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ManvsMini

Using reference material

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This is more of a general inquiry for you sculptors out there, instead of an "I need to know so I can fix my sculpt." I'm not planning anything currently, just purely curiosity.

 

When you sculpt a piece for yourself or for a private commission that is not going to be casted, do you find yourself needing reference material that shows multiple views of the subject in question, or is a single image enough? For instance, if you were to do a sculpt based off Larry Elmore artwork, as a 2-D reference material, you can't see what is going on for their backside/frontside/whatever side. Would you try to sketch something out yourself to fill in the blanks?

 

I know Dark Sword Miniatures has definitely faced this issue with their Elmore Masterpieces line (and Caldwell, Easley, etc lines), but they also had other considerations to account to consider (going to cast those sculpts, had to adapt their poses, and so on).

 

Maybe as a second part, do you like or dislike working on such projects as described?

 

Thanks in advance for sharing!

 

-MvM

Edited by ManvsMini
Clarified the question a bit.
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If I was a sculptor I would be inclined to at least make a rough sketch of a reverse angle view ... just to plan what I was going to invent for the unseen opposite side. 

 

(If the art director or creative director didn’t provide any specific guidance ...although I believe they often do.)

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Good question.

 

If it is actually concept art, like what Izzy makes, she often leaves notes or small sketches as to what to do behind.  For other art, one can often infer what is back there by what is going on in front.  You just wrap that look and feel around to the back.  Others, you aren't so certain, and in the lack of other direction, you are free to create on your own here.  A lot of us do our own concepts regularly, so adjusting what is given in the art is a part of the job.  It is already often our job to adjust even the parts that are in the reference, since painters and even concept artists don't always draw things that are possible to mold and cast. That is the main reason why sculpts don't always look exactly like the concept art (that and art directors adding notes and adjustments of their own).

 

I often get reference photos to work from via Google search to augment any reference art I have.  When I did Coraline Thaddington, I had a piece of art I was loosely basing her on, and then found over 40 other photos each showing a different feature or view of what I wanted.  Same with the Chaos Toads; Izzy sketched the concepts, but they were basic in form so I found photos of real frogs, toads, and even a horned lizard to work from to help flesh out the details.  I seldom work with less than 10 reference photos/art for any sculpt, and usually do an hour or two of research before starting a figure, even if I am given a concept to work from.

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Thanks for the info, Talespinner.

 

You've already addressed that there are times when you have to adjust what is in the concept art you are given. If you don't mind sharing further, do you prefer being given very detailed concept art (with the freedom to alter if needed), or do you like having total freedom to create for yourself what goes on where the concept art doesn't specify? I know that not every commission/customer is going to allow for that, and I imagine that preference varies with every sculptor.

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17 hours ago, ManvsMini said:

Thanks for the info, Talespinner.

 

You've already addressed that there are times when you have to adjust what is in the concept art you are given. If you don't mind sharing further, do you prefer being given very detailed concept art (with the freedom to alter if needed), or do you like having total freedom to create for yourself what goes on where the concept art doesn't specify? I know that not every commission/customer is going to allow for that, and I imagine that preference varies with every sculptor.

 

It sort of depends on the day.  

 

Typically, I prefer general guidelines with the ability for me to create the concepts myself within those guidelines.  For example, in the recent Boxer Rebellion Turtle-folk project, I was given the following for guidelines:

  • Humanoid, based on box turtles
  • ~25 mm
  • Oriental in theme, primarily Chinese, but other Oriental cultures were also acceptable
  • No restriction on number of parts
  • 9 sculpts, each a different D&D/Pathfinder type class
  • Not TMNT
  • To fit 1" slot bases

That's it, the rest was up to me.  For most of them, I formed the ideas of what I wanted in my head, but then found reference art photos of various Oriental weapons, armor, and clothing to inspire me.  The shells posed a real problem as standard human clothing wouldn't fit over them, so I had to create unique features to the turtle culture that I repeated throughout the line. By the 8th figure, I'd run out of good ideas, so I hired @Morihalda to do the concepts for the mongol ranger and the rogue.

 

I haven't worked with a concept artist very often; I do find it freeing and a bit faster.  It takes a lot of the stress of composition away, but also when done, I can't truly look at the piece and say it is all mine either, which really does have a bit of a negative psychological impact on me.  The Chaos Toads are some of the best minis I have ever done, and yet, Izzy and I designed them together and she did the sketches.  Now these weren't complete concept art like she does for a lot of Reaper minis, and I had a lot of freedom on them, but make no mistake, they were very collaborative concepts that ultimately came from her amazing artistry.

 

I'm not sure that I would really like working under a very strict concept, where I wasn't allowed to vary the concept much or at all.  Julie Guthrie has a lot of stories of working for toy companies where the concept specifications were very exacting and she was allowed no creative freedom at all.  It didn't sound very fun.  I did really enjoy working with Izzy and Mori though; it was fun working out the concepts with them, watching them create them, and then adding my stamp on them as I developed the sculpts.

 

I do not know if she will be teaching it again this year, but Christine Van Patten (@Rainbow Sculptor ) teaches an excellent mini design and composition class at ReaperCon.  She has an art degree and is an amazing artist; she really helped me with my design abilities.  The Druid Turtle especially is the direct result of her teaching, and I think it is the best composed/designed piece I have ever done..

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Aww! That made my whole day @TaleSpinner!! I'm glad you got so much out of the class. I will most likely be offering it again this year although I believe Izzy may be offering her own as well. I do love your Druid turtle, it is definitely one of your best!

 

@ManvsMini I was originally trained as a 2D artist (drawing and painting) so figuring out what to do for the back of the figure was occasionally difficult at first but like Talespinner said, often times you just wrap the design from the front and add in any extra bits you think it needs. I have found that moving to digital I have a slightly different set of requirements. First I draw out my actual concept art. This gives me the mood, details, and posing/costuming information. Then I will take that into Photoshop and use the rulers function to break down my figures specific proportions and draw that out from front and side views. When creating new mannequins things often get very askew digitally without even realizing it so having surviving reference to line it up with on the front and side views really helps get your figure fleshed out the way you intended. 

 

Like Tailspinner says I rarely work with less than 10 or so pieces of reference photos and for larger projects I often have an entire Pinterest board of inspiration and reference material. If I come across an area that doesn't feel right in the context of the overall composition I will break down the shapes and how things are flowing together. Sometimes it's just a matter of altering what you already have and others it's adding in new elements. Quite often I have more ideas of what to put on the figure then there is room to put haha. 

 

I have had very little experience sculpting something specifically for someone else but being given some general ideas of what they are wanting, a particular style or mood they are going for is helpful and I like taking it from there. Too many demands is both exhausting for me and honestly the customer rarely knows what will work/look good so being too specific doesn't give them what they wanted in the first place. 

 

Sorry that was so long, I hope it helped lol

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Long-but-insightful answers are always welcome... and yours was! I can't say I always stick to that last criteria myself though...

 

Thanks for posting your answers and experiences, @TaleSpinner and @Rainbow Sculptor. The reason I ask is because I have a lot of random artwork saved that I thought would look good as a miniature; I seriously roam ArtStation and the sort and save any image that gives me that twitch. I'll never be able to afford to have them privately sculpted for my collection, so I'm working towards building the necessary skills to attempt it myself. Won't ever sell them or cast them (that would be stealing), but at least they'll be mine.

 

Most of that artwork is 2-D, though occasionally I find some 3-D rendered turnarounds. Just curious how other sculptors handle it. My background isn't art-based, and honestly it's only been in the past decade that my appreciation for various art forms has awoken (thank you, miniature industry!).

 

Thank you again!

Edited by ManvsMini
Grammer
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As a non artist, who has way too many ideas for things I'd like to have as miniatures, I feel your pain.   Deriving your piece from 2d art, is not theft, provided it isn't  hedging in on someones IP.  (meaning you could sell them).  3d art would be different, if they actually produced it as a 3d object, or something for 3d printers.   All art is derivative, not all art is duplication.

That said, there are some pretty reasonably priced 3d sculptors out there.   They don't have the  skill to produce professional level pieces, or pieces that could be mass produced.... but Thingverse is flooded with 3d hobby artists.   You might try soliciting their skills.  Unless you are genuinely interested in creating it yourself,  this will probably save you a lot of hassle.  (work an extra shift, buy a mini).

Now if you are genuinely interested in doing it yourself, (which is pretty fun!), there is no better guide than those compiled & presented  by Talespinner for a beginning sculptor.   He posts in depth walkthroughs for many of his projects, and he's a wealth of information when you have questions.  If you post your projects in the sculpting forum, Tale, Mori,  Rainbow, and the others are always quick to provide quality useful feedback and direction. 

Are you coming to reaper con?

Also, modding figures is 100% a thing.   A little green stuff, a bones figure that is kinda close to what you want, and a couple days later you can have exactly what you want!  The amazing Julie Guthrie teaches an assortment of classes on this most years at reaper con.

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That's an interesting point, @emmagine. I've never looked at Thingverse before, but I have looked through Shapeways. It seems like a lot of hobby artists use it as a platform to offer their creations, I just rarely find something on their that makes me say "i need that." Not that I haven't seen some nice pieces, I just haven't seen the level that has made me personally buy a piece yet. I'd love to be able to commission someone else to do it, I just don't have the financial resources currently.

 

All that said, I am very interested in learning to do sculpture myself; that art appreciation has kind of made me want to be a Renaissance Man (more DaVinci, less Danny DeVito). I've lurked on the forums for several years, doing my best to pay attention to the advice offered. The past year, I've tried more projects I was afraid to do, namely more conversions. My gap-filling and matching textures is improving, and I just began a few weapons this past weekend.

 

I've wanted to come to ReaperCon for several years, but budgets and personal health aren't cooperating. I hope to eventually get there, and meet all you fine folk.

 

-MvM

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13 minutes ago, ManvsMini said:

That's an interesting point, @emmagine. I've never looked at Thingverse before, but I have looked through Shapeways. It seems like a lot of hobby artists use it as a platform to offer their creations, I just rarely find something on their that makes me say "i need that." Not that I haven't seen some nice pieces, I just haven't seen the level that has made me personally buy a piece yet. I'd love to be able to commission someone else to do it, I just don't have the financial resources currently.

 

All that said, I am very interested in learning to do sculpture myself; that art appreciation has kind of made me want to be a Renaissance Man (more DaVinci, less Danny DeVito). I've lurked on the forums for several years, doing my best to pay attention to the advice offered. The past year, I've tried more projects I was afraid to do, namely more conversions. My gap-filling and matching textures is improving, and I just began a few weapons this past weekend.

 

I've wanted to come to ReaperCon for several years, but budgets and personal health aren't cooperating. I hope to eventually get there, and meet all you fine folk.

 

-MvM

Sorry to hear about your struggles.  Some of the classes are being converted into youtube format. I'm not sure about Julies conversion classes though.   Glad to hear you're getting your feet wet!

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13 hours ago, ManvsMini said:

 

The past year, I've tried more projects I was afraid to do, namely more conversions. My gap-filling and matching textures is improving, and I just began a few weapons this past weekend.

 

 

This is how I started.  First it was just gap filling, then matching textures while gap filling, then sculpting conversions,  then adding a plinth to a base, then a bunch of rocks,  then a log that needed an armature, then I thought, "Hey, I wonder if I can make one of these."  So I took the James Van Shaick green stuff sculpting class on Miniature Mentor, made some tools, and made this guy:

 

post-140-0-42909300-1343615493_thumb.jpg

 

After that (or more to the point, during that), I made an aardvark for one of the Reaper Painters, Ron saw and liked it, and that is how I started getting paid for doing my hobby. ::D:

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Yet again, I owe you another thanks @TaleSpinner. Was reading your post, you mentioned James Van Schaik, and my brain immediately said, "Wait, didn't you purchase some sculpting tutorials from this guy?" And my brain was right :)

 

Turns out 4-5 years ago I bought the entire Fundamentals of Sculpting tutorial package through James' Fire For Effect Studios, and still have access to them. Geez, it's like the 2015 MvM knew and planned for the future... he chose wisely...

 

Thanks for jogging my memory. One more for the good guys.

 

-MvM

Edited by ManvsMini
Typos and grammer.
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I bought the Fire For Effect videos as well, but I then remember the whole thing imploding and exploding at the same time.

 

I'll need to check back, but last time I looked there was very little there, and the prices had gone through the roof.

 

It was a great shame, as I had high hopes for the site. I did try to get my money back at one point, but didn't succeed.

 

Just as a warning, before you do spend money at Fire For Effect, it's worth checking out the kickstarter comments - https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1389554987/modeling-and-sculpting-course-videos-by-james-van/comments

 

The miniature mentors sculpting videos are pretty good. They keep threatening to do a full anatomy one, but I've never seen it advertised.

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I was unaware of any controversy with Fire for Effect. I didn't back the Kickstarter or even know it had used KS until now. I can't comment on anything about it. I chanced upon the website years ago, and purchased a bundle because it was on sale with a heavy discount.

 

My videos still work, so I'm happy. And from the few comments I've read on the KS link you provided, it doesn't seem like the quality of the information in the tutorial was an issue.

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I'm a metal artisan and a Refaholic. Part of my work is to design what I create and this involves the use of a TON of reference material: it doesn't matter if it's a personal project or a commission, with every project there's enough images to fill a book with. I simply don't trust my mind to fill in blanks, unless it's something completely alien or a subject that I'm 100% familiar with. I have a selection for inspiration alone, works done by artists that I admire to get me going, there're color themes that I want to infuse with the work (even when the end result will be made of metal), there're textures, anatomy, different subjects as plants and animals in various views, effects...you name it and there's a folder. I use more than 20 different reference images per a piece, but each set is for a different purpose: artists works and colored paintings are for mood that I'm after, anatomy/nature pics are for structure and texture + effects are for final details. Having a ton of reference to work with also builds your visual library, it's important. Once you work with something for enough times, you'll no longer need a reference for that subject. 

 

Here's a tip. It used to drive me to the verge of insanity to try to fit every picture that I wanted to work with into a single sheet of paper or load an image one by one, search pinterest or google and it becomes time consuming. If you find yourself using more than one reference, there's a life saving free app called PureRef. Get it. It can be set to remain on top of the program you're using and it can be made transparent. You can load everything that you want into that one screen and zoom in and out of whatever you're working with. It's simple, but would not work without it ::D:

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