Monday, January 23, 2017

SCULPTURE: "Lion Man of Mongo"

It's been a long while since my last sculpture demo. Today's feature: "Flash Gordon and the Lion Men of Mongo"! Well...minus Flash...and all the other lion men.

As with most of my sculpture projects, I start with inspirational research. As a kid, I loved watching the science fiction serials of FLASH GORDON, featuring Buster Crabbe. I have all of the series on DVD now. And I have several books that are collections of the old Sunday comics of Flash Gordon (and Buck Rogers, too). Below are some images that I gathered online, and the sketches I did of a Lion Man.
Probably the most fun part of this project was making the little ray gun out of bits of junk. I think I'll try doing a little series of ray guns in the future, all made from stuff I find and glue together.
Once I have the gun all assembled, it's time to paint it.
Based on the scale of the ray gun I made, I drew a sketch that would be the correct proportions. I then used wire and aluminum foil to create an armature of my Lion Man. I made the base out of scrap wood I had on hand, and cut it out in my woodshop in the basement.
I covered the wooden base with epoxy putty that I had leftover from another project. This material is called "Smooth On Habitat Black Epoxy Putty". It is quite messy, but is water based and dries super hard. It was created for people to make fake coral in aquariums. After it was hardened (about 16 hours), I drilled holes in the base and added thick wire to secure my armature to. Then I started to sculpt the hand holding the ray gun.
Next comes the process of building up the forms with Sculpy clay. I use a heat gun to "cook" the clay and let it make a hard shell to build on. Just for the heck of it, I painted the rock base brown. Don't really know why I did that...the dark gray epoxy would have been just fine as is.
Below, you can see the details that I started adding to the Lion Man...feet first, then leggings, then pants, and finally the tail. I used plumbers epoxy on the wire that was for the tail. It needed the extra support, so the sculpy clay would not crack if bumped.
I had decided to keep the head separate from the body, to make it easier to sculpt. I used steel ball bearings for the eyes. I would bake sections that I felt were done, so that I wouldn't accidentally mess them up as I worked on nearby areas. You can see the transition that happened to one of the Lion Man's hands. I had been watching a kids tv show (Voltron) and one of the bad guys had a cool looking cyber-arm. I decided that my Lion guy would benefit from a mechanical hand!
After getting the appendages all sculpted, it was time to add muscle and bulk to this dude. In order to keep from having areas of clay that would be too thick, I used aluminum foil to build up the mane around the head and shoulders. Then I started to add fur details.
I had made a little "rake" out of sewing needles, to add some texture to the main body. After I had sculpted the rest of the fur, I used odorless paint thinner over all the surfaces. This will melt the clay a bit, and blend the rough edges and soften the shapes. After that had dried, I decided that the scratch marks from the rake were getting lost. So I made another tool with tiny nails that were larger than the needles.
After going over the torso and arms with the new rake tool, I then re-sculpted all of the mane, to clarify and refine the shapes of the fur layers. After the whole thing was baked with the heat gun, I painted the sculpture with a base coat of gray latex paint. It wasn't until I painted everything that I saw some areas of the fur that had been melted too much by the paint thinner. They lost some of the finer detail...but I was too lazy to try to repair it.
I rarely take photos of the painting process, as it tends to disrupt the flow of blending the colors. I like to paint all the basic shapes, then I glaze with a thinned down wash of dark brown, to accentuate the peaks and valleys in the shapes. I dry-brush on top over and over, then add more washes...this process can take a long time. Below is the finished piece!
And here is my Lion Man sitting up on the shelf in my studio.
Well...that's it for this little tutorial. Hope you learned something useful for your own projects!