to be careful to keep the clay 'donut' around the base from gaping open.

The above picture shows the horns in two different stages of attatchment. The horn on the left is already attatched with the above method, and the one on the right shows the build up of clay to mimic a large bony growth to support the horn much like a elk or large deer would have. There is a small, but deep, hole in the center of that top green disk which the wire fits into, and then the donut of translucent clay wraps around the base of the horn. Clear as mud? Good.

Now at this point, there wasn't much else I wanted to do with the head. It was almost 8 days work (after dinner, most nights, till between 1-3 am) to get to this point, and I was about ready to move on to the body. But first we have to bake it. I added a touch more TLS over the eyes to give them more depth and gloss, as well as brushing the entire head with the green pearlex powder for shiney scales. I also finished the texturing of the rest of his head by taking the ball point stylus and gently tapping it against the clay for little craters and hills.


If you look closely enough, you will see that the 'body' is taped with masking tape to a glass baking dish to help support the head and horns. I also had to tape the toilet paper rolls to the glass to keep them from slipping. I had to adjust the horns some at this point to make sure they were in the perfect places, as they tended to move around a bit, not to mention droop from the weight. I baked him for 30 full minutes at 270, then let him cool in the oven.

The next step, which I didn't photograph very well, was to cover the rest of him in his green clay.



I added a spine ridge for future decorations, and smoothed the clay out.

This is as far as I have gone so when I work on him more I'll update again.

WIP #1 - Green Dragon - Part 1 - Armature, Head, Eyes, Horns

Before I begin, I will mention that the following is entirely my own work. I used other artist's tutorials as guides and basic how-to instructions only, making my own interpretations and changes as I saw fit. All of the following instructions, pictures, and teachings are owned solely by me, and may not be used without permission from me. Copyright laws will be enforced.

Now on to the sculpt! This first sculpt is a dragon, emerald green, now being made for a contest on the OOAK Guild forums.

This is actually not my first dragon. The first dragon I ever made was solid clay, almost 4 inches thick at the body, and was severely under baked with no internal structure. Within a week of finishing him, his scales and delicate parts started to break off at the slightest touch. I had 25 freestanding scales running down his spine, and they all snapped off. His wings broke, and finally the neck snapped under the weight of the head. He was cool though, I'll post what few pictures I have of him in a later post. While I was quite upset that I 'lost' him, his legacy to me was my initial quest on how to keep it from happening again, and in my search for 'clay skeleton', I found Katherine Dewey's website. I ended up ordering several of her instructional pamphlets, and gained a world of insight on how to keep it from ever happening again.

When I started this guy, it was just to get back into the clay after almost a year of not touching it at all. But he started to have his own personality from the very beginning, and argued with me every step of the way ;).

I took lots of pictures from the start, and as I went along. So even though I never intended to do a tutorial, it kind of ended up that way. So onwards we go.

This guy was built right from the start. My first armature for a non human being. I didn't think about taking pictures until after I finished the armature completely, but I will try to explain what I did the best I can.

green dragon armature
basic armature with freezer tape and foil

His spine is 2 pieces of 20 gauge wire twisted heavily together. Not so easy to do by hand, but with a good set of needle nose pliers with a set of flat headed pliers to hold it makes things somewhat more manageable. His head is another set of 20g wire twisted but its a single piece wrapped around the main wire and angled downward to make the lower jaw. I then twisted the bottom jaw wire into a small loop and re-attached it to the main wire once more. This bulk of wrapped wire makes a great "base of skull" to wrap foil around later. Angle the top wire for the top jaw a bit, and that's the head.

The foil bulk out was just a few balls of crumpled foil that looked to be about the right size, stuck against the wire spine to hold them in place, and wrapped with a sheet of foil to keep everything in place. There are tons of other tutorials on how to foil bulk out wire, so I won't go into much detail here. Its fairly simple to do.

You can see on the head there is what looks to be masking tape ... its actually freezer paper tape. In the picture its only on the head, but after this was taken I covered the entire body with it. Which suspiciously looks, feels, and has the same tackiness as standard masking tape. For twice the cost. Its also very slick on its non-sticky side, and as I found out later, clay won't stick to it very well. So I took some TLS, (translucent liquid sculpey) and added a light layer as per several other artists advice on how to attach clay to tape. Then while allowing that to set a bit I started mixing my clay.

( I should also mention that in the pictures the tape is only on the head, but after it was taken I covered the entire body with it. )

body green clay mix

My clay of choice is Super Sculpey. I find it easiest so far to work with, although I will admit I have not used Pro-Sculpt or Cernit yet. I have tried Fimo and I like it for smaller projects, but not larger sculpts yet.

So I used one full layer of SS and mixed it with one eighth of the green sculpey. The colored clay is the standard color Sculpey III. This green is emerald, I believe.

top view of basic head shape

side view of basic head shape

Now this was the first rough head shape. I was trying to go for a more alligator like head and mouth, and it just wasn't happening. The first 'argument' of many to come, actually. But I preserved on, and started adding details.

adding mouth

A bottom jaw.

adding nose / nostrils

Nostrils and more definition in the bridge of the nose.

At this point I wasn't *totally* happy with the jaw, it kept moving and sliding off the wire loop way too much. I attached it with small balls of clay at each corner of the mouth, but that wasn't enough to keep it in place. I did the best I could and kept going.

What you can't see with the face on photos, is also that the bottom jaw is slightly longer than the upper jaw. I kept trying to smash it smaller and shorter, and it just wasn't working. I think I cut it off and re-did it at least 2-3 times before I got to this point, and it still wasn't right. But I was frustrated and needed to move to something else and think about what to do with the jaw for a while.

Eyes were next, in my opinion. Never having done my own eyes before, I went searching for a tutorial. Found several I liked, and they all kinda said the same thing. Either print out an iris and attach it to a ball of clay, or take a small ball of clay and cover a corsage pin with it, make a little divot, and paint your iris. Both ideas then use liquid translucent clay to make a dome over the iris.

My printer is currently dry, so printing out eyes was not the best option. But I did just happen to have an entire mess of varying head pins from an old beaded ornament project I had done years ago. I found a suitable size of matching pins, and started to make my eyes.

My next major argument with this guy was over his eyes. He didn't want them painted, so he hid my box of acrylic paints from me. I *swore* I left my box in my closet. I *know* I put them there. But they were missing and no where to be found after several hours of looking. Eventually I gave up and started hunting for an alternative. Looking through my old scrap booking supplies, I found a box of flat sticky backed Swarvoski Crystals in FIRE RED. I knew instantly that this was what I needed to finish the eyes. I very carefully pulled a set off the backing, and inserted them into the well of the clay on the head pin. A little TLS on top, OH and a tiny bit of black clay behind the crystals to add definition and a 'ring' around the red crystal iris. Cured with a heat gun, and whala! We have eyes.

Its also during this point where I made horns and cured the horns at the same time as the eyes.


The finished eyes pre-insert.

eyes inserted into head

And after placed into the head. I had to cut the wire pin part off within half an inch or less to the 'eye' to get them to fit into the head. Even then, I still had to take one of the tools with a very sharp needle and stab guide holes into the head, down into the tape and foil. I left the pin part just long enough to set into the foil for extra stability and strength. Before I placed the eyes in for good, I coated the pin wire with some TLS just for good measure.

Kinda freaky, I think, at this stage. Big bulbous eyes staring out....

So we fix it. Left this picture a bit bigger for more detail.



You can see that besides the upper brows I added some more definition to the snout. I built up the top bone line a lot more, I was trying to get a snarling scrunched up effect, but in the process arrived at this look, and liked it 10 times better. It also gave me a great idea to add some rhino-like horns to the nose! I didn't think to get side pictures at this phase, I'll have to remember that in the future.

After some blending and more detail work, we have... well not the clearest picture lol.

and we have horns and eye ridges

Remember the horns I mentioned earlier briefly? Those are SO SO much simpler than they look. All they are is a bit of pure translucent sculpey III, conditioned, and rolled out into a very tiny snake. I think the snake was maybe 4 inches long, with the width being around 1/16th of an inch? Very small. With the tips of your finger, very gently roll the end of the snake to a sharp and immediate point. Think teeth, or claws, and that's the basic idea. Cut the end off longer than what you'll think it needs to be (remember part of it needs to be embedded in the mouth, foot, head, etc. and won't be seen). I made probably 20 at the same time, from the same snake. I just made points and cut them off. As you are cutting these, make sure that some are longer in length, and some are smaller in length, but always cut in pairs. Making 2 that are the same size, shape, and length will make your life easier when it comes time to choose them for teeth and claws and such things.

Once all your points are cut, take the smaller end of a double ended ball point stylus (found at craft stores and used most often for embossing stencils into paper) and curve the point into a slight "C" shape. Some can be very curved, some almost straight. Or leave some straight for horns. As you can see in the picture, I used 3 of varying curves for interest along the bridge of the snout.

After they are all curved up, take your heat gun and cure them, making sure to keep the gun a safe distance away and constantly moving ... much like what you'd do to blow dry your hair. Keeping the gun too close and in one spot increases your chances for burning the clay. The clay will cure before your eyes, and will soften then harden. These tiny amounts took about 5-6 minutes for the 'full cure'. Let them cool, and set them aside until you need them.

Btw, this method is great for pre-baking tons of shapes, sizes, and colors, and storing them on hand for whatever you might need them for in the future.

Now, just for experiments sake, I DID burn a few of them. The tips turned a reddish brown color, and the clay streaked with the same color brown a bit. My intention was to see if I could get any interesting color effects, but the risk of over curing the clay, even that tiny bit, is not worth it. These burned pieces broke almost immediately when I picked them up with tweezers. Had I tried to use them in the sculpt, they would never have stayed where I put them, and ruined the overall effect I was trying to achieve.

After playing around with the burned pieces, I went back to my dragon head. I needed to insert the horns into the head and make sure they were completely secure.

I did this by creating a tiny hole where the horn was to go, filling it with a bit of TLS, and gently picking up a horn/tooth/claw with a pair of bead tweezers. (Beading tweezers have two tiny cupped paddles at each end, for picking up very small beads and holding them. They work great for small pieces of anything really.) Line the horn up in the hole, and add the rest.

Then, I rolled out another very small snake of green body clay, and cut lengths to place around the base of each horn. Smoothed those out and added bone like details.

I think they turned out pretty cool.

I also smoothed out the upper eye brow ridges, and detailed the nostrils/mouth a little bit more.

OH, forgot to mention. The lower jaw by this point had been cut off once more, and I ended up cutting the wire loop as well. I was able to re-position the wire as a shorter, more compact loop, and re-covered it with clay. It ended up being half the length of the first several attempts, and looks much better this way.

(Don't you just love the inner glow of those red eyes? So spooky!)

In part two, I'll continue with his BIG horns, and further detailing of the face/head.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Welcome to Faraetaildreams OOAK Art, my new online studio home. My name is Beth Cain, and I have always been an artist in some form since I was a small child. I would literally take my coloring books, trace out the pictures onto another paper, make a carbon backing (by scribbling with pencil) and re-draw it onto another heavier, sometimes colored, paper. Then I would either color it in with crayons, colored pencils, or retrace the individual areas onto cardstock and mosaic the picture together. I painted, drew, colored, and otherwise decorated everything I came into contact with. Christmas was the best time for me because my mother and I would make literally all of the gifts.

During High School, I was not one of the 'art kids' but kept to myself as my art was not considered mainstream. Everything I drew I put wings on if I could. However wings weren't 'cool' as I quickly found out. So I kept my wings to myself. I was in the art class though, and it was there that I first discovered sculpting and clay. Our classroom was equipped with several potters wheels, and I instantly fell in love. I had an inborn talent with the clay, and took advantage of every chance to go in and 'throw'. I hadn't discovered polymer clay yet, nor was I doing any figure sculpts. My work at that time was vessels, things created with the wheel, with earth based clay that required firing in a kiln.

After High School, my desire to create led me to jobs with both Michaels and Joanns, though the latter was several years later. Michaels carried polymer clay, but I never paid much attention to it. My love then was beading and scrapbooking.

Fast forward several years, when I got married, had 2 great kids, and simply didn't have much time to do anything but be a parent and work part time. I was still scrapbooking and beading when I could, which was mostly in the middle of the night when kids wouldn't go back to bed ;).

I tried to make a go at selling my jewelry and pre-made pages along with a few other things, but they would always fail and I would always go back to just creating for myself.

My real job was as a head cashier and customer service lead for a Joanns Superstore at that time. I was also doing in store demonstrations and teaching kids camps/classes for the education department for extra money. It was then that I was introduced to polymer clay through a store demo that included a small piece of black clay that you rubber stamped an image into, then glued it to the front of a card. I had to take the card kit home to make the example, and I instantly fell in love.

I had several other projects I had to create for the store out of polymer clay, and the more I worked with it, the more I became entranced. At that point though, the clay to me was kids craft stuff, with some potential for more sophisticated uses like the card kit. Cutsie stuff. Basic stuff. Kids stuff.

Then I got permission to teach a kids poly clay class, and I was responsible for my own projects. As I searched the internet for clay projects, I accidently stumbled onto the OOAK world.

My eyes couldn't get enough of the faries and mermaids and all sorts of fantasy, mythical things. This was the stuff of my childhood, the stuff that I was shunned into hiding my interest in showcased proudly by others for the world to see! I couldn't believe it and yet I was totally drawn into it unlike anything I had ever been drawn into before.

That was 5 years ago. Since then I have created multiple sculpts of people, fantasy beings, and other fun things. During that time I was creating only for myself and as gifts, with only occasionally attempting to sell to the general public. I rarely, if ever, took pictures (a regrettable decision now!).

So now, even with a few years of practice under my belt, I still consider myself a very beginning sculptor. There are so many things I still do not know about the medium I have chosen but am learning every time I sit down with the clay.

I decided to try the selling 'thang' one last time. This time with clay.

So, as a budding and hopeful commercial artist, I was in need of a place to really showcase my work properly. This is the first step in that process. At the time of this writing, I have only two scuplts in progress. I will showcase those in the next two posts.

I look forward to having this expand into something HUGE!