Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Clay Pegasus "How To"

Hi everyone, thanks for visiting my blog. This is my very first entry, I’ve decided for it to be a quick “How to”. Working on clay has always been a hobby of mine, it takes me away from all my worldly problems. Haha! Performing does that for me, but on my days off...  I try to save my voice for show time. Here’s one of my latest projects that I did a couple of weeks before Christmas 2010. Hope you have fun making your own! Let’s get started..
.Make your own Clay Pegasus.

In Greek Mythology a Pegasus is a winged horse and is a symbol of wisdom and especially of fame from the Middle Ages until the Renaissance, he became one symbol of the poetry and the creator of sources in which the poets come to draw inspiration, particularly in the 19th century, Carl Jung and his followers have seen in Pegasus a profound symbolic esoteric in relation to the spiritual energy that allows to access to the realm of the gods on Mount Olympus. His colours and overall look was inspired by 80s cartoons, namely Skeletor from “Masters of the Unverse” & “My Little Pony”. He’s my homage to retro cartoons! 

This fella's name is "Grimmi".

What you will need... Materials.

Armature Wire
You can use whatever wire you like from your art supply store, e.g. garden wire, etc. Make sure it’s malleable enough to bend into shapes. You will use this to make up the basic “skeleton” of your sculpture. I bought a two whole reels for future use. One is more malleable than the other.

Polymer Clay
My choice of clay is almost always Sculpey III, it’s easy to work with and doesn’t dry until you bake them in the oven. It's kind of pricey to buy lots of them at once, but they make your life easier.
They come in boxes of 10/12 pieces or  single 2 ounce pieces and have a very wide selection of colors.

Grimmi has just a few basic parts, I’m listing the parts just in case anyone decides to buy individual sculpey blocks from the store instead of getting a box full of assorted colors. This way you can plan the colors you need. 
Main body (I used Brown)
Hood (I used Purple)
Mask ( I used White and Black)
Tail and Fringe of Mane (I went for pink)
Wings ( I used Brown, same as the main body)

Basic Sculpting Tools
Just a simple set is more than enough... to be honest, I don't even what some of them are for.

Wire Cutters
The wire cutters are only for cutting the wire for the armature! Be careful using them.
Wear gloves to be safe when working with wire! The wire ends can be really sharp!

Styrofoam board/ block piece. (any old styrofoam block that comes with most electronic product will be fine)

Toaster/ Oven- You might want to use an oven that you don’t use for food for hygiene and health reasons.

All these should be easily available at your local art supplies store.

After you’ve got all your materials, it’s time to get down to it.  Enough of the boring stuff.


Step One
Build your armature. Be careful when you are working with wire/ wire cutters.  I really went with gut feel for this part, it’s not really vital for your armature to look like mine, not like mine is that great, anyway. 
This is the first time I built an armature, so it’s far from perfect. What the armature does is that it works as a skeleton for the horse. It gives the “meat” (which is the clay) something to cling on to. That way the soft clay won’t crumble and it would stand sturdy.

I cut a piece of wire, twisted and winded it around and made the basic shape for the head and the trunk of his body/midsection. Next, I cut 2 wires of the same length, bent them both into a U shape, put them together and twisted them together at the ends. This would be a pair of his legs. You would need to make 2 of these for his 2 pairs of legs.
To attach the pair of legs to the head/ midsection part, I cut pieces of wire to wind them around together.  Again, don’t be too worried about how your armature looks, as long as it’s sturdy (meaning it can stand on four legs) and doesn’t come apart when you shake it, you should be good to go. It’ll all be covered by clay anyway, so no one will see it’s 'ugly' bones.

Step Two

Prepare your clay. Sometimes, the Sculpey comes out of the box perfect for use. But most of the time, you would have to knead it. This process is called conditioning.

Conditioning is the process that makes polymer clay ready to work with.

The simplest way to condition polymer clay is to work it with your hands for several minutes. Take a chunk of clay of a size you feel comfortable working with, half an ounce to an ounce or so, and begin squeezing it between your fingers. As the clay warms and softens, start rolling it between your palms into a worm shape. Then move your hands against each other in a circular motion to compress the worm back into a ball. Repeat this kneading process until you feel that it is malleable enough for you to work with. I found that if kneading doesn’t help. A few tiny drops of oil will help soften it. I use johnson’s baby oil but I’ve heard that even cooking oil works.

 Put your clay onto the armature one section at a time. I started with the midsection/ trunk/ stomach area and then I went on to sculpting the front pair of legs. Use your fingers to make sure the clay is firmly pressed onto the armature just so the figure will be solid and can stand on it’s own. It will take some time to make all four legs of similar thickness, so be patient

Here's how it looks after putting on all four legs.
It kinda reminds me of the old Gumby Cartoons. As you work on the figure you can smooth out the clay on the body so it doesn’t look creasy (like you just stuck layers of clay over each other). I used my fingers to do this mostly, but clay smoothing tools came in useful. For example, if you look at the picture above,  you can see wrinkles and creases all over the body and the neck area. These are the lines that you want to smooth over so the body surface looks clean and nice.

Kinda like this...

Step three

Take a ball of clay and attach it to where his muzzle would be and blend the clay into the head so that it looks like one unbroken piece. Here, you can put the ears on as well, just whip up two triangle pieces with the clay and, like the muzzle. Put them in place and then blend the clay together with the head. This is how it should look like-

Step four

The coolest thing about Grimmi is his Skull mask, to be honest, I’m not really into the cute pie shit so he has to have some rock n roll edge.
Use the white clay and knead a chunk of it and flatten it. Take the cutting tool (the one that looks like a spear) and shape the outline of a skull. Once you are happy with the basic shape of the mask, dig out parts of the clay of where his eyes, nose and teeth will be. I used the needle tool to draw an outline of the eyes, nose and teeth and then used the spatula tool to dig out the clay on the inside of the outline to make space for you to insert the actual eyes, nose and teeth. At this point, I also decided to give Grimmi his mouth. Use the cutting tool, slit the bottom part of the muzzle to do this. It’s pretty easy stuff.

The actual eyes nose and teeth are made from black colored polymer clay, just pinch out small bits of black clay and stuff them in the holes that you just made with the spatula tool. This may be a little tricky because you it’s quite a mess if you don’t put them in properly, you don’t want the white and black clays to mush up together and mess up your color separation.

With your finished skull position it on your figure’s face and press it gently to join the 2 pieces. They should hold quite easily, I was a little scared that it would fall off during the baking process so I actually blended the edges of the skull mask to the main body. That actually made the edges a little messy on closer visual inspection but i was willing to let that slide instead of dealing with the mask not holding on to the face.

Let’s leave the main body of Grimmi alone for the time being and work on something else. Now let’s work on the wings! You can choose not to sculpt the wings, of course, you’ll just have a wingless Grimmi. It’s totally up to you.
To start making his wings, have an idea how long you want the wings to be.
Using the wire cutters, cut two equal lengths of wire and bend them into a slight arc, this will be your wing curvature.

Once you have decided on how long and curved you want your wings, then you can lay on the clay and start sculpting your wings. It works pretty much like putting clay on the armature for Grimmi’s body, the wings are easier because there is less clay to work with. I went for a real basic design and carved in the details of the wings with the needle too.

It would help to get a block of Styrofoam so you can stick the wings into it as you sculpt so your hand won’t mess up the shape of the wings, also it will keep your wings free from contact while you work on other parts of the figure. If you just let the wings lie on the table it may get all mangled up.

Grimmi's Tail

I wanted Grimmi to have a really cartoon looking tail much like the one’s in the 80’s cartoon, “My Little Pony”. Looking at the old Little Pony cartoons, I saw that the tail was kind of chunky and flowy, a little like octopus tentacles without the suction cups. I decided to use more wires to make the tail, it’s basically the same techinque as the wings but with a little more work.

Decide how long you want the tail part of Grimmi to be and cut the wires accordingly (remember to gauge the tail ratio length with the main body that you have made earlier. If not you’ll be stuck with a tail that is too long/short). *Note: I wanted the tail when finished to be the same height of the main body so that it would act as an extra point of support (in addition to his four feet/hooves) for the finished sculpture because I wanted the tail to be big and heavy. If you’re tail doesn’t touch the ground your finished sculpture might have balancing issues.

Put a few pieces of armature wire together (I used about 8-9)  and tie them together at one end with another piece of wire. I did this by winding a wire round and round the end of the 8-9 wires. the idea is to hold them together, like a small bouquet of wires. This was slightly tricky as they kept moving out of place. but the clay will cover it all.

The important thing is to just make sure they are secure and the individual wires won’t fall off. Once you have got a sturdy wire ‘bouquet’, stick it into the styrofoam board and slather on the clay.

I apologize that I don’t have pictures documenting in great detail every step of the way, I hadn’t planned on making a ‘how to’ at first... that idea was suggested by friends after I was done with the entire sculpture.
Anyway, the wires for the individual tail ‘tentacles’ were generally the same length... I only started cutting them after the entire wire bouquet was bounded and sturdy. Giving the tail ‘tentacles’ varying lengths will have a nice ‘layered’ effect, lending the tail a more lustrous kind of look.
I hope you can see the wire process just looking at the above picture. I covered the bouquet of wires with pink clay, some of the individual thicker tail ‘tentacles’ are actually 2-3 wires put close together and covered with pink clay.
Keep piling on the clay and sculpting the individual pieces of the tail giving it curls and some texture. As I sculpted the tail, I kept taking it to place next to the main body of the figure to make sure that it would look good when it was attached. That would save you trouble later on It will be hard to adjust and sculpt the tail once you’ve attached it onto the main body.

When you are happy with how the tail looks like stick it into position at the rear of the main body. Again, as I mentioned before, I measured the tail to extend to where Grimmi’s feet/ hooves touch the ground so that the heavy tail won’t upset the balance of the figure and it would act as an extra point of balance for the sculpture.
The picture below shows you more details of the tail and how the length helps the figure to balance. *Note: If you notice the part where the part of the tail attaches to Grimmi’s bum you can see that the bum now looks a little out of shape. Touch it up with tools to make Grimmi’s butt perky and nice again, you may need to layer more brown clay to aid this process. It’s just a little detail.

Left Side

Next, because Grimmi was inspired by “My Little Pony” and Skeletor from “Masters of the Universe”, I decided to give him the trademark of the Little Pony. A logo on one side of his bum.  This part is easy, just cut a heart shaped outline on a flat piece of pink clay and stick it on Grimmi’s behind. Inscribe something on it with a needle if you wish.

Right Side

Making Hood

The hood is what gives Grimmi the air mystery and mischief. To make this simply get a piece of purple clay, knead it and flatten it out. Cut the flattened purple clay into smaller pieces and put on a small piece at a time, filling the space around Grimmi’s neck, shoulder and head area, slowly blending in the pieces as you go along, that’s what I did.
After much trial and error, I finally got the shape and positioning I wanted for the hood and blended the bits where I joined parts of the hood together, so it looks like one continuous, connected piece. Take care when joining the part of the hood that goes near his ears, they were really fragile and I didn’t want to mess up his pointy ears.

At this point I also decided to give Grimmi some mane to match his bushy tail. This should be a piece of cake if you’ve gotten to this point. Just take more of the pink clay that you used for his tail and put it on his forehead, making it seem like it peeked out of his hood. It looks more a few strands of fringe rather than mane, to be honest. I also used a needle tool to give him ear holes to hear out of. Easy peasy stuff. *Note- I really wanted to try to give the hood the details of a real, cloth hood, meaning sculpting in the folds that cloth material have, but I was tired and decided I’d try that on another project. I must admit, I lost some steam at this point because I was pressed for time and got lazy and I wanted to finish this in one day.

Finishing Touches

Remove the wings from the styrofoam stand and pierce them into the midsection of the trunk area (where the wings should be)

Smooth the areas that need touching up, you know, get rid of bumps, dents, fingerprints and all that.
Stick Your Grimmi in a toaster oven... Just follow the instructions on the polymer clay packaging box. What I do is I preheat the toaster and just heat it up 2 minutes at a time, letting it cool, and then repeating it about 3 times until I feel that the clay has been baked and hot enough. 
Putting your sculpture in the over for too long at once will cause it to burn!

Now you’ve made your very own “Grimmi, The Phantom Pegasus”. Enjoy, he makes a great gift. And because there’s so much time and effort involved, I think it will be appreciated compared to something you pick up at the stores. I hope you have fun! Send me pictures of your version of Grimmi at jonathanleong01@yahoo.com

1 comment:

  1. grimmi looks like a "my little pony" dressed up on halloween nite! cute. very detailed step-by-step instructions! good stuff.