This week I wanted to talk about the making of a recent commission. It was a lot of fun to work on and it was a real challenge (the best way to sculpt anything). I'm going to walk you through the basics of this piece, from start to finish. Many of you out there (or maybe it's just two of you) know that I'm really not good about capturing my sculpting process. I don't like to stop in the middle of my work just to take pictures. I also work rather quickly so my sculpts can jump quite a bit, as far as progress is concerned, from one photo to the next. Nevertheless, I tried to capture some of the progress on this piece so i could share it with you. So... without further delay, here's how it started.
I got this commission for a private client in Germany. She's a real Alice Cooper fan and wanted a bust of him for her home. She wanted Alice Cooper circa 1990 as that was when she became a fan. We both started by gathering loads of reference from that time period. it was difficult because the image quality of stuff from back then isn't all that great. Video still from Youtube interviews that were recorded on VHS aren't exactly High-Res. But we pushed on. My client managed to gather some really great pics, although there was one very illusive angle... The Profile!! I don't know if it's just the nature of publicity shots or perhaps Alice doesn't like being photographed in profile, but that image was very hard to find. After the reference was gathered, I proceeded to build the armature. A simple pipe armature with some foam on the interior to cut own on weight and clay (sorry, no pictures of that). I printed out all my reference and attached it to a sheet of foam core and set that up next to my sculpting stand. Then I started with the clay.
The first step in the clay - Roughing it out. I started by creating a basic skull shape. No likeness points here, just a basic shape with the right proportions and position of the head. It was important to get the position of the head correct in this early stage, as I didn't want to do lots of detail work and then have to change the position of the head and ruin hours of work. After the client and I were both satisfied with this position, I moved onto working on the actual portrait. This part moved quickly. The whole sculpt only took about four days to complete and this next step was only about 8-10 hours. You can tell by the picture on the right that things progressed quickly from the last photo. Had I stopped to take pictures along the way, you might have seen some of the basics being put in, but again I apologize for my lack of documentation.
From here, it was onto to further details. There were some adjustments that were made to the portrait. His right eyebrow was lowered to where it needed to be. They were also thinned a bit. Small tweaks were being done quickly as I saw things that needed to be adjusted on the portrait. I also took this time to start adding in the leather jacket and t-shirt. At this point, I had already started to smooth down the surface and remove my tool mark. The ears were helpful for me to see the likeness, even though I knew they would be covered by hair. A head without ears always looks a little odd, so I tend to add ears (even if they're just place holders) early on in the sculpt.
The Hair was tricky. It needed to convey a sense of wild, long, rocker hair, but still be easy to mold, so it would stay within the budget for this piece. Wilder hair and fly-aways could have improved the overall look of the hair, but that would have meant a more complicated mold process, and possibly multiple molds, as sections of hair might have needed to be removed. The compromise worked, and the likeness still felt right. It was at this time that the longer sculpting sessions took place. The hair was adjusted a couple times and the details took a while. I finished the textures on the leather and t-shirt and started adding final textures to the face. Once the client and I were both happy, the piece was send to the mold maker.
I don't have any pictures of the mold being made, but I can tell you it was a pretty straight forward brush up mold with a rigid mother mold. Once the mold was ready, I started casting resin. I used Silpak's "Quickcast" resin for this bust, and I added about a third of thermolite to the mix. This helped it stick to the mold better as I rolled it around. I cast the resin in several batches, doing my best to build an even coat on the inside. Once I felt I had a thick enough cast, I stopped, let the resin finish curing and de-molded the bust. The client wanted two copies of the bust, and she agreed to let me keep a copy for myself. I cast all three right away. i focused on cleaning up the resin casts for the client first, and then completed my commission and shipped the pieces off to Germany. The next step was finding a painter.
The search for a painter was a bit tricky. I had originally wanted one of the FX guys that I know to be the painter for this bust, but they turned out to be very busy and just couldn't get this bust done in time for Monsterpalooza (just a few weeks away). I turned the Clubhouse for help. I posted a Wanted thread and got a response right away. I had hoped to find someone in Southern California so I could save on shipping and see the progress first hand, but the answer came from across the country. David Dill answered the call to paint this bust. We talked about the issues with getting it out to him and the added costs. Dave made me an offer that was really hard to pass up, and after looking at his work, the deal was sealed. I packed up the bust and sent it off to South Carolina. When Dave got it a few days later he was eager to get started. We exchanged text messages with updates several times a day. He was very fast and very professional. The following progress shots are from Dave's cell phone camera.
By this point, Dave had pretty much completed the piece. A few detail touches on the leather and then the makeup and the paint work was complete. Dave finished the piece by adding various surface finishes and glosses to give the appearance of real skin. When all was said and done, it took Dave only a few days to paint this bust. It was back in my hands in a very short while. And I have to say that this is one of those pieces that definitely looks even better in person.
I'm thrilled with the way this piece turned out and I hope you guys have enjoyed a little look into the process behind this piece. For any of you that will be attending Monsterpalooza in a couple weeks, be sure to look for my table and come see this piece with you own eyes. You won't be disappointed.
For more photos of the finished bust, visit the gallery section and look in the Portrait Gallery. Thanks again for stopping by and I hope to see many of you in Burbank on April 8-10. Stop by and say hi. Let me know that you're a blog reader so I can thank you personally for all the support.
Cheers for now!!