Thursday, 13 December 2007

New ! Mandan indian Nov./ Dec. 2007

Sculpted and painted by Alan &Marion Ball

Another totally scratchbuilt figure in 90mm, various putties were used , as is usual with these figures, I wrk on several at a time, and mix a putty for one , the "left overs" from the figure the putty was intended for are used to continue work on others ( so too much of any particular isn't wasted ) .....
hence sometimes my figures can look something of a patchwork ....
something you get used to looking at when working on them .it's simply a case of seeing the "forms and details" rather than letting the colour of the material distract you .
painting again is by Marion of course.

New ! Mountain man Nov./Dec.2007

  • Sculpted and painted by Alan &Marion Ball Nov./Dec.2007

Alan sculpted that 90mm figure in magic sculpt and other materials.
The whole figure is totally scratchbuilt beside of the musket.
Marion painted the figure then with acrylic and oil paints.

New ! Chevalier bust 200mm Oct./Nov.2007

200 mm bust

  • Totally scratchbuilt

  • Playing around with putty making a bust.....not sure what to make it into ....

  • Finally it got to the stage where it had to be something other than a piece I was messing around with .

  • I remebered some photo's that we had been sent of a re-enactor dressed up in his finery as an officer form the 30 years war , and decided that that would be fun to do ..

  • The details are from his dress( which was very well researched) ..the colouring for the bust however was Marions idea as the re-enactor basically had black clothing with white shirt.......very stark.

  • We had this green colour of uniform and beige hat being worn by a similar figure that we had done based on a Rousselot plate so were happy that it was accurate .
Thats the simple story of how this one came about ....nothing pre planned about it at all.

New ! Scaramouche 54mm July/Aug.2007

Scaramouche Movie scene
Totally scratchbuilt 54mm

Okay, this was something that Marion had wanted to do for some time, something that fully brought the third dimension into play , what better way to do that than have everything up in the air ..with as little "contact" to the ground as possible.
She also wanted to do something that used the idea of the base being simply the setting , or stage to a the same time , she was looking for an idea from old movies .

This ended up in fullflling all those criteria and more :) a good dose of old fashioned buckling of swash !

At the very least it was a lot of fun to do and work out how things should go together without involving the making of a full audience & props .
The idea came about from a visit to New York , where we visited a shop that speciaises in old Movie posters and stills ( so many posters & files of stills to look through you could end up staying there for days to search through everything ).
The photo's that this is based on were simply among the first that we looked at , and kept going back to .
Anyway, it's fun to do something different now and again :)

We looked for colour pictures or stills of the scene , and went as far as to order the film ...( it never came) but couldn't find any good ones , so went with what we liked as far as the colouring and feel of the piece, so the good old movie "law" of bad guy wearing black & good guy wearing white seemed very appropriate.....

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

New ! British Ship crew figures -Meteor Production

  • Sculpted by Alan Ball 54mm

New ! Zulu warriors-Britains Toy soldiers Nov.2007

  • Sculpted by Alan Ball

commercial sculpting

Commercial sculpting.

This posting includes quotes from several others , so I don't claim I wrote the whole thing ( I'm not sure which bits are who's now , but the whole thing is from a discussion that was on and have included some of the input from the discussion that followed as they added greatly to the value of the original thoughts )
I'm sure that it's interesting to those who either think about starting their own company or sculpting for production , so I hope those that i have quoted will forgive me .

Okay, since I have recently been getting a few e-mails asking about commercial sculpting and how to go about it, I thought that I would jot down a few of my thoughts on the matter...............and this is purely my viewpoint, others will have other thoughts on the matter.............manufacturers will certainly have horror stories to tell about sculptors that they have worked with.

First of all, do you work and release figures on your own ........and starts a new company to do this.
The questions are, can you cast, if not, can you get a reliable and good caster.
If you can cast , are you prepared for the time it takes up and the costs of doing it commercially, unless you are willing to wait to get your money back, and can afford to keep releasing figures which are all taking time to realise the investment back then this isn't for you ( If you are lucky, then you will be an instant hit, but this is rarer than people think.....most of the people who tell you they "must have" your figure will by the time it's released , or they see it have something else on their "must have" list ).

If you don't want to go down this road, and just want to sculpt for existing companies then there are other considerations.
Who...........there are plenty of companies out there, some have good reputations, some bad ..Do you want to be associated with a company that has a bad reputation ...will some of that bad reputation rub off on you!

Good companies..There are a lot of them they cast in Metal or resin (if metal, can you make the required adjustments to your sculpt to make sure that it doesn't "shrink" too much in the casting process.
How well do they cast, and what sort of engineering does your figure need to make it cast able by that company (there is a lot of variation in what some companies are capable of ...and how they like a figure "cut"........remember, it's easier to have a lot of detail on each piece, and make the parts as few as possible, but that will mean that the company will have to renew the moulds more often).

Accuracy.......well this is important, and a lot depends on whether the company is general, specific, and very specific or control freaks on how they want the figure to look and how it should be shown. I have had companies send me illustrations of a ACW figure, and ask me to make a Napoleonic figure in the pose............wearing all the bags, straps and other equipment, now sensibly, Napoleonic clothing is much more restrictive than ACW clothing, so it just cannot work in all cases.........if the company is very specific about the look, then you either say no, try to change their minds or do it to the best of your ability.............your choice.
Of course, you should always try and do your own research, and if there is something that doesn’t fit , tell them about it ......though this doesn’t always work
If they are being general in their request for a figure ( We want a "French Napoleonic Dragoon charging on a horse" for instance ) and leaving the rest up to you ..then you have to work harder at making sure you are right ......... not always as easy as it sounds given that most companies have a timeframe in mind , and want to release your figure at a specific show ( usually within a shorter time period than you would like to check on all the details fully ).

Your good name..Once you have committed to do something, you have to do it, and as near to the required date as possible. The manufacturer will then have to get it cast, painted for box art and packaged ........these all take time, and are costs they have to bear, on top of your fee for the sculpting ........and hope to recover as soon as possible by releasing your figure at a big show.

Money, If you haven’t worked with a company before , it's a possibly a sensible idea to ask for a deposit up front....that shows commitment on their behalf, though of course, this means that they have to trust you to do the thing , so there is plenty of discussion possible here, and you can't be too uptight about the whole thing or you will end up losing the commission...remember it's easy for you to go on any and all sites and shout about being screwed, so it's unlikely that any company would try and not pay for your work and keep the figure ........if it all goes pear shape, you will at least have the sculpt back in your hands .
Just make sure that it's clear the sculpt remains your property until paid for .

Don't charge too much ( where you cost things is your own business, these are just general observations ), if you charge too much, you may sell one sculpt, but it will be a time before the figure has paid for itself, so they won't come back for some time ( if at all).
Charge too little and you will soon become disillusioned at the whole thing .............just remember that you are never going to "make a million" at this, and go for a sensible price , that allows you to keep working .

Critiques........while working , privately send pictures to people you trust and ask for comments them and take them in when they arrive , if the comment is fair and would make the thing better ....bite the bullet and make the change now...don't wait till you have finished and it's all too late .
I find it also useful to send pictures to the company who will be taking the figure, so they can also make comments and foresee any problems that they may have.

Changes........ It does happen from time to time that you will be asked to change things on a sculpt, the pose or small details ................this is normal and to be expected, and I have to say that as a general rule the changes asked for usually make the sculpt better. Remember, it's not in the companies interest to try and make the ting worse.........and they have to be happy and positive about the sculpt.....believe in it .......that way they will try and sell it (rather than just have it sitting on their table), it also means that they feel happier about using you in the future, so if the first sculpt sells, they may well come back for more.

Standing by your work. Okay, you have done the piece, after making some changes that you weren't entirely happy with (well what were you to do , refuse, and be left holding the figure you wouldn't have done in the first place , losing all that time and effort for nothing , and in the process getting a bad reputation for letting down the Company who had it slated as their release for such & such a show).
What you don't do is go on the nearest website and tell everyone that you don't like the figure, or that it's inaccurate because you had to make changes because the company demanded them (there will be enough people on the internet to tell you how wrong the whole thing is anyway).
It's easier not to comment at all as a general rule...Even if you are completely happy with everything; a simple thank you to nice mail or posts is easiest.............
Most of it is pretty obvious, but there are learning curves to go through and as you say Communication is the paramount way to cut down on misunderstandings and people feeling unsure or used ......which is usually solely down to misunderstanding rather than any other reason.

By the way ......if you are thinking along thesee lines.... No you don't set the price with regards to research done or required .............obviously sometimes a figure that on the surface is obscure can turn out to be simple to research (because you have the books already) and a figure that should be simple is a pain (because you don't have the books, and can't find them ..................You should be doing research on every figure anyway, you never rely solely on what is supplied by someone else. So if in doubt, factor in a certain amount for research in your basic prices and try to keep to a consistent price for your figures...some you will win on , and some you will lose ( on the amount of time spent researching that is ) the big thing is to keep your pricing expectations simple .....People aren't really interested in seeing a sliding scale of pricing based on factors that they really don't want to be bothered with.
In the end it's your responsibility, and you have to stand by what you have done (even if you made some small changes to please the people giving the commission).

Estimating how long a figure is going to take is always guesswork, you never know when you will hit some kind of wall that stops you dead in the water ......sculpting problems , re-working stuff because you aren't happy with what you've done , Personal problems , illness, running out of putty , just not feeling like it ...anything can throw you off. all you can do is give a best guess estimate and try to meet that ...............after a time, the guesswork becomes tighter, and you will find that it gets easier to give an estimate, but you can never take away the last 10% of uncertainty
Once you do something commercial, it's important to remember that it's fair game for everyone to tear apart......people who were telling you how good and "Marvellous" your stuff was while you were doing it for yourself will treat you as a different animal once to go commercial matter that you still think of yourself as a hobbyist who was lucky enough to be asked to do something for casting ..You are now fair game and have to have a thick enough skin not to be put off by any comments.

Lastly, ask for a couple of casts of your figure as part of the price, and be happy with that have to learn to let go and not be to possessive about the piece, once it's done and you have been paid's done , move on . What happens to it after it leaves your hands is not your business and you have to live with that.

Most of it is pretty obvious, but there are learning curves to go through and as you say Communication is the paramount way to cut down on misunderstandings and people feeling unsure or used ......which is usually solely down to misunderstanding rather than any other reason.

you don't set the price with regards to research done or required .............obviously sometimes a figure that on the surface is obscure can turn out to be simple to research (because you have the books already) and a figure that should be simple is a pain (because you don't have the books, and can't find them ..................You should be doing research on every figure anyway, you never rely solely on what is supplied by someone else. So if in doubt, factor in a certain amount for research in your basic prices and try to keep to a consistent price for your figures...some you will win on , and some you will lose ( on the amount of time spent researching that is ) the big thing is to keep your pricing expectations simple .....People aren't really interested in seeing a sliding scale of pricing based on factors that they really don't want to be bothered with.
In the end it's your responsibility, and you have to stand by what you have done (even if you made some small changes to please the people giving the commission).

Who picks your subjects? poses? Is it the manufacturer who provides you with the subject matter and desired pose? Do they provide artwork or just a description to work from? How about references? Is it assumed that the sculptor will get his own references, or does the manufacturer provide that? If the sculptor chooses the subject matter and pose, then what happens if the manufacturer doesn't think it will be commercially viable?

Different manufacturers have different ways of working , though there is usually a bit of give and take some are very specific in what they want and the way it should be shown......they can be very enthusiastic about a subject and have very defined views on both uniform and the look of it when worn by a particular subject............
In at least one case, I have had to fight to get at least a semblance of anatomical accuracy into the figure ... not totally successfully because the guy had a very specific vision of what he wanted ...was very enthusiastic and would have been disappointed and felt let down if he didn't get at least some of "the look" he wanted.
This type of thing is something you aren't always aware of until you start to send "in progress" photo's and start to get feedback.

Time for enough research is always a problem though, a lot of the time I have to rely on research provided as the person commissioning a piece will have a deadline , or show that they want to release a kit for (Something near 90% of the people I work for have a deadline and a show in mind for release ) . In those cases, where there is ambiguity or a lack of information on a specific item, then you have to go with the best information you have .

I always try and send in progress pictures of a kit to the manufacturer, and get feedback, that way we all know what is going on and there is a chance to make changes or weed out problems early (there are always things that slip through though) as John said sometimes you are forced into decisions due to either to technical reasons or monetary reasons and compromise is required on both sides.

Best of all is when a manufacturer asks for a subject, and we just sit down and discuss a pose .that way we both get the input into what it is , and what it's doing .......and enthused about the subject

Sculpting usually starts pretty well as soon as everything is finalised ( to meet the deadline ..Usually not very far in the future ...and of course they need time to get it cast, painted , boxed and "ready to go ").

Research ………
It depends on what the manufacturer is looking for. If it's a specific figure in a specific pose, and he wants the guy to have a specific piece of equipment or clothing then it's up to him to be specific I think.
I will normally check my own references and get back if there are anomalies or things don't look right ( however, it's normally "please do it as I described").

Other times I am left to do the research (most people do have quite a bit of Info on the shelves etc..........) and it's only the pose and general idea that is agreed with the manufacturer.

Of course, when we do one off figures and a manufacturer picks it up , then it's all down to us

The biggest problem I find is when I am sent an illustration of a pose, and another of the uniform ......sometimes it's simply not realistic for someone wearing a set of armour, or an 18th/19th Century uniform to be in a very relaxed or animated pose , the type and style of clothing would restrict the guys movement .......especially if he has all his equipment and straps on and I am being asked to have him in a pose of a figure in shirt sleeves ....

Breaking the figure for casting is largely experience, and talking to each manufacturer (casting and mould making is largely experience as well, and you have to understand what the guy can do).
Normally I am asked to do as much on the figure as possible , to save on the moulds, casting plugs and complication, however, I am also asked sometimes to make the figure in as many parts as possible , with an eye to having "spare parts" and giving conversion potential. The problem with this comes when I am asked to make "a set of legs "that can be used on several figures ...
of course this sounds fine until you realise that the Torso's to go with that "Set of legs" are all going to be doing different things and wearing different uniforms ..And then the arms and heads are also all different and with different poses, and imperatives in mind, that’s where things fall apart and sculpts can start to look odd doesn’t always work when the bits and pieces are assembled as different figures.

Shrinkage can vary, but as sculptor, I try to make allowances for it...Not always as successfully as I would like.
It's normally one of the first questions a sculptor will ask .is it to be Metal or Resin!
Normally when working for a Resin casting, there shouldn't be much (if any) shrinkage, but if the guy doing the casting "Squeezes" the mould in any way during the process (...for instance a rubber band holding the mould together being too tight will distort the casting a bit ), then there can be loss of bulk ..And that can be hard to allow for as the amount of "squeeze" will tend to vary each time (unless there is a consistency in exactly what he is doing to Squeeze).
When working for a metal cast, then the average shrink can be as much as 7%, depending on the part or size of the piece being cast ..........generally , the "loss“ will occur in the thicker parts of the piece .torso, and body area, with the arms and legs being less affected.

In simplified terms the shrinkage is generally caused because when creating a Vulcanised mould, for metal casting the mould is put under a lot of pressure. This is needed to embed the subject and fill all the details with rubber.
Once released from this pressure.....being Rubber, the mould will come back a touch.
When making a casting, the mould is spun, and molten metal introduced, in a perfect world, the centrifugal force of the spin would force the metal into the mould at the same pressure used to create the mould (forcing the rubber to take the exact dimensions of the original piece).however this is rarely the case, and so you have a "shrinkage ".
With the smaller pieces, the mould tends to have less room the bounce back , and it is less evident than on a larger mass ( Torso's etc) and so you get the variation in shrinkage over a figure and it's composite parts .

It's not an exact science ( the modelling to make allowances that is ) as different casters will use different spin speeds, different metals, different rubber, etc, so there are a lot of variables and all you can do is your best.

Weapons don't normally suffer from too much shrinkage, as they tend to be pretty thin and small anyway....the larger the scale the more you have to consider it, but as a general rule you can make true scale weapons , it's only the thickness that will shrink, not the actual size.

The problem is that if you have taken shrinkage into account in the figure, and it doesn’t work exactly as you planned, a true scale weapon will still look out of scale.
There is also the consideration that some producers want "large 54mm" and some want "true 54mm ".......some of these figures can be almost 60mm , but if the weapon is true 54mm ( because that’s the base measurements you are working to , it will look small , on the other hand, if you compensate with the weapons as well to fit the figure, it will be out of scale and look odd if you pose different figures together ), it's something that always causes problems and I tend to let the producer tell me what they want in this respect as whatever I decided to do would probably be wrong in their eyes.

Something I have also come across is peoples expectations of weapon sizes.........people tend to expect weapons to be smaller than they are in a lot of cases, and can think that the weapon you have done is too large, however a trip to a good museum with a lot of old weapons will soon show you that a lot of them are a lot bulkier and awkward to carry or use than the mere measurements and dimensions would seem to indicate, that’s not always apparent when looking at a figure. Even a Thompson machine gun for instance, apart from weighing quite a bit, has a lot of protrusions and hard angles that dig into you hips, back or legs as you walk, making it a pain to carry over a distance , and a lot of earlier weapons are even more stressful to simply have about your person

Anything less than about half a mm will not cast .or at least not consistently ( hence the thickness of straps and other small pieces sometimes ), so you have to have at least that thickness at the edge of a sword to get a clean line and something that has a bit of strength that is not prone to bending if you simply look at it
a point is no problem, but may not always fill right to the end if it is very sharp and tapered , so it is easier to sometimes make things a bit less tapered to ensure that it casts well.

You are right about heating the moulds first by the way, that’s one of the nice things about casting in metal, you can cast enough to get the mould warm, and the first castings just go back in the pot to be re-melted

The bottom line is "communication". Exchanging sketches to develop
ideas, exchanging emails and in-progress pics at least once a week
will keep the troubles away.


General Thoughts on measurements
I originally posted most of this on the MedRom Forum, but thought that it might be worth re-posting here, as it falls under the gerneral heading of this forum.

Of course, this is only a personal vewpoint, and in some cases you have to use precise measurement s (equipement, weapons, etc), but speaking in general terms .....
I am actually personally not much if favour of using dividers to check the dimensionsof a figure, they can give a false idea of how a finished figure should, or will look unless you know exactly where and at which points to measure from and too.

They may be okay for scaling a mannequin , but once you get to figure, wearing clothes , it can get tricky......where exactly is the point of the shoulder ...the point where the leg joins the Pelvis..... what sort of clothing is the figure wearing, how does it drape, fold, and what effect is that having on disguising the important points etc. etc.

Besides, as has been said before, who in real life measures up to the anatomical Ideal ?

There are very simple guides for measuring parts of the body against the others, and I prefer to go with them rather than using dividers or calipers .

Rules like the one that says that when you bend your leg and squat down , your heels ( not your calves )will come up to your buttocks .

when bending your shoulder, the fingers of your hand will rest on your shoulder and your elbow will be between the bottomof your rib cage and the top of your pelvis.

Put the heel of your hand on your chin, and the fingertips will meet your hairline ( unless your going bald) .

The width of your hand is nearly exactly the same as the distance between the pupils of your eyes.

The Width of your hand is almost the same as the distance between the bottom of your nose and the tip of your chin.

The distance between the pupils of your eyes is the same as the width of your mouth ( and drawing a line straight down form the eyes meets the corners of the mouth ).

The distance from your knee to Ankle is aboput the same as the distance from your Elbow to fingertips .

The shoulders ( or I should say the point above the Armpits ) are normally pretty well in a straight line above the widest point of the hips are ...the arms themselves are wider than this point, which gives the "Y" shape to the upper torso ....depending on how much weight you are carrying around your waist, the point on the hips above that "widest " part can either go "in" or "Out" .

That sort of thing you can do without's Just realising and using what you already know .

Look at it this way, you have grown up since a baby , learning to know what a Human being looks like ( otherwise life could get very embarasing). You have also learnt to know , without being told , that someone has a problem with their Anatomy..... thats what we are doing when we say " I don't like that figure, there is something not quite right about it "
What you need to do when Sculpting is to go with instinct.....and use what you know naturally .

Thats not being simplistic, you really have to understand the Human Skeleton , to realsie why arms and legs move the way they do , thats what allows you to model the bodies bulk without actually starting with a skeleton ( Basically that is what we do ...even when w euse a mannequin, we are using that as a frame , not as a full skeleton).

My Last thought here is that if you buy a kit that you like, a lot of it is because it "looks Right"....
given that, how many people do you think will check it's anatomy with Dividers ? Not many I would bet how many times do you think that a figure that "looks right" is anatomically wrong to a great dregree ?.......................

However, I am well aware that some people feel that they need to check and re-check dimensions using either rulers or calipers, but as the human body varies so much from person to person , I have the feeling that there is enough leeway to "go with the flow" somewhat .

As with everything though , it's what you feel comfortable with in your method of working.
This topic is something that is generally missed when people talk about the accuracy of figures, and shouldn't be .......

Realistically, most people are within the 6.5 to 7.5 heads range..........8 heads isn't something that I would normally go to.

Of course, the state of the adult population in this regards, tends to reflect the dietry input, which in a long war declines quite a bit , so you can use this as an indicator to what stage of a war you are at if done well.
For example , some of the British battalions in the First World War, were taken from heavy industrial areas, where the diet was pretty bad, and the average size of those guys was something like 5 ft 6 ins or less ( Thats why they were called Bantam battalions , because of the small size of the recruits .....I suppose that these guys would probably be only about 6 heads high )

Body build is very important , when thinking about a figure ... I know this is a generalisation , though it's also generally pretty true as an average ....Officers tended to have had a much better diet than the rank & file when growing up, so tended to be taller and fuller , this makes for some interesting possabilities .

The other thing that comes into play is the design and cut of the clothing , in some time periods the people just have a "look" about them , because they have been used to wearing a style of clothing , and that style of clothing is to an extent carried on ito the "uniforms" of the period ( Napoleonic is the obvious example ).
Getting this right is as important ...if not more so than getting every single aspect of a uniform right ( you can always fix a uniform, but it's a lot harder to fix the anatomy of a figure ).

What we do see in this hobby is an expectation that figures will lok pretty heroic on the whole, so we do get a much higher proportion o the "heroic" 8 head figures in our grey armies ............
Like the depiction of chain mail by little half moon shapes , the expectation is to see this, so thats whats produced ...overall it's not really true to life.

Each sculptor does have an inherent style, and there is not a lot he can do about it , as it's part of how he is . It's something that you have to try and minimise to a certain extent , or at least keep under control . it can be very useful however , when sculpting a figure from a period that suits your style , and thats when you get to enjoy yourself

So, in my view, If you want a truely historically accurate figure ( and not just one that looks good as a clothes horse ) you have to bear this in mind and spend a lot of time researching body shapes and builds from the period you are depicting