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.
THE BEARD IS DONE! My brain started to hurt from thinking about how to proceed with the beard for so long. I really couldn’t find a solution that would work and look good at the same time. But I did in the end and I bring you proof! Prepare yourself, because this is a picture-heavy post. But before showing you the beard, here you have a picture of Anachromie with another layer of paint. It’s still not finished and it needs black washing, but that will have to wait til tomorrow.
So, remember how I prepared the white wig? You can find it on this post if you missed it. What I did was cut off half of the seam line. I could do this safely only because I literally bathed the whole seam on PVA glue, otherwise the hairs would just fall off. I did this so the beard would look as natural as possible, with a smooth and seamless transition between skin/scales and beard. Tough stuff though.
Once the hot glue gun was good to go, I calculated where the middle point of the beard would be, then I started gluing the hair strands to the chin in a spiral.
I put extra glue in the crevices of the chin so it would be a bit smoother. The trick is to dip your finger in cold water, and while the glue is still hot, press it down and shape it to your convenience. I kept on gluing hair in a spiral until I was done. I used a length of about 70cm in total (not the length of the hair itself, I mean the strips).
As you can see above, the result was a very nice full beard. But now I had to deal with that unsightly hot glue. And of course, you can’t just paint it because acrylics don’t stick to it that well and it looks awful in any case. I needed something that would blend into both the skin/scales AND the beard. So I decided to experiment with something quite unconventional that I had never used on any piece of art: surgical tape! This stuff. In case you’ve never heard of it, it’s basically a very thin paper-like tape that’s very flexible, porous and you just put on your skin when you want to avoid an infection on a wound. The thing with this tape is that the glue is extremely sticky and sort of waterproof (it doesn’t fall off your skin even after a shower). And since it’s so thin and paper-like, I thought it would be a good thing to use. After covering the seams and all of the hot glue, I added a few layers of tissue paper. I made it really damp to the point that it broke apart, and smudged it into the strands of beard hair.
It didn’t take too long to dry. I painted the whole thing ochre and then dry-brushed both skin and beard with raw umber until it looked natural. The transition doesn’t look as smooth as I would like (the tissue paper is a bit too wrinkly compared to the smoothness of the cotton fabric), but it’s acceptable. Now I just need to black wash it and it will be ready! I’d love to hear opinions on the beard. Find me on Facebook or Twitter and let me know, or just leave a comment of course.
So, last night I was giving Anachromie her first coat of paint, when a not-so-unexpected problem happened. In case you don’t know or remember, the eyes for this dragon were drawn and painted by hand with markers (it’s all explained with pictures in this post). Even though they were proper markers, As soon as the water penetrated the fabric while painting with acrylics, the ink raaaan wild! Well, maybe not that wild, but it did run. So basically, I had to perform eye surgery after the paint dried to remove the eyes and replace them.
The new eyes look sooo much better than the old ones, I’m actually glad that they got messed up. Now, to prevent the same tragedy from striking again, I laminated the paper with plastic, glued it to the cabochons (glass domes) and sealed the sides used something that I very rarely use but that proved great for the task. I’m talking about Mod Podge’s Dimensional Magic. It’s a thick liquid that dries up to look like glass, pretty much like liquid clear resin. I think some clear nail polish could have done the job as well… maybe. I need to test that. But anyway! The eyes are now fixed and look fantastic!
Yay! The time has come to test the silicon mould and the clay mix. First of all, I dampen the surface with water and glue. In my experience, doing this prevents the excessive drying of the clay on one side, and thus, chances of cracking will be very low. The layers cloth and newspaper absorb A LOT of moisture very quickly, it happens when painting with acrylics too. Also, I had to do it because I needed to smear the clay into the cloth around the borders so it blended well into the cloth area, instead of looking like a chunk of something smooth on top of something different, if you know what I mean.
I added the clay onto the forehead first, then the left side and then the right. After that I went ahead and tried the silicon mould. I gently placed it over the areas and pressed down firmly. I had to do some manual adjustments and fixes, as the “joints” were very obvious, and some parts didn’t take the texture because I didn’t press enough, but that didn’t take me long. Here are pictures of the process:
This morning the postman dropped off a rather large junkmail flyer. When I picked it up, that feeling of thin, rough paper inspired me to start working on the back plates. As I said I would do last time, I covered all of them with paper mache. Notice in the pictures how I added the top plate that goes over the forehead. I made that with air-dry clay. The surface smooth as it could be, but I still gave it a layer of paper mache to match all of the surfaces. Once dry, I confirmed it was just what it needed!
Now, regarding the face… Gosh. The face. It is fixed now. Not that I’m 100% happy with it, but I think it’s decent enough. I’m sorry I didn’t take pictures of the process to modify the shape, but I’ll explain. Basically, what I did was dampen the whole mouth over night by covering it with wet towels. In the morning, all of the materials were soft and moldable, so I stretched the mouth open by putting a long wooden stick inside, and then warped the shape of both jaws into a more natural way by putting strong rubber bands in different places of the mouth. I cut a few pieces of 3mm steel wire and shaped them to size so it wouldn’t deform in places I didn’t want it to. Think of those as braces. Then of course, I let it dry up, and to my surprise, it looked good! I wasn’t sure it would work at all, but it did. I don’t have exact pictures to show you a before/after, but you have to trust me, it was awful before.
Something I realised once it was dry, was that the lips were too full. I filled them up with bits of cloth (as I normally do) to make them look a bit fuller, but in this case it didn’t look right… it just didn’t. This dragon is smooth and sleek, and it needed flatter lips. So well, instead of dampen up the nose to fix it, I made all of the face wet again and ripped off both the nose and the lips. I cut, refolded and reshaped everything until it looked alright and then I let it air. Check the results below… what do you think?
So I put the mouth together, attached cheekbones, made the lower jaw’s cheeks extra puffy, glued the eyes in and topped them with eyebrows… and STILL. Still, she’s looking square, boring and derpy. Especially derpy. Anyway… I prepared the shield, drilled it and secured the neck to it, then proceeded to attach the head to it with wire, hot glue and lots of tape. I also added the chewing side muscles and made the throat look more natural.
Now, Anachromie has very large and long jowls hanging all the way to the base of the neck. To do this, I just cut a bunch of pieces of steel wire, shaped them and glued them in a way that made sense. It’s not 100% faithful to the original model, but I need to make it look nice enough and the base needs to fit within the oak shield, so there you go. I am curious to see how it will look when I cover it all with cloth! Are you too?
PD: Even after all of that, it’s still looking derpy. Gah!
Last time I published a post, I had the core structure ready for the horns and the skin, and that’s exactly what I’ve done today. I safely wrapped the shield in plastic and tape and proceeded to cut strips of fabric and dip them in PVA glue. For the neck plates I used tightly-woven fabric that likes to stay rigid, and for the rest of the skin I used a more gauze-like kind of cotton. It formed bubbles, which made it all the more awesome, since this dragon is very lumpy, and also it’s going to be covered in clay scales that will smooth out the surface and hide imperfections. I also covered the ear membranes with fabric, as well as part of the back of the neck.
I could still see the red markings I made in my last post marking where the horns would go, so I cut the base to adjust to the angle and glued them with hot glue. Now all there is is adding the clay bits, the fabric scales, nostrils and paint (he’s going to be black and red)… stay tuned for updates on the progress!
Tadaaaa! These are pictures of the final product under proper lighting. As you can see, I changed my mind about the orange facial spots and I re-painted them grey. I black washed the whole thing, applied highlights with a dry brush, and gave it a thin coat of protective oil-based varnish that won’t mess up the acrylic paint. Sorry for the blurriness of some of the pictures, but you get the idea! I hope you like the results, and as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on it!
Why do I make “fake” head trophies of my respected fellows, you may ask. Well, from what I’ve seen, a lot of humans (especially males) have a high sense of pride, and they can be quite primitive at times. They will go hunting for fun and they call it sport, although if you’re a human you probably knew that already. When they shoot down an animal, it makes them feel strong and proud, and they will sometimes feel the need of hanging the head of the beast for everyone to see. I’m not sure whether it’s a matter of dominance, to show off their prowess, remind themselves of how manly they are, or what. Please let me know what you think and/or how you feel about this, because I would really like to learn. As a scholar though, I see this practice as an opportunity to honour the dragons I respect. I make honour trophies to show humans, but also because I miss my home, I guess. As you may already know, I do take commissions. I know humans have been to other planes and some of them have even known some dragonkin. But even if most of them think of us as fantasy, I don’t know all of the dragons around. A human may know a dragon that I don’t, so I am more than willing to make an honour trophy for them to keep if they provide me with a good description and/or picture, and proper payment. You can read more information about this in the info section, if you’re interested or know someone who may be.
The craftsman who makes shields for me finally delivered and today I’m showing you the process of attaching the trophy to the shield. To do this, I first covered the shield in tape around the line where I’d have to drill, then placed the dragon in its position and drew an outline with a pencil, and after this, I marked the spots where I would drill the holes for the wire. I made eight holes, but because the wire goes around for extra safety, I only had to cut four lengths.
In this case, I chose to leave all the wires outside, because I though the neck could benefit from a “veiny” texture. I shaped the wire into the dragon and then hot glued/taped it all together until it felt very secure.