Fishterlude 2: The Enswimmening

datetime May 26, 2013 4:36 PM

Naturally, Rask can’t operate very well without a faithful companion to feed him Fury, so to go along with my Koi Rask, I naturally had to field a mighty Fishbeast by his side. And since PP has yet to grace us with one, I had to take matters into my own hands.

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I’d like to point out that I resisted the urge to say “my own fins” there. I think I deserve an enormous amount of credit for that.

I had decided that an Ironback Spitter was the only gator beast I liked mechanically, and unlike most of my conversions, I actually have no problems at all with the Spitter model– it’s funny, it’s well-sculpted, and it perfectly fits the image of a cranky old snapping turtle. It simply didn’t fit my theme, though, so it had to go. And since I was dead-set on making it tournament legal, I needed to figure out a type of fish I could model around the existing framework of a fat turtle shell– a process that yielded exactly one candidate:

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Some decisions kind of make themselves, yaknow?

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I wanted to use as much of the Spitter model as possible, so the legs were added in their entirety. Here I’m pinning the model to its working base, which is a dry broth container– I’ve found them to be a perfect size to hold up big models while I work on them, and they’re relatively heat-resistant, which will be important for reasons that will make sense in a moment.

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I clipped the edges and some of the larger spikes off of the spitter’s carapace so that it wouldn’t interfere with the smooth surface of the blowfish’s skin. I didn’t use the very top piece of the Spitter’s shell or its head, but everything else is inside my Fishbeast somewhere.

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Once it was all rigged up, I applied some extremely rough foundation putty to attach the pieces together and provide a framework for the head.

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Once that was set, I started applying Fimo.

“Wait, what?”

That’s right, kids: Spud has jumped on the Fimo bandwagon. I’ve found it to be a fantastic medium for working on large models, so it was an easy decision for working on the Fishbeast.

Now, as awesome as I think this stuff is, I’m not going to spend too much time today talking about my first impressions on this new-to-me material, because this actually isn’t my first Fimo project. I’ve been working on something rather large since February which was my first introduction to polymer clay, and the photos I took while working on it will facilitate a much better discussion of my Fimo learning curve. That project is still a way off from completion, but rest assured that it’ll be pretty amazing when it’s done, and that I’ll have lots of Fimo-related thoughts to share when I write about it.

Sound fair? Groovy. Now, let’s get back to the Fishbeast. 🙂

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Straight Fimo is too stiff on its own, so you need to mix it in some quantity with a second product called MixQuick to soften it. I’ve been finding roughly 40% MixQuick to be a good ratio.

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Once it’s mixed, I start applying lots and lots of blobs all over the model. I’m aiming for a bulbous balloon shape for the body, with the face being a minor extra bulge on the end.

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Once I have approximately enough blobs, I squish them together with a hoe tool. I’m finding that I end up doing the first 80-90% of the shaping on any fimo piece with metal tools, with clayshapers only being needed for the very last smoothing stage. This is a contrast with Green Stuff, for which my Clayshapers are in control of the last 40-50% of the sculpting process.

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This is what the model looks like after a few hours of flattening and smoothing. The nice thing about Fimo is that it stays soft indefinitely until you bake it (parts of my February project are as workable now as they were four months ago), so you can take your time to ensure a perfect finish, no matter how long it takes. This is why I like it much better for large models, as my past efforts to make very large flat surfaces in Green Stuff continually ran into the problem where it took so long just to apply putty where I wanted it that it was starting to lose its elasticity partway through the smoothing process, denying me the ability to get a perfectly smooth finish. It isn’t a big deal on small models, but it’s always been a major challenge for me on anything over a few inches tall.

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Once the basic balloon shape was done, I started adding details. Fortunately, the blowfish actually has almost no real detail, so this next stage was very quick– I first added a frowney snout with adorable bulging jowls around it…

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…and then worked in the equally bulgey eyes. And that was pretty much all of the sculpted detail the model required. 🙂

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Of course, while a blowfish doesn’t have much in the way of facial features, it has a pretty important texture that needs to be replicated: its ubiquitous array of defensive spines. To create these, I started by cutting out short lengths of very thin wire (about 30 gauge)– mostly about half an inch long, if I’m remembering correctly.

While researching this project, I learned that there are actually a very wide variety of different blowfish species in the world, and that their spines come in many different configurations, from the thousands of tiny barbs on the fish I posted above, to the much fewer but much larger spears arrayed around this guy…

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…and everywhere in between. While I prefer the array of tiny barbs, there wasn’t any practical way for me to create that many pointy bits in any reasonable amount of time, so I opted for the second model.

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I spent some time analyzing blowfish photographs to figure out how to array the spines, and figured out that they follow a very regular geometric pattern, which I’ve crudely mapped out here:

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I’ve done a pretty bad job of mapping it out, but essentially, there’s a set of lines that go from the front to the back (though they aren’t quite longitudes, if you want to think of the blowfish as a globe), and a second set of lines that wrap around the sides (though they, again, aren’t quite latitudes– they vaguely converge near the fish’s pectoral fins). If you map those two sets of lines properly, you’ll find a spine everywhere the two fields cross.

I have no idea if that made sense, but there you go. >_<

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The torso putty hadn’t been baked yet, so I was able to insert spine wires very easily. I applied the pattern I’d discerned by applying the spines along the green lines (nose to tail), but spacing them out along the orange lines (ear to belly button). The end result is that your eye can follow either line along the array of spikes.

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Poking all of these in, and continually checking my alignments, took about three hours. There was more work to do on detailing the spines (oh my sweet Jeebus, was there ever more work…), but I decided to bake the model first to solidify the spines and prevent my detailing work from messing up the smooth belly surface.

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The last thing to do before giving the model its first bake was to sink some wires that would later hold the arms. Rather than drilling these in after baking, I twisted each arm wire into a curl at the base…

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…and then sunk the curl deep into the Fimo. I didn’t just push it in, as that might mess the surface up; I pressed it in lightly to make an impression of its shape, then cut that shape in with a knife to create a channel for the curl to sink into.

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Once it was in, I smoothed the hole back over. This was hard to do perfectly, as the forest of spines made it hard to access the skin surface at the angles I needed.

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Here you can see the Fishbeast as he stood just before his first trip into the oven.

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You can cook Fimo in any normal oven, but my apartment’s ancient oven is incredibly inconsistent, which makes it very difficult to figure out how long to bake in it. Instead, the population of one of my sculpting forums suggested I pick up a halogen oven, which uses a halogen bulb to create intense heat, and then a system of fans to circulate that head within a glass bowl.

These ovens are apparently a popular gimmick appliance sold mainly through TV shopping channels, with their main claim to fame being the ability to cook a chicken in 45 minutes. My attempts to find one in a store were an utter failure even after checking 20+ stores in three cities, and ultimately I ended up picking one up from Amazon.

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All of the “machinery” is in the lid. The halogen bulb lights the bowl area up while it’s cooking, which gives it an impressive sci-fi feeling. 😛

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Here he is just out of the oven, with his arms attached as a test to see how they’d look. I clipped off the upper arms and just attached the forearms, as 1) this is cuter, and 2) I figured the upper arms would be “consumed” within the balloon body when he inflates, so his arms would appear to start at the elbow.

Mostly #1, though. 😛

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With the spines held solidly within the baked Fimo, I now needed to make them blend gently into the body. To do this, I first rolled out a putty snake and chopped it into tiny segments…

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…then applied the resulting Fimo bits to the base of each spine…

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…and finally smoothed each one out into a little cone using Clayshapers.

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And then I did some more of them.

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And then some more.

This process consumed most of an entire weekend, and by the time I got to the end of it, I was in a fairly terrifying state:

@_e

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The last bit of detail to add to the model was its tail. I opted to pull the tail forward through the Fishbeast’s legs for two reasons: 1) the existing tail of the Spitter model (which I had forgotten to chop off earlier and now couldn’t reach) points that way, and 2) pointing it backwards would interfere with the base I had already started building.

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I actually kind of hate the way this looks, but the practical considerations unfortunately made it a necessity. :/

Anyway, with the spikes finished and the arms sculpted in, I was essentially finished sculpting the model. I gave it one last trip through the Halogen Oven to firm everything up, and then it was off to the paint table.

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The paint table is, in fact, the same as my normal table.

As usual I won’t trouble you with the details my paint process, for the usual batch of reasons:

  1. My desk lighting makes it very hard to see the colours I’m using
  2. I do a ton of mixing, and I have absolutely no idea what colours I used on this model
  3. I wasn’t 100% happy with the way the paint came out on him.

I will mention briefly that I had a lot of options for his paint scheme, and ultimately decided on a mix of two colourations:

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This skin pattern…

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…with a hint of this colour and these spines (white on the belly, dark brown on the back).

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Here he is with his papa.

The adorability is palpable.

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These models were intended to match my Legion army’s snow basing, but with pools of water to distinguish them. I started with my usual layered rocks and wet blended snow…

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…then started adding Water Effects. I really like Water Effects when it cooperates, but I find its drying time to be agonizingly slow. This thin layer took four days to dry clear…

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…while this thicker layer (still less than 1/8″) was still cloudy almost two weeks later. Even worse, when I tried to speed it up with a heater (something that’s worked for me in the past), it filled up with little bubbles, ruining the clear effect. >_<

So, the basing kind exploded on me, but hopefully it doesn’t detract too much from the overall effect of the model.

Speaking of which, behold his majesty:

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My fishpeople were very good to me at the Gargantuans release, but since I pretty much hate all the other Gator models and don’t want to convert any more, this is where the “army” will stand in perpetuity. And given how rare two-caster games are for me, this may well also be the last time they ever get played.

Ah well.

At least they were fun to make. 🙂

-Spud

5 thoughts on “Fishterlude 2: The Enswimmening

  • fiendil

    Those two are fantastic.

    How about a seahorse Bull Snapper? For those days you’re not using a Carnivean in a two-caster game and want access to Spiny…

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