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The maple tree


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Ok, I'm taking a break from painting to practice some sculpting. I thought this might be fun. Here's how to make a wire-framed tree. Don't worry- trees are very forgiving.

For this project, I used:

tools.jpgThe tool at the bottom is just a standard ceramics pin tool. The wire is 24 gauge craft wire.


The first step is to make the wire armature. .DSCF2505.jpg

I started with a loop of wire about 7 inches long, folded it in half and then twisted it while holding it with the clamp.


Do this until you have 4 or 5 loopies. This is the point where you can decide what the mood of your tree will be. A maple is a stand-up straightforward tree, so no fancy bending needed. (this will make sense, soon, I promise) For this tree I started with 4 loopies and realized I needed a 5th.


wire.jpgNext, I twisted 2 loopies together in the middle. The top will be branches, the bottom roots. More soon...

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Now for the fun part! Adding 2 part epoxy. I used milliput without any vaseline, at room temperature.

wire4.jpg My solution to the sticking problem is patience and a rolling/squashing motion. Squash the stuff on and roll it into the wire.

wire5.jpg Until it's mostly covered- I'll add more milliput later to touch up.

next the branches- I made little coils of milliput and twisted them onto the tree branches like so:



Then I just tapped/squashed the milliput into the wire. This is the most frustrating part. Patience and gentle squashing. It helped to squash a bit. work on another area, then come back to a branch and squash some more. Plus, squashing is therapeutic.

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ok, now for more in progress images:


That 2nd picture is the best way to explain the roll-squash. See how the epoxy rope is separated when it is first placed, then as I squash, the branch will be fully covered.


No matter how careful I am with the epoxy, it will always start to peel off the end. If that happens just coil it back on to the wire and squash a bit more.

wire10.jpgnow for the roots. Add a bit of epoxy and blend it in. I do this with my fingers and a pin tool.

DSCF2528.jpgAgain with the rolling! Roll the tool along the epoxy to smooth it.

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The pin tool is my favorite because it is versatile. I use it to place bits of epoxy in hard to reach areas, the use it to blend/attach, like so:


Ok, I'll still do a bit more blending of the branches at the top.

Then I can start to add detail to the tree itself- give it bark. Again.. with my trusty pin tool!

wire17.jpgtree26.jpgThis is the fun part.

Remember, trees are forgiving, right? Any flaw or imperfection in the sculpture can be passed off as tree "character." I spent a lot of time sketching trees, so I got used to seeing which parts of the tree have the deepest grooves in the bark. My best advice to anyone making trees- pick the type of tree you want to copy and either go look at it, google image it, etc. Generally speaking, the joints between and under branches, the roots, and areas near a knot are going to need the deepest grooving. Just push in and drag with the pin tool. Do some vertical curvy stripes, crosshatching, etc. Whatever looks good. No matter what- it's going to be painted later anyway!

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The "finished" tree, and the primed version:


I left a bit of raw wire at the top of each branch because I like how it tapers. You could trim your branches back to the edge of epoxy if you wanted. Then I painted the tree, but forgot to take picture of it before I started putting on the birch seed leaves ( see: http://www.reapermini.com/TheCraft/24, thanks Daniel Joyce!!) I painted it with reaper MSP tanned skin, washed with walnut brown, highlighted with intense brown and added carnage red to the branch tips and some areas of the bark (it's a red maple tree, which has red branch tips). Then washed the roots and a few branch junctions with reaper pro blue-black. The leaves I made using vallejo carmine red.

wire14.jpgSorry about the glare here.

I used the superglue and my tweezers to place the leaves. It's easiest to start with the tree upside down balanced on it's branches, because when (not if) the leaves slip, they look more natural pointed up towards the branches. This tree is inspired by maples just after their peak, which drop their upper leaves first, Most of the leaves with therefore be clusted at the lower branches near the trunk split. Best to have a sacrificial set of tweezers you don't mind getting glue and bits of leaves stuck to...


The secret to the leaves at the bottom is actually a fortuitous mistake- some of my glue got into the leaf pile, stuck my leaves together, which I then glued on as a bunch. Hooray!


After attaching all the leaves I wanted, I pained/highlighted the leaves with some dragon red, light orange and sand yellow, just to give variety, then sprayed the whole thing in testors dullcote

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Great tutorial! And great end result, too.


One thought that occurred to me is wondering whether taking some sandpaper to the wire at the start to rough it up a little might make for an easier time of getting the putty to stick.

it might- hadn't thought of that. I think I'll do a tree series- try different seasons, effects, etc. I also want to try the wire heating, but really, it's wasn't too bad getting it to stick! ::):

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