Looking at finished sculpts it's sometimes easy to assume that everything was effortless for the sculptor, well, if not effortless, that they knew exactly what they were doing throughout the whole sculpting process and simply went through the process of doing it. For me, sometimes it goes a little like that, but more often sculpting feels like a process of sculpting then reworking then reworking some more until satisfied that the result bears some resemblance to what I had envisioned in my mind.
So far, this figure has required more reworking than I'd normally care to admit, but since I'm into the whole positive thinking thing I'm putting it down to the fact that I'm just a little out of practice, and telling myself that things are going to start going very smoothly next week with lots of things going right first time...
The next three pics show the trouble I had getting the bearskin to the (hopefully) correct shape and size.
Initially I thought this was more or less OK shapewise except for being too wide at the bottom and slightly too rounded at the top front. So I carved off quite a lot around the lower half.
After resulpting the lower half and top front, I came to the painful realisation after studying my reference images that the shape was still wrong and I needed to add more volume to the entire top half.
The end result after reshaping the upper half. I was tempted just to post this picture but thought it would be more interesting to show the struggle of the refining process.
The aspects of a sculpt that usually I have to get myself most mentally psyched up for are the legs and arms. These can be difficult parts to sculpt so that the clothing appears natural. I think I struggle with arms the most. But anyway, here are a couple of pics showing the sculpting of the trousers. You can see from the second pic that after the initial sculpting I've done some cleaning up. Basically, smoothing out some parts, subtlely reshaping others, sometimes deepening or sharpening folds or de-emphasising others. For these things I use wet 'n' dry paper, generally grades 600 & 1000, and a rounded scalpel blade (Swann Morton No.10) which I hold between the thumb and finger rather than fixed into a handle. This allows me a little more finesse of control.
This figure will have a variety of belts and straps across the coatee so before getting started with sculpting the coatee I decided to do a quick sketch to figure out what allowance I need to make for the belts when configuring the folds in the coatee. After smoothing out the putty I've gently marked into the putty where the main straps will be then developed the creases around these. I also crudely inscribed the basic separation line in the front of the coatee.
On the rear a lot will be concealed by the knapsack, sash, straps and equipment so I didn't need to try too hard with the creases, just those beneath the armpit area. I added the jacket seams with a scalpel blade while the putty was still soft. After the putty had fully cured I made a correction to the collar, which I felt looked too full on one side, by carving the putty away and reapplying more thinly. Then I tidied up the front of the coatee with a little sanding and scraping away with a scalpel blade before adding a little more fresh putty to finish the front flap.
My next update will feature a small step-by-step on adding the coatee tails and turnbacks.
The next few pics show the fairly straightforward process I used to add the coatee tails and turnbacks.
First I rolled out a small sheet of putty, probably to around 0.5mm thickness. A thin coat of talcum powder was applied beforehand over the surface of the putty and the handle of the sculpting tool being used as a rolling pin. If the tool started to stick to the putty during the process a bit more talc was applied.
This sheet of putty was then put aside to partially cure for around 45 minutes. In the meantime, I prepared a small template for the basic shape of the tails from a piece of paper.
I placed this over the part-cured sheet of putty and used a flat edged scalpel blade to cut around the template, pushing only downwards in order to avoid mis-shaping the putty which can occur if dragging the blade across the sheet. I cut an incision up the middle for about 3/4 of the length for the separate tails.
The tails were carefull put into position, using a small line of superglue to strengthen the contacting area.
The outer edges had to be left faily static but I tried to add a subtle movement to the inner part of the tails.
This was then speed cured in the oven at around 60-70 degrees celcius for 35 mins. Once cured I smoothed out the area just above the tails with a little more putty and reinscribed the seams.
The turnbacks were achieved by firstly applying a thin roll of putty slightly inside the edge of the tail and getting it to adhere by pushing down with a moistened sculpting tool.
For this work I used a cup-round medium-firm rubber tipped tool from the Royal Sovereign range.
The same tool was then used to flatten down the putty, first pushing it inwards across the tail. Aiming to get it to approx 0.5mm thickness. If it's later found to be slightly thicker than desired it can always be scraped down slightly when fully cured.
The secondary aim here was to leave just enough putty that could be pushed to the outer surface in the next stage.
The putty was then pushed to the outer edge, tapering down to just meet the edge of the tail.
Where there wasn't quite enough putty I pushed a little more over or added a small amount of extra putty.
Any surplus putty was simply scraped carefully from the edge with a sharp tool.
A rounded scalpel blade was then used to make an incision in the soft putty where the edge of the turnback would be. On a good day this can be accomplished in a single motion.
Other times it feels safer to do it in smaller stages to ensure the direction of the incision is correct. By this stage of the sculpt things had started to flow well so I was quite comfortable doing the incision in a single movement.
The scalpel blade was dipped in water before each incision to avoid putty sticking to it. I wiped it on the back of my hand once to remove some of the excess moisture.
The final stage was to carefully remove the surplus putty with the edge of a scalpel blade, again the blade was moistened with water as this helps the putty to come away easier. Some tension creases were added to the bottom of each turnback, although not shown in this pic.
Once the putty is fully cured the turnbacks can be scraped slightly thinner in any places this is needed and if the surface and edges need to be cleaned up slightly this will be done with a scalpel or a small piece of fine grade wet 'n' dry paper.
After an enjoyable few days in Italy for the Trofeo San Giusto show in Trieste and a day trip to Venice it felt great to finally get back to my workbench on Thursday and Friday this week.
I've been completing work on the equipment and accoutrements for the Grenadier Sergeant. For the accoutrements, I have a great book which I think is invaluable if you are keen to sculpt subjects fro the British Victorian era, or in fact from 1750-1900.since that's the period he book covers.
Unlike some reference books which show photos and not always from all angles and often without dimensions included, this includes highly detailed paintings of articles from multiple angles (including some internal for knapsacks, pouches and such) plus there is a ruler shown to enable all dimensions to be accurately determined. For copyright reasons I won't show internal images but here are pics of the front and rear covers to give you a flavour.
If anyone knows of such a book for American Civil War equipment and/or accoutrements I'd be delighted to hear about it.
For making the accoutrements, the first step for me was to produce some quick drawings of the items from the relevant elevations so that I could record the actual dimensions and then calculate what these needed to be scaled down to for this figure. I then used a ruler to prepare the basic shape for the items from putty.
Once the putty was cured I used a couple of sanding files to get the shape and size as accurate as I could before adding the details. I may do a more detailed step-by-step for this whole process in the future.
This pic shows the basic drawings for the knapsack and pouch and the basic shapes for these and the mess tin cover formed onto a ruler. A metal ruler is better for this as the pieces don't stick so strongly. But this time I needed to use the metal ruler for measuring so had to resortto using the plastic ruler instead. I'll be investing in a second metal ruler soon I think. (Click on the image to enlarge)
The visible sides of the knapsack, pouch and mess tin cover have now been finished.
The bayonet and sword are also being fashioned from my usual combination putty from magic sculp and duro and are nearing completion.
I don't need to make one of the wooden canteens on this occasion as I've taken one to use from a Latorre Crimean figure that I never got around to painting. Conveniently the size of it is just right for the scale I'm working in for this figure.
I've also made further progress with the figure but still need to edit the photos. Please check back again in a few days for my next update.