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Monthly Archives: December 2006

Kull Part 5: The Middle Phases II

Welcome to the fifth installment of the “Sculpting of Kull” blog. We’re now in the second part of what I call the Mid Phases wherein there is quite a bit of finishing and smoothing along with minor and sometimes major adjustments to the sculpture.

In my work, a sculpture can change quite a bit especially if some time is spent away from the piece. When I return to it, I can look at it with a fresh eye and come to the decision that some changes need to be made. This is usually in the anatomy of the sculpture since the costume is established already by the look found in the source material (such as a comic book). In this case, though, I was originating the costume for Kull and wasn’t just copying a costume already in existence. I found that I wasn’t satisfied with the look of his right forearm armor. I had sculpted in the veins, and the arm was finished, but the armor just didn’t look as it should. I still felt that he would have some sort of armor since that was his fighting arm, but the armor was just a bit “off.” I reworked it and came up with the look you see here.

I then decided that I wasn’t happy with a simple strapping on his left arm. I thought that he might have something to anchor and support his wrist and he might have some metal armor attachments for a measure of protection.

One thing I noticed in reading the short stories of Kull was that he was often described as not ostentatious or showy in his clothing or gear. It seemed to me that it would then follow that Kull would generally kept his gear fairly simple and functional. This didn’t mean that Kull wouldn’t have some detailed gear, though, and he also might pick up something functional that could also be decorated as well, from a fallen foe. That might especially be true at this point in his life, when he didn’t necessarily have much in the way of disposable income and might have picked up what he could off the field of battle or in a scrape with some other unfortunate thief or warrior who chose to take him on.

The above must also be tempered with the fact that this is an art piece and there must be a certain amount of artistic license. The piece should be interesting, after all, and my focus was to make the sculpture interesting to me, to Paradox, to Robert E. Howard fans and to sculpture collectors.

With these factors in mind, I came up with the look you see for his left arm. I also finished out the anatomy including the veins, as you can see.

Next time, we’ll discuss more ideas for the costume such as greaves and just what it might mean to be from “Atlantis.”

Thanks for reading.

Clay

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2006 in Kull of Atlantis

 

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Happy Holidays

The Kull blog will resume on Sunday, December 31. Happy holidays!

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2006 in Uncategorized

 

Kull Part 4: The Middle Phases

And now we arrive at the next level of the sculpture-the middle phases, which take the most time. The figure has been roughed in and the licensor (Paradox) has approved the general look and body masses.

Before we go into that, something interesting came up in my talks with the folks at Paradox. They mentioned that they’d like me to sculpt Kull carrying an axe, rather than a sword as he’s shown in the finished rough you saw in the Week Two installment. This was a decision that made good sense although it required some further discussion. This sculpture shows Kull before he is king and so it takes place before he takes the ancient battleaxe off the wall in “By This Axe I Rule.” I had designed that axe in the base because the base is intended to reflect Kull’s future and that axe plays a major role in his future when he defends himself with the axe from the group of assassins. However, Kull is still closely associated with an axe and this is, after all, a more symbolic representation of Kull. It is that axe that helps in separating Kull from other characters and is an important icon in the Kull legend.

I agreed with the rationale, but have made him carrying AN axe, not THE axe. The axe of the story “By This Axe I Rule” would be sculpted on the base of the statue. I suggested that Kull carry a sword over his shoulder as an interesting look that would add to the particular look of the piece and Paradox liked the approach. We all agreed that a sword was essential as he carries a sword specifically in several of the short stories.

We had that exchange at this point as Paradox could see the piece coming together visually although neither axe would be sculpted until later.

What you will now see are two phases in the long “middle times” of sculpting when the piece requires a lot of time to finish out the musculature and establish a costume look.

These middle phases take the most time because hours are spent properly “honing in” the piece and bringing the figure to the proper level of completion. If a piece is going to be fully painted, as this one is, then the figure must have a fairly smooth, finished out look or the paint may look incongruous with the texture of the figure. If this sculpture were solely intended to be cast as an edition in bronze, I would probably sculpt it with more texture, somewhat as you see the skin in the early stages.

This is also the time when costume detail work begins in earnest and that can take quite a while.

In this next set you will see some important elements have been added to Kull’s garment. I thought that Kull might have a section of armor for the front of his abdomen area and I wanted a layered look to his clothing that would have a striking effect in the sculpture. I also then decided to add some chain mail and to finish out the leather strip sections with the brass fittings. For this section of chain mail, I did a simple 4-1 ring pattern, meaning each single ring has four other rings attached to that ring. I found this type of metal ring armor pattern is typically attributed to Japanese chain mail. I was thinking of sculpting the chain mail, but then decided to test a look using small rings I furnished out of lengths of wire. It had a look that I felt worked well for the piece and Paradox was happy with the result.

I also wanted Kull to have sections of fur that would be indicative of his barbarian roots and that would add more to the layered effect of his gear/ clothing. I gave him an armored forearm piece for his right, weapon holding, hand and a light leather wrapping for his left forearm. I hope you like the result so far. Next week we’ll look at some changes and talk more about chain mail.

Thanks for reading-

Clay



 
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Posted by on December 17, 2006 in Kull of Atlantis

 

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Kull Part 3: The Big Belt Controversy

Thanks for taking a look at the Kull Blog and welcome to installment III.

I had worked out the basic look of the Kull sculpture and Paradox, the owners of the Robert E. Howard character rights, had approved the concept. We were good to go.

Next it was time to decide on the size of the sculpture. This is a critical question in licensing and various factors come into play on the decision. For example, sometimes we take on a project of a character that has a comic, but it is a specific independent book with a loyal, but limited core of readers. So for that reason, we may produce a piece that is smaller so that it will have a lower retail price so that we can market specifically to that readership. Often, comic readers do not necessarily translate into statue buyers and if a piece has a very specific appeal, the price point becomes a major factor and that affects the size the piece can be and still be within a certain price range. There may also be a projected series of sculptures from that comic title and we may want all of the characters to be in an affordable price range so people can more comfortably collect them all.

Still, my preferred sculpting scale is one-sixth scale, which means a 6-foot tall man would be 12 inches tall in this scale. I have sculpted most of my recent sculptures in that size range. The women are roughly eleven inches tall, which corresponds to a one-sixth scale size.

My intent from the beginning was to sculpt Kull in that scale and Paradox agreed. This is a terrific barbarian character by Robert E. Howard himself and I was going to design the look. Just me and Paradox in the trenches hashin’ it out. The stuff of legends….I wanted the piece in a scale that would showcase the look and design so it made sense to keep it in that one-sixth scale. Kull is, in my estimation, well over six feet tall, so the sculpture is a good thirteen and a half inches tall, not including the base, which will add another two to three inches, at least. That is a good size that keeps it in the scale of my main line of figures, will make a good impression in both fully painted cold-cast porcelain and bronze and that will keep the retail price in a manageable range.

Now to begin the full sculpture: I began with the armature in aluminum wire. This wire frame fulfills the same function as a skeleton does—it supports the soft outer material. I keep the armature as simple as possible. I then applied the sculpting material—in this case Super Sculpey, which can be found at most hobby stores. It comes boxed in a fleshy pink color so I mix it with a material called Sculpey III, which comes in various colors. I can see the play of light on the form more easily this way and so can the licensor, for approval purposes.

As I applied the basic rough form, I came to a decision about the Big Belt. I had gone to Robert E. Howard Days in Cross Plains, Texas, which was the tiny Texas town where REH lived during most of his writing career. It’s a classic Texas small town: beautiful and charming and well worth the trip in June. One can visit the home where REH wrote many of his most famous stories. I even got my hair cut at the local barber, who also turned out to be the mayor of Cross Plains. Robert E. Howard Days is a celebration of the works of REH, where scholars, artists and fans meet to talk, debate, and generally enjoy the works of this remarkable author. There was even an excellent 20’s/30’s style radio program acted out on stage about Sailor Steve Costigan, one of REH’s other wonderful characters. 2006 celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Howard so it was a bit of a milestone.

By the way, there’s an excellent film about Robert E. Howard called The Whole Wide World with Vincent D’Onofrio and Renee Zellweger that anyone would enjoy, whether you’re familiar with REH’s writing or not.

While in Cross Plains I got into some interesting discussions about the characters of Conan and Kull and the “Big Belt” debate as an issue with which every artist must come to grips. Why, what do you mean, you ask? Whether painted, drawn or even acted out-do you, as an artist, give the barbarian the Big Belt? I was asked “Are you going to give him the Big Belt?” usually with a cocked eyebrow and got into more than one lively discussion on the subject. By the end, I was ready to give more than one attendee “The Big Belt”.

The most famous artist to illustrate the Big Belt was without doubt Frank Frazetta and he did it in unparalleled style. Interestingly, he gave Conan two normal belts in the Conan the Adventurer painting Coincidence? Anyway, he did generally give Conan a large, broad belt of some kind. Many, many artists have used that specific bit of vesture and have given it their own special look. Schultz, Buscema, Gianni and Bisley have done it well and so have many others, but all artists at some point have to make the choice. Roy Krenkel usually did not draw in large belts but he did on the King Kull painting. Seems like a menial conversation, but some people frown on it and consider the Big Belt something of a cop out, as if the artist couldn’t figure out anything else to solve the costume look. Well, I’m not one of them says I. Most artists come to the same conclusion I did. Warriors of many ancient peoples, “barbarian” and “civilized” wore a large belt to hold all the weapons, pouches, and such that they needed as they navigated their lives. Soldiers today have large belts and so do police officers. In researching Kull, there is some good description, but it is not all that specific. I found that Kull is right handed and that he has gray eyes and black hair. There are other, less specific references to his physical appearance, but at one point, in one story, he is described as wearing a “girdle.” Now to a warrior a girdle isn’t the same as our grandmothers might have worn, although J. Edgar Hoover might be described as a warrior and he wore a girdle, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. It’s a broad belt of some kind used to hold gear and weapons and to protect the mid section. Controversy ended. My Kull would have a Big Belt. Here are photos of the initial stages showing the armature with part of the sculpting and then the photos after I blocked in the basic muscle mass.

Next week we’ll answer the question on all of our minds in these trying times: Axe or sword?

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2006 in Kull of Atlantis

 

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Kull Part 2: Narrowing the Look Down

Welcome to the second installment of the Kull of Atlantis sculpture blog. Last time we discussed how the sculpture came about and ended with the very basic thumbnail sculpture ideas I submitted to Paradox.

We discussed the various looks with Paradox and eliminated one of the pose ideas. We narrowed it down to 2 looks: the more regal and relaxed pose and one of the more active, arm raised “victorious” poses. I’ll say at this point that while I liked them both and felt that either would work, I did feel that the pose of Kull simply standing worked for me the best. While Kull has been known to yell out “I am Kull!” at times, he is generally described as stoic of mien and even introspective at times. I felt that a more relaxed pose that reflected this and the innate confidence and character of the man beneath the barbaric veneer was the approach I wanted for the piece.

The next step was to sculpt another set of thumbnails, but this round would be more detailed in costume and anatomy to give the good folks at Paradox more information to make their decision. The two thumbnails are only 7 inches tall or so, which is a size that allows me to reflect the effectiveness of the pose without it taking too long to execute.


As I re-examined the written material, I realized that Kull had been an outlaw adventurer and gladiator after arriving in Valusia and had been a galley slave before that. I felt that just sculpting him in a galley slave loincloth wouldn’t be interesting to me and would be even less so to Paradox and Kull fans. So this was going to be a Kull before he is king during his days before becoming a general in the Valusian army.

Kull is described by Robert E. Howard (REH) as having more of a “pantherish” physique. He is described as tall and lean with broad shoulders and a tigerish look. He’s described in feline terms several times throughout the stories. I see him narrower of torso than Conan and possibly taller, though both are huge, powerful men.

Kull has been done in artwork very well by a number of artists, but I always felt that Roy Krenkel captured Kull the best on the cover of King Kull by Lancer Publications. It always seemed to me that Roy Krenkel, who is one of my favorite artists, must have read the stories carefully because he gave Kull that tall, but lean, look with broad shoulders and a narrow face. Roy Krenkel’s work is wonderful and there are at least a couple of excellent books on his work that are worth finding for any fan of fantasy, illustration or art in general.

Well, I wanted to reflect that panther-like build in the Kull sculpture, so I needed to convey that in the next set of roughs for Paradox to approve.

I saw the costume as not strictly barbarian, but showing some armor elements, also. I removed the shield from his arm and put it on the base. For these poses, it seemed a bit distracting on his arm. He is described as wearing a girdle or a broad belt and this is a common clothing element found in our true history, as well. I wanted the piece to represent Kull in garb that reflected his adventures up to that point and a base that reflected his future as King of Valusia.

In the simpler, standing pose, he has just topped a mountain and Valusia and his future are spread before him. The base is symbolic of his future: kingly helmet with crown element attached, war shield, demonic skull, etc. A magical/mystic element or two is essential to the effect; possibly a serpent head of some kind would be appropriate. I also added an axe because of the importance of the story “By This Axe I Rule”, which is generally accepted as the most famous of the Kull stories.

The title plaque will be a scroll that will read: “Kull of Atlantis.” I have only occasionally titled pieces, but in this case it seemed appropriate.

I sculpted the one symbolic base thumbnail, but only the rocks for the second, although the plan was to have the symbolic base for whichever look was decided on.

I approached the costumes in both poses similarly. He is in the gear of a warrior: broad belt, some armor elements, layered leather armor strips, dagger and sword. My take on his costume was to sculpt an outfit that is reflective of the REH material using historical reference for the construction details such as clasps, buckles, hooks, etc. I also would have to be influenced by years of study of all the great fantasy artists whose work has thrilled and amazed me since I was a small boy, but we’ll talk more about that when we get into the costume detail on the full sized piece.

REH describes an epoch before ours, but clearly developed in places to a medieval level. It is also true that fighting men have always had customized gear in their outfits that were personal to them unless they were required to wear a particular uniform. Celtic warriors and Vikings wore highly personalized costumes, for example. Kull might have some armor as part of his gear, but also continued (in his adventurous days) to wear some fur pieces and some decoration as part of his kit that would remind him of his roots. I felt that some fur elements would add a layered look that would add to the effectiveness of the piece visually and would have been practical for his garment.

In the thumbnails, I gave him long hair because in the stories it is mentioned that as a king he wears his hair shorter, and no longer with the lion-like mane he used to wear. It works better for the look and flow of the piece, as well, so from a sculpture standpoint I was glad to have the rationale to give him longer hair.

The second pose is a more obvious look representing strength, victory, unassailable spirit and indomitable will. It is a more symbolic piece than pose one and after discussing the matter, Paradox decided that the first pose was more appropriate to the character and stories of Kull. I was pleased with the decision because, as I mentioned above, that was the pose I preferred for this piece.

I had described my reasoning in the costume decisions and Paradox agreed with some input that was helpful and insightful.

Next week I’ll show the beginnings of the full size sculpture and we’ll discuss the “Big Belt” controversy.

Until then-
Clay

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2006 in Kull of Atlantis

 

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