Monday, August 29, 2011

Shemp Howard

Shemp is my favorite Stooge, so here is my paper sculpture caricature of him.  He had a face with a ton of character.  I tried something different with the paper, by soaking it in watered down paint and then crumpling and recrumpling and letting it dry out.  I airbushed a little more paint after cutting out the face pieces to smooth the crinkles out just a smidge.  Shemp's hair would look something like this right after Moe smacked him in the face.

Shemp Howard, March, 2004

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene has finally left our area, leaving behind high winds and extensive flooding.  Tater had some thoughts during the ordeal.  While watching news coverage, Tater says, "Why is that news lady smiling?  Doesn't she know a hurricane is coming?!  I would be like, 'A HURRICANE IS COMING! GET OUT NOW PEOPLE!'  I wouldn't be smiling."

Tater: "Dad?  What would happen if it rained like this every day?"
Me: "Well, I guess there would be a lot of water.  Maybe we would need to move."
Tater:  "That would be a huge puddle."

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Here is a shot of our little red-eyed tree frog we call Petunia.  I don't know why we named her that.  To be honest, I don't even know if it's a girl.

Tater says, "Ants are weak.  They can only lift a crumb."  I explained that ants are strong and they can lift crumbs many times bigger than themselves.  After some thought, Tater says, "I could lift a car if it was made of foam." 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Joker Card

This one is brush and ink on illustration board.  The colors were airbrushed and I can tell you it was no easy feat to get the two sides to match.  This Joker was inspired by the Jack Nicholson Joker of the first Batman movie.

Joker Card, September 1991

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Angler Fish

Do you remember the old Lindsey Buckingham song, "I Think I'm in Trouble"?  That's what I think of when I look at this little yellow fish.  The angler fish is an amazing creature, but I have to say that my inspiration for this piece came from the movie, Finding Nemo.  If you haven't seen the movie (and who hasn't), it's worth seeing just for the angler fish sequence.
My original art was a paper sculpture, but when I did this version in Photoshop, I took the opportunity to tweak it a little.  This one is darker, but has more contrast with the lighted "lure".

Anglerfish, June 2008

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tricky Dick

I never called him that horrible name myself.  I just heard it from time to time over the years from disgruntled relatives.  This Richard Nixon was drawn, inked and airbrushed on illustration board, then cut out and scanned into my computer and placed on the front lawn of the Whitehouse.

Tricky Dick, October 1991

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Coco Tribal Mask

Here, at last, is the finished product.  After trimming away the excess clay from around the bottom of the mask, it was baked.  When it cooled to room temperature, the base of the mask got sanded with progressively finer sandpaper until the base is flat and smooth.  To get an even nicer finish, it was rubbed on an old pair of jeans.

Holes were cut for the eyes and slots were cut into the head to accommodate the leather hair.  The hair and eyebrows are velour leather straps, strategically placed to give that Conan look.  Tiny spots of super glue keeps the hair in place.  A little crook of a mouth was cut in and a faux leather bottom lip added.  From the bottom of his chin to the top of his pompadour, it measures a little over 4 inches, so it is a rather large pendant.   The digital background was added to give a little color and contrast.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Coco Mask WIP #3

Here is the mixed, molded and baked Conan mask with eye positions marked.  After the eyes are drilled and slots cut into the head, leather strips will be glued into these slots to simulate hair.

But how did I make the wood grain?  Here it is.  First, there are no set color formulas.  I work up a new mixture each time I do a new project.  The leftovers are saved for smaller projects.  Most of my colors are earthy hues, such as raw umber, burnt sienna, and ecru.  Black, white, copper, gold and pearl can adjust hues or add a little sheen.  Experiment.  You could uncover a really nice effect.

Secondly, I usually mix up 3 or 4 colors for the grain.  For this piece I mixed the following.  You can use this mixture as a starting point:
1 raw umber with 1 white
1 raw umber with 1 ecru
1/2 raw umber with 1/2 burnt sienna

The thinking here is that Conan is light skinned, so I use light color mixtures.  The burnt sienna adds more contrast and interest to the faux wood mixture.  The raw umber/white and raw umber/ecru are mixed completely and set aside as two separate logs.  The raw umber/burnt sienna mix does not need to be mixed completely.  The marbling in this log adds even more realism to the final faux wood effect.  I would not do this with the raw umber/white, because solid white streaks would not be the effect I'm looking for.  The marbling works better with colors that are not so contrasting.  Now,  push the three logs together to form one big log.  Cut this log in half and push the two halves together.  Roll it out into a big log and cut it again.  As you keep rolling and cutting, rolling and cutting, the lines in the log will get thinner and thinner until it starts to look like wood grain.  When the log looks the way you want, pick the best area to go on top and squash it or roll it out.  Work slowly so the clay doesn't smear.  One of those clear rolling rods is the way to go.  Also, I have a pasta machine, but I do not use it very often for this technique because of the smearing factor.  When it comes to faux wood, I'm antipasta.  Get it?

Thirdly, as I mentioned yesterday, working with molds can be a challenge because the soft faux wood clay has a tendency to separate and pull apart when pushed into the mold.  So, make sure to form a tent with the clay, but make this tent slowly to avoid smears.  And, use a good release agent on your soft clay and in every crevice of the mold.  I use Armor All or K-Y Jelly mixed with a little water.  Slowly and carefully, push your faux wood tent into the mold.  Gradually work your way outward until you have filled the mold.  Pull the soft molded clay out of the mold and set it on a baking tile.  Turn on your faucet to just a trickle and let the slow moving water cascade over the molded clay for a minute or two.  Now daub the clay dry with a very soft paper towel or facial tissue.  Be gentle!  Just touch the paper towel to the liquid and the release agent will get sucked right out along with the water.  Pretty slick, huh?

Lastly, carefully trim away excess clay with a tissue blade or x-Acto and bake for 30 minutes at 275 degrees if you are using Premo.  If not, follow the baking directions that came with your clay.

I hope to show you the finished product tomorrow.  See you then!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Coco Mask WIP #2

Step 2 in the process of the Conan mask is making a mold.  Sometimes, polymer clay artists proudly exclaim, "There were no molds used in the making of this piece."  Sometimes molds are a necessity, especially when trying to recreate wood grain.  The graduations in the grain can become muddy and smeared if it is handled too much.  Depending on what the piece calls for, I use hand-cut stencils, molds (like this one), supports, or I "rough it" the old fashioned way.
Working with a mold can be tricky because when the clay is pushed in, it has a tendency to separate and pull apart.  Pencil and paper handy?  Two very important steps will help to solve this problem.  One, form your soft clay into a tent,  But, work very slowly and gently.  Keep in mind the problem of smearing your wood grain and form the tent of clay with care.
The second tip is to use tons of a release agent.  You'll hear about trying water or powder or a host of other things.  I've tried 'em all with varying degrees of success.  There are two products that work great for me, Armor All and K-Y Jelly (Astroglide also works just as well).  Just don't leave the second one in your bathroom cabinet for your kids, or even worse your mother, to find.  Here's another great trick; I add a little water to these products.  It makes them super slippery.  One little tug and your faux wood will slide right out of the mold.  (This tutorial has gone downhill since the mention of the K-Y Jelly.)  Smear your release agent all over the soft clay and inside every nook and cranny of the mold.
Start in the middle pushing your clay into the mold.  Gradually work your way outward until you have filled the mold.  In the case of my Conan mask, the faux wood was rolled flat, but more on that tomorrow.
As for the mold itself, I just use Super Sculpey.  For this mold, I didn't have enough, so Premo leftovers were mixed in.  No big deal. I also use metal oval rings, like cookie cutters, to surround the soft clay when the original sculpture is pushed into it.  This keeps the soft clay close to the sculpture and makes a better mold.  The mold for the Conan mask was too big for my metal rings, so I cut a 2 inch card stock strip and wrapped it in tape.  Cut the tape and remove the card stock before you pop it into your easy-bake oven.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Coco Mask WIP #1

Many of my followers on deviantART have requested tutorials for some of my clay techniques, particularly my faux wood technique.  In order to accommodate those who wish to be in the know, WIP (work in progress) postings will become a regular staple here on my blog.
I am currently working on a Coco Tribal Mask.  Coco, as many of you know, is late night talk show host, Conan O'Brien.  When this is finished, it will be sent to the show to see if it might get some air-time, such as a graphic shown before or after commercials.  Hey, you never know.
Anyhoo, here is my sculpture to be used to form the mask.  Get your paper and pencil ready, here is my first tip...All my original sculpts are made of Super Sculpey and that block of cement they call Super Sculpey Firm!  I've tried all kinds of clays and all kinds of mixtures, but a 50/50 mix of the two clays mentioned above is a perfect modeling clay.  It becomes soft enough to work with and stiff enough to hold your designs.

Tomorrow, we'll look at molds and why we need them, especially when creating faux wood.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Leopard Gecko

This one is titled "Too Late for Lunch".  You can figure out why.  It is a paper sculpture on a T-Rex fossil.  I'm not sure if this is the dino the scientists dubbed "Sue".  The photo was cleaned up in photoshop with some digital desert sand added.

Too Late for Lunch, December 2007

Tater is very fond of his cat that we call, "Kitty".  Original, right?  Tater was talking about how much he loved Kitty and how much he would miss him if he died.  Then, after much thought, Tater says, "When Kitty dies, I'm gonna rename him "Kitty Crumbles".  Yea, I guess that would fit.