Friday, November 20, 2015

Painting 3D Printed Statues

Verrocchio's David painted to look like the original

Much of the time your printed statues will be done with white plastic which paints up surprising well. If you want a more natural finish to which you don't need to do a lot painting, have it printed in brown.

St. Jeanne was printed in brown plastic and then I highlighted it to help bring out the details.

Most finished 3D printed pieces are not smooth. They have striations from the printing process. To minimize these, I first either sand or scrape with an X-Acto blade to even out the area. Then I paint the piece with gesso.  If the striations are particularly noticeable, you need to use Liquitex modeling paste which helps you fill in the minor gaps and dries hard.

For painting bronze pieces, I use Modern Options Blackened Bronze Base. (I used this years ago for some larger plaster pieces and it works great as a base.) A dark brown acrylic paint would do something similar.  For more of a bronze/gold look as with the Night statue and the Sphinx, I then rub on DecoArt Metallic Lustre (Iced Espresso). Go light at first and continue till satisfied. If you want the greenish bronze like the Egyptian cat above, I do a wash of DecoArt Moss Pearl Metallic acrylic paint.

The figure, statue of Mars, ram-headed chair, and Caesar bust are all 3D printed.
For marble, I tend to use the Martha Stewart Wet Cement Satin Acrylic, lightened with white. When dry, I do a light wash of burnt umber acrylic or a grey acrylic. I spend a lot time at Michael’s comparing pictures of similar full-scale pieces with the paints available.

A technique I found online with people doing military figures is adding a tiny bit of denatured alcohol to the acrylic paint. It helps create a wash.

If your  finished piece is too shiny, use Liquitex Ultra Matte Gel.

These are some things that helped me with my painting.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

1:12 Scale Masters: Noel and Pat Thomas

I'm a big fan of Noel and Pat Thomas. From the early 1970s, I followed their work with great admiration and was delighted to learn they were as personable as their rooms and houses are realistic. Noel and I once had a lengthy discussion at a NAME houseparty on the importance of aging the miniatures (something I had been reluctant to do with my Egyptian room), but his arguments stuck with me.

Pat has a blog which is definitely worth checking out. She kindly has allowed me to show some of their work described on the blog.

Check out these examples of their fantastic work:

The Davis Miniature Theater, 1995-2000
Noel and Pat Thomas
The Breeze, 1997
The Italian Ruin, with chair by Catherine Soubzmaigne
This is aging at its finest.

Pippen Hill

Be sure and join Pat's blog and get a really in-depth analysis of their work. And tell them I said hello.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Progress Report: Book Shelf Room

Shelves in bookcases aren't just for books.

This is a work currently in progress, showing several 3D printed figures by Sculpteo waiting to be painted. The  two columns are also 3D printed. I bought the elaborate fireplace surround and the bar on eBay.

A Jane Austen 1:12 Scale Doll Cabinet House

A Jane Austen Doll Cabinet House, a 1:12 scale house (2015)

It was Nell Corkin's work I thought of when I saw this unfinished Regency cabinet dollhouse from Hong Kong. I couldn't resist trying my own hand at a miniature dollhouse.

As I studied the furniture that was available, I realized that the standard scales didn't really fit the interior of the dollhouse, so I decided to make my own. Assuming that the ceilings would be approximately 12 inches high, I made my own ruler.

I have made several paper rooms and decided everything would be paper. Settling on the Jane Austin period (1800-1820), I began researching furniture and design.

Of particular help was R. Ackermann's Repository of Arts, published by Ackermann, London, 1809-1810 and later.
 I began by creating elevations of each room and then imagined it in 3D, adding the furniture pieces.

Elevations for three of the rooms

Drapery wall based on Ackermann designs.

The pattern for the armchairs and a table.
The finished dollhouse closed.

The Regency Christmas Tree

One might wonder at the fact there is a large Christmas tree in the entrance. According to the research, Victoria was not the first person to introduce a tree, following German customs. The first tree in England was in 1800 for Queen Charlotte, the German wife-born wife of George III at a Christmas Day party at Windsor. German Prince Albert, Victoria's husband is the person credited with making the trees popular in the 1840s. 

John Watkins describes the royal family Christmas celebrations of 1800 in his biography of Queen Charlotte:

“At the beginning of October the royal family left the coast for Windsor, where Her Majesty kept the Christmas-day following in a very pleasing manner. Sixty poor families had a substantial dinner given them; and in the evening the children of the principal families in the neighbourhood were invited to an entertainment at the Lodge. Here, among other amusing objects for the gratification of the juvenile visitors, in the middle of the room stood an immense tub with a yew-tree placed in it, from the branches of which hung bunches of sweetmeats, almonds, and raisins, in papers, fruits, and toys, most tastefully arranged, and the whole illuminated by small wax candles. After the company had walked round and admired the tree, each child obtained a portion of the sweets which it bore, together with a toy, and then all returned home quite delighted.”

It is interesting to note that the tree stood in an “immense tub” in the middle of the room, presumably on the floor; all the other references that I found talk about table-top Christmas trees.

The finished Jane Austen Cabinet Dollhouse

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Little Houses by Nell Corkin

Nell Corkin

One of the artists I collected when I had my business and did miniature shows was Nell Corkin. Her 1/144 scale dollhouses were fascinating.

The first dollhouse of Nell's that I bought was a three story one furnished by her. (She asked if I wanted to do it, but I really wanted the completed house by her.) The figures were dressed by Ferbie. She also made the standing Father Christmas. I made the cats.

The second 1/144 house I bought from Nell was a house in progress, complete with 1:12 scale tools. The two Cecil Boyd figures give an idea of scale.

My third 1/144 scale house was a walnut fantasy elf house complete with landscaping and interior furnishings. Again, giving an idea of scale is porcelain Santa beside a Z figure dressed in painted tissue paper which I made.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Displaying Miniatures

As I worked with miniatures, I experimented with various ways of displaying them--a grandmother mermaid and child, for example, were placed in a large glass fishbowl. [It didn't sell at a show. It was stolen out of our car as we stopped to eat on the way home.]

The room boxes were the kind of presentation I did with my scene designs.

Small display boxes became a great venue for furniture and special figures

Godey and Belter, 1864 (1982)

The Godey figure I sculpted and Ferbie dressed it. The table was made by Jeff Steele..
The Art of Wicker (1982)

The Mother in Wicker was done by dollmaker Mary Penet and the baby was from Cecil Boyd.
 The wicker was by Carolyn Lockwood.
Large boxes with two plexiglass sides easily served for full vignettes.

1:12 Scale Room: "I'll Be Home For Christmas" (1995)

      The fireplace was a souvenir by Braxton Payne from a NAME Houseparty. The figure, modeled by Marsha Backstrom, painted by me and then dressed and wigged by Ferbie. The three cats are mine. There are two tiny mice under the chair.  One of the good things about the box room is that it can be lit easily. The "fire" in the fireplace is actually a light under silicone glue which resists the heat of the bulb.

Recently when the chain Hobby Lobby brought in large candle vitrines, I found they worked well.

Here a doll dressed by Ferbie stands with a 1:12 scale Christmas feather tree by Karen Marland. The 'quilt' is an embossed card. I made the cat.

I also discovered display vitrines for footballs which offer a unique environment for the miniatures.

A 3D printed Miss Marple and lawyer [both found on Shakeways] are shown on a shelf in a bookcase with a small light mounted above it. (2014)

The 1:12 scale Dickens Desk and Chair suggested the room. The 3D printed figure checking his cellphone has a tiny silver earring. The statue of Mars is also 3D printed. (2015)

These two 1:12 scale Christmas vignettes [both gifts Christmas 2014] were housed in the football display vitrines.

A Christmas Gothic window unit designed for a modern creche setting also makes an interesting display. Among the 3D printed figures is the statue at left, the two Egyptian cats, and the two standing cats, the Sphinx statue, and the young man at back. My printing company discouraged me from having the cats printed because they felt they would be too fragile. The turned out perfectly. The cat on the chair was one I sculpted and was cast epoxy. The Victorian Hall cabinet includes a Christmas pastry of snowflakes, tree and Eiffel tower. A basket of glittered pine cones is in front.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Using Figures

I once wrote an article for a miniatures magazine called Scale Cabinetmaker on why one should consider using figures in rooms. Here are some of the ideas.

Among the most important lessons I learned in my scene design class was that a set is not done until it has an actor on it. The end result of a design is a space for the actors to work in, not just an empty space. Actors give us a sense of scale, life, perspective. If your interest is primarily interior design, creating empty rooms might be what you need. The Art Institute of Chicago’s Thorne Rooms (38 period miniature rooms) are exquisitely done, but all to me cry out for a realistic figure, even if it were a figure off in the exterior vistas that many of the rooms have.  Without them even busts or statues in the room serve the same purpose.

Empire Style Thorne Room with statue. Photo David Claudon

I had not realized how important I find a figure in a room until a former student working at a modern art museum in New York State took me on a guided tour. As we walked through the vast spaces, I found myself yearning
for the life a figure brings. We reached a point where I could see four vast rooms of modern non-figurative art just as another visitor walked around the corner. My eye was drawn to the person for as long as I could see them.

Note in this picture of the Chazen Art Museum in Madison, WI,
the eye is drawn to the people first and room and objects later.

We interpret the room and surroundings by the people who inhabit them.

There are several questions the miniature designer has to answer as they plan their room:

  • What time period is the room? How does that dictate the style of the room?
  • Who inhabits it? How are they reflected in the room?
  • What is occurring in the room? What are the people doing?

Note the difference between Soldier's Home 1943 with or without a figure.

For me, the room takes on more character with the figure there.

I originally used a lot of Cecil Boyd figures, from her Masterpiece Museum Miniatures [1981-1989], which had been sculpted by artists from live models. Cecil sold both mail order and at shows. The figures were from cast epoxy and could be bought painted and unpainted (I usually painted all my own). During the 1980s, Cecil and I became friends and when I visited her studio in Austin, Texas, she introduced me to her caster who then cast my cats for me from … until his retirement around 1994.

In the last few years, the advent of 3D scanned and printed figures give a new realism. Note the
difference between the figure at right sculpted from life and the 3D printed figure scanned from life. Subtle differences in head size and gestures can be seen.

I originally found designers who were selling their finished designs. I bought several figures and statues through Shapeways. Eventually I found free or inexpensive designs that I could control the size and have printed from French-based Sculpteo. Among the sites to find designs are the following:
  • myminifactory [has only a few figures but a many free scanned statues under 'Scan the World.']
  • Turbosquid [which offers designs one can buy and printed limited copies of].
  • Hongkiat [a list of 25 companies offering free stl files.]
  • pinshape [free stl files]
  • [free stl files]

Two of my most recent unpainted 3D printed figures from Turbosquid files in 1:12 scale.
The realism of scale and pose make them perfect for the miniature rooms.