An old steel dragon hailing from another plane. She's been living among humans for a while now, learning about them and using her artistic talent to make recreations of relevant draconic figures from her homeland. Her aim is to teach humans about her kin and learn about them in return.
Some time ago someone requested a bit more detail when making horns for a trophy, especially big ones that are hard to make. Even though I explained myself as best as I could, I feel like a picture is really worth a thousand words. So I hope you find this post helpful.
To make Ysera’s horns, I was a bit tight on clay. It’s not that I was short on it, I just had enough and had to measure it properly. I also mixed a little bit of leftover glow-in-the-dark Fimo effect clay I had with the Fimo professional doll making clay. I never knew how strong that glow in the dark clay was! It has very little, but still glows quite a lot in the dark. Anyway, to start making the horns, I made some aluminium foil cores first, I measured the clay for each horn and split it into rolls. In the picture below you can see how much clay went into just one horn. When I’m making small horns, it’s easy to make them look nice even if they’re made out of thin layers, but this changed when you’ve got a big horn in your hands. So what I do is draw a line where the “back” of the horn is going to be. This way, I know exactly where to blend the ends together so the line won’t be too visible.
First, I wrap the aluminium foil in a layer and I work it until the surface is smooth (or smooth enough, anyway). For Ysera, I went with a layered clay type of horn. Let me tell you, a pasta roller machine saves you a lot of work here. Not only makes kneading easier on your hands/fingers, but with a bit of practice, you can make the perfect strips with the right thickness for things like this. I used an array of tools to get the horns looking nicely, including some silicon clay shapers to add some realistic ridges and imperfections. I also made the two holes necessary to “hang” the earrings from in the cheek bones. Something that I do that I find helps a lot, and is key to make the horns look natural, is so shape the base to match exactly the surface is going to be resting on. This way, when I add the skin layers, it looks like the bone/horn really is coming from underneath the skin.
I added a picture at the end for you to see the difference between a horn that’s been only baked, and one that’s been “aged” with bitumen of Judea. I really love that finish… don’t you?
Hi everyone! I’ve been working on Ysera, but haven’t posted anything, so I’ve got a lot to show you! So far I showed you the custom shield I made myself, teeth/accessory making a little else. Today I’m showing you the core pieces put together and the circuit/lights to illuminate the eyes and mouth.
To make the structure I shaped a bunch of newspaper together, taped it, and made a paper mache shell out of the pieces (one for the neck and one for the head). This time, I wrapped the pieces in cling film to make the separation easier (once dry, you make it hollow). It did help a lot, but was tricky at first! This part of the process was taken from Dan Reeder’s book “Paper mache dragons”, which I really recommend. There’s a lot more info and pictures onto how to do it, so pick it up if you’re interested!
For this project, I had to do things a bit differently though, since it would have cables and light bulbs inside. I taped the inside both the neck and head pieces with very thick duck tape so avoid light going through the skin or cracks, and covered the tape with a layer of paper mache so the cloth would later glue onto it. I also added a bit of onion paper behind the eyes to act as a diffuser, since the three light bulbs were too obvious looking from outside.
I used seven high quality and VERY high intensity LEDs with a wavelength of 490, which is very close to the cyan/greenish colour that Ysera emits. Each LED has a resistor attached to increase their life (otherwise they can burn out pretty quickly). They’re powered by two AA batteries that can be easily swapped in and out from the back of the shield. I also hacked an on/off switch in. Once the cable length and angles of the light were adjusted, everything was soldered in place and secured with industrial-quality hot glue that won’t melt with the heat. I made sure to insulate all of the circuit pretty well when gluing the parts together and everything went just fine. The lights work and it looks amazing! Hmmm, I should have taken a picture of that 🙂
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!
There will be another update soon. Stay tuned!
Hi everyone! After a long summer break full of camping trips, I’m back with news! Evakyl’usk is finished now. He’s up for sale for £580.00 on Etsy, or £550.00 on my website (plus £30.98 shipping). I’m quite pleased with the paintjob, although (as usual), pictures are not that great. His dimensions are: 27cm (width) x 42cm (length) x 32cm (height) / 10.6″ (width) x 16.5″ (length) x 12.6″ (height), and he’s 1.6 kg / 3.5 lb. If you’ve got any questions, please feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned for the next post, where I’ll announce the dragon I’m working on now… she is very famous, but sadly, she passed away recently. Can you guess?? Hope you like it and feel free to comment!
Hello hello! No, I haven’t painted Evakyl yet, but no one has bought it either. In the meantime, I’ll show you how I made the shield for the next dragon (which has been decided and I’ll be announcing it very soon!). It’s not going to be a long post, pictures are pretty self-explanatory, really. Basically, because of two bad experiences with the last two shields I ordered, I decided to get some equipment to try and make my own. I’m not unfamiliar with carpentry, so I just had to buy a router and little else. I’ve had a small stack of very hard red wood shelves for some time, and I thought I’d try and make shields with those. It was very tough to saw, and even moreso to route. The wood was so hard, it tended to burn very quickly, so I had to work very slowly. I’m glad I got some really high quality stuff though, I don’t think cheap alternatives would have cut it for this.
Now, I’m not sure what kind of wood it is exactly. I thought it was some sort of hard wood conifer because of the small pinhole knots, but once I sanded it thoroughly, I realised it was red wood. As you can see in the pictures, it’s a pale pink timber with very deep red veins… smells lovely too! Perhaps it’s some type of aromatic tropical tree? I really don’t know. But I felt almost guilty for giving it a teak-coloured varnish. It was so nice as it was! Oh well. I think it turned out alright, and the best thing is that it’s bigger than the one’s I’ve been using up until now. There’s been this size limit imposed by the craftsman because of reasons, and I always thought the shields looked a bit too small for the dragon heads. So we will see with this one!
Hi folks! Evakyl’usk is looking pretty good. I finished two days ago and now it’s only missing the paint. A friend of mine saw it and he told me it makes him want to paint it really badly. I can understand that. So I thought I’d give him a chance to find someone who would like to paint him. So during the next week or so, while I prepare things for the next one (which by the way, it’s going to be amazing, just you wait!), Evakyl will be for sale without a paint job for £490 (plus shipping). The shield is solid oak with a reddish varnish like the one I used for Odrajux; you can see it if you click here. So go ahead and contact me if you’re interested before it’s too late!
Anyway, I’m showing you today the last finishing touches I gave this dragon. Basically, the only things that were missing (aside from a few fixes here and there) were some scales in the top part of the neck and the horns, doing the forehead with clay and leveling the gap between the eyebrows and the horns. For the big scales, I just used DAS and basic tools. For the little horn scales I just used the same stuff I made the skin with: an extremely thin textile blend and PVA glue. I just cut it in different square sizes and placed them carefully. It was actually a bit tricky, I am pleased with the results though… it looks as if they sort of blend with the horns. The whole forehead/eyebrow situation was simple enough, but it made a big difference. Oh! and I also made the horns look a bit more realistic by giving them a super thinned coat of bitumen of Judea. The bitumen was actually absorbed by the fabric, so I had to paint it white so avoid problems later when painting it. Scroll down and judge for yourselves!
She’s slender and long. Veeery long. She looks like a tiny little thing when she’s curled up or sitting, but when she stretches, she defies the laws of physics. Really. It’s like some sort of extreme version of those human instruments called accordion. I’m talking about Aika, by the way; one of my cats. I’ve had her for a bit over two years now. Today I’m going to tell her story. I will highlight it, so if you’re only interested in the dragon tutorial, feel free to skip the whole cursive text. It’s funny how I got her. She just… happened. One night around 11pm, one of my neighbours knocks on my door telling me to let Hoshi (my cat) in. He wouldn’t believe me when I told him my cat was just chilling with me on the bed, so I walk to the street door to check “my cat”, only to find a tiny clon of Hoshi. She rushed towards me and started rubbing hardcore against my feet, purring like bananas. My neighbour left, so I found myself wondering what to do with her. It was a very cold november night. The streets were all covered in snow and slush, and this kitten was thin as a rake. I decided to keep her inside for the night, and think about what to do the day after.
The night went by peacefully. I didn’t know how Hoshi would react to her, but he was ok enough. I took her to the vet and informed them of the situation. She was filthy, malnourished, full of parasites (inside and outside), and they told me they thought she was a 3 weeks old “discarded” litter runt. They gave her some shots and anti-parasitic meds, and told me to come back in a week for more vaccines. I contacted my local lost and found pet charity. They took all the information and they advised me to do the most bizarre thing. So basically, they told me to get collar with an ID tube thing (one of those that contains a little piece of paper with your address, in case your pet gets lost), and write my phone number there. Then, I was to let her outside again, and wait for her to return to her home, and then her caretakers would ring me. Just… what? Can you believe that? I don’t know what this person was thinking, but I just agreed and hung up. I mean, what kind of logic was that? I just decided to do things the sensible way.
I opened the window, as Hoshi normally goes out for a few hours a day, but she was terrified of the outside. She never even attempted to go out at all, so adding that to the fact that she was so tame, I came to the conclusion that she did belong to a household. So I paid to put an add in the local newspaper for two weeks, I put a few posters up in my street and also I contacted yet another pet charity. Needless to say, I also told my neighbours, friends and co-workers. Time passed, day by day, and nobody would ring asking about their beloved lost kitten. I grew worried, as I really didn’t want another cat. I tried by best not to grow attached to her either, I didn’t even name her anything in those weeks.
I took her to the vet again for her second round of vaccines, and they told me that if by the time the newspaper notice expired nobody got in touch, they would arrange a pick-up van to come and take her to a shelter. Now, that broke my heart right there. I used to volunteer at a shelter and I know how appalling conditions can be at shelters, and how miserable animals live there. So I spent that last week wishing that somebody would call to reclaim her… but it didn’t happen.
I knew aaaall of the cats in the neighbourhood. She looked nothing like any of the ferals, and no other female cats had had any litter recently. I never saw more kittens her age around. She was so tame, even the vet thought she was a house cat… yet, nobody wanted her, or nobody cared enough to look for her. Why? Maybe she was born in a household with non-neutered cats, they had a litter and they wanted no responsibility… so they just dumped them/her outside. Who knows, maybe she was the only survivor. Maybe her baby brothers and sisters died in the snowy streets. Maybe someone purchased her life to present her to their children as a surprise toy-thing, and other household members were not ok with it. And with lives being non-refundable, she ended up in the street. I really don’t know. Despite how passionate I am about humans and their ways, sometimes they do despicable things like this. It’s a very common thing among the human race not to have any respect for other life forms, or have respect only for some… depending on their own judgement and/or upbringing.
The time came for the shelter to pick her up, and she did return to the veterinary… but not to be taken away, but to have her spayed. Even though it was incredibly inconvenient for me to have a second cat, I had to keep her. I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I sent her to a shelter. Who knows what kind of life she would have had. So she was “kitten” no longer… she became “Aika”: a beloved companion that still remains with me to this day, and is friends with Hoshi. They fight sometimes, but they normally play and chill together. Remember I said at the beginning of the post that she was a clon of Hoshi? Well, she’s actually like a mirrored copy of him. Check these pictures out and see for yourself!
I just realised the massive wall of text I wrote. I apologise, it took a lot longer to tell the story than I had planned! I hope you did enjoy it though. If you’re interested, maybe I can share Hoshi’s story some other time. Anyway! I’ve worked a lot of Evakyl’usk and the only thing missing now is the paintjob. It’s been a lot more work than usual, but boy oh boy, has it been rewarding! So basically, instead of using regular cloth mache to do the face, I made it mostly out of extra-lightweight air-dry clay. Mind you, I also used cloth for the bottom layer (as you might remember seeing from the last post), but it’s only visible around the eyes and the forehead. There’s not much to explain about the process, since it was all just moulding the clay, really. I used very basic tools, nothing fancy. It took me a while because I did bit by bit. I would let it dry and continue on the other side, and so on. The cracking was minimum, but it did happen. I still need to fix some of the deep cracks, but that’s done in a minute.
Now, this is not all of the progress, but I’m going to end this update here because it’s turning out to be an extra-lengthy one. Expect another update soon!
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!
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!
Today I’m showing you in detail how I make the tongue of a trophy. I don’t think I will need to explain much, since all of the pictures are pretty self-explanatory. I always cut a bit of galvanised steel wire and cut it to shape. This helps me stick to the right size, and if I don’t do this, there’s a chance the tongue will be too big or too small. This is going to be a very fleshy tongue, so I made the chunky bit that goes underneath by wrapping a ball of newspaper in tape, and then wrap more newspaper all around the wire. Once this is done, I secure everything with tape before covering it all up with paper mache. Then, all is left is just to paint it and varnish it. I made a very elaborate post on how I paint tongues while making Odrajux. Click here if you’re interested in checking that out.
I hope that helped. Now moving onto the eyes! After some testing, I found a little trick that will help if you paint or print eyes and then glue that to cabochons. The problem with this is that it’s very easy to ruin them due to all of the moisture that filters in while applying glue or paint. BUT! I found this material I bought ages ago and barely used and did some experiments. It’s Mod Podge’s Dimensional Magic. It’s a very runny white fluid that dries clear and keeps a bit of volume. So what I did was lie the paper eyes on top of a single laminating sheet, then apply the Dimensional Magic to the back of the cabochon, and then press it down on each eye. It worked like a charm! Also, I don’t know if it helped much, but I did give the black areas a layer of acrylic paint so it would be extra-dark. So maybe that helped the ink stay in place? I’m not sure. Anyway! I’m pretty happy with the results. I will publish another update soon. Working with clay, paper pulp and glue is a nightmare when it’s this hot. What a hellish week!
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:
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.
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:
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.
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!