Thursday, September 29, 2011

Time to get Squared Away..

It's funny how time passes by..and how quickly motivation and creativity comes and goes..! The past 8-10 days or so is the first time in years that that I have not touched a figure for over a week, nothing, nada, zip! Usually I will do a little everyday, but work has been intensely insane, many days working 14-16 hours, but hopefully that's done and over with now, and I can once again have a life outside work!
It's been very unproductive lately, there are several reasons for this, and since you are reading (or perhaps used to read...since I been horrible at keeping it updated properly) this blog I assume you are at least a little bit interested so I'll vent a bit here about everything. A lot has been going on, and even though I have been extremely inactive on the forums and about sharing what I've been working on I have done a few things. Five commercial sculpts have been completed over the summer (Rev War, American Civil War, Zulu Wars and WWI) and they should start trickling into the market in the near future. I must say I am quite happy with a few of those pieces and I feel that I can incorporate what I am doing in original one off's into production pieces more easily then I have in the past. However, doing commercial stuff is a huge killer of personal/commission project productivity. I really like to work on one project at a time, but due to what I was working on I ended up with a workbench of 9 figures in various stages of completion...and it's not good! Now I have to regain momentum on each piece instead of following the rhythm of a project, you see, usually I am a bit like a ball rolling down a hill, once I get started on a project, there is not much stopping me and as long as there is forward momentum I'll keep on rolling. However, when the momentum stops and for whatever reason the project grinds to a halt, it is hard to get started with it again. That is what I am going through now. There is some hope though, and I feel it's coming back. It usually comes back with a vengeance, which will be useful considering we are 2 weeks out from  the Chicago show and I have about 5 figures to complete..!

Lately I've also been doing a lot of other things outside of figures, I've quit smoking and I've started working out,  alternating running and working out every other day, and earlier this summer I'd swim 2-3 days a week as well. I've also picked up a new hobby, which unfortunately is a lot more expensive then figures, which is shooting! I've picked up a couple of pistols which I've enjoyed learning to shoot. I'm also in the middle of applying to become a US Citizen so a lot has been going on for sure. Oh, almost forgot...I have been doing some 1/1 scale modeling as well, I made an old school Chuck Wagon out of an old box wagon to have as a prop near the log cabin we built. Pictures of this to follow as well.

So to wrap up this little venting session I'll share a picture of my epic disaster zone, also known as a workbench. As you can see there are a fair amount of figures everywhere. The next thing I am going to do is to clean this mess up, get organized, throw every piece I am not working on into a bin, out of sight and out of mind, so I can get back to business as usual and start being productive once again.

And this is how it somewhat normally looks like...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Horan Figure of the Week: Charles Griffin, 1864

Alright! Slightly delayed, but better late then never! Here is the next installment of the Horan figure of the week, a 54mm figure of Charles Griffin, 1864.

Click images for hi-res version

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Andrea Miniatures Converter/Mannequin Review

As an aspiring sculptor I am always looking for new tools and sculpting aides to make life easier and more efficient. The Andrea Miniatures converter has been something I've always wanted to get my hands on to try out. After years of procrastinating, the opportunity to buy some presented it self when a few of us Texans made a field trip to the new Andrea Depot USA, which is the American distribution arm of Andrea Miniatures located in Corpus Christie, Tx. Since I've always been curious about how they work and never found anything written about them I decided to write up an semi in-depth review of the product.

The Andrea converter comes in a small. Heavy plastic Baggie, and includes the following:

- Metal sprue with the torso, pelvis, option of 4 hands, shoes as well as a head.
- One photo etch fret containing the skeleton of the armature
- A simple tutorial how to use the mannequin

click images for hi-res version

At first glance the mannequin idea to squash a photo etch skeleton in-between the torso and pelvis parts seems very logical and a clever. It is a way to 'beat' the quest to be able to cast a ready made mannequin which requires little prep work and that is anatomically correct without a lot of measuring and cutting of wires. So far so good!
Assembly is done rather quickly and with out much problems, it is slightly tricky to put the two pieces of each of the torso and pelvis together, but as long as you make sure that you put the part with the 'pins' through the holes in the photo etch skeleton first you will have no issues.

The torso and pelvis pieces went on with little problem, and my first concerns started with the shoes and hands. The photo etch skeleton is made out of very fine grade of brass, as such the pins dedicated to the feet are pretty small, and not too durable. The same is true for the hands, and care must be taken to properly drill the parts to fit the photo etch pins. The hands will need to be carefully planned ahead as the thin pin allocated for the hands probably would not withstand  a whole lot of bending.
The neck is a bit heftier and as such more durable. 

Once everything was assembled I started playing with posing the mannequin. At first was a little strange as the metal parts have some weight to it, making the photo etch feel quite springy and flimsy.  Which is actually my biggest issue with the mannequin, that the photo etch is just a bit too thin to really have any rigidity to it. This will cause a few problems later on as you will see. One could assume the thin brass was deliberately selected so it will have enough flex and soft enough to repose a few times with out breaking. This is merely an assumption on my part though.

Using the Andrea Converter when posing the figure was quite a bit of fun. It takes some of the boring parts out of the equation when using my standard mannequin parts such as gluing the wires, marking the joints and making sure the proportions are correct. A very neat thing about the converter is the way the shoulders are designed. Makes it really easy to properly position the shoulders whether they be raised, pulled back or lowered. A neat touch for sure, and something which I will try out with my own mannequins.

The photo etch seemed fairly forgiving and could probably be bent several times before becoming a problem. I had a pose in mind and went for it so not a ton of repositioning was necessary. To be able to fully use the mannequin though one must have at least a basic understanding how the body works and how it is all connected. But over all it was very easy to pose.

After the pose was set, some super glue was laid onto the brass skeleton to add some rigidity and to lock in the pose.  The mannequin was then fleshed out, in this case Milliput Yellow/Gray was used, another endeavor in my quest to try new putties! The thin brass, even with the super glue was a little too flexible, much care needs to be taken when adding the putty as to not push too hard and as a result mess up the desired pose. This is where a heavier gauge of brass would be very handy. A softer putty such as Aves Apoxy sculpt would probably be beneficial to use on this mannequin due to it's softness and ease of application.

click for hi-res version

Once the mannequin was more or less fleshed out I started having some problems. I'm not very gentle with my figures, handling them quite extensively, and as a result some of the putty started to break off. I think this is in part the springy soft brass center that easily bends, thus creating pressure from the inside causing the putty to crack. The reason for this conclusion is that I've not had much problems with the same process using a stiffer, heavier gauge copper wire for the legs.

Click for hi-res image 
Other then the soft brass used for the skeleton and its small pins for the extremities, my other concerns about the mannequin is the lack of a way to properly pin the figure once sculpted. Normally when sculpting your own figures the wire used for the legs is left long so it will act as the pin used to secure the figure to the base. In this case it will be hard to properly pin the figure, though this can be useful for sculpting commercial figures as well as mounted figures, or even seated figures for that matter that does not require pinning to the base via the feet. Though I'm sure there is a way to accomplish adequate pinning it is a bit more of a pain then other mannequins. Along the same lines, it is impossible to sculpt the figure in separate parts, without having to cut the figure. Though this probably a lesser issue then the pinning issue it is still something noteworthy.
All in all it's a great little mannequin. The price is way to high at approximately $25 per mannequin, making it almost as expensive as a finished figure, and would be more appropriately priced around $12-$15. The other issues are the soft brass used and the lack of good connections for the hands and feet. But the shear fun of using this product and the ease of assembly makes it worth while to try out. Though perhaps not for the absolute beginner, it is a better option then making your own, at least for the first few figures as it gives you everything you need to start making your very own figures.

And here is the finished mannequin, though I've since opted to change the left hand and head, it will give you a good idea of what it looks like. Once it's all said and done, the figure will be of Edward Rutledge arguing against the Decleration of Independence in June of 1776. Mr. Rutledge was the youngest member of the continental congress, and at the time the Decleration of Independence was debated he was 26 years old.
click for hi-res version

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Latorre Figure of the Week: Sergeant, 71st Regt of Foot 1825

Since the past three weeks the blog has only recieved updates in the form of Horan figures, while that is pretty cool in it self, I thought for this week (though a bit late...sorry!) that we'd change it up a bit. So here is an absolutely fantastic original by Raul Garcia Latorre. I have not had the pleasure to see many of Latorres figure in person, but I have seen about 6-7 of them (and have pictures of all of them!!) and they are really something to study. The pictures doesn't do the pieces much justice but they will be good to use as reference for studying techniques and color placement. Enjoy!

Click images for hi-res version 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Horan Figure of the Week: Light Infantry Carabinier 1796

I apologize for not having updated the blog much with my own work recently. I have been very busy at the bench, but have been working on some commercial stuff, and have been asked by the manufacturers not to share until they are ready to do so. I hope to update you with the progress on the Quatre Bras piece in the near future, as well as potentially another 3 figure vignette that I have in the pipe line. BUt until then, please enjoy the Horan figure of the week!

This week features one of my favorite Horan figures! Love the pose as well as the defiant look complimented with his tattered and torn clothing.

As always, Click images for hi-res version

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Horan Figure of the Week: "The Souvenir, 1778"

This weeks piece is probably the most playful piece ever done by Horan. It is a light hearted and humerous scene, which differs from his normal body of work. It almost has a touch of a Norman Rockwell painting with the dynamic and somewhat humerous body language.

Click images for Hi-Res version

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Horan Figure of the Week: Yogi Berra

This weeks Horan figure is the Yogi Berra figure that was included as a step by step in the "Complete Bill Horan" book published by Andrea Press a few years back. There are some great in progress pictures as well as a nice write up about the making of the piece in there. If you haven't checked out the book, it is well worth it!

As always, click on the images for hi-res version.