Tuesday, December 13, 2016

10 years as a freelance sculptor

I just realized that this is my 10 year anniversary as a freelance sculptor. I had sculpted figures for Privateer Press during my time there but I was doing more mold making while most of what I sculpted was on my off hours. But it wasn't until mid Dec ember of '06 that I decided to give up the hourly wage situation and sculpt full time.

Back in July/Aug of '06 I was employed through a temp agency at Nike working on the production line making soles for their new line of shoes that were going to be released in '07 but it turns out that the design didn't test well overseas and the line of workers they hired to meet the expected demand for the shoe began to progressively be cut back. About every week the management would tell us that the dwindling number of employees was because they were building a team of the best workers and those not there just didn't meet their standards and that there would be no more lay-offs and there was nothing to worry about. But every week there would be less workers and that same speech and by mid December I was the last of 5 workers hired out of an original 160-ish people (on my shift alone) when they announced the closing of the line. So, 2 weeks before Christmas I was unemployed and very unenthused about the upcoming job hunt.

But this actually coincided with the Dire Troll Mauler Extreme sculpts, (who is also celebrating his 10 year anniversary too,) purchase by Privateer Press. I had sculpted it during the summer, shown it to Jason Soles when we met up in October and got an email asking to buy it soon after. It was right about the same time I got laid-off that I received the check for the DTMX. I had asked my girlfriend how she felt about me doing sculpting as a freelancer instead of dealing with the buracracy of a regular job and she said to go for it. Luckily businesses have been employing me ever since.

I wanted to say, "Thank you" to all the miniature game projects and people who have enjoyed the work I have done and kept me employed this past decade and hopefully I can keep on doing this gig.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Massive Darkness: Reptisaurus Rex

I guess I lied, kind of? I got asked to do this guy after the campaign was over with and I had thought I had done everything there was for me to do with Massive Darkness so this was a surprise.

Sculpts like this end up being kind of odd when you start translating the foreshortening aspect of a 2D picture into 3D, Especially capturing the bulk of what is implied in the concept you begin to realize how thick the creature actually is.

  Finalized set...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

What the hell is it? Part:4

I had hoped to have more done by now but I ran into a problem, and that is; the weather. Right now it's the hottest it's going to be all year and for about two weeks I can't get any work done because the heat makes the putty too soft. When you start getting into the 90 degree or more zone for temperature it can change the texture of the putty as well as dry it out. The heat spiked so quickly that it actually began to damage some of my works in progress I had on my table, including this one. I had to wait until it cooled down a bit so I could repair the sculpt. After I had everything fixed I popped it into the oven to lock it all in place. I do this normally so I don't accidentally jab a finger into what I've already worked on and it also makes a solid foundation to support all the upper body's weight but I thought I was going to have a bit more time to play around with the details. Oh well, I can still add stuff later.

I've decided to give him the obligatory mechanical arm mostly because it will give me a chance to show how I do some of the mechanical work for things like pistons and armor. I've got a rough idea of where this is heading but we'll see. I might change my mind along the way.

The Technical Stuff!

1: Mid-line baking; As mentioned before I do this to both help support what I will do next and prevent me from ruining what I have done already. Most of my sculpts get baked about 3-4 times at least but I don't want to overdo it as excessive baking can scorch the Fimo and damage the figure. This is also the core reason I start from the bottom up, it will support all the upper weight without worrying about collapsing.

2: Aluminum and Brass rods; amazingly helpful material to have! You can get this from many R/C hobby shops, normally there is a cardboard standee with all different gauges and diameters and normally the smaller sized rods fit snugly inside the next size ups interior allowing you to make telescoping details and layered effect. Because it's soft it can be cut with a hobby knife and filed with fine tooth hobby files.

The shoulder is going to be made from a mass of pistons and levers with hoses and wires wrapped about it. In this picture you can see the beginning of the levers which were made from Aluminum tubes of various sizes as well as brass for the actual flange-like coupler for the shoulder. The outermost lever of the shoulder is supported by a piston that is sandwiched between two support struts. The struts were made from Magic Sculpt which I use for a majority of my armor details. It is a 2-part epoxy that is hard as hell once dried. On top of that, if you heat treat it (about 150 degrees) it makes it even harder. I mixed some up and flattened it out then placed it in the oven for about 15 minutes, after that I can sand and file it to the shape I need.

I'll probably be focusing on the mechanical arm next (the hot weather won't mess that up at least) before moving on to the rest so probably next update will have more Aluminum work in it.

Thanks again for checking this out and if you have any questions feel free to ask.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What the hell is it? Part:3

I'm beginning to think I should start labeling these entries like 80's horror movies. You know; What the hell is it? Part III - 3D or Dream Warriors or something like that. Anyway, getting into the details...

It evolves! It becomes! It is not I who am crazy! It is I who am MAD!

You can begin to see the details I am inflicting upon this poor wad of putty, an asymmetrical fashion design with lots of layers. (I don't know, can you see that?) I decided to avoid a general, specific idea for this guy and make him as eclectic as I possibly can. To do that it's important to be influenced...

At this stage what's needed for me is visuals. Don't get me wrong, I love a good story, (in fact I can get pretty unreasonable about that,) but I usually play something in the background that has some kind of influence on my personal sculpting to help get me in the mood. It's not the story but more that, if I glance up from my project something interesting is happening on the screen. You know; "Visual." For this I decided to go for some of the more eye-popping things I could think of; Terry Gilliam and Brian Froud seemed like excellent spring boards to leap from and I love me some George Miller for unique ideas. So I pulled out a bunch of my inspirational media for a push.

New tools to pay attention to and I can't believe I didn't include them into the usual suspects. Glass plates, caliper and probe. The glass plates are key for acting as a pallet for the putty, it allows you to roll tubes by putting a sausage of Fimo on the plate and rolling out an even length between the two plates or to squash the putty flat so you can use it for lengths of fabric or just to keep your Fimo handy. Very helpful. The caliper is a great assist in making sure you get symmetry between left and right aspect of the sculpt are close. In this case it was the length and width of the feet. The probe is... (wait for it...) A "probe" from an animal dissection kit. Yeah... Just think about why I would have something like that for a second...

The glass plates are from a drink coaster set I got from a craft store. Apparently the marketing idea was that you could put photo's of you and your family in the coaster and while guests drink beverages they could look at pictures of you while you served the drinks. Does that sound... Sane to you? I re-purposed them and now they assist me in my monster-making endeavors. If you want a tool like this you need to find something that is thick and putty will not stick to. The ones I am using are 10mm thick and have beveled edges, not sure where to get them so keep an eye out. Don't get something that's going to crack if you put pressure on it or cut you up when you touch it. Also, if you are using Fimo, DO NOT USE ABS PLASTICS as Fimo will melt it. The caliper is from a drafting tool kit, (Yes, I have drafting / architecture schooling but only at a high school level) and it's one of those tools that you won't use a lot but you'll be happy if you have it. Again, RE-PURPOSED! The probe is pretty much just a needle or pin wedged into the end of a wooden dowel. You can make your own for real cheap but keep in mind that mine IS from an actual dissection kit... Oh, yeah.

The Technical Stuff!

Because I sculpt big I found that starting at the bottom and feet, in most cases, works best. You can't build a house without laying a solid foundation and I need to make sure whatever I sculpt above the waistline will be supported by what's below. So I start at the bottom.

The knee pad was done separately, I have a collection of aluminum tubing and brass rod for various uses. I highly suggest checking this product out, you can find it in your hobby store usually in the RC plane section. I took the caliper, measured the knee and found a piece of tubing that was roughly the same width and sculpted on that instead of the figure. This helps prevent me from mashing-up or deforming the musculature / detail underneath.

Another reason I do this is because it allows me to focus on a specific part of the figure and if I want a piece of detail to really pop out this is how I do it. Things like belt straps and fabric folds are more organic and conform to the shape of the figure and can be sculpted directly on the figure but armor pieces need to look like chunks of metal strapped to a fleshy appendage. Metal beats flesh so the armor pieces that I am sculpting need to look the part which is why I treat them as their own entities.

Here are some close-ups of the foot detail including the knee pad attached to the left leg. Folds and straps for the various effects were done by smashing Fimo between two glass plates until thin. Then I cut them up with the hobby knife to get the sharp edges in the putty, remove them from the glass pallets and arrange them so the sharp edges are where you would expect to see something like that. In this case, the edges of quarters or tongue in the boots or anywhere I needed to show separations of fabric.

I'll cover things like screws and rivets later, maybe next post. Again, if you have questions let me know.

Friday, August 5, 2016

What the hell is it? Part:2

The, "bulk-up" stage... It isn't pretty. 

This is a deceptively fast stage of the miniature creation, you're using your hands mostly and just adding balls of putty in the general areas then using a tool to savagely mash them into a general shape. This is the stage that after an hour or two of working on a figure and seeing how much progress you made in such a short time you think, "Hell yeah I can make that deadline!" but once this step is over and you move onto the detail everything slows down drastically. Suddenly you regret taking that evening off to do something fun because now your worried your falling behind schedule so don't let it fool you!

I'm pretty sure this is going to be a troll. People seem to want me to sculpt trolls the most so I thought I would take something familiar and screw with it. I knew I wanted to give it a gut so he's got a lot of bulk there. I also know that he's going to be leaning or holding something high in his right arm so his shoulders a slanted in preparation for that, Whatever it ends up being. What I didn't plan on was his "package,"  usually I put some kind of lump there just as a suggestion of male-ness but this guy's is way more then I intended. Mostly because as I was shaping the gut line I ended up pushing material out of the way to get the stomach where I wanted it. Maybe I'll keep it, we'll see what happens.

The Technical Stuff!

What I did was to mix up some greenstuff (Kneadatite) with more yellow then blue. This makes the putty more tacky and cure longer. It's the tackiness I'm needing. I then cover the armature with a thin layer of the mixed  greenstuff, getting on the legs and torso, everywhere I want my Fimo to stick. I don't need much, just enough to use as an anchor for the putty I'm going to sculpt with. After that I take small amounts of Fimo and begin to mash it onto the greenstuff, I want the Kneadatite to grip and hold the fimo in place, without it there isn't much to keep the putty in place while I'm working on it and parts would peal away from the armature. This is more important on the bigger stuff I sculpt rather then something in the 28-35mm range where the weight of the putty is less of a factor.

Once the small amounts of putty have been added I let it sit for a bit so the greenstuff cures to the point is has a good hold on the Fimo and armature. After that I begin adding the larger wads of putty, working it into the armature and playing around with the general mass and shape of the figure. Once I have the basics where I want them I take an old brush and some terpenoid and paint it over the figure. This begins to melt the fimo a bit, turning the surface semi-liquid and I'm able to smooth out the rough angles and lumps of the figure and make it look more natural. The more terpenoid you use the more melted it gets so use sparingly! Also, it will ruin your brush so don't get too attached to it.

After that I go over it again with hand sanitizer, this helps smooth out any brush marks I have made with the terpenoid  and the alcohol in the sanitizer will help the liquid evaporate leaving the figure solid again. I know, this may sound weird but it works and saves a huge amount of time in the long run. The pictures in this post show the figure after this process so you can see what it did.

Now it's ready for some details!

What the hell is it? Part:1

I've been getting the question, "How did you do that?" from people lately which is odd since I'm usually fumbling my way through a sculpt and am looking to other more professional artist for tips. I feel like I'm not the best source to ask for information about this but since you did...

 what I get asked for the most is progress and step-by-step pictures of what I'm working on so people can see a figure from the ground-up. I don't have much of those kinds of pictures in my library so I thought instead I would start a new figure and document the progress in hopes that it answers some questions.

The "What the Hell is It?" Project...

So here it is, right at the beginning. Just a wire armature and not even complete yet. What will it be? I'm not entirely sure. I got ideas but I'm just going to free form this guy and see what happens.

I know it will be human shaped... Sorta. The long length of wire at the top will be the head but since I don't know what I'm going to do with it yet it has no shape. The shoulders are a piece of hollow aluminum tube with wire wrapped around it. I did this because I don't want the arms to get in the way while I'm sculpting the body so this way I can plug some wire into the tube when I'm ready to get to that part.

For this step I cut lengths of aluminum wire and bent them into shape and once I had a figure I was happy with I drilled a couple of holes into my plinth and attached the armature.

The Tools...

Here's a shot of the core materials I use to work with; 1/16" gauge aluminum wire for the armature, pliers with a snip for shaping the wire, Fimo to sculpt with, greenstuff to get the Fimo to stick to the armature, hobby knife with #11 blades, a soft, small brush, a 0 size color shaper with taper tip and wire eye on the end, my sculpting tool and sculpting plinth.

Here is a small jar of Terpenoid, some hand sanitizer, liquid Sculpey, a millimeter ruler, an old brush and pin vice. I'll do my best to explain why I use these tools and what for as I get there.

The two things that are not outright store bought are the sculpting tool and plinth, I made those for myself out of necessity. I used to use a "Wax #5" dental tool for sculpting but it was too big for my taste so I followed (loosely) the directions from Ringert's blog on how to make your own...


The sculpting tool I made is about 1/2 the size of the original Wax #5 which means I can do finer detail with it. I've gotten a few comments about the insane size of the plinths I use to attach my armatures to but it's kind of necessary for me sine I'm always doing huge monsters. My fingers would cramp up trying to support the weight of all that Fimo for hours on end if it was any smaller. It's a 6" length of thick dowel I got from an art store with a 75mm pre-cut disc at the bottom and a 50mm pre-cut disc at the top. The discs were part of a pack of various sized hobby wood shapes I got from the craft store as well.

Now that you have a general idea of what I use to sculpt with and you have seen the armature I'll add some Fimo to it and see where it goes. I'll be doing this on my free time so the updates will be sporadic but if you check back in we'll see what happens with it. If you have any questions let me know.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Massive Darkness: Overseer

This is it, my last figure I sculpted for the game, the Overseer. When I saw some of the posts in the KS comments section wanting a Beholder-like figure I was snickering to myself. Something you should know is that I went way off-base with this guy as he wasn't even on, "The List." When looking over what the GG crew wanted I noticed there wasn't anything like a beholder-ish creature in there and I thought that would be a fun creature to have in a dungeon crawl game. So I decided to add this guy into my sculpting roster and see what Guillotine Games said about it. Again, it's a figure of my design and also, one that was not requested.

I've never been a fan of the original art of the beholder but I liked the concept. As years have gone by there have been plenty of artists who have done their rendition of the monster which have helped me appreciate the strangeness of the creature and assist in portraying it's general creepiness. I wanted to redesign it and make it more hopefully unique to the game.

Insectile mandibles instead of a slitted mouth, a crustacean carapace of natural armor and eyes everywhere helped make it stand apart but the tentacles were kind of a necessity and proved to be a hang-up point in getting this figure done. They guy was supposed to be floating but I was pretty sure the production crew could not do transparent floating stands just for one figure and sculpting some kind of effect to simulate flying sounded like a potential nightmare so the addition of tentacles seemed a necessity. I had done a set of them based off of a Portuguese Man O War but they looked terrible! Once I had all the tentacles on and got a good look in it's entirety I got very frustrated. This didn't look at all like what I was going for so I had to set it down for a couple of weeks while I worked on the other figures and thought about it.

Once I had a chance to look it over again I realized there was too much mass below the sphere of the body, it lost it's floating theme I was trying for and instead looked like it was balancing on a pile of tubes so I drank a bit of vodka to get up the courage to go after the figure with knife and cut them all off. Once that was done I restricted the tentacles to only three primary tendrils to balance on with a couple of smaller ones tucked around the bigger. This helped a lot in keeping the mass of the figure up high in the sphere where I needed it to be. After that I was much more happy with the sculpt; it had a touch of weightlessness, it had motion and it looked alien. The GG crew said they liked it and it got sent off.

What I really enjoy about the character is the write up they did for it (which I just saw today)

I thought this was an awesome idea and very I'm happy with the concept of it's origins and the art is great too!

Here are the pictures for the final sculpt...

One last note: since you cannot see it, under its mandibles there is a sucker-like mouth opening. I didn't envision this guy chewing his food but rather using these articulated mouth-parts to scoop and stuff food into it's orifice. Fun.

There he is, the last of my contributions to this project. Hope you have fun playing it and enjoy fighting the beasts!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Massive Darkness: Lord Tusk

OK. I will admit it, I was sick when I did this. And I mean physically, not mentally. I had a pretty nasty head-cold and was wacky on the antihistamines and full-on lack of sleep. On top of that I was  away from home so I was sculpting on the fly but luckily I had a little bit of everything I needed to get him done. This guy was on the list GG sent me and was just named as, "Ogre."

Again, free-form sculpting with this one and considering my condition probably more so then normal. I remember I had made the smaller cleaver first, thought it too small, sculpted a bigger one and made it look as though he was leaning on it. Then, somewhere along the way I decided to use the cleaver I already had made and put it in his other hand because... I guess I thought he needed it? Right? I don't know, maybe he throws the smaller one first and uses the bigger two handed... Or maybe he's just that bad ass?

I had started the Cyclops Spear Maiden already but had to leave it at home since it was in no condition to travel so I worked on this guy instead. He was the second to be started for the project but the first to get done (and smallest) and I was sure that once I sent pictures off to the GG crew there was going to be a lot of, "What were you thinking?" comments. I had even began preparing a new armature for a re-sculpt in expectation of them wanting something a bit less over the top but they liked him and requested more. I wouldn't say I was delusional when I sculpted this one but fairly loopy for a while and semi confused with what I did when I got better so if you are wondering why I did it like this, your not the only one. The awesome picture the artist drew of my sculpt made me feel better about it all though.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Massive Darkness: Hellephant (AKA: Kevin)

This guy just got unlocked so here's my post about it: This is another one of my designs and was part of a list of proposed figures for the game that had been sent to me from the GG crew. With only the description of, "3-armed ogre" I had quite the leeway with the design and I'm sure this figure, like several other of the sculpts they let me be creative with, was not at all what the guys at Guillotine Games were expecting.

I had pondered how I wanted to approach it and bounced around with ideas of an ogre with two arms on one side and one big one on the other but I was worried that it would just look like everything else I've sculpted with an extra arm sprouting out of it's armpit. I was suddenly taken by the idea of an elephant-type of creature and immediately remembered issue #4 of Conan the Barbarian where he meets an alien being named Yag-Kosha who was trapped and tortured in a wizards tower. The imagery had stuck with me from early childhood when I used to read my dads comic collection since I thought the idea of an man-elephant was an odd idea for an alien. Then there was Chaugnar Faugn from the Lovecraft Circle of writing that bought up some interesting ideas for inspiration. With that in mind I began sculpting and saw where it took me.

Usually when I get to sculpt like this I can add or discard ideas as I go since I'm not beholden to any artwork. With only a general idea of the overall look I got to have fun with the design and try to create something unique for the game. I didn't want it to look just like an anthropomorphize pachyderm and felt it needed to appear more alien; more like this species had a resemblance to an elephant rather then an elephant that mutated, if that makes sense. The "trunk" became more of a tentacle arm with claws that roughly resembled his hands with the over-sized central claw detail carrying over all three arms. Midway sculpting the face I changed my mind and what were originally going to be tusks became more like mandibles. I also decided to change the idea of teeth and instead sculpted a beak like a squid's, with an extra set of eyes and ears added to the overall strangeness. A spiky back, elongated cranium, freakishly long arms and a squat frame helped to make it look less human.

Something that surprised even me, which is odd since I'm the one sculpting it, the clothes ended up becoming more elegant then a lot of the other roaming creatures in the game (hopefully) giving it a feeling of intelligence and hinting at it's own culture. It has a lack of forged weapons as I had originally thought of him as a monk-type of fighter, (hence the Shaolin style brass rings on his wrists,) but he could also easily be some kind of arcane spell caster... Or both? I didn't know just what the GG crew had planned for the 3-armed ogre but I figure they would find some place to fit it in if they decided to use the sculpt.

So there you have it, love it or hate it, another one of my attempts at creating a new race that breaks away from the Tolkien or D&D tropes of fantasy creatures but not TOO far as I didn't want to alienate people, rather challenge their imaginations. I guess we'll see how it is accepted. Again, the artwork was based off of my sculpt after it was done and my thanks to the artist.

BTW, the nicknames of "Kevin" for this guy and "Bob" for the nightmare Thing were given to them by the GG crew.