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The Making of Survival - Nanaki/Red XIII by emilySculpts The Making of Survival - Nanaki/Red XIII by emilySculpts

Note, I realize that in these “making of” compilations that I periodically do, there are often huge jumps in the progress.  However, I don’t make these to show step by step how to recreate one of my sculptures. (Check out my book, Creature Sculpt, if you are looking for more detailed information!)  Instead, I focus on major landmarks that highlight certain unique aspects of that particular piece.  For example, Nanaki is a great opportunity to discuss poses that are balanced on one leg.  I hope you enjoy reading these and that you walk away with some new knowledge!

1. Armature - When creating a dynamically posed figure, especially one with irregular balance such as this one, I always use my thick armature wire.  This helps support the weight of the sculpture without causing the armature to bend at weak points.  In this case, all of the weight of the sculpture will be focused on the front left paw planted on the ground.  This character also has a thin tail so using thick wire there will help strengthen it.  I use one thick wire for the “spine” and another for the front legs.  I use thin wire to tie the two segments together.  I use epoxy glue to hold it all in place.  The back legs are up in the air so I use thin wire for them.  The thin wire is much easier to pose and is slightly lighter than the thick wire.

2. Block Out  - I referenced photos of tigers and cheetahs running in order to get the pose to look believable.  The anatomy was mostly based off a large cat with some canine influence.  In this photo, I had also started working with some of the details.  On the back leg, I started figuring out how I wanted to do the fur.  I often do “tests” like this where I sculpt, erase what I did, and sculpt again until I get something that I like.  This was all done with a 50/50 Super Sculpey/Sculpey Firm blend.

3. Adding Support - While Sculpey is an amazing clay, it does have some structural weaknesses.  When so much weight is being supported on one limb, cracks are a major concern.  This can happen simply during the baking process.  You may even make it through the entire process and have a pristine sculpture.  But just sitting on the shelf over time will cause the weak points to crack.  So what is the solution?  Apoxie Sculpt!  

I often use Apoxie Sculpt on points of a sculpture where more support is needed.  Before baking this piece, I removed the left leg which I sculpted only as a placeholder for proportions.  I made sure that this also included part of the shoulder and torso so that the weight is distributed properly.  If I simply cut the leg off flush against the torso, I would risk creating another weak point at the elbow.

After the piece was baked, I resculpted the front leg and blended it in with the rest of the sculpture.  I also sculpted the tail in Apoxie Sculpt to strengthen it against cracks.

4. Sanded and Primed - On textured sculptures like this, I don’t sand quite as much as I do with pieces that need a smooth finish.  I lightly sand over the surface, removing any surface roughness left by sculpting the textures.  I make sure to use a light touch so that I don’t accidentally sand away the detail I worked so hard to create.  I use Plastikote Sandable Primer and then lightly sand with a piece of steel wool to remove an residual grittiness left behind by the primer.

5. Base Coat - This is the finished base coat.  Comparing it to the finished photo, it is easy to see that many layers were used to create the final look.  The fur alone have about 7-8 color variations thinly layered on top of each other.  I was very careful to leave the “tattoos” broken up a bit versus solid lines.  This helps them to look like they are actually a part of the fur.

6. Finished Piece - Some high gloss glaze on the eye and hair beads help add contrast in texture.  The tail flame has a light dusting of gold pearl ex to separate it a bit from the fur.  I was careful not to go too shiny on the wrist bands to ensure that they looked weathered.  I first painted them with a dark brown and then dry-brushed some gold over top of them.  I did the same thing along the edge of the base to add a little unity to the piece.

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