You already know that Telarus creates awesome Earthdawn stuff. But with his last project he did in his modeling class, he surpassed himself. I contacted him to tell us a little bit about the working process and to give us some insight and inspiration.
This bust of Garlthik One-Eye in the Greco-Theran style (lol) was the final project for a 12 week class of Figure Sculpture, focusing on the human body and rendering realistic proportions and volumes. Earlier in the course we had sculpted a life size human skull from reference and then worked on a quarter scale human nude from a live model. The final project guidelines were a photo-realistic bust of a fictional character at around half scale. Many of the previous student-work focused on video game or comic characters, such as the Hulk, or Gordon Freeman from Half-life. When I got the assignment, I immediately thought of a few Earthdawn iconic characters that I wanted to see rendered as sculpture. Other early possibilities included Queen Alachia, King Varulus, Aardelia, Omasu the Troubador, and Vistrosh the exiled Blood-warder. I narrowed it down to 2, Garlthik or Alachia, and went looking for concept art.
Which pictures gave you inspiration for the 3d model?
It was actually quite difficult at first to find good concept art of Garlthik or Alachia. With some pointers from the team @ the RedBrick forums I tore through all of my 1st ed source material. I unfortunately don't have my copy of The Longing Ring anymore, where Garlthik and J'Role make their first appearances in fiction. Then I found my Gamemaster's book from the 1st ed Barsaive Box Set, which has excellent character art for the major personalities of Barsaive done by Jeff Laubenstein (he has some sample work up on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=138269&id=559123932). It just so happened that the start of the Characters chapter had a full-page pic of Garlthik from a different angle than the picture on his character entry page. This gave me both sides of the face drawn by the same artist, and was very helpful in capturing all of the details in the finished bust.
I worked for 3 weeks, about 10-15 hours a week, so probably about 45 hours in total.
I built the sculpture up from a basic pipe-and-wire armature filled with crumpled paper. As you can see from the work-in-progress images, I centered enough clay to form a basic skull volume with eye-sockets and brow, and then began to add layers of clay where muscles and flesh should be. You can see this process most around the eye sockets, where I actually first placed a sphere of clay to give the layers of eye-lids a convincing shape during the final smoothing and detailing. As for tools, I mainly used an exacto-knife (or 'hobby-knife') for sharp edges and hard lines, a couple of wooden sculptor's tools with different curves and edges, and a large eraser that I then carved into individual finger-like tools with the exacto-knife. This was surprisingly the most versatile and useful tool as I could re-carve them and trim them to different shapes for specific areas of detail. Almost all of the folds of flesh around the mouth, cheeks, eyes were done with these tools.
Getting the correct volume for the skull-mass was tricky at first. I added height to his forehead and filled out the sides and rear of the skull more than a few times. The mouth and tusk took a long time to get the expression quite right, attaching the ears (which were build separately) and detailing the hair and eye-patch were carefully done. These were all delicate details near the end of the process.
Firstly, the smaller the scale at which you're working, the less details you can accomplish in the piece. I worked with oil-based clay, and recommend this as is is not as messy as water base clay, does not dry or crack, and has different levels of softness depending on the temperature. Warming the clay under a heat lamp, or in a microwave for 10 seconds at a time until soft allowed me to build up the head and neck shapes very quickly. Then, when the clay cooled, I could sculpt and carve out the finer details as they clay responded better to the tools. If I needed to add more volume to a spot, warming a small piece of clay in my hands would allow me to smear it on quickly and blend it in.
I definitely recommend sculpting from life at first. Buy a replica skull and try to model it as exactly as possible. This will give your mind, and more importantly the muscle memory in hands and arms, a sense of the correct volumes and proportions. Then, look for video tutorials. I found many excellent tutorials on youtube and other video sites.
Garlthik is currently in my studio with some of my other finished projects. I do plan on using the clay bust as a reference when I work with 3D digital characters, and hope to model some other Earthdawn characters and adepts when I take the Organic Modeling in 3D course.
You're very welcome! You can see more of the work-in-progress images, images of the earlier class assignments, and some pics of my class-mates' final projects at my Facebook album: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=150452&id=540513827&l=f4e8519aa0