The Arcane Dragonry

24th September 2017

Ysera the Dreamer

Hi everyone. As I have pointed out a few times recently, I’ve been working on a new dragon and I must say I’m VERY excited about it. Some of you might know who it is I’m honouring by reading the title. For those who don’t know Ysera, she used to be the Queen of Dreams before her ever so tragic passing. Rest in peace, you’ll be forever in our hearts.

As you can see in the picture above, Ysera was known for having glowy cyan eyes. So what I’m doing with this project is install lights inside, so both the eyes and mouth illuminate. It will run on easily replaceable 2xAA batteries and will have an on/off switch. Cool,  huh? Don’t worry, I will document all of this as I go for you to see.

I got myself some copper-coloured Fimo polymer clay and started making her jewelry. I made steel wire frames to go inside to both provide support and easier application later on (especially with the crescent crown, since it’s “floating”).

Once baked, I gave it a nice aging treatment with some bitumen of Judea. Looking good! I also included the eyes in the picture for you to see. I made them as I usually do, but leaving a large black rim around them.

Did you notice all of those teeth I baked along with the jewelry? Well, I tried using a new product for those as an experiment. Instead of glow in the dark Fimo, I used Fimo professional doll art (porcelain colour). It was tough to work with and a bit crumbly, so it  made me wonder if they gave me an old block or if it’s always like that. Regardless, I made a big batch of teeth and baked it. I let everything cool down, and I checked to see how good or bad it was. I always have to be super extra careful while working on a dragon so I won’t break the fangs. They’re very strong, but if the tip gets caught anywhere and you pull, they can break quite easily, so this is something I normally struggle with. To my surprise however, this clay is EXTREMELY flexible, almost like rubber! You can bend as much as you want: it just won’t break, but not only that, it will go back to how it was before and not leave any marks whatsoever. It’s incredible! Totally worth the price in my opinion. Check out these pictures, I got proof!

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There will be another update soon. Stay tuned!

6th June 2017

Cheeky!

Cheeky! I discovered a trick to make some mache stuff not stick to things. Why would you want to do that, you ask? Well, I decided to do the mouth side membranes with this new material I spoke about a few posts ago, but the thing with that is… it’s very fragile. After some experiments I realised that it just breaks if you try to pull it loose after it’s dry. So what I did was put some masking tape where I wanted it to be loose, and it worked great. This way, I was able to paint inside of the cheeks without ruining the mouth (breaking fangs, painting things accidentaly…). Check out the pictures!

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After the paint was dry, I glued both ends and it was done. The mouth is looking pretty good, don’t you agree? I don’t have pictures of this, but to give the face a bit of shape, I used an experimental mix of PVA glue, paper pulp, flour and gypsum. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t the best either… the “recipe” definitely needs some tweaking. I also made the horns with Fimo -as usual- and I shaped them in a way that would fit the piece perfectly. If you look at the pictures you will notice they just follow the lines of the “flesh”. Normally I glue the horns after I do the skin, but I decided to do the opposite this time because of how I made the horns “click in”. I thought it would look a lot more natural doing it this way. I hope I’m right!

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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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22nd March 2017

Augh!

Hello humans! Odrajux is finished! In this post I’ll just quickly show you the process of painting him, but I’ll be taking proper pictures soon to show you. Odrajux has been the dragon that’s taken me the longest time to paint so far. I tried a different approach: instead of painting with “bright” colours and then black-washing to add depth, this time I went for a very dark base and slowly added layers of lighter tones until it was just right. This is true for the red/brown areas of the dragon though. I still black-washed the neck plates and chin.

So I decided to start with the lighter colours: white and ochres, and then gave the rest of the dragon an umber coat. It looked pretty good already! Once dry, I started giving it layers of plain red. Loads of layers. Even more than you think. But eventually, it became opaque enough to look red. Time consuming as it was, this actually gave the whole thing a lot of depth. I also blended in a tiny bit of blue and sienna here and there to add to the richness. Once the colours were pretty solid (that would be the last picture), I proceeded to black wash the lower neck, and then I worked on dry-brushing all of the details, highlights and shadows. Again, this took quite a bit of time due to drying times (using that much retarding medium didn’t help!), but it looked great in the end. Also, I used significantly more paint than usual, but it looks pretty nice. I’m not showing any pictures of the finished thing on this post, but I will soon! Stay tuned!

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14th March 2017

Wrinkle wrinkle little brow

Hi folks! I hope you’re all doing great. Before I show you all of the progress on Odrajux, I’d like to take a moment to thank to all of you who follow me for linking and sharing the love. I’ve noticed an exponential boom in followers in these last two weeks and it’s both humbling and overwhelming to see that so many people are interested in what I do. So thank you all so much from the bottom of my scaly heart!

Anyway! These last couple of days I’ve pretty much left Odrajux ready for his paintjob.The first thing I did was his ear membranes. I had already glued the supports, so all there was left to do was cut some fabric to size and fix it in place. I cut big pieces, dipped them in PVA glue and placed them roughly where they should be. I marked the areas where the supports were, and cut the fabric while lying flat on the table. Sometimes cutting sharp angles with proper scissors it’s just impossible when you’re limited by hard edges like in this case. This made the cutting a lot easier! Once the ears were done, I covered some other areas with cloth, and proceeded to grab the clay.

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So now that the cloth was done, the fun part began! The clay I used for this was some old-school white Das. This was the first clay I ever used, about two decades ago, so it’s the kind of clay I’m most comfortable with.  The good thing is that it’s air-dry,  so you don’t have to bake it or anything. The cons are that even though it doesn’t shrink much, it does tend to crack. And also it can dry up quite quickly if you’re not careful (especially where it’s thinnest). I avoid that by spraying water every now and then on it, and you can refill the cracks later.

I started working from the mouth towards the shield, so the first thing I did was the chin. I wrapped the clay around the aluminium structure and shaped it. I did the same for the lower lip, but I added little holes and small nostrils. Also, I modified the length of the lips by adding “lip fangs”: small triangular bits that you’ll recognise to be very dragon-like as soon as you see them. I protected the teeth with some acetate and cling film to avoid messing them up… and then I did the rest of the face (jaws, cheeks and brows). Scroll down to see the results.

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Now, the cheekbones turned out to be a bit smaller than I anticipated. I had planned on adding loads of small Fimo horns, but the area was too small and I decided to make thorny scales with Das instead. I put some in the jaws and around the eyes, and added spikes of different sizes all along the top: from the nose to the shield, and left it to dry overnight. Luckily, the Scottish damp and cold climate made it dry quite slowly, so the cracks were few and minimal and it took literally two minutes to fix. The final touch was adding a bit of paper mache to simulate eyebrow wrinkles and also to make the nostrils a bit larger. I think he looks a bit more menacing that way! What do you think?

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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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1st January 2017

Happy new Gregorian year!

Humans are obsessed with measuring time. Which is understandable, since their lifespan is so short. Some people’s lives more so than others, revolve around the clock. Jobs are extremely important for humans, as this gives them the currency they need to purchase their food and other basic (and not so basic) needed items and services. Because of this, sometimes people will take their jobs too far, to the point of becoming unhealthy and/or miserable. Something that puzzles me is that even though they complain about this kind of situation, they completely accept it, and I think you would agree with me if I said that it’s a very normal occurrence nowadays. Sometimes, working too much can break a family, but at the same time, a family can not subsist without paid work (at least in what “we” call “first world countries”). What a cruel irony, isn’t it? How did this come to happen, I wonder? I read somewhere a few days ago, that people used to work an average of 4 or 5 hours a week before the Industrial Revolution, but because of the changes that non-human labour (machines) brought, workers ended up “enslaved” to their jobs after complaining too much about the lack of work. Now, I don’t know if this is true or not, but however it came to happen, the truth is that average work hours have increased a lot over the course of a century. I wonder how far this will have to go for the working class to rise up and change things again. This seems to happen from time to time, after being pushed for too long by higher powers.

Even though the system that is currently in use (Gregorian calendar) is almost 500 years old, very inaccurate, its quarters are not equal, it doesn’t follow Nature’s rhythms, months have different lengths, weeks always start in different days that are hard to guess, and a long etcetera, most people still use it to measure time. Why? I believe it’s because humans are creatures of habit. They love their comfort zone, traditions and resist change. Am I wrong? Maybe. Do you have your own opinion? Of course you do, and I would love to hear it in the comments.

Now, down to business! I hope you all enjoyed your holidays. I sure enjoyed mine! I love the liveliness of the Christmas period: carols playing in the background, so many colourful lights, people everywhere… It’s the perfect time to mingle with humans and learn about their culture customs! Anyway, I took a little break -as many of you did-, so I made little progress on Odrajux, but I took the chance to take a lot of pictures and share the steps to prepare the shield more in-depth.

The  first thing to do, is to outline where the neck goes. I use a 5B+ pencil so I don’t need be too rough on the wood to see the line. Then, before drilling the holes, I put masking tape all over the line on the front side. I drill from the back of the shield because sometimes it splinters a little while drilling, and it’s better if that is not visible. I use a 2.5mm drill bit, as the galvanised steel wire is 2mm thick. This gives enough room to stick the wire through, but not enough for it to be loose afterwards. I normally  make eight holes in total,  four of which are normally on the cardinal points of the neck, as you can see in the picture:

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When the holes are ready, I sand down any imperfections and proceed to cut some pieces of steel wire twice the length of the neck plus a few inches. If for whatever reason the dragon will need extra support (heavy horns, very open mouth, etc), I make them even longer and add them as support for the head and not just the neck. Because I drilled eight holes, I only needed four pieces of wire, which I bend into place and then hammer them flat against the shield. I put some masking tape on the wire to avoid damaging surfaces.

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The next step is to protect the shield. I do this by simply wrapping it in plastic. I normally use a thick, above-average quality carrier bag that won’t break easily, and stick it right into the sharp wire all the way to the base. Then I simply turn it over, cut the excess plastic and tape it together. Quite simple, really. Once this is done, I stick the neck piece in and secure it to the wire with a lot of hot glue and tape. In this case, I decided to leave four wires outside and four inside of the neck, but this varies depending on the design. For example, when making Kaltakess, I made 10 holes/5 wire pieces and left them all outside. I did this to give a sort of like vein/muscle 3D effect to the neck, all the way up to the “ears”.

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I hope you enjoyed this detailed tutorial, and remember to let me know what you think about time measurement and jobs (if you want).

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