Monthly Archives: July 2008

Conan the Conqueror Part 2: Building Mass

This second installment of the Conan the Conqueror blog is very late(!), so let’s get to it:

Last time we discussed the scale decisions and some background.

Next: How to attach the horse to the base? The horse is jumping and making it appear believable, but securely attached to the base, is technically an important part of the project. Frank and I discussed the misty, hazy quality of the area under the horse and felt that some swirling mist attached to the horse’s underside would fit the purpose and would work visually, so that’s what it will have.

A base of this kind will also work well for the bronze edition and will give strength and support, while allowing the horse to retain the feel of furiously hurtling through the air. At least that’s the idea. The folks at Conan Properties agreed and so we were off to the horseraces.

First, I laid in the sculpting material and blocked in the horse. (“Blocking in” is quickly adding a lot of material to get the basic shape.) I added some detail in the musculature with the idea of meeting with Frank to determine if I was making the horse the right size and with the right build for the statue. The horse’s angle doesn’t show much of its body, so I referred to Frank’s other paintings and pen and inks, especially the beautiful Kubla Khan works.

Next, I added the figure of Conan, but only roughed in for torso, upper arm and thigh size. The forearms would be blocked in later as they can get in the way. Arms can be roughed for blocking in purposes, but can then be removed to work the sides of the figure. In this case, I wanted to set the size of the figure in relation to the horse and have the basics in place for the meeting with Frank. Normally, I would sculpt all the figure and then add any clothing, belts, etc, but in this case the “girdle” (a wide belt used for attaching weapons and accoutrements as well as affording some protection) was so large and matched the natural cylinder of his torso so well that it made sculpting the abdominal area superfluous.

This part of the sculpting process is done fairly quickly. For me, it’s best to lay the material in quickly and see how it looks. The adjusting and refining process will take days and days, but this part is more spontaneous and intuitive. Very quick. Most of the material is applied and manipulated by hand although I also use a broad, but fairly small wood sculpting spatula that is like a butter knife in shape.


In the next photos you’ll see the lower legs have been added. I added the straps to the legs as well in order to talk about clothing details with Frank. The idea on a project like this is to anticipate how far to take the piece to get the most out of the visit with Frank to save his time and to give me the most information to go on to get the piece correct to expectations. It’s also important to anticipate the mold making process and how the factory in China will best be able to produce and paint each retail statue. These would include sculpting with an eye toward lessening undercuts, assessing the danger of elements that can break in production and shipping, and how the figure will be cast and assembled both by our mold maker in the US and by the factory in China.

You’ll see in the back and the legs that I’m beginning to hone in on the look. There is more detail in the back and I’m beginning to refine it. The legs have detail in the thighs and the muscular shapes are fairly well established. At any time, however, a piece may require changes and modifications which can mean changing something that seemed correct when first sculpted. This is part of the process for me. A piece can be close to correct, but just off the mark and this isn’t evident until it is close to complete and is revisited later. I usually work and rework a male figure’s back because it is such a difficult and complicated area. It helped that Frank painted Conan’s back in the Conan the Usurper painting, and I had that as reference for building the muscle mass and the look as best I could. Plus, I’d be able to discuss the piece with Frank as well.

At the point seen here, I’ve used a variety of tools such as large and small loops for smoothing and joining the muscle anatomy and knife-like tools for shaping musculature and for adding and taking away material.

I use a file of photo reference in my work and have built up an extensive reference library over the years. I advise sculptors that ask about it to work using photos of athletic people(bodybuilders, fighters, boxers, figure models, etc.) and adjusting them according to the needs of the figure.

Studying anatomy and the human form to gain a basic understanding of bones, muscles and the tendons and ligaments that join them is also very important.

Hiring and working from photos of a model is a very good idea and for this piece I shot photos of a model to use on problem areas. There is nothing more helpful on difficult areas like the elbows, the back, the wrists and the deltoid/ chest and deltoid/upper arm tie-ins than having photos of a person in exactly that pose.

In the next installment we’ll see the piece as it looked in the first discussion with Frank. I promise the wait won’t be long and we’ll try to stay to the two week schedule from now on!

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Posted by on July 15, 2008 in Conan the Conqueror


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