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Sculpting a dragon/bat wing of sorts, looking for advice


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I think I'm going to take the plunge and try my hand at sculpting.  I've never done this before, but by way of background, I've gotten inspired by Mantic Armada Twilight Kin (evil elves) because the ship bodies are these cool nightmarish living looking things, but the sails are...  dull as dishwater.  Seriously, they look like normal sails.  This doesn't float my boat, so to speak.  I think they'd look much cooler with dramatic membranous wings sprouting from their hulls (The Dragon Lords from the old, long out of print Uncharted Seas looked a little like this, but those ships looked too neat).


Thankfully, I just got my Reaper V delivered recently, and I have a few Dragon wings to use as inspiration, but what I'm thinking of would be a bit more upright than these beasts' wings.  To help you imagine, hold your first three fingers up.  Now imagine a web between fingers 1 and 2, and 2 and 3.  Now imagine it all bony, scary, and icky looking.  Now you're talkin'!


So if you have a moment, could you offer some constructive criticisms / wake up call for my first attempt at sculpting?  I've got the basic sculpting tools, and have watched a few "working with Green Stuff" type videos. 


Here's what I'm thinking: 


Start with a metal armature.  Essentially one (large paperclip maybe?) thin rod I would shape into a finger structure (bent a little at each "knuckle") to make up the pointer finger.  The sail will be about 2.5-3" tall, so I'd make sure there's plenty of room at the bottom to stick it into a cork for sculpting, and (trim it a little first) eventually into the recipient ship hull. I would use two more paper clips to make the "ring finger" and the "middle finger" of the sail.  I'd probably have <1" space between the fingers, TBD once I see the models.


I'm not yet sure what I'd use, but to the tips of each finger I'd attach a "claw" that would serve as the fingernail for each sail-finger.  Any ideas on what might serve as a nasty, pointy, "fingernail"?


I'd then build up and sculpt each finger using Green Stuff/ Kneadite, one at a time, until I have the three fingers done.  I think I'd let each finger cure before starting the next, as I am almost guaranteed to screw up the sculpting on one if I start another early...!  Advice here on how to sculpt creepy scales, sagging or rotting flesh, knuckles, etc. would be most appreciated, as I think this is my weak spot!


Then I wasn't quite sure what to do about the sails/ wings themselves.  Maybe just use tissue paper soaked in diluted white glue to hold its shape?  Should I try to use green stuff to make a thin "sail" between each finger?  What would you use to support the Green Stuff while you're working with it?   I'd like it to be strong enough that I can cast a mold of it, to make several sails for the navy I've bought.


Any advice for the beginner?  


Is anyone aware of any sculpting tutorials that focus on wings?


Thanks in advance!

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One way I might approach this task would be to make a simple positive mould of the whole web/wing system with plasticine or plaster or something, to create the billow of each section of web relative to one another. Don't worry about the detail of the fingers as yet.


Soak some baby-wipes in thinned PVA (about 3:5 water:PVA works fine for the glue I use, you may have to experiment with your own glue to get a good ratio). I use baby-wipes because they hold together when wet, and they form nicely and smoothly. Press the wipes over and into the mould, and leave to set.

Note: depending on how deeply the billows of each web are formed, you might get best results with a separate piece of baby-wipe for each section.

Note note: if you've made the mould out of plaster, remember you will need to paint it with a release agent of some sort. Melted candle-wax can do the job, but do a test before committing to any major work.


Once dry and firm, cut out the shape of the wings. It may be worth while gluing lengths of aluminium wire or something into the creases where the fingers will go, and if so, it will probably be easiest to do this while everything is still on the mould..


Then you can get into it with the GreenStuff, and start modelling the fingers and any veins or whatever you want in the webs. Again, you can use the mould for support while you're modelling (on one side, at least).

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Typically, wings are sculpted on brass sheet or wire craft mesh.  The mesh is good as you can have it in 3 dimensions without doing repoussé.   Also you would only need a supporting wire on the front edge. Julie Guthrie uses the mesh method for her dragons.

This is the mesh:



1. Cut the shape of the whole wing out of the mesh.

2. Cut a wire for the leading edge and bend it to shape (I often use old wire coat hangers for wings).

3. Glue or solder the wire to the mesh.  If gluing, use epoxy.

4. Shape the wing membrane and finger troughs in the mesh.

5.  Roll out a sheet of 1 to 2 mm thick 1:1 Apoxie Sculpt:Greenstuff, big enough to cover the whole wing.

6. Lay the sheet over the wing and press it into the mesh with your fingers.  You don't need to worry about finger prints at this point, as all you are doing in under pinning it.  Try to work it so that the putty fills all the mesh gaps and is fairly smooth.  Let it cure.

7. Sand any bumpy or rough spots. At this point you have a nice, hard armature on which to sculpt the wing details.

8. Sculpt the wing details.  I'd start with the membranes first, then add the finger bones after curing the membranes.  If you will have claws extending beyond the tips of the fingers, glue in small wires to support them before adding the finger details.


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