The current chess piece I’m working on is slated to be the Queen. I’m trying to base it’s look entirely on the Chinese description of the dragon which, to me, looks nothing like the bearded snake that’s so often illustrated. Last week I completed the head and basic body shape. Over the weekend I completed most of the detail on the body, which is described in Chinese literature as having “scales of a Carp”. Honestly, I know as much about fish as I do about the stock market: Carp swim around in water and stock traders stand and shout in a room. Is there really more to it than that? I needed to do research so I don’t seem so ignorant about the important things… so here’s what I’ve learned about Carp: they are an oily freshwater fish that are native to Europe and Asia and they have been a primary “food fish” for thousands of years.
Koi and Goldfish are types of domesticated carp.
There doesn’t seems to be any expressed special qualities about the scales of a Carp. So, I did an image search to decide for myself what makes carp scales unique. When I look at some other fish they may look mottled or leathery, but just about all images I found of Carp show them with large defined scales. In these above images of Koi and the Goldfish, their scales are defined enough to look like spots… sorta… like a giraffe?
A I said last week, I am planning on starting at the head and working my way down on this sculpture. In the left image below you can see how I made bands around the neck. This helped me figure out the size of the scales before I started making them all. I went on to finish the scales on these first few rows to see if I’d even like the look of them…
I DID like the look, so I continued to work my way down. These scales were made almost exactly like the feathers on the Owl Lighter Case I made for my cousin.
I began by determining the size of the scales with the initial rings around the neck. Then, I made quick and simple vertical lines in each ring to create a “brick wall” type pattern on the dragon. Last, I round off the bottom corners of each “brick” with a slight undercut so the scales look like they’re overlapping. The very last thing I’ll do is brush Turpenoid (or alchahol or just water) over the scales to smooth them out. You may even notice that I’ve already smoothed the initial seven rows of scales while I was determining if I liked the look of them or not.
[dropcap_1] L [/dropcap_1] ightning struck my brain… not literally…at least not yet, but I did get an idea. You may find that it becomes increasingly difficult, as your sculpture gets more and more detailed, to hold onto it without crushing parts. I had been determining the size of the chess pieces with a poker chip and had the bright idea to cover the chip in foil and make a clay base. The foil will help in removing the sculpture from the poker chip when the time comes to bake it.
For now, this base will give me a place to hold it firmly without fear of crushing any detail, while I continue sculpting.
Additional internet searches led me to a description of the Chinese dragon’s tail as that of an ox. You know, it’s remarkable that I can’t find any other sources (besides myself) that think this Chinese “dragon description” keeps sounding more and more like a giraffe!
I did discover the Qilin: a mythical hooved Chinese creature “tiger-like with scales and horns”. Correlations have been drawn between it and the unicorn. In some circles it was also believed to be the sacred pet of the gods. When admiral Zheng He brought 2 giraffe’s back to Beijing from his travels to East Africa, he called them Qilin (even today, in Japan, they are called Kirin). Emperor Yongle deemed the giraffes magical creatures, whose capture showed the greatness of his power.
As you can see, the scales are all but done. I’m going to try to keep from obsessing over them for too too long. Suffice to say, I have no predictions as to where I’ll be by Thursday’s post. I have other projects that need my attention not to mention a croupy baby.
If you have any questions or thoughts, I’d love to hear from you.