Tuesday Art Day: Arbalest and Sophye
First: I know it isn’t Tuesday, but I couldn’t finish this yesterday and I didn’t want to rush it.
I am really excited to share this particular art day project because I’ve had to keep it under my hat since September! This was a special commission from Kirby (who was referred to me on Twitter). He wanted two figurines for the top of his friends’ wedding cake. I can’t remember who suggested me because they had seen the figurines I have done before. (See: Shaedre, Millya). For many reasons this was a much more complicated project than those – they had to be wearing specific clothing, and they also had to stand on their own!
I wish I’d taken more in-progress photos; I do have the preliminary sketch that I did though. I was surprised that the final figures ended up looking similarly to this sketch. I really presented it as a rough just to get some idea of proportions.
This was the image that I had in my head and that I sent to Kirby before I started working on it. I wanted everything to be ready to go before I actually began work because once you start working with clay (even the type that doesn’t dry out) it tends to be an all-consuming project taking over an entire desk and house. In this photo you can see a bit of my working area; note the thin scraps of clay and how they retain their shape without “sticking” to each other. Also you can see the box of 60 travel wipes – I used ALL of them. Travel wipes are amazing for working with clay. You can use them to clean your hands in-between colours, and also to wipe down the work area. I read this tip randomly on a clay website and it was invaluable.
Unlike my previous figures, these ones had to be able to stand on their own and were a fair bit bigger. Because of that, I knew they would need an armature inside. Arbalest (the groom) has a wire armature wrapped in aluminum foil that makes the shape of his legs, torso, arms, head, and horns. Sophye (the bride) was a little different. Because I knew her dress was basically cone shaped, I simply rolled and shaped a piece of aluminum foil into a cone. The reason this is done is because it makes the final figures lighter, stronger, and ensures that the clay bakes evenly. It also keeps the price manageable, because otherwise you’d have a solid block of clay.
I used a different type of clay, Staedtler Fimo instead of the Sculpey III I had used for my previous projects. I was really happy with the Fimo and will be using it again. I found that it held detail much better than the Sculpey. The feel of it is a bit more plastic-ey, but it was perfect for rolling out sheets of clay and retaining its shape. The black in particular gave me trouble, for some reason it felt softer than the other clays and tended to almost feel like it was melting in my hands. I think the only available Fimo black may have been Fimo “Soft” and I’m not sure I would use it again for a larger project such as the groom’s tux/body.
For this project I also invested in a dedicated clay “pasta” machine to roll out sheets of clay. It was a huge lifesaver and I don’t regret it at all! Especially the bride’s dress required uniform amounts of clay and the Fimo was perfect at holding a “fold” as I was working with it. What I did was figure out the approximate length of “fabric” needed to wrap around the dress. I’d roll out the clay, use my blade to slice it straight and then just built from the bottom up. After the bottom of the dress was done I worked on the torso (I did the head separately, it also has a ball of aluminum foil inside) and later added the details like the roses.
Overall, the bride was much easier to sculpt than the groom. His stature and the Tauren legs made him much trickier. When I finished the majority of his body (his head was also sculpted separately) he couldn’t really stand on his own, even with the wire skeleton in his legs. I changed the configuration of his tail so that it provided an extra support. This “tripod” arrangement keeps him upright! The tail is also built around a thick piece of wire and is probably a little thicker than an actual Tauren tail would be, simply of necessity.
The bride had a slight mishap in baking unfortunately, her bouquet slipped right out of her hands. Fortunately I was hovering over the oven anxiously and I caught it in time to pull the bouquet off of her and bake it next to her instead. Super glue works really well with polymer clays and I knew I could attach it after the fact. The bouquet may have needed some internal structure itself to lighten it up, I’m not sure, but lesson learned!
After both sculptures were baked, I spent some time glazing parts of them (and attaching/reattaching other parts). Having learned from the bride, I baked the boutonniere separately and attached it with glue after. I glazed Arbalest’s hooves, the lapel of his jacket, his nose ring, the leaves of all the flowers, and Sophye’s hair attachments. I toyed with the idea of glazing their eyes but ultimately decided against it in case it made them look creepy. I might experiment with this when I make another figurine for myself, but it’s not something I wanted to mess with considering I was under time constraints and didn’t want to mess these guys up.
I’m not sure that either of these photos shows all the little details like the tiny white buttons on Arbalest’s shirt (I poked four holes in each of them!) but I guess it gives some idea. You can click to view any of these larger.
Finally, I have one photo from the wedding itself graciously taken for me by Kirby. It turns out that they were a bit big for the cake so as Kirby put it, they went plainstriding. I’m not sure if they were a surprise for the bride and groom (I think so, though) but it looks like they had flowers already planned for the top anyway so it’s okay. I think even if I’d made them half the size they still would’ve been pretty big for the top so this worked out!
I learned quite a bit from this, including how much work such figures would be (I hadn’t paid attention when I made them for myself). Sculpting each figure took about ten hours for a total of twenty, post production stuff was probably five between the two of them. Or, if you prefer, nearly two complete seasons of Buffy and a bit of extra where I wasn’t watching anything at all.
Thanks to Kirby for the opportunity to make these! It sounds as if the “real” Arbalest and Sophye liked them and I had a blast making them. If you have any questions about something I forgot to mention, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments.