Oolong's Zoo

Polymer Clay Critters and Other Sculptures

Seated critterSpirit of FrankieSamhuinn prep - Ice Giant testSamhuinn prep - early legs/paws testHati's mawHati's eyesHati when he was nearly finishedA string of pearls

Monday, March 31, 2008

Write me a Script!

I’ve been wanting to animate my beasties for years now, but despite being full of character designs I’ve never really had an animation idea good enough to inspire me to action. I may be a writer of sorts, but I don’t really do fiction.

That’s why I’m soliciting scripts. Specifically I’m looking for scripts which don’t call for elaborate staging, and will take no more than 60 seconds of animation time. If you can make a recording of the script and send it to me that’s even better, but if not I can probably get people together later to record it for us, so don’t worry about that too much.

I’m open to receiving scripts by email, but what I’d like best is for people to submit them to Everything2 for Gone in 60 Seconds – a Theatre Quest, and make sure that they would work as one-minute plays as well as animations.

There’s nothing particularly taxing about submitting things for Everything2 – the main things are just to make sure it reads well, add links by putting square brackets around a few relevant words or phrases, and check that it looks okay after you post. Ask me on the site if you have any questions or problems after you sign up.

posted by frm at 3:21 pm  

Monday, March 31, 2008

How I Make Creatures That Aren’t Cats

I’m a cat person; I always lived with cats when I was a kid, and their moods and body languages are deep-seated in my psyche. If I just sit down to doodle with a lump of clay, a cat tends to be what comes out. That’s no excuse though! This world is full of interesting creatures which aren’t cats, with many more imaginary beasts noodling around in our collective consciousness – so I often make an effort to sculpt other critters.

Much of what I wrote in How I Make Cats applies more-or-less across the board, so rather than going in to great detail about every beastie you might like to make, I am instead going to try to summarise what makes them unlike cats to sculpt, looking at distinguishing features rather than techniques…

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/0olong/34156428/Dogs
    Quite a lot like cats, superficially – but the snout and the floppier, less-pointy ears make all the difference to their faces, the body language of dog-tails is quite different from that of cats (although it is not unrelated) and their legs are a bit meatier.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/0olong/402277594/in/set-72057594090341738/Fish
    The sinuousness of the fish is quite pleasing, although its lack of limbs somewhat narrows the range of possible creative expression. On the other hand fish, more than almost any land animal, invite boundless creativity on the colouring front, and eyes can say a lot – especially if you take a cavalier attitude to the question of whether fish should have eyelids. One tricky thing about making free-standing fish is to make sure they’re either curvy enough or fat enough not to topple over. If you’d rather they go on a wall or something like that, you’ll want to think about fixing a loop of wire or a magnet to the back.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/0olong/444883636/in/set-72057594090341738/Pigs
    Pigs are sort of like really fat, pinkish cats with flattened snouts, beady eyes (for which the easiest thing is probably to use actual beads) and little curly tails. They also have trotters rather than paws, if you’re into that level of detail, and their ears stick out a lot more.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/0olong/35168352/Beavers
    The national animal of Canada! The humble beaver is perhaps the gnawingest of all beasts. Its main distinguishing feature is its broad, flattish tail. It also has a sort of blunt-ish, snuffly snout, and to make their beaverishness obvious you might like to give them two prominent front teeth – although they don’t really stick out that much in real beavers.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/0olong/34156449/Lizards
    Lizards are fun. Low on the ground, their legs protrude from their sides and their serpentine bodies make for lovely dynamic curves. Sometimes I might give a lizard a spiky spine, pinching vertebrae out of the flesh of its back, but they don’t always need it.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/0olong/214364621/Dinosaurs
    Like many people, my mind is occasionally occupied by velociraptors, with the odd hadrosaur also passing through from time to time. Paleozoological rectitude has never been a major concern of mine, so I freely make nameless dinosaurs which sit on their haunches or stand on two feet and a tail, roaring, waving little arms in front of them, and generally trying to look threatening.
  • Dragons
    A perennial favourite, most people who ever sculpt in polymer clay at all probably end up making dragons at some point. They take more work than most of the things I make, thanks to the wings, tails and facial detail – the things that make something identifiably a dragon, and not just a confused dinosaur. There’s plenty of latitude in making dragons though, in the absence of any real-world reference there’s nothing much to stop you from saying ‘well my dragon is fluorescent pink, with two tails and a head like a ferret’s.’
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/0olong/315945803/Demons
    Being both mythical and endlessly various, demons basically allow totally free rein to the imagination. Often they have claws or horns, which you can make by extruding nodules from the clay and then pulling and squeezing and rolling the ends until they are sharp and fearsome, or make separately as tiny little cones, which it’s sometimes worth cooking in advance so that they don’t buckle when they’re attached – a trick which is even more worthwhile with sharp teeth. The monstrosity of demons invites doodling and experimentation; I leave the details up to your subconscious.

Most generally, if I don’t feel like I’ve got a handle on what would make it obvious that a given clay creature is supposed to be the animal I’m aiming for, I run a Google Image Search and maybe check out Wikipedia, which usually has a couple of good pictures.

posted by frm at 1:12 pm  

Friday, March 14, 2008

USB Sculptures

CyclusbI’ve been having great fun lately customising USB sticks1 using epoxy putty. The putty doesn’t require any baking, and it seems to be hard enough and strong enough to survive in pockets full of keys for long periods without any visible scratching – although it does accumulate smudge marks very quickly, they’re easy to wipe off.

USBmonkeyIII 002It’s an interesting challenge to decorate a USB drive, because you start out with a sort of rectangle a few millimetres thick, and it’s probably best not to make the final product very much bigger than that, so that it doesn’t take up too much space in pockets and can still be plugged into computers which might not have much space around their USB sockets. That means you’re constrained to subjects which can be plausibly fitted into a long, thin cuboid with a minimum of protrusions. You also ideally want things with a head or some other part which can be unobtrusively removed, with a join just at the right distance from one end…

USB Monkey HeadlessThe basic technique is pretty straightforward – you just mix up the epoxy putty with the hardener, roll it into a sheet and cover the drive in it. Leave space for anything you don’t want to obscure, like the LEDs most pen drives have that light up to show when they’re active, or loops for keyrings. There are two approaches you can take at this stage. One way is to use a thin sheet and add more putty to that – freshly-mixed epoxy putty sticks extremely well to almost anything, but especially itself. The other way is to use more putty to begin with, and extrude or carve from that.

USB Monkey II (headless)There are many different varieties of epoxy putty available. I’ve been using Sylmasta A+B (formerly SuperCarve), and so far I’m very happy indeed with the new reformulated version of this – the colours are pure and vivid, where before the blue and the yellow were both slightly greenish2. They’ve also extended the range to include brown and black, so it’s now possible to mix almost any colour from those available. For about ¬£50 I got 250g of each of five colours, which should go a looong way. I have also had good results using metallic powders you can rub into the putty while it’s still soft. Most of the powder sticks well to the putty if it’s rubbed in well enough, but it’s worth varnishing these afterwards to be safe.

A Dead Badger So far I’ve made three USB monkeys, a couple of aliens, a zombie badger that runs Linux and a fish that really didn’t work the way I wanted it to. I might make a crocodile next. Any other suggestions are welcome, whether or not you want to buy them yourself! As ever, I am very happy to take commissions…

  1. thumb drives, flash drives, whatever you want to call them… []
  2. I’m told their white has been reformulated to be brighter, too, but I still haven’t used up all of my 500g block of the previous formulation so I haven’t tried that yet. []
posted by frm at 8:14 pm  

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