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Last September, The Villafane Studios crew went over to China to undertake one of the most ambitious projects to date. We set up at Ocean Park in Hong Kong and basically had to fill an entire haunted house with over 70 carved pumpkins. The pumpkins were pickled in large custom tanks filled with vinegar and then lit up to showcase the detail etc… I was joined by Ray Villafane, Andy Bergholtz, and Sue Beatrice. Our haunted house happened to be part of an even larger display of many haunted houses. Some of the coolest ones I’ve ever stepped foot in. The entire park was decked out in Halloween decor and they really went over the top with most of the staff adorned in intricate costumes breaking out into flash mobs randomly with lots of singing and dancing. I have to say it was weird sweating my ass off carving pumpkins and trying to get into the Halloween spirit of things but after a while, it wore on me and I was able to feel right at home. Besides, every time I glanced at one of the employees wearing layers of makeup and costume in the hell fire of the Hong Kong sun, I looked down at myself and realized I had it pretty easy with shorts and a t-shirt.
While there, we were being filmed for an upcoming TV show called Carvers that’s going to be airing on SyFy. The whole experience was so much to take in and while I’m less than a fan of this word, the only thing I can say to describe it is surreal. Its hitting me especially hard now since I’ve been seeing posters and trailers pop up with myself and the rest of the Villafane crew showcasing us doing our thing. I’m pumped! But, the first time I watched, my heart was pounding out of my chest and as the trailer ended, I immediately started thinking of all the stuff I did and didn’t say. Shit…this is gonna be on TV…Like, real TV! Significantly more than a slight alteration from the days of my childhood. When my parents would go on vacation, leaving my brother and I to film makeshift KISS concerts using gram’s camcorder while she was fast asleep. We did have some mega pyrotechnics though. Complete with baby powder smoke and a spray painted fluorescent orange guitar that we threw out the window of our 3rd floor apartment. \m/
Being that I’m human and sometimes my nerves can get the best of me, I started struggling a bit with my carvings. I had only carved a few pumpkins for Ray the year before and I was able to do that in the comfort of my own studio without anyone watching. A much different story than being mic’ed up with cameras hovering and sitting in a room full of sculptors all of whom I’m convinced pawned their souls in exchange for carving prowess and all-around artistic ability. Must have missed those damn crossroads back in Rosedale (coincidentally, the name of the hotel we all stayed in ……….. ಠ_ಠ ).
…………………………………………………………………………………………………… seriously ಠ_ಠ
I do love me some Robert Johnson though. Perfect sculpting soundtrack.
Thankfully, the entire crew we were working with, are some of the most patient, down to Earth, all around cool people and after breaking down and turning into an anxious pile of China funk, they sat my sweaty ass down and reassured me that I wasn’t going to be turned into a meme. I was able to concentrate more on carving and the task at hand and finally started to find a groove- ………..game on………..
Anyhoo, click here to see some pics I posted on my flickr account all from my stay in China. Not really anything sculpture related but more from my own personal experience on my days off. If flickr had invented the world’s first scratch and sniff website already, you bitches would be in for a world of hurt. For now, you’ll have to settle for the flamboyant views and vast amounts of neon I was able to seize in each click of the shutter. I do have more that I’ll probably post another time, but I wanted to share now since it was such a special time. My last night there, I was at an arcade until 1 am playing Super Street Fighter IV. There was a Honda player who was very skilled and I was locked in battle with him for a good 6 hours. Only a few other people put their HK quarters up to get some rotation in. The majority of the time it was him, and I. Neither of us spoke a word of the other’s language but lots of funny stuff happened in game that we shared a laugh about. Something I really miss and don’t get to do too often in the states. In fact, I think I made more friends in China than I had in the past 4 years of my life.
God, why are there no arcades?
That’s all I got for now. Tune in to SyFy on March 4th at 10pm right after Face Off for the world premier of Carvers! Join myself, Sue “The Queen of Steampunk” Beatrice, Andy “The Gentleman” Bergholtz, and Ray “If you ever move near me, there will have to be portages between us” Villafane – j/k, love ya Ray 🙂 on the adventure of a lifetime. As we take over China, and Carve some pretty cool stuff too. See you in your living room >:)
Peace and sculpting wax,
Here is a small FAQ just to get things warmed back up.
-What do you sculpt in?
The answer is everything! polymer clay, oil clay, water clay, wax, epoxy, styrene, brass, aluminum, abs, pvc, modelling board, basswood, balsa foam, blue or pink insulation foam etc etc… Let me be more specific though. Some things work better than others depending on the subject, scale etc… While I could write a book on materials alone, I mostly use castilene HARD grade or wax that I mix up myself. Most of the time, I’ll even add ingredients to castilene to make it the way I like it. if its something small, I’ll usually stick only with hard wax. There are many recipes online and to be honest, I don’t really have a recipe that I follow to a “T”…yet. This is something you really have to play with to figure out what you like best. So, what’s in it? Well, this should get you well on your way to concocting your very own awesome sculpting wax.
If you have the means, you should donate to Gary since he is kind enough to share all of his findings with us for nothing. You can also buy the recipes to his specialized formulas that are used by many different sculptors. Thanks Gary!
That said, Its really not WHAT you use, its HOW you use it. While there are some limitations, I would say it really depends on what scale.
My absolute favorite thing to sculpt in is Monster Clay and Chavant hard grade! With wax, on a smaller scale especially, you can achieve very crisp, tight, detail without much fear of smooshing any detail you’ve worked so very hard on. BUT, wax takes all the FUN out of sculpting in my honest opinion. There’s nothing like the feeling of roughing out a larger piece in oil clay and playing with all the textures, raking, smoothing, brushing down, scraping away with loops. Even just the feeling of adding bits on by a quick smoosh and wipe with your thumb. Its just very zen-like. Sculpting in wax and castilene usually leaves me with large blisters after roughing out even a 1/6 scale statue. Its very tough to stay “loose” with waxes.
Anyway the moral to that long-winded story is basically just use whatever gets the job done! Don’t limit yourself or feel like there must be some “perfect” medium because it doesn’t exist and I don’t think it ever will.
What kind of tools do you use?
I make 99% of all my tools. For a while, every project I was working on, I ended up making 1-3 tools during the process to fulfill my own needs. It could even be a small shape just to stamp something and then I never use it again. I also don’t think I have a single tool that I’ve “bought” that I haven’t modified in some way or another. they just don’t sell them sharp enough or the right shape etc… A Dremel with a stone drum sanding bit and some cutting disks is all you really need. If you want to get super technical, a few different grade hand files to REALLY refine the edges is all you’ll ever need to shape your tools. As far as loops and rakes go, they are very self explanatory to make. Usually out of some piano or music wire (available at hobby shops) and sometimes some metal wound electric guitar strings will make for very nice tools to refine shapes. I have sharp, dull, large, micro, round, square, thin, and thick loops. I do prefer to sharpen them so that I can refine forms with much less effort, It also ends up making for cleaner refinements with sharper loops. You can get real fancy or real basic with the actual construction of any tool. And by basic, I mean p r i m i t i v e…sometimes I will just take a hunk of molten hot wax, plop it on the desk, and yell at that little F’er until its my desired shape. Anyhoo, I will post a few pics of some of my favorite tools shortly.
How do you sculpt hair?
There is a tutorial coming on this soon, I promise! For now, here is a very basic rundown. Hair usually rests in masses or groups. Sculpt those larger groups first. Observe the larger masses of whatever style hair you are sculpting. Refine those forms as much as needed. Then get in there and detail it striation by striation. set the waxer on low and refine even further. Just take your time and be patient with it. Most ALL of sculpture is achieved through careful observation on how things are actually happening. Constantly ask yourself, what is going on with this hair? How is it growing? Hair actually does grow in certain directions unless, you’re like me, then it grows however the F it wants to invoking such wonderful terminology in my youth as “fuzzbucket” or “mon chi chi”. It really depends on how realistic or how stylized you want it to look. -This is the very bare bones, basic steps to sculpting hair in case you are more anxious than a nun in a cucumber patch to get started.
How do you make weapons?
Usually out of styrene, brass/copper/aluminum, wax, or modelling board. lots of small hand files and a jeweler’s saw will get you very far. Sometimes machines are needed like a lathe or bandsaw but for the most part its all done by hand with hand tools.
That’s all I have time for at the moment. I hope it answers some of your questions. More to come soon when its not a weekend and cutting into my
video game laundry and dishes time.
Peace and sculpting wax,
After putting the nail in the coffin of that big project I told you all about, I’m finally back in action! Hmm, let’s see, where to being. Ah, yes, been dealing with a bunch of distractions over here. AC broke down, minor apartment flooding, the cat at my side spamming meows for me to feed her, etc etc.
Anyhoo, I’ve been filming and documenting for a few upcoming projects I have planned. I’m really excited to start getting more stuff out there. This is one of my favorite stages in the game, the end of one project and the start of another. It gives me a chance to breathe and collect my thoughts for the next project. Its always rush rush rush. Quite the opposite of what I learned in school, which was more like “if you’re not prepared for a test, fake a seizure and make sure to try and fall on the hottest girl in class”
Lots of exciting things happening that I can’t really talk about right now. I’ll be posting pics of some new stuff that has been recently released. I will be updating this more frequently now that the weight has been lifted. Okay, stay tuned, and please share this with anyone who will listen. ANYONE!
Peace and sculpting wax,
Sooooo, As usual, it’s been hectic as…well, heck over here. I really wish there were two of me so that I could just have the other version sculpt while I do fun things like sleep and eat 🙂 Seriously though, I’m planning, writing, and taking photos for my first tutorial. It’s a surprise, but I promise it will be a good one. I’m a gemini. We’re supposed to be good communicators so, we’ll see how that holds up.
Moving forward, I wanted to share a couple things. Yesterday, (Since Borders is lame and peaced out way too early) I was at Barnes and Noble searching for books on performing a cloning jutsu to rectify the above botheration. It seems no such books exist and as I was about to pull up an episode of Naruto on my android smart phone to further explain what I was looking for, out of the corner of my eye, I spy’d a book that I wish I had stumbled upon years ago when I was learning the fine art of sculpture. Before I tell you the name of this bestselling non-fiction manual, I’d like to take a brief second to discuss the importance of exactly why you need this when you are learning to sculpt or even draw for that matter.
Now, everyone starts out a different way with different prospects of which path they would choose to take their career/hobby etc.. for me, I have always loved superheroes, comic characters, video games, and general themes of the pop-culture related capacity. So, naturally my beginning sculptures usually entailed shirtless masses of vascular muscle or characters adorned with “skin tight, spandex-y, shit-you’d-never-ever-see-anyone-wear-in-the-real-world-comic-con-doesn’t-count” type of costumes. Which was actually in my humble opinion, a great subject matter to get your feet wet. Any sculptor will tell you, the first and possibly most important thing you need to learn is anatomy. These types of characters cater to just that. Whether it be realistic, or exaggerated superhero stuff. That’s all fine and well and you’ll be able to get by for a while.
Enter movie-related characters, and realism. Ugh, you’ll quickly learn that wrinkles, folds, and drapery can be as tough as any portrait or subject matter to render accurately and realistically. Well this book explains pretty much all you would need to know and understand clothing, fabric, wrinkles, and drapery. As such, it comes highly recommended by your’s truly.
This is the book.
The Artist’s guide to Drawing the Clothed figure: A Complete Resource on Rendering Clothing and Drapery by Michael Massen.
Its like 20 smackeroos on amazon or 35 woolongs in Bar-ness y No-bless (also read barnes and noble)
Now, while I’m on the subject of books you should own. This book has been my bible when learning to sculpt and I frequently find myself referencing it while making sculptures in the latrine 🙂
Modelling and Sculpting the Human Figure by Edouard Lanteri.
Seriously though, this book has it all, and I have yet to find an equal that explains just about every facet of sculpting one could hope to know and understand. From contrapposto to points of rest. It does even touch upon drapery and clothing folds albeit briefly, but enough to get you off and running.
Now that my public service is done for the day, Its 11:30 p.m. here and time to get back to work. As I stand by my Keurig coffee maker enjoying the sounds of a soon to be piping hot Vanilla Biscotti that will imminently be smashed upon. My Kitty, Meeko also waits for me to fill her food bowl so she can join me in the studio while I toil away until the wee hours of the morn. This is my gatosamine, (made-up-word-you-won’t-find-in-urban-dictionary)
The Legendary Ninja Princess, Meeko
Without further ado, I am going to pop in some Cowboy Bebop and get lost in one of my favorite episodes #17 “Mushroom Samba”.
I have to say, I’m very excited about the current project I’m working on and I can’t wait until its showtime! It has been quite a journey including long talks with god, the drunk people outside my window, and a few hour long sessions of curling up in the fetal position and crying while simultaneously banging my head against the wall reciting the words “I’m a real boy” In the end, I’m sure it will all be worth it.
If you liked this post, please be sure to share it with the world and by all means leave a comment so that I know I’m not just writing to myself (which actually isn’t SO bad)….after all, I like me 🙂
Until next time kiddies! Meeko, and I bid you ….Adieu.
Peace and sculpting wax,
I’m looking for input as to what everyone wants to see for a first tutorial. Nothing too complicated at first please. I’d like to start off with something fairly simple and straight-forward. I have a few ideas, but I’m curious if anyone has any specific ideas. I look forward to hearing from you all.
Peace and Sculpting wax,