Monday, September 3, 2012

SRS Prototyping Ta-Opet Figure

I had the pleasure of meeting Scott Spicer of SRS Prototyping four weeks ago at JerseyFest, where he was one of the vendors as well as a contest judge. One of the items he had for sale was a 3 inch figure "Ta-Opet," which stuck me as very reminiscent of Frank Frazetta's "Egyptian Queen," one of my favorite paintings by one of my favorite artists. Figures are not my usual thing, but I couldn't resist buying one.

Here you see the finished figure at left, and a poor quality jpeg of the painting, in case you don't know what I'm referring to. The figure isn't directly sculpted from the painting--the pose isn't quite the same because the figure isn't leaning against a pillar--but the similarities are obvious, notably the shape of the metal brassiere thing.

In fact, I love this painting so much I once painted a copy.

This is a beautiful sculpt, which Scott told me was done by his father, although this figure wasn't without trouble. I got right to work on it and ended up spending about three hours on cleanup of mold seams and resculpting details. Ta-Opet is cast in polyurethane, presumably in an RTV silicone mold. There was the usual mold seam and flash, no big deal, but there were also two parallel seams running alongside that must have come from the master. Maybe you can see them in some of these pictures.

After washing with dish detergent, a whole lot of sanding was required, then a coat of Tamiya sandable primer, more sanding, etc., until the seams were no longer noticeable. Unfortunately, the seams crossed the feather pattern of the headdress, so this had to be reestablished. I simply cut new grooves into the headdress by drawing a fresh x-acto blade across it (the way nut-job followers of evil overlords demonstrate their loyality by drawing a knife across the palms of their hands in movies, like in The Two Towers), and widened and deepened them with a scribing tool.

A final coat of primer, then I got to work painting. I used a ridiculous mismatched assortment of paints, all oil except for the blue of her skirt, which is Polly Scale acrylic. In every case but the copper of Ta-Opet's top, which is pretty small, the colors are blended to avoid the lifeless uninteresting surface that would result. Except for the spray primer, all the painting was done by brush.

The flesh tone owes something to the color mix I used for 1/700 scale sailor figures I used to populate the bridge of the Enterprise (see previous post). That mix was Model Master Enamel Panzer Interior Buff with a little Humbrol Insignia Red. It made a pretty convincing flesh tone at that scale, but more was needed here. At some point I switched the mix to Interior Buff and Alizarin Crimson oil paint. I tried various mixes with this base and Grumbacher artists' oil paints. The first attempt used burnt sienna, and I ended up removing it and starting over. Closer examination of the painting as reproduced in the book The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta told me to match the painting, I needed burnt umber and raw ocher for the undertones and overtones, respectively. I built up the flesh tones to conform to the painting somewhat, to try for some realism faithful to the way flesh tones vary in life, and to exaggerate the effect of lighting. Certainly, the representation of flesh tones on this figure, or in the Frazetta painting, has nothing to do with any real Egyptians.

I very deliberately avoided painting the whites of her eyes and the irises in some literal-minded way, where the whites must be white, etc. Her eyes are deep in shadow, black and burnt umber added to the base color around the eyes, with eyebrows and lashes in black, and the eyes themselves a blue-grey color.

The jewelry I originally conceived as lapis lazuli (which is deep blue, phthalocyanine blue in this case) and ruby, with only a little gold, but ended up doing as gold and lapis. These are actually historically accurate materials for fine jewelry in ancient Egypt. The gold of the jewelry, the sash-like ornament with hieroglyphs running down the front of her loincloth-skirt thing, and her headdress are all done in gold leaf. (Not real gold, but a craft-store substitute which looks pretty convincing.) I actually don't have any usable gold paint at my workbench right now, and so I tried gold leaf. It's a real pain! It does not stand up well to handling, so some spots needed to be touched up repeatedly until I was done. The damage I did to the finish in handling the figure made this a real two-steps-forward-one-step-back operation. Next time I do a figure, I'll mount the base to some kind of post to handle the figure by.

I was originally going to paint her top, mirror, sandals, and handbag some mix with burnt sienna to represent leather, but decided to go with Humbrol metallic copper. Some leather can look metallic; the small scale supports it; and it resonates with the metal brassiere thing worn by the Egyptian queen in the Frazetta painting. So copper it is, and it's ambiguous whether she's wearing leather, copper, or some cloth with copper in it. In another nod to historical accuracy, the reflective surface of her mirror, against her thigh, is done in gold. The Egyptians did indeed have mirrors, and they were of polished gold, and so only the very wealthy had mirrors.

Her hair is black, but it wouldn't look lifelike if it were all black. Highlights in her hair are a blue-grey lightening of the basic black of her hair, streaked in the direction her hair would be combed. Lips are alizarin and white, but are barely noticeable with the shading.

The base I wanted to look like sandstone, something like it the Frazetta painting, which is mainly done in burnt sienna, but this base is mainly mars red, lightened with titanium white, greyed with mars black, and the hue varied with burnt sienna. I found I had to lighten the base a lot so it wouldn't overpower the figure. And here are pictures of the nearly-finished (with the grey base) and finished figure (with the mars red base). Allowing for having to do a bit of cleanup and my clumsy make-it-up-as-you-go-along figure painting, I'm fairly happy with the result, though to quote Johnny Depp as Ed Wood, my next one will be better!

No comments:

Post a Comment