Monday, 2 February 2009

A Survivor's Guide To Sculpting A Horse

I noted in my previous blog entry that my first attempts at figure sculpting were a convincing demonstration that I am not able to create a decent wargames figure. At least not using the standard method of wire armature and epoxy putty: this blog will describe a further attempt, using a modified technique.

The problem, as I see it, is that the wire armature method does not provide a sufficient guide for the geometrically challenged. Once the wire is covered by putty it is entirely hidden, so the sculptor is left to compare his figure with whatever reference art he has at hand. I find this horribly difficult, attempting to find the correct position of a surface in 3D space with no adequate reference point. It occurred to me that, with access to a computer, an easier method could be used. I could take a silhouette of the figure I wanted, and create a 2D template of the correct size. This could then be rounded out to create a fully 3D figure, the edges of the 2D silhouette giving me the reference points that I need.

The method is obviously limited in scope, and is likely to produce a quite 'wooden' pose. But there is one common wargames figure, the standing horse, for which the method is entirely suitable. This would be a handy practice piece and the happy coincidence that it would have a fair chance of creating a usable figure encouraged me to give up on human figures for the moment.

The first step was to find an image of a horse in the public domain that could be used for the template. The one I found came from wikipedia, although with a digital camera there would be little difficulty in taking one's own shot. The image was scaled so that it could be printed out at exactly the size of the completed figure.

A layer of milliput about 2mm thick was applied to upper body parts of the image. Some bent wire was pushed into this at the root of the horses tail to add strength at that point. Once the milliput had set, the paper was torn off, and leg armatures made out of bent brass rod were added, more milliput being used to attach them and give the correct spacing. After this, successive layers of millput were added to give the body its 3D shape. I used a different colour milliput for the later stages so that I could easily see the edges of my original template.

Early Stage Horse

This could all be done quite quickly and without any great skill being required. The greater part of the work lies ahead: where I have to shape the detailed contours of the horse, trying to accurately model its musculature. This is where I suspect that Charles Stadden's wartime service in No.1 Mule Pack Transport Company, RASC aided him in creating some of the best wargames horses ever seen. In place of this I shall be using reference images from the web - a search on 'thoroughbred' in Google images has netted be a huge amount of material to use.

Horse With 'Rough Shaping'


Fitz-Badger said...

Ah, now that you describe your process I recall a discussion on the 1-list sculpting group (Yahoo Groups) about techniques akin to this for large creatures (and vehicles?).

Andy Mitchell said...

That's disappointing, but I suppose it was always going to be unlikely that the idea was original. I must go look at the sculpting group you refer to: none of the tutorials I found had anything other than the wire armature technique.

DC said...

Your process sounds very similar to that used by Ebob - who produces some of the best wargame horses available today - so great minds think alike 8-) IIRC Ebob posted a horse sculpting how-to on Frothers last year - that may prove useful. Keep at it.