Monday, October 8, 2007
Before I begin a new Mythos book, I usually sculpt small maquettes of the main characters— in this case, Captain America's alter ego, Steve Rogers. I use Super Sculpey Firm, a modeling compound that you can bake in your home oven, or with a heat gun. There is a small armature made of galvanized steel wire that's looped around inside the head for dimensional stability. I will often bake in two stages, one to create a firm grip on the wire, and the second for the real sculpting.
Lately, I've been lightly oiling the baked maquettes so that they reflect light in the same manner as skin. This is especially important for achieving naturalistic highlights.
I sculpt the hair in a style similar to the way that I paint, using broad strokes. I use a rake, which produces many of the same results as a brush, only in three dimensions. I try to think of the hair as a mass with direction and edges, rather than as individual hairs.
Sculpture has become an invaluable part of my painting process. The proportions and angles of an individual face are much easier to keep consistent when painting from a 3D model. Beyond that, complex lighting effects are much easier to produce. Also, by sculpting the character, I get a better sense of their features, allowing me to maintain the same likeness throughout the book, not to mention that I can "cast" the perfect face for the role.
Once I've made the maquette, it sits at my desk, always ready to "pose" for me. My friends probably got tired of me asking them after several years of modeling.
And finally, here is a picture to give a sense of scale. This is actually one of the larger heads, the others being around an inch tall. As I get them all photographed, I'll post my other maquettes, which range from a Ghost Rider skull with moveable jaw to Professor Xavier's hover-chair from X-Men.