Well holy crap!
Since I’ve gotten back to work on this piece the followers on Instagram has almost doubled! “Now go and make ye fishers of men!” But seriously, the interest people have shown along with the kudos they’ve posted has really geared me up to finish this piece. Plus, I’m shocked that Instagram is such a helpful resource.
The Tyrannosaurus had been put aside so that I could finish a couple other projects: the Triceratops doorknocker for David’s new home, some Steampunkey bugs, and a human heart pendant. While on the shelf, this dinosaur became very intimidating and it’d seriously still be sitting there today if it weren’t for some friends and Instagrammars asking me about it. It just goes to show, what a profound effect just a little bit of free encouragement can do.
I questioned some fellow sculptors about how they tackled intricate details like scales and hair. Their advice was to “hint at the detail”: no need to sculpt EVERY hair and scale. It’s good advice and can be seen in many forms of art. Our brains and imagination help fill in “gaps” when we look at art, perceiving detail that is both absent and sometimes unintended. So the plan was to leave the dinosaur’s skin “fairly smooth” with some wrinkles and a hint of scales here and there. As I began the first few random scales and bumps, I imagined how awesome it would look if I just took the time to detail the details.
So that’s been my mission: to sculpt a really real looking dinosaur with ALL the details… except feathers. Science has been getting more and more insistent that dinosaurs had feathers, so before we all accept that fact I had to hurry and crank this baby out. Feathers could be added later though. Lots of thing could be added later, which is partly why I decided to sculpt him “plain”.
As usual, every sculpture I tackle gets more detailed than the last; what can I say, I like to push my limits. It also seems like the older I get, the harder it get’s to elicit an audible “wow” from onlookers. I had a few ideas and observed textures other artists used on their renditions of dinosaurs and other reptilian beasts: scaly bumps, jagged spikes, bony horns and even snakelike scales. I had imagined a real dinosaur’s texture as being like the skin of those giant Galapagos tortoises.
The Galapagos tortoise isn’t the only living animal I looked at for inspiration. I researched another animal that is very dinosaur-looking to me called a Cassowary. The bones in it’s feet look exactly like dinosaur bones (in my opinion), not to mention the rest of the *Ratite.
*Ratite: a group of large flightless birds (not to be confused with the group, Tinamous). Along with the Ostrich and Emu, the Cassowary has a flat sternum, indicating that even with proper sized wings and feathers, it’s physically incapable of a musculature for flight.
I’ve tried a couple techniques in the past to make scales, neither of which I used on this piece, but I thought the processes might interest you. I call the first technique “Bunch-O-Balls”. After sculpting the basic shape of a critter, you roll out a bunch of tiny clay balls and smush them on, one by one, covering the entire surface with them. It looks great but adds almost an extra 1/4 inch thickness over the sculpture. I decided not to use the Bunch O’ Balls technique because I sculpted the Tyrannosaurus the thickness I wanted it, and an extra 1/4 inch over the surface would make it too… differenty. The other technique I didn’t use on this piece is one I like to call the “Gift Box”. That’s because my wife received a small gift in a cardboard jewelry box with a strange textured pattern on it. When I stamped the box’s texture onto clay, the pattern’s “negative” looked just like scales! I didn’t use this technique because I wanted more control over the size variation of the scales. What I did here was almost entirely using a needle and a small soft paintbrush. The needle: to carve each scale, rounding each tiny corner. The paintbrush: to soften the edges and sweep away the tiny clay crumbs.
And what’s to become of this Rex? Well, I’m asking around to get an idea for what the professional mold makers charge. Chances are good I’ll have to ship it out but I definitely PLAN to weigh all my option carefully. I think he’d look good in bronze but to make them for less in resin means I could get more than one chance to modify him… hmmm. Any ideas? Maybe Kickstarter? Think you might want one?