I have been working on putting together some props for another photo shoot. This one has a lot more pieces than I originally intended but some of them will have additional uses and others were pretty simple, so it’s really just a matter of getting it all together. Among the list of things needed for this setup I need a bone necklace type prop and a skull lantern. Both of these can be made the same way so that’s what I am working on here.
Check out our first photo shoot here, Mad Science Photoshoot
I made both of these props out of polymer clay and constructed them using the same method.
I started the same way I start every polymer clay project, working the clay until its soft and pliable. For this one I mixed two colours to use some of the stash I already had. I had to work it a little longer to get the colour consistent.
Once my clay was ready I started working on the skull lantern. First I made myself a hollow cup shape then gave it a very general skull shape by pinching in the bottom a bit. I then cut out my eye holes and the nasal holes, this is where the light will shine out so I didn’t want the eye sockets to have a backing.
Then I started the long process of building up and carving down. All of the details are made this way, adding in clay to my high points, smoothing it out and then carving it back down.
These are the parts where it can look pretty silly and it can be hard to see what the end product will look like but it’ll get there.
I started by building up around the eyes, and the nasal bone. Then I smoothed it out and carved it into shape. I carved out some of the bulk around the mouth and added in the cheek bones
I added in some bulk for the teeth then again carved them back down. I love this part, something about putting in all the details of the teeth really takes it to the next level.
Stabbing in the holes where the missing teeth would be is so much fun, teeth are weird.
With these skulls being pretty small I wasn’t too worried about accuracy with the teeth, the mouth is not big enough to get in a full adult set of teeth.
The next step is to put in all the finer details, the maxilla has a lot of details, raised spots for the roots of the teeth, indents and pits, the connection to the nasal bone all these little things really make it fun.
Another important detail is the suture lines, the nasal ridge and the ones around the cranium are the most visible so these are the only ones I added in.
One day I would like to sculpt a life size skull, making art can be an excellent study tool. I used to draw very detailed pictures and diagrams when studying osteology. I found it the best way to learn.
To finish off my first skull I added a lip on the back to hold in the light.
With my first skull done, I set to work on the smaller bone necklace. I wanted a small skull, 2 vertebrae and 2 long bones.
I started with making my two vertebrae. I made a ball then flattened it out and pinched to get the protruding bone pieces then hollowed out the hole.
These ones were made with a lot of pinching then gently carving it into shape. I was careful not to take too much of the bulk away since these pieces are already pretty thin. When I had a shape I liked I added in the porous texture of the marrow.
I put holes through each of them to string them later.
With these smaller pieces I found it helpful to occasionally set them aside to cool slightly so it would stiffen up a bit, the heat from your hands can make it hard to get fine details. I worked on both at once so I could switch back and forth between them when one got too warm.
When they were done I got to work on the skull. I used the same methods for this little guy that I did for the first one.
I used the leftover clay from my other three pieces to build my other bones. These two are really simple, I had no particular bone in mind just I just wanted a general bone like shape.
When all my pieces where finished I baked them in the oven at 275° F for 15 minutes.
After they were cooled I got to work painting them. I started by painting them all white, I find building up thin layers of paint is the best way to get good coverage. This is another place where working on more than one at a time is helpful, paint one set it aside and paint the next, by the time all the pieces have their first layer the first one is ready for the next layer.
Once all my pieces had a sufficient white base I used a really dry paint brush to add in some grey. Once the base colour was how I wanted it I added a layer of glow in the dark paint to all of bones and set them to dry completely before the next step.
Once they were completely dry I took some watered down black paint and applied it over each piece, making sure to get it in all the nooks. Then I gently wiped it away, to much wiping will start to peel up the under layers of paint so you need to be careful. I first wiped with a dry napkin then a wet napkin just over the highest points.
If the paint gets too dry and doesn’t wipe off enough I just wet it down with a paint brush. In the past I have just rinsed it under the tap if it gets too dark.
After it was dry I strung the necklace pieces on a string with a couple beads. I tied knots between each item to keep them spaced out the way I wanted.
I had a stick ready for the skull lantern, now all it needs is a light.