You may remember I recently discovered the joys of Super Sculpey, thanks to the recommendation from a few friends. With it I made my own version of The Gronk, after being inspired by the 3A model of the same. You can find my original article on this here.
My thoughts then turned to what I could do next. I considered many characters, and looked at a few more small aliens I could do, but I wanted to stretch myself a bit. Then I remembered this amazing 2000AD cover by Chris Weston, which I voted for as ‘best of year’ in an article on these hallowed pages.
I knew this was going to be a challenge, but I absolutely had to have a go at making my very own Sensitive Klegg. It also had to be the version from this epic 2000AD cover!
I really wasn’t sure how it would go – considering this would only be my second clay model in 20 years, I could potentially be wasting a lot of expensive clay, and my time! Still, fortune favours the bold, so off I went.
First of all I had to consider how I’d make the model stand. Did I need to create a base for him, or did I want him free-standing? I knew his head could end up very top-heavy, giving him a high centre of gravity and easy to topple. In the end I again threw caution into the wind, and put together this framework with aluminium wire to test my theory that it was possible to have him free-standing.
It was important to make it with this wire framework so I had room to adjust the arms, hands, and in particular the spine as I went along. As I was pretty much winging it I needed the freedom to make as many (or as few) corrections as I needed to during the entire process, before baking the final sculpt.
My next step then was to fill as much of the upper body with a light non-flammable material over which I could layer the super sculpey. As you can see, I turned to a standard household material – kitchen foil! It was a case of scrunching it up into a basic shape, and then using another layer of foil to fasten it around the head, body, shoulders and arms.
I left the feet completely bare , as I wanted the head and shoulders to be as light as possible, but the feet heavy with the clay. This again was with the centre of gravity and free-standing in mind. The heavier the feet, the less likely he’d topple.
Once I realised this was working out really well, and I could make him balance on his own, even without the clay, but already a bit top heavy, I dived in full steam ahead. I added as much foil as possible, creating the closest I could get to his shape without overdoing it.
As you can see, I was already working the shape of his crocodilian head, adding a pronounced spine, and bulking out his torso as much as possible. However, I again left his feet alone, and also kept the hands very bare. My thoughts were to work the hands in with clay at a much later date, as I felt they were just as expressive as his eyes and face, and wanted room to adjust and correct, something not possible if I overdid it with the foil.
Satisfied with the general shape of the foil, and that it was still completely free-standing despite being very top-heavy with foil, I decided it was time to add a layer of skin.
It reminded me of a lot of things at this stage – a slow worm, the space slug on the asteroid in ESB, or maybe one of the Mystics from The Dark Crystal. Anyway, I filled in the feet with clay, and made the layer of skin very thin on the head and shoulders. I knew I’d be adding more clay to the upper body at a later date, so it was important to keep the top light and the legs and feet heavy.
I was happy with the shape, and I still had a lot of freedom of movement re the arms, spine and legs. It was time to add more detail, and correct his stance and arm/hand placement as I went.
I started with the bold bulky features, which as you can see included his heavy brows, the belt and buckle, his kneepads, and the shape of his shoes. I also worked into his spinal ridge a bit more, but again left the hands free of any detail or work for the time being. At this stage one of my fears was being realised, in that he was starting to bend forward a bit too much, becoming unstable. I had to correct his spine, and the bends in his knees, to re-align the balance and distribution of weight.
Once I’d nailed those it was time to work in a bit more detail. This is when it became very tricky to sculpt. One of the problems I had was wherever I held it, my fingers and palm were flattening any detail I added as I worked around it. I tried a variety of methods to prevent holding him, settling on balancing him on a box (see below) and placing him on a table mat, turning the mat when I needed to get at a different angle.
Still without any crafting tools, I had to figure out how to place his lower teeth, and stop them falling out. As such, I created sockets in the lower jaw, by pressing my car key into the clay at regular intervals. Who said you needed expensive equipment for this, eh folks? Just use what’s around you!
What it did mean though was not only was I making the outward appearance of each tooth, I had to make a ‘root’ for each too, so each tooth would stick nicely in the individual socket. Basically, I was designing something only a Klegg dentist might normally see!
Also, while everyone knows what one side of Sensitive Klegg looks like on that cover, I also had to make up what he might look like from another angle. I had to work in detail from all directions so he would look interesting from a full 360 spin.
As his size, general shape, and heavier features were complete, and to a standard I was happy with, I started working in as much detail as I possibly could. This included scaly skin, folds rumples and tears in the clothes, how the spine looked under the shirt, wrinkles around the eyes, shape and lines on the kneepads, and of course the hands.
I spent a lot of time adjusting the angles of his arms, and the bend of the elbows, as I wanted his fingers to reach his face and be placed around his eyes. Once I was happy I got that right I then worked in things like knuckles, fingernails and finger joints.
I got to the point where I didn’t think there was anything else to do, so it was time to bake him. There was one thing I had missed though. Can you spot it?
The oven was ready at gas mark 2, so in he went. Judda Fett from the 2000AD forum warned me to cook the sculpey for ten minutes, allow ten minutes air cooling, then cook for another ten minutes, repeating the process for about 45 minutes of cooking time. This was to ensure the thin bits didn’t burn, but that thick bits hardened all the way through. You may recall I didn’t heed this advice on my Gronk, and he came out a bit burned on top.
Anyway, here’s Sensitive Klegg in the oven:
It was during this repeat cooking/cooling process that I noted my mistake – I hadn’t given him a hemp bracelet! I was able to quickly remedy this on the fly, rolling out a tiny snake of sculpey, fasting it around his wrist, and then pressing it gently to give a flat look. Back into the oven for ten minutes, and he was cooked! Here he is right out of the oven, cooling down ready for painting. My apologies for the rather indulgent selfie, but it gives you an idea of scale.
I left him overnight to cook, coming back to him the following evening. I settled down at 6pm with all the paints, and began what I can only describe as a completely involved and obsessive painting marathon.
First of all I wanted to get his skin tone right. I only had emerald green paint, so first tried that out to see how it would look. It was completely wrong – the type of green bore no resemblance to Chris’s olive green Klegg on the cover.
It was back to the drawing board. I had to both lighten the green and give it more of a browny tinge. As such, I spent ages, and a lot of wasted paint, mixing the emerald green with yellow, white and red to get the right feel. Ultimately I was not successful, but the big pool of green paint I ended up with was at least a bit closer to Chris’s shade.
Knowing the skin texture and facial detail was going to be the toughest part, and also the biggest feature of the model, I worked on that first. I lay down the basic colours of eyes, teeth and skin, then worked into them, from a darker pigment first, then working up into the lighter hues. Before I completed the lighter hues I went over the whole area with a wash of very dark and dirty green. This sank into the pores, lines and other details I’d etched into the skin, bringing them into relief.
Once that wash had dried, I added a final layer of lighter green, solid white, or yellowy tooth colour to really bring out the contrast between the wrinkled or shadowed areas compared to the outward areas. I achieved this by loading up the brush only slightly with the lighter colour, and then gently dragging the bristles over the raised areas. This left the grooves dark.
After that It was full steam ahead with the rest of him. Thankfully his shoes, shirt and trousers were fairly stress-free and easy to get at. Again I started with a slightly darker base colour and worked up, adding detail as I went. This included the blood stains, shadows of shirt creases, highlights on the kneepads, his hemp bracelet, and of course his yin-yang belt buckle.
I realised that belt buckle was obscured by Dredd on the cover, so re-read the story quickly, trying to identify what he was wearing. I was so pleased when I spotted the yin-yang buckle, as it made perfect sense, and really gave a rather bare midriff a nice focal point. Excellent design work from Chris, it has to be said!
During this entire painting process I’d made myself one cuppa, had one wee, and devoured one large bag of licorice allsorts. When I decided I could not do anything further, I finally looked up at the clock – midnight. I had spent six hours at the table completely hellbent on getting it painted, and had not noticed the time go by at all! I tell you what – my neck and shoulders were so stiff and painful the following day!
However, he was done, finished, complete. Here is the finished work.
I was very pleased with him, especially as I’d worked hard to cover as many angles as possible, and make him look interesting from any direction.
How close is he to the look of the comic cover though? In my eyes, perhaps not that much – as you can see I just could not get the correct skin tone, and the positioning of his body was off, partly due to how I’d had to balance him, and partly because I just hadn’t noticed he was veering away from the stance on page.
However, disappointed as I may have been with that, it did make this interpretation of Sensitive Klegg more personal to me. I was still happy with him.
I put a couple of pictures up on Facebook, and got a very positive response. David Roach asked me to bring him along to the Judgement in Cardiff exhibition later that week. He was Judge Pal’s mascot at the panel discussion (more on that another time), and I also got these nice pics of him with an original page of Chris and Rob’s Sensitive Klegg story!
Thanks to everyone who has praised my work so far. I have been a bit taken aback with how well he has been received. I got a nice tweet from Chris Weston himself about how much liked it, which was very flattering. Now though, I’m retiring him to my geek shelf, alongside my Gronk.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my blow-by-blow account of creating him, and hope I might have inspired you to have a go yourself. I thoroughly recommend working with clay. It is very therapeutic, and you get such a sense of having made something real when you hold the finished product in your hands.
As for me, the only question that remains is which 2000AD character shall I do next? There are so many to choose from, but I have some ideas… watch this space! :D