Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Sometimes it takes a awhile for the wee beasties to tell me what they want to be. I have finally had a chat with these two and decided on a direction to take. This was influenced by a 3AM viewing of "King Arthur" the other night when my cold kept me from lying down all night.

I went back to the original concept of the design which is the captured moment between our hero and his leading lady as she has nursed him back to health after a battle. I decided to add the battle scars to him so he is a little less than beautiful. Here we go.

So, this is my finished sculpture. And this is what goes through my head as I finish them:
They are seated on a bearskin  on the floor. She has her outer cloak under and slightly around her for as much modesty as one can get in a moment before or after an encounter with a lover.
She is pale since she wears so many layers of clothing daily.
He is naked since modesty is not one of his virtues; however, his private parts are well hidden in the nap of the rug. He is bandaged and shows the abuse which battles have wreaked upon his body.


I have taken a wooden base which fits the figures. I want some open space around them but not enough that it distracts from the figures.  I then glued a raccoon pelt to the base. Please do not get up in arms. I believe in the sanctity of all life but this little guy was killed years ago and made into a woman's coat. I have honored him by giving him a new purpose rather than being destroyed. I used raccoon because the hair resembles the hide of an old Grizzly Bear.
This fur is out of scale with my figures. If it were actual size. the hairs would be about a foot long. I want to shorten them and give the impression of a used, matted, hide which has been slept on for years.
 To shorten the hairs I could shave the pelt or do what I did which was singe the hairs with the heat gun. The hairs shorten and mat down rather convincingly with this technique. The hairs are about 3/8" long now.
 The finished rug. I like my pieces to extend beyond the frame of the base when possible. This is a design concept I use in the theatre quite often when the set and the scene extend beyond the Proscenium wall into the audience space. Here I have let the pelt fall over the sides of the base in places. The cloak and the figures will do the same later.
Her outer cloak is a basic three piece design using an outer layer, lining, and an attached hood. The outer layer is quilted material and the inner is a rusty-red coarse spun cloth. they are sewn together, turned right side out,  the hood is attached, then a pale gold trim is attached to the front edge of the hood, and a decorative but muted trim is attached to the hem of the cloak.

 To get the proper size for the cloak I use an old sculpture of the same size as my dress form.

 The colors are kept in the earth tones as not to detract from the focus of the figures. Gold accents are used to show that she is of higher social status than the normal garb of the laborers of the time period.
The cloak is posed and glued to her so they will travel together.
He gets wraps on his ribs and wrist which are made of a coarse natural-colored linen.  The wrist wrap on our male is attached on the arm and the hand so the wrist can move to allow the female to slip her hand under his.

The final step is to dirty him with a Raw Umber wash over parts of his body which would hold the dirt and grime of wearing armor and clothing. Much like a mechanic's permanently soiled hands, the daily wearing of dirty clothes and heavy armor would grind the dirt into the pores of his skin and would not wash out easily. I have also added bruises of various ages. Fresh bruises are swollen and red as the blood seeps into the skin from damaged capillaries. Once the blood flow stops, the blood trapped in the skin will start to dry and shift to a number of colors from brown to deep blue (black and blue). The color shift will depend upon a number of factors. Soft tissue (such as around the eye socket) will hold more blood. The color become deeper blue to black in these areas. Skin over muscle or bone will hold less blood so the color shifts more to brownish reds. The third stage of bruising is the absorption of blood into the body. This is marked by the colors of pale browns to greenish yellows.

All these painting touch ups are subtle as not to detract from the full piece.
I have used layers of these colors in some areas to show that this is not a one time fight but that he is by profession a warrior. I assumed he is right handed so his left wrist and forearm have the bulk of older bruising from repeated stress of the shield on that arm being smacked by a sword.
 His left-side ribs and the left side of his face get heavily bruised as well since that is the defensive side of his body.
I hope you come away from this blog today with more of an understanding of where my mind goes as I create. Scary isn't it!
Have a great day!


  1. Mark, I have just discovered your blog and am blown away - amazing work! So inspiring! I was going to paint a hyena today, but after reading through all this sculpting all morning (seriously it's 1 pm and I still haven't eaten any lunch), I might just have to start something myself (I use super sculpey). I did want to ask you though about Tristan's legs. For as grizzled and hairy a man as he appears to be, his legs sure do seem clean-shaven! Are you going to apply some of that facial hair technique to his legs, or did soldiers back then shave their legs?

    I'm so happy to have discovered your blog - I wonder where you are located. Perhaps I will have to buy that book, eh? I also need to go through the whole Tristan and Isolde sculpture it seems to catch up on some of the basics still. Maybe after lunch!

  2. Johanna, Thanks for the comments. Tristan's legs should be hairy as should his arms. I have never been able to do that well so I did not attempt it here. Perhaps in the future. We shall assume that she prefers him less hirsute.