So there I was, looking at what little clay and wire I had left after making Sensitive Klegg (see article here), and wondering if I could do a quick humanoid of some description. What was reasonably small and human in the 2000AD universe? It came to me in a flash, and was blindingly obvious – it had to be my favourite Dredd ape, Don Uggie Apelino.
But which version? The latest incarnation in the Dredd/Mars Attacks crossover? The primitive one consigned to loss of intelligence after the Apocalypse War? Or could I possibly try… the McMahon original?
What the hell – I threw everything at the Klegg, and he turned out alright, so why not tackle a version done by one of the most renowned Dredd artists in history? I might get it looking something like an ape – right? As before, I was filled with some trepidation – after all, this was only my third model of recent times, and the third I had made in the last 20 years.
There was a black and white one and a coloured version of the same, but I didn’t like the latter. It had Uggie in a purplish suit, and I wanted him in a natty light grey number, allowing the colours of his skin, banana, and carnation to really stand out. So this is the image I settled on:
This time around, while I am going to talk through the process, I’m also going to give an idea of timings, and also how I manage to do them so quickly. This involves a bit of an indulgent description of my mind-state when I do these, but may be of interest to you arty types out there – does it click with the zone you enter when immersed in your work?
Ok, so first of all, the model itself. It took about two and a half hours from wire-frame construction to fully cooked and ready to paint. I didn’t originally intend to do it in one sitting. In fact, I was only really fiddling around with the wire when I had a bit of time to spare, to see if I could make a basic humanoid shape.
Here it is:
However, as soon as I put this together, I was in ‘the zone’. In my mind’s eye I could see the stages of construction all laid out in front of me. I lost all sense of any of the other trivial things I had to do (housework, eat, drink, wee etc) and ploughed straight in.
This is the mindset I had when making the Gronk and Sensitive Klegg (SK) too, and I recall it from the days in my teens when I painted, made and drew stuff all the time. However, SK had been in danger of remaining unfinished – he was a big job, and I had to put him aside twice for several days apiece before continuing. I have a very OCD nature when it comes to making things, being in ‘the zone’ – my brain feels like it is burning, like it is alive with electricity, thoughts, ideas and plans all piling on top of each other, trying to get in an order. I get the sense of having to get it done NOW NOW NOW!
However, if I have to put a project aside, in the past I have found that sensation fades, and if left too long I will abandon a project in favour of the latest idea or creative obsession. I was very aware of this when making SK, so always kept him in mind on the days I wasn’t working on him, and managed to keep that fire going to the end of the project.
For Don Uggie this was a lot easier – he was a lot smaller, and I was able to work on him very quickly, propelled along by this creative fugue I always seem to enter when really inspired. As such, I very quickly was able to fill the wireframe with foil:
and then get the first thin layer of skin on him:
All the time I was building him I was considering several things. Could I get him to free-stand like the others? My trick of foil on top, clay on bottom was employed yet again. I also worked on his stance, balance, and limb spacing. How was I going to do his hat? Balance clay on top of a foil head? In the end I opted to make the foil head long and thin, one half being the head, the other the hat. What about the hands? Work into them with foil, or use clay? In the end I opted for a bit of both; I laid out the general shape and curve of the arms and palms with the wire, gave them a light coat of foil, then a heavier coat of clay. This helped bring the centre of gravity slightly forward too, so he was less likely to topple backwards.
With regards my mind-state, I had a lot of this worked out already, but I always find I can adapt and change course quickly when needed. I had to do this with Don Uggie several times as I adjusted the way he stood, arm and shoulder length, amount of clay re weight distribution and so on.
The next was filling him out, and creating a basic sense of where things were going to go; a template for later detail if you like.
Again in my minds eye I could see the end product, and my fingers didn’t so much shape the clay, as allowed the clay to direct me to the vision of the finished model. It’s hard to describe, and it’s a sensation I get with no other medium – only clay. It’s almost like the object isn’t being developed – it’s already there, it exists, the clay just hasn’t morphed into it yet. The shape is already in the clay – I’m just the conduit to allow the shape out.
Bloody hell, that sounds so totally fucking pretentious – I AM THE CLAY/THE CLAY IS ME!! Pfft.
Sod it – that’s what it feels like, kind of, so I’m leaving it in.
Anyway, I got him to a point where the shape was ready, and it was a case of adding detail next. Here’s the template for the detail to come forth:
I knew exactly where I wanted the detail to go, but hit a bit of a snag. He’s a much smaller model, and I have massive chunky fingers. There was no way I was going to pinch, prod and score the detail into being with fingers and nails. Again I turned to what was at hand, and found a large safety pin. Bending it back, I was able to use the point for fine detail (eyes, nose, moth), the length for gentle scores (hair, material creases), and the nubby end for smoothing areas of clay I could not reach with my fingers (coat breast, behind the fingers).
All went to plan – my creative urge drove me ahead, amending and changing where necessary (lapels, banana, fingers, hat rim), and about two hours after entering this zone I came out of it, blinking in surprise at the time on the clock, and holding in my hands a model ready for cooking.
The normal everyday pressures came back into focus, the main one being the pressure on my bladder, and the need for a cuppa. However, I checked him in the oven first, and used the first ten minutes of the cook/cool/cook/cool cycle to hit the porcelain.
As before, the cooked result came out much better than I expected! It almost seemed a shame to paint him.
It was at this point, having come out of the zone I had been in, and having everyday humdrum pressures to deal with (which I was now late for as a result of said creative fugue) that I had to put him aside for a day or two. Again I prayed I was back to him in time to complete him before I was distracted by some other thought, idea, concept etc etc.
Here he is unpainted with my other models, which should give you a better idea of scale. In fact, he seems about right in size when compared to SK, but that was just a happy accident. I only had just enough wire and clay to make him that big.
I wasn’t expecting the chance to paint for a few days, but thankfully an opportunity arose within 48 hours. My mind had been full of him in the meantime – was the grey suit/few colours idea going to work? How heavily did I want to emphasise the folds? Was I going to give him a true chimp skin colouring? How the hell was I going to do his tiny little eyes?
Again, when I sat down in front of him, with the paints laid out in front of me, I entered that bizarre mind-state, that I get at no other time. This one lasted 2 hours 45 mins, and right from the start I had it all laid out in front of me. However, although I had found him tricky to model, being so small, I wasn’t prepared for how difficult he was going to be to paint for the same reason. It wasn’t until well after I had covered him in the first layer that I realised I was going to struggle.
The first challenge was my NOW NOW NOW brain-burn. I really had to temper that and reel it in, as I was being far too impatient. I was trying to paint detail over still-wet paint, making a right mess of it, causing splodges and thumbprints everywhere, and having to paint over some with the base colour and start over.
Finally, the shape, shadow, form and colour in my mind was coming through in the model in front of me.
Unlike when painting SK, I nailed his skin colour from the off, deciding on a very brownish chimpanzee like base, but working it up with lighter shades, becoming more pink towards the surface. I also used a wash of dark brown to etch into the lines of detail around nose, mouth and eyes.
Painting him was an issue with regards how quickly I was doing it, as I was getting wet paint all over my fingers, and spreading it everywhere. I had to slow down even further. I also had to be excruciatingly painstaking with areas behind arms, under hats and around sleeves – I was trying to keep the sharp lines of the jacket and hat clearly delineated, with no flow into the hairy hands or sides and back of head.
At this stage he was very nearly there, and I was very happy with my decision to let the splashes of colour stand out against the simple grey of the suit.
As you can see, I also solved the problem of his eyes. In the comic his eye shape was suggested by the shadow, but I wanted to make him even more menacing, so I gave him a tiny pinprick of light on each black pupil. I was very surprised at how effective this was – he looked totally malignant.
The final detail went on – some highlights on clothes, face, hat and banana, a little work on the carnation, and the white on those trademark mafia shoes.
Then he was done, done, DONE!! I came out of the zone, was staggered again by how much time had passed, and even more so by the sudden need to have a wee. While I legged it to the loo I left him dry, ready for the final pictures.
There, complete. As I reviewed my work, I felt that satisfaction I get from the end of the project, the endorphin rush at the end of that brain-burn, the end of that period of overpowering obsession.
As with SK, there were some things I wasn’t 100% happy with. I’d let the right arm droop down lower than intended from shoulder to elbow, and I felt some of the dark gray shadow and linework stood out a little too much. Also, his face seemed fatter and rounder than the McMahon art. But too late – he was finished. Overall though, I was still really pleased, and felt I’d captured a bit of McMahon in him, but also infusing him with my own style, borne of the electric NOW NOW NOW thought processes.
All that remained was to place him with my buddies.
So there you have it. I hope I haven’t bored you with my description of what happens to me when I obsess as I create. I would be interested to hear if anyone else gets a similar sense when they create – the zone, the time disappearing, the vision moving from mind to physical form, the whole creative process. Let me know!
In the meantime, I’m having a break from it, and getting back to reality for a bit. However, I am definitely coming back to more modelling. I have awoken something I have not felt in such a long long time, and I want more. I will be thinking carefully about which character to tackle next.
I’m open to suggestions!