Preproduction: Week's 2 and 3

Ok. The schedule I made is totally blown already, only three weeks into the summer. Must. Not. Panic....

I have a bad habit of underestimating how long things will take me, and, in this case, a poor idea of just how much I was craving a break after my last two extremely hectic semesters. I also failed to account for how many hours I'd spend on the internet trying to figure out exactly where I'm going to live in the Fall. All of these factors combined add up to the neccessity of me totally rearranging and editing my current summer work plan. Before I get around to accomplishing that, however, I plan to finish my warrior maquette.

I estimated that I would spend about 2 days making this maquette, and so far it's been about 2 weeks. Granted, I haven't dedicated nearly as much time as I planned to to this project (I scheduled 40 hour work weeks for myself, and I've only managed about half of that time in the past 2 weeks), but I also grossly underestimated how complicated what I'm making would be to create. I've sculpted plenty of figures in the past, but that was before I took an anatomy class: now I've become much more anal about body contours since I have a pretty good idea of what they should look like, and the fact that this is a very muscular character does not help the situation: it only increases my propensity for perfection in this area.

I also failed to realize just how difficult my costume design was. It seems so simple on paper, but drawing lines of decorative detail on paper is much different than creating smooth lines of raised detail in clay. I'd roll out clay into long strings, keeping the width as even as I could manage, and then as soon as I pressed it onto the shirt piece on the figure it would become bumpy from my finger pressure. I'd smooth the whole thing out along the entire length of the detail and then try to trim the inevitably uneven sides into an even width, but, even if i managed to get the raised detail fairly even and smooth, the places where my knife indented the shirt along the sides of the "embossing" would now be uneven. I don't even know anymore how many times I've tried to apply the designs only to smooth them all out...

Making this: Look like this:

Is not as simple as it looks...


The solution I came up with to this problem is this: I'd bake the clay tunic base to set it, and only then apply the detail.

This way, after I've smoothed the lines of clay onto the shirt piece and trimmed the width evenly, I won't have those uneven indented lines from my knife in the shirt piece because my knife won't be able to indent the shirt piece - it'll only trim off the excess width. This is the theory - it has yet to be tested.

I truly hope it works, especially after my most recent mishap:

When I baked the figure to set the tunic I layed it down bridged across two blocks of wood, the reasons being thus:

1) The heat from the oven temporarily weakens the clay before making it set stronger, so things are more prone to collapse during baking. I have a wire armature inside my figure, and his body's already been cured in the oven once, but baking still weakens it enough that I feared for its safety if it stood.

2) The figure's tall enough that the raised arm gets uncomfortably close to the oven's heating elements.

3) I didn't want to lay it down flat on the baking sheet because I didn't want the weight of the statue to flatten out the contours on the back of the tunic.

So, I thought a horizontal orientation across the two raised blocks would cover all bases: avoid any foreseeable issues... The thing I hadn't counted on was that apparently I didn't deem it necessary to build the armature all the way up through my figure's neck. I'm really not sure what I was thinking when I did that (clearly I wasn't), and the oversight came back to bite me. His unsupported neck wasn't strong enough to hold up one whole end of his body. He was fine throughout his entire time baking in the oven. When I pulled him from the oven he was pristine. It wasn't until I was twenty feet away that I heard a "pop!" and turned around with a sinking feeling in my gut. It could've been the baking sheet popping because it's a little warped, and heat always affects such things, but somehow I knew it wasn't. I walked back into the kitchen knowing something on my statue had made that sound, and was horrifed to find him headless, laying in two perfectly fractured pieces.

Since this disaster I have tried to fix the figure the best I can. I can't superglue him because he has to return to the oven a few more times before he's completed (and superglue's highly flammable), and I can't work with him in pieces because as soon as I attempt to bake that head piece (which would have to sit on the broken neck base to cure the helmet which will eventually surround his entire head) the contours along the broken edge will soften and inevitably change shape and not fit back together with the body cleanly. So, I used a needle tool to drill a hole down his throat on both pieces and shoved a short piece of wire into them to bridge the pieces together. I also smeared a very thin layer of clay between the pieces to act as an adhesive. Then I smeared another thin layer along the outside of his neck. Due to the fragile nature of the uncured neck joint, I can't smooth this outer layer as much as I would like (since a little pressure makes the whole joint shift its setting) but I'm going to bake it the way it is and see what a little sandpaper can do to remedy the roughness later. For now, I'm afraid to work on him further until I can get him cured, which will hopefully occur tomorrow.

'Til next week!