Monday, October 28, 2013

How to Make a Dragon...

This was our second year participating in scarecrow contest in Ligonier.  If you were around last year, you might remember our Day of the Dead-thremed scarecrow, Beadora Strands.  She was decked out in Breast Cancer Awareness pink.

For this year, I wanted to make a dragon.  It was named "Allegory the Bead Hoarder".  (I know, the name is lame.  I had to come up with it on the spot way far in advance and I had a mental block.  It's not the most clever thing I've ever come up with.)

Here are some of the process pictures:

Since I have never actually seen a dragon in real life – at least not that I know of – I used a deer skull for reference.
I formed aluminum foil roughly in the size and shape of the skull.  Of course, I added some more reptilian and bird-like attributes to make it less deer-like.
After I created the armature, I conditioned pounds of polymer clay and formed the eyes.  They're actually hollow and were molded around two light-weight beads.  I then started applying the clay to the armature.  
I placed the eyes in the sockets, smoothed out the clay and blocked out the general contours of the head.  At this point, I also had to make sure that there was a way to attach the head to the body.  I had formed the aluminum foil around a PVC pipe and had to make sure not to close up the hole.
I then added more detail and used a texture tool to add scales.  Once I had finished detailing it, I baked it.
After the head had been baked, I started working on the ear fans.  I don't know if that's the technical term, but I used wire to form an armature and then covered them in clay.
I baked the ear-fan-skeleton-armature.  Once they were cured and cooled, I rolled out thin sheets of polymer and laid them over the understructure.  I pressed the sheets of clay down until they were adhered and shaped them to create the webbed fan look. I baked them again.  After they had cooled, I added them to the head with two-part epoxy clay.

I didn't have too much time to work on the dragon, so I had to figure out a way to fake the body.  Originally I was going to do great big wings and and have a twisting body made out of chicken wire and papier-mache.  I had an idea of creating scales by gluing on plastic cabochons and encrusting the belly with rhinestones like Smaug.  That would have taken days, if not weeks worth of work and I just couldn't invest that much time into this project.

I came up with the idea that the body would be a nondescript bulky shape and the head, hands and wings would be tiny in comparison, but the only things showing.

I sculpted the hands faster than I think I have ever sculpted anything before.  They took less than ten minutes to make.  I embedded hooks in the tops of the hands and in the palms so that they could be hung from the body and hold the bag of beads with the Allegory Gallery sticker on it.
I started blocking out the shape of the body with trash bags.  We recently cleaned out our back room where we store excess packing supplies, so I didn't have as many as I would have liked to.  Going against the clock, I ended up blowing up some of the bags with air and stuff the garbage bags to give it more volume.  I also had to weight the bottom down so that it wouldn't fall over or blow down.  

According to the quick sketches I did, the body was supposed to be all in black.  I found a graduation gown at the thrift store for a few dollars and an oversized black dress that was stretchy.  I dressed the plastic bags and taped the dress to the bottom of the stand, so that it wouldn't fly up or shift over the weeks the scarecrow is supposed to be up.

I painted the head, hands, and some store-bought wings in record time.

I used a PVC pipe and elbow connection to attach the head.  And then I stood back and took a look.  

It looked like it was wearing a burka.  I did not make the mental connection that nondescrip-bulky-black-flowy-fabric = burka.

This was not my intention, but I didn't have enough time to make it to the thrift store before the deadline to get a new dress or to paint the graduation gown.  To make it less "dragon wearing a burka", I found a big piece of red fabric and wrapped it around the neck and artfully pinned it down the back.  I wanted to give her the appearance of being a Hollywood starlet in disguise.  If I would have had a bit of time, I would have picked up a pair of oversized sunglasses to complete the look.

Here she is in the shop wearing a bunch of necklaces.

And here she is out on the Diamond. I positioned her next to the column to give her the look of being a shopper passing by, walking along with her recent acquisitions from Allegory Gallery.  The nice thing about this spot is that there is a covered awning and it protects her from high winds, rain, and even snow!  

Even though she didn't turn out quite the way I thought and it was an adventure getting her ready by the deadline, I think she turned out pretty nice.  I really enjoyed sculpting on a larger scale.  I usually work on much smaller things, so it was kind of nice to work bigger.  Throughout the process, I kept thinking of how nice it would have been to have access to the materials, tools, and workspace on FaceOff.  I think it'd be a dream to just play there one day, vacuu-forming plastic sheet and pouring foam.

After seeing some of the other scarecrows and the elaborate set-ups with multiple characters, lights and props... I don't know if she'll take home a prize, but at least I'll have a pretty cool dragon head.


SummersStudio said...

Brilliant! It's so good to read through your process as you created this dragon scare crow. It's a very innovative concept and well executed.

Aranthe said...

I've worked with polymer clay for a long time but never attempted anything this large. It's so cool!