Sunday, December 28, 2014

Egg #11 Medusa sculpted goose egg from the "50 years all cooped up, what's an egg to do?" series

     For this egg, I had originally thought to attempt a Greek Bas-relief type of sculptural egg, like the one below:
     This type of sculpture is much harder than it looks- getting the illusion of depth you need with very little material. I will tell you that the egg that I made was more of a sculptural egg, and less of a bas-relief, as the subject matter took on a life of its own. You will see what I mean as we go forward.
     I decided to cover a goose egg with a base of polymer clay that bakes to a hardness in your oven. I used a mixture of Premo gray, translucent and stone (with flecks). First, you must warm and condition the clay by kneading. I happen to have a designated pasta roller (sorry, all you epicureans out there- this one's just for clay), which speeds the kneading and mixing process.
     I set my pasta roller on a thin setting, and roll out a sheet of clay to wrap around the goose egg.
     Since polymer clay will only stick to itself ( and raw, at that), I use the help of a liquid polymer medium, and brush the egg with it, and use it as a glue to help stick the thin sheet of polymer clay to the egg shell.
     There are plenty of folds and creases as I work the clay around the surface of the egg. I use a lucite clay roller to help smooth out the wrinkles, and work the air bubbles out to the bottom of the egg where the blow hole is. This will be important later.
     It takes a while to work the clay out smooth- this is where patience will pay off...
     I end up at the bottom with most of the clay smoothed out, bubbles gone from underneath the clay covering, and I have left the bottom of the blow hole open. I will now bake the polymer clay covered egg in a 275* oven for 15 minutes, just enough to harden it. It is important for air and moisture to be able to escape during the baking process, otherwise you might have a build up of gases, and the egg might explode. I have a designated cookie sheet for polymer clay, and have lined it with cotton batting so the egg rests on something soft, and not a flat surface. Baking on a flat surface would cause the egg to have a flat, shiny side- and that is not something I want.
     Once it has baked and cooled, I give the egg a wet-sanding with a flexible sanding block to smooth down any irregularities, and make the egg somewhat uniform.
     I start with the head of Medusa, building up in layers of circles, half-circles and shapes, smoothing as I go. Some of my tools are as simple as hollow coffee stirrers to give the eyes rims. Others are needle tools and clay punches and rubber-tipped shapers (or wipe-out tools and blenders). I open up the mouth with an xacto knife, and insert a forked tongue.
     I release the sculpted face from the smooth tile with a long razor blade made for polymer clay. I am applying an unbaked clay to a baked clay, so I will need to brush on the liquid polymer clay for adhesion (much like you would use scoring and slip to apply something with regular clay). I bake this again, at the same temperature for the same amount of time. I will do this several times over the course of this egg so that previous additions to not crush or become misshapen while I am working on the different sides.
     One of the tools in my polymer clay arsenal is a clay extruder (think play-dough). It's a great little tool with multiple interchangeable discs, as long as the clay is extremely warm and pliable enough to be pushed through. Even then, you must have a fair amount of hand strength to be able to use this tool. It does cut down on having to roll the little "snakes" individually that will eventually become the hair.
     It's at this point that I realize that my sculpted face is a lot deeper than perhaps I intended it to be for a bas-relief. I am going to have to also build up her snake layers of hair to match the depth of the face, or start all over again. Nope. We'll roll with what we got, by the seat of our pants...and like before, I am brushing on a thin coat of the liquid polymer clay wherever I am adhering unbaked clay to previously baked clay. I will bake the egg again, after putting on all the thinly extruded "snakes" that I have made as the under laying snakes that go on above.
     After the egg comes out of the oven, I start adding larger coils of snakes over the smaller ones. I once again will adhere them with liquid polymer, and work on the front, and bake again. You'll notice that on top of my rolling tile, I have placed a plastic textured sheet. I roll my snake on that, and they are left with a texture of scales. I will also use a stylist with two different sized ball-ends to help "push" the clay onto the surface, and give it further texture. I create the snake's mouth by separating the end of the snake with a vertical slice of an xacto knife, make a slit for the mouth, and a needle tool to punch an eye above the mouth.
     I keep adding snakes, and make sure that each side is somewhat balanced, and not lop-sided. I then start adding snakes to the back, rolling, gluing and backing.

     There are multiple trips back and forth from the oven to the work bench, but after a long day, the egg is finally as full as I would like it, and balanced pretty well.
     I give a little more definition to the hoods of the eyes, and some very small snakes to frame her face. Overall, I am pretty happy with how she's turned out so far.
     Here she is, frontal view, and pretty well balanced. She has been baked one last final time, same temperature, but for 20 minutes, and the oven is shut off, and she is allowed to cool down before handling.
     Here she is, a quarter turned. I am loving the forked tongue, and the hooded eyes.
     Now there's a profile!
     Now to paint and give her a nice stone patina. I use Golden Acrylic's Asphaltum glaze, making sure I get into all of the crevices. This will take a while...
     There is a point where this looks almost like a work by Geiger. Creepy.
     I crush some soft gray pastel, and apply to the surface, like a dry brush coat.
     I work in quarters, and lightly spray with a Krylon UV varnish matte finish. I let that dry, and I am onto the next side.
     I keep adding a few layers of crushed pastel in different shades of gray, and spray again in between each dusting of pastel. I think that it is starting to look like dusty, pulverized stone. What do you think?
     Finally! I am finished dusting with pastel, and spraying with matte coats. Although it didn't quite turn out as flat as a bas-relief, I do like the multi-dimensional look that I've achieved with the layering of the snakes.
     Here is her profile again. And the last photo, a quarter turn...

     I think my Medusa is beautiful in her own way. Of all the Greek myths and legends, why Medusa, you ask? Well, members of my family have often told me that all I have to do is give the "look" that would freeze anyone dead in their, I honor you, Medusa. I hope you have enjoyed this creative journey with me!