This is really, really, really funny. And every artist must think these thoughts from time to time. Brilliant work Mr. Foster and the PR gang at 2000ad.
Amazing! From the same gang of muties that brought you ‘Judge Minty’. Can’t wait to see this!!!
From the deep, dark, murky depths of forgotten television land comes the one bright spark to light the way forward etc, etc, etc..
Really, this is just preparation for the next episode of ECBT!
Be shocked and amazed at the talent of our very own Steven Ross.
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!
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! 😀
The good folk at 3A have revealed Judge Fish and The Gronk as the latest in a line of 2000AD characters. You can pre-order them on Bambaland.com here:
At $75 including international shipping, that’s a pretty good deal! The Gronk does look lovely, especially with that fur finish they’ve given him.
Unfortunately for me even a price so reasonable is currently out of my budget. I drooled over these pictures, and cursed the reason for my skintness (I recently bought a house), but then thought ‘Stop with the self pity – there was a time (decades ago admittedly) when you could build one of these for yourself!’
With that in mind, I invested in a block of Super Sculpey (you can get a decent sized block of this for a tenner on Amazon), and raided the kids ‘making box’ for some cheap acrylic and paintbrushes.
I’d like to present to you my first attempt at making anything with clay in over twenty years, and also talk you through the process in case you wanted to learn from my mistakes!
Ok, first up I made a basic wire frame – nothing special, just a circular base and a spine that led right up to the tip of Gronk’s furry bonce. I wound two separate wires around it horizontally about a third of the way up, a centimetre or so between them, to represent the Gronk’s arms.
I then built up the foundation of the Gronk around these wires, initially just trying to get a feel for where the head would start and finish, and position the arms to make it look less static:
Once I had this basic shape, I started to round the edges, clean up the main body a bit, and give him more detail. Again I spent some time positioning the arms, and thought about how I was going to give this clay thing some character. This included working on the hands, thinking about eyes and expression, and how to shape the hair tuft at the top.
Once I was happy with the basic dimensions, and how the body was going to sit, curvature of the spine, hair, features etc, I thought it was time to work in some of the finer detail. Up until this point I had used nothing but my hands, fingers, and even fingernails, to work the shape and get some of the basic detail down. Now I had to find a decent carving implement…
… a pair of nail scissors!
Yep, you don’t need crafting tools to create, folks. Just use what’s around you. That said, I have ordered some basic craft stuff for my next project.
Ok, so then I really went to town, trying to create a fake fur effect by dragging the scissors downwards for very short lines all over his body. This took quite a while, as I realised that as I held it and shaped one area, I was flattening down a previously shaped area with my fingers! D’oh!
I eventually sat the wee guy on a mat, turning the mat to get at the clay I needed to sculpt. After this, I had one last adjust of the arms, and the tuft of hair at the top, and it was ready to cook:
Ok folks, here’s something fundamental about Super Sculpey I wish I’d known earlier. On the packet it said to cook it at about 130 degrees centigrade for 15 mins per 6 mm width (Gas Mark 2 basically). Naturally I though it was very wide at it’s widest, so left it in for about 45 mins.
This was wrong. At it’s thinnest it was only about 2mm deep. What I should have done was put it for 10 minutes at a time, taken it out, air cooled it for 10 mins, and then put it back in for 10 mins, repeating until it had the full 40 – 50 mins of cooking time.
If I had done that I would have prevented this:
Oh my poor heartses! I thought I’d ruined my creation! As you can see, it cooked the thick bits to perfection, but the thin hair tuft at the top was smoking when I pulled it out of the oven.
I was hoping to rely on the nice skin colour of the clay for the face and arms, but as you can see poor Gronk’s nose was a bit burnt! I had no choice but to rely on paint.
It was at this time I realised I couldn’t paint a decent skin tone, as I only had red, white and black acrylic paint (nicked from the kids stash earlier), so at 11pm I jumped in the car and tried to find a large 24 hour Tesco, and the paints I needed. Yes folks, by this point I was a bit obsessed – I wasn’t stopping until the damn thing was complete!
Tesco was almost a bust – no acrylic paints on sale at all, of the regular artists variety. However, there were some tiny pots of acrylic in with a kids ‘paint your own fridge magnet’ thingy. I bought that, belted home, discarded the magnets (I’ll give those to the kids), and was able to get a nice mix of yellow and red for a skin tone.
The first layer of paint went on. I was very impatient by this point, and it was a bit scrappy:
Ok, not bad – it covered the singed bits nicely, but clearly wasn’t finished. I needed more detail around the face, and neded to lightly brush some white over the fur to give a shadowy layered effect. I waited for the paint to dry and treated myself to the last of some lovely 20 year old single malt I’d been nursing since Xmas.
Finally it was time to add one more layer of paint before I really hit the finer detail. As I’d had to paint over the Gronk’s scorched face, I had to cover his arms with the same colour, so it looked consistent:
As mentioned above, I dragged a soft brush lightly over all the fur with white paint. This lightened the surface, but kept the grooves a dark grey, so as to try and bring out that fur effect. I worked a little more detail into the face, and then finally considered the eyes.
I wanted to emulate the 3A masterpiece, as I love the character – those worried eyes looking distractedly to one side, as if something was going to leap out and give the Gronk yet another actual heart attack.
The paint brushes I’d nicked from the kids were far to coarse. There was no way I was going to get his tiny pin-prick pupils right with one of those. Eventually I settled on a fine nibbed Sharpie…
…and he was done.
Here he is in all his glory. My own Gronk, made by my own hands, for a fraction of the price of the 3A one (though admittedly nowhere near as professional looking), after a fantastically diverting evening of creativity.
I’m quite pleased with it. My first serious attempt at clay modelling since the 1990’s.
I hope this has given some hints and tips to those wannabe sculptors out there. I highly recommend Super Sculpey, but heed my warning about cooking times!
The question is, what do I make next..? I’m eyeing Sensitive Klegg…