As you know I dabbled in converting and sculpting for a few years now, but I never took the plunge and sculpted my very own miniature from scratch. Until now: I present my first serious foray into sculpting a toadman. Come along to learn from my mistakes.
I have to admit that my current approach is fairly unstructured and experimental. I should make a sketch and work based on the concept art, but I did not. I guess I felt a concept drawing would not look very true to the image in my head, so I postponed it. In any case, if you have the drawing skills, make a sketch.
The next step is to fashion a wire armature. You can use any thin and pliable wire. I use 1mm coated and uncoated wire from the gardening/construction section and 0.6 and 0.8mm brass wire. The brass wire is just soft enough to easily twist, but strong enough to keep its final shape. In addition I bought some brass tubes with an inner diameter of 0.6/0.9mm and an outer diameter of 1.0 /1.3mm respectively. Accordingly both wires will fit in the tubes. This will come in handy for pole arms, but also to attach details/extend the original armature.
The coated gardening wire is fine for starters with great adhesion, but if you think about spin casting in vulcanized molds (and don’t want to make masters using resin first) this wire might cause problems as the coating will not withstand high temperatures. Same goes for super glue to attach details or to fixate the wire. High temperatures cause it to release a noxious gas that might rupture the sculpt (or worse harm the mold maker)
The idea is now to add the basic volumes and shapes to this armature. I used three wires, twisted them in the middle and thus had pieces for arms, legs, head, torso and a piece between the legs for a tail or just to bulk out the torso. As is the case with any sculpting endeavor: Only work on one section/detail at a time. I started with a blob for the body and the head and smoothed it out. Ridges and more bulk on the front and arms followed.
My Greenstuff ratio for this was either 70:30 yellow to blue, or a mix of 75% Greenstuff (same ratio) and 25% Milliput. As Greenstuff is expensive using pure Milliput or a mixture to bulk out the body is a good idea. You can also smooth the mixture with water before it cures and sand it after curing. In addition it is much harder than Greenstuff alone. So a nice base to work from. Some sculptors work exclusively with such a mixture, but I still have to master it and reverted back to Greenstuff.
It stands to reason to use a reference from the great interwebs, especially if you sculpt something humanoid or something that is based on an animal. In my case the reference was the cane toad.
I had to rework both the head and the body to add the characteristic ridges at the nose and eyes, add the poison gland behind the ears and – naturally – the warty skin texture.
The head was extremely fiddly, as the miniature only measures 20mm from feet to top of the head. I wanted the toad folk to be a bit smaller in stature and less monstrous, akin to a anthropomorphized cane toad. Again, work in stages. First the eye balls, then the ridges on the eyes. Then the nose ridges. If you don’t like something cut it off and try again. I did so with the skin sack on the chin.
Another aspect is his expression: Given toads are not equipped to mimic human expressions I tried my best to make him look tough and grumpy, without going down the road of overtly anthropomorphic features.
The warty skin texture was achieved with an old applicator needle from a bottle of super glue. You could also use a hypodermic needle. I also added some metal micro beads and poppy seeds to the back. The latter is obviously a no go for pressure casting, but gave a good texture. Initially I added warts to the belly, but decided against it in the final version, that is I went for an uneven, but smoother texture with singular warts.
The weapon of choice
I decided early on to give the toadman weapon choices, so the hands and weapons would need to be sculpted and cast separately. You can sculpt everything as one piece and later remove the hands or arms with a jewelers saw, but I found that too fiddly. I decided to feature a Tewhatewha (a Maori club with a head that resembles an axe and an Aztec Cuauhololli (a two-handed club that could feature obsidian blades). Both are still unfinished, but they are getting there.
For the Tewhatewha a thin piece of wire was covered in Milliput and sanded smooth. The decoration on the head and feathers were then added with greenstuff.
I have eight to nine more bufos in the pipeline, but I feel it will take me most of 2021 to finish them all. The plan is to get them cast (maybe with the help of a Kickstarter) and sell them to interested Fantasy enthusiasts. A Kickstarter would be good to figure out if there is demand, as I don’t want to sit on hundreds of casts. I’ll keep you updated on the progress. In any case, Greenstuff, Milliput or both, no matter, always wield your brush with honour.