The Arcane Dragonry

25th May 2017

Tadaima~

Hi hi, hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? As you may have read, my computer broke down fatally very unexpectedly. It’s amazing the amount of attachment one slowly develops around bits of inanimate materials put together if we use them often. Luckily, what broke down didn’t affect the hard drives, so I didn’t lose anything. And also, it was the perfect excuse to upgrade, so I got myself a brand new shiny piece of that human technology that I so dearly missed having. A bit fancy, but not super fancy. It looks pretty cool though, judge for yourselves:

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Now, regarding dragons… I’ve made quite a bit of progress on the new one, so expect some more new posts soon! Now, let me tell you a bit about the dragon I’m making now. His name is Evakyl’usk, or Evak for short. He was a friend, a loved character among us. He was quite the chatty fellow, always cheerful, ever so wise and kind, always willing to listen and brighten up your spirits. He… changed though. Over the years he became colder and distant, and his once bright orange skin started to turn darker. He once told me when I visited him that he was struggling with some inner turmoil and that he felt he was changing. I offered to help by consulting higher powers or magic, but soon after that he announced he was leaving… and so he flew away to never come back. It’s been many a century now, and I don’t even know if he’s still alive, but I still remember him fondly, and so I decided to make a sculpture of his head.

I started by making paper mache balls, as usual, and hollowing them afterwards. This time, instead of using both jaw pieces as they were, I cut a bit off, because paper mache is not as flexible as Evakul’s jaws and I wanted to achieve a dramatic angle, hah. In the picture below, you can see the sketch I made of the head before I began working on it.

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First, I cut some normal cotton fabric to size and dipped it in PVA glue. This makes a nice “mouth skin”.  This time I didn’t have to make new teeth, since I made so many in the last batch. But if you didn’t know, I make them with Fimo (the kind of polymer clay you need to bake). As usual, I just hot-glued them to the jaws and wrapped them in PVA fabric. With a twist this time, though! I found this new material which is a very lightly woven blend of cotton and rayon fibers which is very tricky to work with, but it looks great and is a lot less temperamental than normal cloth when trying to make it stay in place. Also it’s so thin that overlapping layers are almost invisible to the eye! Check it out:

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Now, I know I always talk about how great of a thing bitumen of Judea is, but apparently the vast majority of people doesn’t even know what it is, so let me enlighten you. Bitumen of Judea is a liquid consisting of basically a bit of oil and a chemical component found in asphalt that  had a very deep and rich dark brown colour. It is mostly used for wood staining and other wood treatments, but I love using it on anything that will take it. I don’t think I’ve ever shown you exactly what it looks like when used, so I put together both jaws after coating the teeth of one of them with bitumen of Judea, so you can see the before and after. Amazing, isn’t it? It makes those fangs look a lot more natural, more like real bone.

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Now, let me wrap up by saying that if you’re interested in making one of these dragon trophies of your own, I recommend Dan Reeder’s “Paper Mache Dragons” book -which I own- where he explains his technique step by step with pictures. I’ve taken inspiration from there to make most of the initial steps to put these trophies together. Anyway, that’s all for now. As I said, I’ll be posting again very soon. I hope you’re enjoying a warm week of spring wherever you are. Bye bye for now!

23rd March 2017

Odrajux

I promised yesterday to post pictures of finished Odrajux… and I’m delivering! I experimented a bit with things here and there while making him, so it was quite fun. I wholeheartedly hope you like it as much as I do and spread the word so he can find a home! His measurements are 29cm wide, 35cm high and 48cm long, and he weighs 1.3kg. He is now for sale for £520 (£550 on Etsy). Shipping cost to mainland UK is £30.98 with insurance covering up to £100. If you want to extend that to a full cover, it would be an extra £19.80. Contact me for options to ship outside of the UK.

If you want to see these pictures in full size, click here to go to the gallery. If you want to visit my Etsy shop instead, click here.

Thank you all for the support and have a fantastic day!

Odrajux front - by The Arcane Dragonry

 

Odrajux side - by The Arcane Dragonry

 

Odrajux top - by The Arcane Dragonry

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7th March 2017

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Have you ever left some masking tape taped onto something and came back after a month? I’ll tell you what happens… it unsticks and curls on itself! Poor Odrajux was in the coveredinmaskingtape state when I left him. When I came back from my trip he looked like an unrecognisable party mummy. So after making the new tongue, I gave him a nice coat of paper mache to get the tape back where it was meant to be stuck. I just used kitchen roll for that.

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Now that he was fine again, I began working on the supports for the ear membranes. This time, I’ll be showing you more in detail how I do it. Basically, I just measure how long they need to be and cut strong steel wire adding about 3 more centimetres. Then, I tear lengths of newspaper and roll them around until I get the desired thickness. To secure it, I wrap tape all around each “stick”. The good thing about this, is that they remain fully flexible, and I can bend them as I please on the piece. Once I like how they look, I use hot glue to stick them in place. After double checking everything is alright, I cover them in paper mache (newspaper). This not only helps the tape to stay in place, but also makes gluing cloth and painting them a lot easier. Also it looks a lot nicer! Check the pictures:

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Right. So I know a number of you has been concerned about how “shoddy” his face looks, since at this stage with the other trophies I’ve shown in the past, their faces look a lot more neat and complete. The thing is, I’ve been experimenting with a different process, because I find that using only cloth for the face is not only very time-consuming, but it’s also difficult to get right, since I like to cut only a few big chunks of the perfect shape to fit large surfaces (as opposed of using a lot more smaller pieces that would look a lot worse). By doing this, I waste a lot of time and cloth, and it’s not very customisable anyway. So this time, I got myself some paper pulp and more Das clay. I know exactly what I want to do, so we will see if it works or not.

I’ll show you what I’ve done so far, which is adding some structure with aluminium foil and paper pulp paste, covering some areas with cloth, and adding the neck scales. I found that covering aluminium with paper pulp helped a whole lot, since fabric mache sticks to the paper paste and not to the aluminium foil, which is often problematic. Also, I can smooth out the texture so the texture of the fabric looks smooth instead of having lots of tiny spikes and bumps. It’s a bit more costly, but I think it’s totally worth it, so I will probably keep on doing this kind of thing this way. Now the only things missing before adding the horns and the clay are the cheeks and the membranes. You’ll be seeing that soon though!

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19th February 2017

Tongue twister

So, jaws were done. Tongue was done. I tried putting the tongue I made a while back in the mouth… and it looked awful. I realised how ill-fitting that tongue was for someone like Odrajux. The old one was a thick, round slab of flesh. But what this mouth needed was something more vipery, more aggressive. Made to frighten, not to speak. And thus, I decided to redo it!

For the new tongue, I used the same technique as usual, but made it look quite different. I took plenty of pictures for you to check out, including the colouring process. These photos are pretty self-explanatory, but to summarise, basically what I did was shape some newspaper into long cones and attached them to some steel wire. Then, I gave the mouth a bit more shape with more newspaper and more tape before covering everything in paper mache. I used a special kind of kitchen roll that has little bumps on it that look like taste buds (I’ve told you about it before). It looks really nice! Once dried, I painted it with acrylics. As you can see in the pictures, I like to adjust the colour on the spot, by squirting more paint on the piece while it’s still wet. In the end, I gave it a purplish-dark-brown wash and also a glossy varnish. If you have any questions, do ask! I can’t wait to show you the whole thing put together, it looks pretty amazing.

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15th February 2017

Normality

Hello folks! It’s been a while. I’m back now though, and things are going back to normal, so expect regular updates once again. Today I’m just making a quick post to show you some pictures of the progress I’ve made on the fearsome Odrajux. One a side note, Anachromie has been sold! She was a labour of love and I will miss her… but that’s the way it goes.

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23rd December 2016

The Arcane Dragonry now on Etsy!

Time for celebration! Now only because of the holiday season, but also because The Arcane Dragonry just opened a shop on Etsy! Etsy (as well as Paypal) offers a very safe and controlled environment where you, your money and your purchases are covered, in case something goes terribly wrong, so it’s perfect for those of you who are extra wary of buying things on this amazing thing we call the Internet.

Check out the shop here!

21st December 2016

A new beginning

If you’ve been reading my posts, you know that I’ve been working on another project as I worked on the last stages on Anachromie. This other project is a red dragon called Odrajux. Now, this is a figure of renown from Abeir-Toril (my homeland). He existed long before my time so I never met him, but it’s written that he was vicious and feral when young. When he became large enough, he took off to never return. We know of him from the tales of terror from the north, where apparently he became the scourge of (mostly) human villages for centuries. He was eventually defeated in an epic battle by a large group of seasoned mercenaries. However, he became a legend that’s been immortalised in books and still lives in folklore up to this day. Now, since I haven’t really posted any progress on Odrajux, this is going to be a long post. You’ve been warned!

Somebody asked me a while back to explain a bit better how exactly I make the teeth, so this time around I remembered to take a picture with all of the steps on it. First, I make a roll of Fimo. Secondly, I cut it in different lengths. After that, I roll out the ends until they’re pointy and cut it in half. That makes two teeth. Then, I just round the cut edge and they’re ready to bake! The trick to make white Fimo look like aged bone, is giving it a coat of Bitumen of Judea thinned down with turpentine. I don’t recommend using white spirits or any other turpentine substitute. I know it would be much cheaper, but I find that it somehow messes up the distribution of the pigment and also dries to be a bit sticky to the touch. See the picture below with all of the steps mentioned:

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Easy, right? Right. Feel free to ask any questions if you do have them! Anyway. Odrajux was quite the horned dragon. And so I had to make quite a few horns and spikes. I hope it’ll be enough! I also made enough teeth for next time. I wanted to make his mouth VERY menacing, so I used very long and sharp teeth glued close together. Down below you can see the layout before I glued them in.

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Now, I’m sorry I forgot to take pictures between those two steps. Sometimes I get sooo into it, I forget to do things! Also, my work space was turned into a makeshift photography studio for two days in order to take “proper” pictures of Anachromie… which was a nightmare, but I already complained about that on the last post, so I won’t elaborate. To make these jaws I used the same technique as usual (which I’ve wrongly failed to mention in the past) has been defined by the great artist Dan Reeder and it’s one of his most wonderful additions to the “cloth mache” world. He is a great person, as well as a great artist, and as I mentioned while making Kaltakess, he’s been my inspiration to make these trophies. I highly recommend his book “Paper Mache Dragons” (which I proudly own). There, he explains how to make dragons in a lot more detail than I provide, and much of the initial process you see here on my website like hollowing paper mache shapes, attaching the piece to a wooden shield, making the jaws and creating skin/scales with cloth, have been taken from this book. For now, I am bound to make head trophies due to space restrictions, but hopefully that will change in the future. I can’t wait to try and make full-bodied dragons!

Anyway, to summarise, to make the mouth, I hot glued the teeth to the paper mache pieces. Then, I used small strips of plain cotton dipped in PVA glue to “hug” each tooth tightly, and laid out the inside loosely with a large piece of gluey fabric (is that even word?!). I must admit, lately I’ve been using an awful lot of super glue. If you look closely,  you will notice that the cloth that goes inside of the mouth pieces is folded on most of the ends. I don’t just lay it on top the “gums”, I’ve found that I quite like the folded look better. It makes for a more natural transition between all those dozens of different pieces of fabric (that are folded as well). The trick to make it look so good, is to use a drop of super glue on each of the “sockets” between the teeth. I’m sorry I didn’t illustrate this process better. I will try my best to remember next time.

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To make the tongue, I just shaped some brown paper until it had the shape I wanted, and secured it with some masking tape. Then, to give it texture, I just paper-mache’d some upside-down pieces of kitchen roll that have little bumps that resemble a real tongue quite well. Sounds strange, I know, but check the picture below to see what I mean. Does it not look good?

For the paint, I used a dark tone of red and umber for the tongue, and a mix of red, purple and a lot of light grey. Adding grey to a colour is an easy way of making the colour a lot less saturated and more natural-looking, so you don’t have to paint-wash it too much later to make it look better. Once dried, I gave everything (including the teeth) a black wash with Bitumen of Judea in different concentrations to highlight or darken areas. After this, I simply gave everything a glossy varnish finish (two coats on the tongue to make it extra shiny). Gloss is the cheap, modest way to make something look wet. To accentuate this, what I do is using a brush with long bristles. I dip it in water and then dip it in a glossy sealer (Mod Podge in this case), and apply it in a chaotic fashion while the brush is in a very low angle, so there’s a lot of friction with the surface. Because the texture is irregular and full of folds, it makes the watery sealer bubbly, and guess what? The bubbles don’t go away. Instead, they dry as they are, so it looks like saliva. Also, the parts that have a bit more glue dry up to be a bit whitish, which also resembles saliva. I know it’s not very noticeable in the picture, but trust me, it works and it’s visible. For me, this is wet enough. If you want to make your dragon’s mouth VERY wet and drooly, you could just use clear liquid resin/epoxy. I’ve been thinking about using this on Odrajux, since he’s so vicious and scary, but we will see. I don’t particularly like drooly things or beings in general. I find them almost revolting.

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Didn’t I warn you? It was going to be a long one. It may not look like much, but making the mouth of a dragon trophy head is about 1/4 – 1/5  or so of the total progress, so what you see here is about a week’s worth of work. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll keep you posted!

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18th December 2016

Anachromie

Whew! Anachromie is finished! I’m posting the final pictures of her below and she’s up for sale in the gallery now! Don’t worry, you didn’t miss much since the last post. The only thing left to do was grooming the beard, nothing special. I’m no hairdresser, so I just followed some simple tutorials on how to reduce hair volume and that’s it. Now, taking the final pictures and fixing them took me almost two full days of work. If you’re a photographer, you will know how tough it can be to photograph something that’s shiny AND metallic. Even the best shots had to be edited and “frankensteined” together so you could appreciate all details without weird glares and burns. But anyway, it’s done! Anachromie proved to be quite an interesting experience. I experimented with quite a few things: a whole lot of air-dry clay mixes, silicon moulds, the dewlap, adding hair… I learned a lot and it was lots of fun. For those of you who follow me, I hope you’re pleased with the result too, and please spread the word! I want her to go to a good home. Thank you all, I’ll soon tell you about the other project I’m working on now.

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16th December 2016

Almost there!

Bitumen of Judea. Oh, how I love the stuff. It smells lovely and gives a rich brown wash to things that you can’t just compare to anything else. It’s oil-based, so normally you have a reasonable amount of time to wipe it off  until it looks nice. It’s a bit trickier when it’s a large piece like these dragon heads I make though. I ran into some trouble on one of the sides and I had to redo it. Being oil-based, I had to wait for about two days for it to proceed. It normally takes less time, but it’s winter and Anachromie sits on a cold and non-ventilated room. Once it looked good enough and it was perfectly dry, I gave her some nice highlights by dry-brushing, and finally, gave it a matt coat of varnish. I really like how the black wash made it look so “antique”, almost vintage. It’s quite appropriate too, since bronze dragons are the keepers of the sands of time!

Anyway, now everything’s all dried up and ready for the ultimate beard grooming session! I’ll leave you with some pictures of our favourite bearded lady while I was applying the black wash and the finished result. Regrettably though, it took a lot of effort to take a decent picture of her now. The metallic paint reflects a lot of light, and the varnish doesn’t help. I had to tweak the contrast so you could appreciate it without any weird glares and burns, and because of this, it looks a bit flat and plain. Hopefully it won’t be too hard to take the perfect final pictures after the beard is ready.

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7th December 2016

Fangorn

Hair. Perfectly common in humans, not so much in dragons. Anachromie is a gorgeous bearded lady though, so today I’m showing you how I prepared her beard. I had to ask a good (and informed) old friend of mine on how to do it, since my experience with hair in general is very limited, so thank you, o Queen of the Bright Lights.

I was advised to make a “cap” to attach the hair to, and then glue the cap to the rest of the dragon. I’m not sure that’s how I will proceed, but I did it anyway. I took a piece of cloth, dipped it in PVA glue and shaped it to the dragon’s chin with a thin layer of transparent cling film in between. I let it dry in a position where it would hold the shape but not fall off.

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Now, regarding the hair itself, what I did was purchase a white wig (long and wavy) with the intention of dying it myself. I turned it inside out, and cut the mesh following the lines of hair sewn into it. Then, I cut and pulled all of the mesh and thread until the stripes of hair became loose. At this point, the stripes of hair were rapidly losing hairs after removing the stitches that kept them sort of restrained though, so following my friend’s advise, I strengthened them with PVA glue. I used a sponge to literally soak the base of the hairs on top of an acetate sheet (so it wouldn’t stick). I did this to enough strips of hair to make the beard…. and a bit extra, just in case. Now to let it dry!

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