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Conan the Conqueror Part 1: Introduction

05 May

Welcome to the first installment of the Conan the Conqueror blog, which will chronicle the sculpting stages of the Conan the Conqueror Statue, a 3-D representation of the magnificent painting by the incomparable Frank Frazetta. I had worked with Mr. Frazetta (Frank) on two previous occasions and both were terrific experiences for me as a fan of Frank’s work and as an artist. There’s no question that I benefited and improved as a sculptor by the experiences, and not surprisingly, that has been true of this association. Frank’s input and modifications have been invaluable and I hope that the result will be a representation that fans and collectors will find do the piece justice.

I mentioned in the Kull of Atlantis blog that Mr. Fredrik Malmberg, President of Paradox Entertainment (which owns Conan Properties) and I had met to discuss a continuation of the series of sculptures based on Frank’s paintings of Robert E. Howard’s most famous creation, Conan the Barbarian, painted for Lancer Books in the late 1960s. As noted, I had worked with Frank on a sculpture of his stunning painting of Conan executed for the cover of Conan the Adventurer (Lancer Books, New York, 1966) and had a fantastic experience. Working with Frank Frazetta again was not a hard decision to make and it was an honor to have the opportunity.

The painting, also called the Berserker, was completed in 1967 for the cover of Lancer Books’ Conan the Conqueror and is known by either name. You can see from the painting that this is clearly an outstanding example of the skill and vision of a master of the medium and the Grand Master of the genre. This would be a 3-dimensional challenge more difficult than any I had undertaken before, and I would have a legion of collectors and fans of Frank’s work to answer to if I failed.

There would be many important decisions to make in choosing exactly what to sculpt and why. This piece would be produced in cold cast porcelain, a resin mixed with porcelain powder. Decisions would have to be reached concerning the size of the piece, how many figures to include, how to attach the horse to the base, mold making considerations, factory production, etc. All of these decisions would determine the success of the project and had to be carefully considered.


First of all, we (Frank, the folks at Conan Properties and I) had to decide how big to make this piece. What would the scale be? I felt that it was an opportunity to sculpt something that would be a centerpiece for, and the pride of, any collection. That’s the aim of any piece, really, and it brings out one’s best efforts, in my opinion.

Consequently, I felt it was necessary to have Conan the same scale as he is in the Conan the Barbarian I had sculpted some years before. One, as explained above, I wanted the piece to have impact and two, Frank and I agreed with Conan Properties (CP) that this piece begins and ends with Conan on that amazing horse. Everything else is secondary. That’s obvious, but it’s important in determining that for a sculpture of this painting, Conan on the horse is all you need to make this piece as effective as it can be. And as the first decision made about this piece, I felt that it must be in a scale that is visually impressive to do the painting any justice at all.

All other decisions flow from that one. Thus, if Conan is about 12 inches tall, then the horse is very large; about 18 inches from nose to tail. A larger scale means a higher cost to produce, thus a higher retail price and a larger collectors box, higher shipping charges, etc. Adding the demon warriors would add hundreds of dollars to the retail price (literally) and would add to the fragility of the piece. The size, already huge, would require a reduction in scale that we were not willing to make because a three foot (or larger!) collectors box was simply not practical. Or, I would have to sculpt Conan the size of an eight inch action figure on a toy horse. Not bloody likely!


We all agreed that the surrounding figures are important to the painting, but not so important to the sculpture. We wanted this piece to be as accessible to as many collectors as possible at a price that would be as affordable as we could reasonably make it, and in a scale that would give the most “bang for the buck.”

THE ARMATURE

So we’ll begin with the armature photos. There are only two shown here, but it’s the first big step and is crucial to the process, just as our skeletons are so important in our own structure.

I built the armature from metal pipe as the main support and used aluminum foil as a filler wrapped with aluminum armature wire. The piece will be sculpted in Super Sculpey, a synthetic clay. The figures will be roughed in, both man and horse, then Conan will be sculpted first, followed by the sculpting of the horse.


As you see in the photos, the armature of Conan is not part of the horse armature. Conan will have a simple armature which will be supported by the horse. This allows Conan to be completed and removed, and then a casting of the figure can be fitted to and removed from the horse as the horse is sculpted. The horse armature shows all four legs attached to the wood platform below.


We’ll update you on the statue’s sculpting process every two weeks. We’re a bit late starting the blog and we’ll try to debut new installments every other Sunday. I hope you’ll stay with us as we develop this complicated sculpture, and I promise next time we’ll actually show some sculpting material on the armature!

Until next time-
CSM
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Posted by on May 5, 2008 in Conan the Conqueror

 

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