Finishing out a figure is very time consuming and certainly not the most interesting part of the process, but it is extremely important, and there’s nothing like seeing one’s work finally coming to completion.
The process, though, can try one’s patience. It can be a little like hammering nails, in that it is just smoothing out with thousands upon thousands of repetitive movements. Normally when I finish out a figure, I make it as smooth as possible, but I decided to leave a bit of texture, a bit more looseness on this piece to convey the impression of raw power and strength that the painting shows so well. This piece will be produced as both a painted edition and a bronze edition and I felt the effect in bronze would be more successful with some texture. At the same time, the painted pieces would need a certain level of finishing to work well, since very loose sculptures can have a sloppy or unfinished look when fully painted.
Generally, I try to stick to a schedule of finishing an area, then moving on.
This doesn’t always work, as I may see something that needs attention on another area. But I do try to finish a part – say a leg, for example – as that will show me how the overall figure is looking. I smooth with cross striations using loop tools and rounded wood tools with a gradually lighter and lighter touch as the figure reaches the level of smoothness I want for the figure.
I began with the chest area (the face being finished already) as the strength of the painting flows from the face and chest and moves outward from those focal energy points. I then finished out the shoulders and arms.
I added the helmet to check the overall look and compare it to the painting.
It was important to finish the arms and shoulders first, as the sides of the helmet would make finishing the shoulders difficult. The addition of the helmet also tells you if the face works well and still conveys the look in the painting, but I held off adding any helmet detail at this point.
After the face, arms and helmet, I spent some time sculpting the necklace.
This is an important, eye catching element of the painting. I sculpted the parts separately, hardened them through baking and added them to the figure to check the look. I decided that I’d make the hair flow out the back of Conan’s helmet as it does in the Conan of Cimmeria painting in which Conan is battling the Frost Giants and in Frank’s other paintings of Conan as well.
I then added the fur around the top of his thighs and the top of his massive belt/girdle. Next I worked in the finished leggings (straps over fur) which are rather loose in the painting. This is another case where it worked best to tighten them up, rather than go loose, as the paint can be applied more correctly and more easily at the factory.
I then photographed the piece and removed the necklace sections, since baked Super Sculpey will peel back from unbaked S Sculpey and the elements will distort. You can reverse that by laying the distorted pieces upside down on unbaked Super Sculpey and the material will bend back to its previous shape.
I added one of the finished hands (which I mentioned were sculpted separately), but the other hand I left off until more of the figure was completed.
I finished out the legs close to full completion, but, as usual, I always know that even a fully finished area may require adjustment and resculpting.
Again, Frank might see something he wanted changed and I might realize a part that needed tweaking here and there. This can add to sculpting time, but the sculpture must be as correct as possible. It’s always a case where you’re tempted to tell yourself it’s good enough, but then you’ll wish you’d adjusted it every time you see the sculpture for, well, forever.
This is the point at which I showed Frank the piece.
[BLOG CONTINUES BELOW PHOTOS]
Frank was fine with the arms, chest and legs, (and even the hair flowing from the helmet) but suggested a couple of key changes to the face: giving the eyes a bit more of an alarmed look, moving the head back and bringing in the chin a bit.
Back at the studio, I first tackled the adjustments Frank wanted, cutting off the head and mounting it on a board. This made the changes in the eyes and jaw more convenient, as I could turn the head on its side or even hold it upside down if necessary. The wisdom of the adjustments became apparent from the beginning, as it was clear that the face was more closely matching the look of the painting. I then reattached the head and corrected the neck and hair, which had been damaged in the modification process.
I then finished out the legs, added the helmet detail with a dental tool with a tiny ball end, and generally checked the figure over, making very minor modifications and retouching as necessary.
I also added the second hand, worked in the forearm muscles again and finished them, then added the forearm band, giving it some stitching detail.
The large studs for the belt were sculpted separately on a steel cylinder so that they could be hardened and added to the figure, closely matching the curve of his torso. The smaller studs will be added later, pending a technical decision regarding where the figure will be cut (separated) in the production and casting process at the factory.
Finishing out a male figure often means adding the veins as the final touch.
Veins are difficult and require a lot of patience. They usually need some retouching later and I sculpt them in stages as they are frustrating to say the least. They’re not my favorite part of the process, but they definitely pull the piece together and they signal that the long process is finally coming to an end.
I think that covers most of what you see here, at least on the figure. There was still the horse and gear to complete, of course, and that, too, would take some time. So here’s the finished Conan the Conqueror figure. You’ll see the sword and shield in a future installment. Frank approved the figure thus far and I hope it meets with your expectations.