As such, I hope you enjoy this flashback onto an early project of mine. While it's not sculpture in a traditional sense, it's projects like this which ignited my imagination and fed my desire to learn and improve, and this project is incredibly close to my heart.
I tended to be rather verbose back in my LiveJournal days (even more so than now, if you'd believe it), so I've shortened and edited some of the original text below from LiveJournal. This will be the first of four blogs about this project, which you can access at the links below. These are the original images I posted, so they're also a bit on the small and blurry side, but there will be some nicer ones in the final blog: promise. :)
- Part 1 - Conception to Early Production
- [Coming Soon] Part 2 - Painting and Refining the Base
- [Coming Soon] Part 3 - Water, Terrain Details, and the Wizard's Abode.
- [Coming Soon] Part 4 - Detailing the Wizard's Abode, Furniture, Props, and Final Details
Scale Model Project: "Wizard's Retreat": Part 1 of 4 - Conception to Early Production
You can even see a staircase by the fireplace (70's style, anyone? :) ), and a bay window and front door. Towards the center is a hallway and kitchen. Everything has dimensions, including the scenery backdrop, so if someone wanted to construct this set, I could swing right into giving the carpenters exact measurements, and they could run with it from there. This was to be the same scale I used for the Wizard's Retreat I was scheming.
Planning Commences on The Wizard's Retreat
The fun began when I started to plan my topic. I wanted to do something unique and very "me," so I decided early on I wanted to do an outdoor environment, kinda nature-y, and at some point I decided I would make a "Wizard's Retreat," which was basically an incredibly large tree in the middle of a forest which a wizard had made into a home.
After I decided on a general subject, I sort of... "stewed." I really didn't do that many conceptual sketches, because my mind was busy rolling over the "look" I was aiming for. Since I am apparently desirous of punishment, I decided I should have a river as part of the project, and of course some rolling hills and all that. In retrospect, it seems I was incapable of choosing a simple, reasonable project. It wouldn't be until many years later when I first heard the term "scope creep," but my goodness, that fit this project to a "T."
Here are some of the initial thumbnails I did with a fountain-pen. From early on I'd decided I wanted the staircase to wrap around the trunk and lead up to the front door, and that I wanted a portion of the house to be sort of like an open deck (left side), where the wizard could practice all array of magic or alchemy without setting things on fire. One must always be careful, yes?
So from this early stage I'd established I wanted to have the house situated around/in the tree, and part of it would be extended over the water to be supported by a smaller tree. (This wizard is eco-friendly, after all!). At this point I also planned on there being a second story, which ended up being cut out due to time constraints.
The first sketch I did is in the upper left. Just some overheads of ideas on treehouse/river placement. The one in the fart left also has the bridge over the river idea that I ended up using much later. Then I sketched the one below it, where you can see a sort of side view of things.
The sketch in the lower right was where I went "ooohhh, maybe I can have the stairs start from INSIDE the tree...." I also did some rough calculations on size based on the actual height of an average stair in comparison to how high off the ground I wanted the house to actually be. That helped determine the circumference of the tree trunk when I finally built it. I was surprised how much math and pre-planning went into this sucker!
Here is the next sketch I did, which ended up really starting to set the stage for the project. I dubbed the sort of open room the "Globe room" and used this sort of 3/4 view to really start planning in earnest. I decided on the bridge idea for sure, but I was still working out how to have the stairs start. I liked the idea of an archway, and it seemed like it would work better than the tree-trunk idea because of the angles/head clearance involved.
Anyway, the professor also asked me if this was a shared, or private experience for the wizard, and that really made me think: I mean, how far out was this place? Remote? Did he get visitors often? Foul beasties? Ninjas? That question right there really helped me think things through from a world building perspective.
This is a top-down view, and you can sort of see the staircase curving around, and then the front door is around the back of the house. I planned on a bathroom (or bedroom) in the rear, (conveniently by the "Globe Room" ;) ), and the whole area along the bottom of the diagram would be a sort of dining room/additional living space. Then nestled "inside" the tree would be a living room/den with a fireplace that would back into/share a wall with the kitchen stove. At this point there is also an overlay of the second story bedroom/balcony that never came to be, and the indoor stairs that would have led to it.
I'd also planned out where I wanted some trees, and more importantly: I planned out a variety of "break away" walls so that I could take then out at will and shoot into the interior. Neat, huh? :)
Time to Get to Work!
Then I began collecting supplies. At this point I'd guessed this might be a $200 project.... but it ended up being closer to $400 or $600. I had NO idea what I was in for, but regardless.
I also did some research into the width of doorways and the dimensions of my car's trunk to make sure it would fit. I believe the final measurements were around 2 feet by 3 feet wide.
Let me tell you: sculpting that foam is a ~bitch.~ It gets EVERYwhere. It tracks EVERYwhere. This stage was interesting in the perspective I was seeing it coming together, but it was also a great deal of not fun. I think I ended up trying about 3 different types of glue to get things to "hold." Foam putty, foam glue, and a hot glue gun did the final trick. Present day me would have been using a whole lot more epoxy putties instead, but I digress.
Next I used loads and loads of foam and foam "bits" and sculpted them into the basic "form" of the tree. This included the "roots," and since the tree is so huge, I tried to make it look as if the outstretching roots sort of "disrupted" the surrounding landscape. Then I covered it with lots of papermache strips.
What I remember most about this stage is how I had no idea what I was doing. I wished my class gave us more hard facts, but the professor was big on "self discovery and self failure" whereupon he said we'd learn a lot better. >_>
So, I covered the whole bloody thing in papermache strips, and found that my little idealistic concept of it being all rolly and wonderful was.... not a reality. I ended up having to use bits of foam, glue, rolled-up paper towels, newspaper, more papermache, and even air-dry clay to start to "work" the landscape to be like it was in my mind's eye.
As I continued to sculpt the landscape further, I refined the rolling hills, two waterfalls, and the beginnings of some mountainous/rocky outcroppings.
It was also at this stage I started to put some fibrous instant paper mache material called Celluclay II over the trunk of the tree and roots so I could
This is a close-up of one of the rock-faces I worked at. Some of these sorts of things were done by a sort of plaster/latex/rubber mold-making process, and other parts were done entirely from scratch. Then I had to use more paper mache and such to try to get it to work into the landscape I'd already sculpted. Neat though, huh? :)
Many......... MANY hours of work later, I felt the "base" of this was approaching completion and I let it air dry.
...You'd be amazed how LONG it took to get all these lumps of various shapes/sizes consistencies! I decided to have the rock face exposed mostly on one side, but that earth and such had settled over top of it in time. This tree has been around awhile, after all. ;)