Invoking the Heart of the Forest, Progression Shots

Here are some work in progress shots of my piece, Invoking the Heart of the Forest. It was one of my more complicated pieces for the show, mixing paint, resin, and sculptural elements made out of polymer clay. With all that going on, I decided to focus on the progression of the sculptural elements for this post, since it comprised most of work for the piece from this point on.


I didn't start taking WIP shots until the background was done and the foreground elements were sculpted. The background is 3 layers of resin, with wet oil and acrylic paint mixed into it to created that swirling effect. Then I painted the cliffs and trees with oil paint. The foreground was made with Original Super Sculpey. 

After painting the foreground rocks, mounds, and ground, I started sculpting the 2 pine trees. I straightened out a thick piece of armature wire, and applied Firm Super Sculpey to it. Very blobby looking trees at this point. 

That's more like it! Now they're starting to look like proper trees. 

Here's a couple close up shots of the trees, and the roots. I had to add an extra mound on the right so that the tree wasn't situated so awkwardly. 

The next step was to apply gesso to the trees to prime them, and get them ready for some paint. There is no real clean way to get the gesso perfectly on the sculptures, so there was some wiping and scraping to be down afterwards. Luckily the resin is very smooth, and easy to clean and scrape. I'm starting to put down an initial layer of oil that's dark and warm. 

Then I add some cooler colors into the base coat, to give a green and kind of rusted look to the trees. I'll be dry brushing lighter colors on top of this when it dries, but it's good to have some variety of color underneath. I somehow managed to avoid taking anymore pictures of the trees from this point. I painted branches coming out from the trees on a few different layers. You'll be able to see them in the final shot.

Now I get to start on the character, which I've been looking forward to... and maybe slightly dreading. One of the things that I had to get used to again with sculpting, was how much of a blobby piece of crap it looks like in the beginning. Getting it into it's initial shape is certainly the most daunting part of the process. It's hard to imagine anything good coming out of this.

But eventually it does start to look like something, and things start to get way more enjoyable. It was really fun to carve out the tree helmet. I didn't go too crazy on the roots, because I knew I would be painting in those details later. One of the advantages of sculpting and using resin over and around the sculpture, is that you can add finer details through painting that might otherwise be too fragile with a straight up sculpture. 

After another gesso session, I start applying some paint. It's mostly acrylic paint at this point. I did start with some oils in the head though, for some blending. When this dried,  I decided I wasn't into the warm colors for the body. 

So I did a makeover of our forest conjurer, and went with a cooler get up. Looking pretty boss now. I added some highlights to the head to bring out those top textures. 

You may not have noticed, but our fellow here didn't have any legs. I wanted to add a couple layers of resin so that the legs would be more in the foreground. After essentially sealing the character into place with resin, I realized that he was a bit low. Every pair of legs I made for him gave him very comically short baby legs... well it certainly wasn't comical at the time as I had to figure out how to give him proportionately sound limbs. Crisis mode. After trying a few methods, such as painting the legs, and having him kneel instead of stand, I took a ball peen hammer, and hammered down the ground a little. It ended up working pretty well, and I was able to apply some Sculpey to mend the cracks. Crisis, and baby legs, averted. I also added a little bit of resin to the face region, to flatten it out a bit and prepare to paint. I added some eyes to see how it would look, mostly out of impatience. I knew I would end up painting over them eventually. 

You may not have noticed, but our fellow here didn't have any legs. I wanted to add a couple layers of resin so that the legs would be more in the foreground. After essentially sealing the character into place with resin, I realized that he was a bit low. Every pair of legs I made for him gave him very comically short baby legs... well it certainly wasn't comical at the time as I had to figure out how to give him proportionately sound limbs. Crisis mode. After trying a few methods, such as painting the legs, and having him kneel instead of stand, I took a ball peen hammer, and hammered down the ground a little. It ended up working pretty well, and I was able to apply some Sculpey to mend the cracks. Crisis, and baby legs, averted. I also added a little bit of resin to the face region, to flatten it out a bit and prepare to paint. I added some eyes to see how it would look, mostly out of impatience. I knew I would end up painting over them eventually. 

Here are the legs and feet all painted up. Also note that I've started painting layers of grass that will soon come all the way to the foreground. 

I put another small dollop of resin on the face, and I painted in the real eyes in. I also started painting the nose piece that would come down over the face. There will be another layer on top of the nose piece to give it some more girth, and to better connect it to the rest of the tree helmet. I also coated the entire sculpture in a light coat if resin to fill in some of the cracks a bit. This allowed me to start adding details such as the smaller roots coming out of the helmet. 

With another light coat of resin over the character, I finished the nose piece and added even more little details... which is the best part. I can lose myself for hours in this part. The grass is also starting to shape up. The next step in this is to add the forest spirit that he will be conjuring. 

Time to bust out the tiny brushes, and get to painting the spirit. I loved the contrast between the 3-D sculpted character, and the flat spirit character comprised entirely out of line work. 

Here's the final product. You can see the tree branches and the grass has taken root all around. 

And here's a detail of the finalized characters. 

And here's a detail of the finalized characters. 

Thanks for checking it out! I also have WIP shots of my other sculptural piece, Bearer of Wonderment. I'll post those in the near future.