Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ijiraq: In-process and Completed

I've known about the Alphabeastiary Challenge for a while now, but didn't seriously consider joining it until about two weeks ago. Suddenly it occurred to me that the bi-weekly challenges posted on the blog would be a great way for me to work on my speed as well as my creature design.
The first challenge I participated in was the blog's most recent: the Ijiraq. Here's a quote from the blog describing the Ijiraq:
The Ijiraq ( ee-yee-roc ) is a monster from Inuit mythology whose name literally means "shapeshifter". They can come in a range of different shapes and sizes, even going so far as to copy the appearance of other monsters. The Ijiraq is a gruesome shadowy phantom that can appear as various arctic animals. Among these are the polar bear, arctic hare, raven or even the Tariaksuq (a half-man half-caribou monster). Some versions of the myth claim the Ijiraq and Tariaksuq (most often described as a great shaggy man with a caribou's head) may actually be the same creature in different forms.

Using tricks and disguises the Ijiraq steal children, hide them, then leave them out in the wilderness to die of exposure. Along with this gruesome hobby these creatures love to scare hunters and try to get them hopelessly lost or trapped in bad weather.

It is said that the Ijiraq lives in a strange no-mans land somewhere between the world of the living and the world of the dead. If an Ijiraq does manage to trick an unfortunate soul into following it into this strange frozen purgatory, they will be trapped forever and condemned to become an Ijiraq themselves.
 I immediately got a picture in my head of how I wanted my sculpture to look, just from the wonderful description of the creature. So I started sketching, scanned my sketch into photoshop, and kept working with it and tweaking it until I got an image that I was pleased with. My sculptures always start with at least one drawing that I use to plan out the look of the sculpture, as well as the armature.
So here is the concept drawing I did, as well as the plan outlining the armature I built for the sculpture:

This process is nearly identical whether I'm working in Sculpey or Chavant. The only difference is that I bulk out certain areas of the armature with aluminum foil when I'm working with Sculpey, just to save on clay, minimize weight as well as baking time (since the thicker the layer of polymer clay is, the longer it will have to bake). Chavant is cheaper than Sculpey, and since it is an oil-based clay, it doesn't go through a curing process and is reusable. I use my supply of Le Beau Touche for sketching and working out ideas since it is very soft, sticky, and allows me to work quickly without refining a piece too much. These properties make it ideal for the Alphabeastiary challenge since I only had two weeks to sculpt the Ijiraq.
Unfortunately, I don't have photos of the armature or the armature building process, but to make a long story short, I printed out the second drawing on an sheet of printer paper and laid out pieces of aluminum wire of different gauges on the drawing and bent them following the lines I planned out for the armature. Then I used plumber's putty to attach the limbs to the spine. Next I made adjustments to the armature to make sure it was posed how I wanted, and then drilled holes in a wooden plaque for the leg wires. From there, I began layering on the clay. I don't have photos of the early part of this process, but my boyfriend Dave (who is an incredible photographer and artist) was kind enough to take some later in the day. The first stage of sculpting is really rough--I basically just want to cover most of the armature and establish basic volumes in the piece. From there, the addition of clay is more careful and gradual, and I begin to slowly refine the forms in the sculpture using my fingers as well as various tools.

I was lucky with this piece in that everything went so smoothly and quickly. Not every piece is as "easy" as this guy was. He came together in about 16 hours of sculpting, which is much faster than usual for me. Sometimes there are areas of a sculpture that just don't come together easily, and sometimes I get stuck when trying to decide on the direction a piece should go.
Once I'd refined the piece until I was happy with it, I got out my light tent and camera and took these photos:

And that's that, pretty much. My next blog entry will probably be about the other sculpture I'm currently working on, which is my take on the Hindu deity Ganesha.
For now, so long and thanks for reading!

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