Entries in cernunnos (12)


Cernunnos Unearthed

Do you remember my Cernunnos sculpture? I do. It's been sitting in my studio mocking me for a long time. I started it so long ago. 2010 I think? I could probably look back through this journal to find his origins, but that'd be depressing. Today I cleaned all the half-painted Christmas ornaments off my desk and dug him out again. I sculpted all the fur on his neck/head. I know it looks odd two-toned, just try to imagine him painted. I do the initial sculpture in polymer clay because I need the working time it affords me. Then when I feel like the difficult part is done (usually the face/eyes) I bake it and position it on the body armature. At that point it's no longer suitable for baking (either the armature has components that shouldn't be baked, or it simply doesn't fit in the oven any longer) so I sculpt everything else with epoxy clay, which has a limited working time. So the brown is polymer clay and the grey is epoxy clay. Anyhow, I think he just needs his left hand finished and then I could move onto painting and clothing him. Cross your fingers for me, maybe I'll be able to maintain the momentum to get him done!


Cernunnos Gets a Body

Some progress on Cernunnos again. He's got most of a body now. The bulk of the body is wool needle felted over the wrapped wire armature. I think he looks so much better now than he did as a bare armature! Because he will be wearing somewhat bulky clothing, I don't need his body to be super detailed. I just need all the parts to be in roughly the right place, to fill out the clothing in a believable fashion. There's still a lot of hard sculpting left to do (hands, antlers, ears, neck), but I felt like changing gears for a while and this is what I accomplished.

I also had Brian take a photo of me working on him, to show the scale. This is probably the biggest art doll I've ever made. Most of them tend to top out around 18" to 20" tall or so. If Cernunnos was standing up straight, he'd be over 30" tall.


Cernunnos: Feet and Antlers

Cernunnos' feet are mostly done. I need to sand them here and there and maybe use the dremel to bring back some definition in the achilles tendon. I bulked it out a little too much there and now I think it looks too round above the heel. But that's the nice thing about the clays I use, you can always attack them with a dremel bit to carve down areas if needed. I want his feet to look rough, like he spends most of his time barefoot, but I hope to accomplish that more with the paint than with the clay. Wish me luck.

Then I started on the antlers. Cernunnos is supposed to have seven-tined antlers, so I looked at lots of photos of stag antlers and got an idea of what I wanted to do. I cut several armature wires and shoved them down into the holes I had left in the polymer clay head. The center of the head is packed foil, so the armature wires puncture it easily and stick a little bit. I squirted a bunch of glue down into the head as well and then had to let it dry before shaping the wire. Brian laughed because it made Cernunnos look like he had antennae, so of course I had to take a photo.

Once the glue was dry, I filled the rest of the gaps in the head with epoxy clay, let THAT cure, and then I was able to shape the wire into my basic antler armature. I've since also added some epoxy clay to the places on the antlers where the wires overlap, to help lock them in place before I sculpt the antlers fully. I love working in epoxy clay, but the way I use it does involve quite a bit of waiting for cure time.


Cernunnos: Hands and Staff

Small progress on Cernunnos tonight. I want him to be carrying a staff, or walking stick. At first I liked the idea of a scepter, since he is Lord of the Wild. But I think I prefer a staff, not least because it allows me to sculpt one more gnarled tree branch. I want his staff to be crooked like a twisted branch, but I also want the line it creates to pass through an imagiary center line that IS straight (if that makes any sense). So I used floral tape to wrap a length of armature wire to a dowel rod in four places, and then bent the wire around those four joints into a twisted staff. I covered the wire with epoxy clay to set the position, and when it has cured I will cut away the dowel rod so just the wire and clay remain. We'll see how it goes! Current state photo is as left. Cernunnos has been depicted in association with a ram-horned serpent, so that's what I will sculpt on the top of the staff. Hopefully when it's done it will all look like it's carved from wood.

Then I bent wire hand armatures for the figure. The right hand is going to be resting on a branch of the tree-throne, so I started curling the wire fingers into position there. As always, I have to adjust the plan as I go. I had wanted his hand in one particular position, and then realized that the branch is far too small to look natural with the hand position I wanted, argh. So I changed it. I'll get there. I think I will sculpt the hand directly to the branch, as well. Many of my art dolls I've created such that the figure can be removed from the base, but Cernunnos is going to be quite solidly attached to his tree! Then I can paint the hand and tree all at the same time (as well as the head, feet, etc.) before I clothe him. Speaking of which, I haven't truly figured out what he's going to be wearing ...

Anyway, the left hand will be holding the staff, so I made that armature as well (see below). I won't be able to pose it at all until the staff is completed, so I've just left it rudimentary for now. I hope to work more on this over the holiday weekend! Everything starts to fall into place in my head. Finish the staff, sculpt the hands, sculpt the feet, finish sculpting the head and neck, sculpt the antlers and ears, paint everything, bulk out his arms/legs/torso with wool, maybe gesso the body, finish the base, make and attach clothing ... so far yet to go.


Cernunnos' Tree: Branches


Yesterday began my holiday. The Christmas cookies and candies are all baked, packaged, and shipped away to family as gifts. The presents for Brian and Cloudy have been purchased, wrapped, and tucked under the tree. The last day to ship for Christmas arrival is fast approaching, so I've stopped making ornaments for sale in the Etsy shop. I'm down to three of four left and that's all I'll make until next winter. Many of my normal time-sinks are absent for a while; the garden long ago went dormant, the pig was sent to slaughter, we won't start incubating eggs for new chicks until late in the winter. Sure, I still have dozens of projects. There's a rug I need to finish braiding for the living room. The office really needs to be re-organized. I ought to make a couple of more window quilts to help keep the chill out of the house. But for the most part, I can now snuggle in and work on some me-projects for a month or two. Things I want to do for no other reason than I want to do them. Last night I dug Cernunnos out, dusted him off, and got back to work. I sculpted two of the branches on his tree-throne, and then tonight I sculpted two more. It's difficult to take photos of them on my messy art desk, but here they are. There are five branches total on the tree-throne, so I've got one left to sculpt, it's the plain looking one in the photos.



Also known as The Sculpture That Wouldn't Die! I cleaned up the studio last week and sat down to try and get back to a larger project. Cernunnos has been waiting patiently all year, so I worked on him a bit. He's a perfect example of how my sculptures sometimes don't go exactly as planned.

Normally I will make the base separate from the figure so that they can be packed separately for moving/shipping. The whole sculpture started with Cernunnos' stag head, and the size of the head determines the scale for the rest of the figure. He's turning out to be a fairly large figure, but I made the same sort of armature for him as I do for my smaller figures. Bad idea. Once I attached the head to the wire body armature and sat him on the tree base, the weight of the head bent the armature right down the middle. He looked like he was trying to do yoga. My solution was to reinforce the spine of the armature with some epoxy clay and attach it permanently to the tree trunk he'd be sitting on. Oh, and I had already started wrapping the armature in wool strips to preapre it for needle felting the body, so in some place the epoxy clay is slapped over the top of the wool. This is what happens when I work on projects in fits and starts. I lose sight of the whole plan and have to improvise as I go. Anyway, the body is now quite strong and firmly perched on the tree. The legs and arms are not set in any pose yet, and the head still needs more sculpting (antlers, ears, etc.) but the basic form is there. It looks  little ridiculous with the plaid wool strips and the random lumps of clay, but here he is right now:

The color change on the tree bark from brown/pink to gray is because I switched from polymer clay to epoxy clay. Once the figure was attached to the tree, I couldn't put it in the oven anymore to bake polymer clay. Epoxy clay is a room temperature cure and you can make a seamless transition with it so that's why I am using it for the rest of the tree. Once it's painted, you won't be able to tell the two areas apart. Oh, and I will have to sculpt the rest of the head, the hands, and the feet along with the rest of the tree, AND paint them all before I make the soft body and cover it with clothes. Otherwise I will splatter paint all over his garments. This whole sculpture is turning into a logistical nightmare! But I will finish it. Promise.

As a side note, here's how I made that tree bark texture. I used silicon mold making putty and an old manzanita branch to make bark molds. The maznanita branch is one Brian picked up years ago somewhere in California. The actual bark fell off the manzanita long ago, and the wood dried and developed fine cracks in it. They were the perfect scale to make into molds to mimic larger tree bark cracks. Mix up the putty, press bits of it onto the manzanita branch, let it cure and voila! Instant tree bark molds. I pressed them all over the polymer clay surface and then tooled the clay a bit to join up the different mold impressions into a believable whole. It worked great and saved me hours of direct-sculpting miniature bark.



Cernunnos' Tree

Some more progress on Cernunnos' tree. Comparing these pics to the last ones I posted, I realize it doesn't like like a whole lot has changed. But trust me, there was a lot of work done! The texture is completed on the trunk and all of the roots, and it has been baked so I don't mush all of my hard work accidentally.

I discovered that I am going to have to sculpt most of the smaller parts of the branches completely in epoxy clay, because I had to bend the branch wires back on themselves just to get this to fit in the oven. Oops. Working too big isn't usually my problem. But I figure I'll be able to do the main part of the large branch in polymer clay, bake it, and then finish the smaller branches off in epoxy clay. This is probably a good idea anyway, because epoxy clay is stronger than polymer clay, especially when it gets thinner.


Cernunnos' Tree

A little more progress on the tree. I need to get the trunk as close to finished as possible before I do much work on the branches. That way I can bake it and not worry about smushing what I've already sculpted when I go to work on the branches. Plus it'll let me pick the whole thing up by the trunk and flip it around to work on it. So I started working on the bark texture for the trunk and roots. I want it to look like a dead tree so it's actually less of a bark texture and more just a cracked and weathered wood look. At least that's what I'm aiming for.

I must give Brian credit for the tree texture. He has a bunch of big pieces of manzanita that he picked up in California years ago on one of his rockhounding trips. One particular piece has a lot of nice cracks and lines in it. He suggested I use that for my texture, so I did. Literally! I used some silicone mold putty and made little push molds from the surface of the manzanita, and now I am pressing them onto the surface of my tree. Then I use sculpting tools to get the various imprints to join up in a believable fashion. I think it looks decent so far. Thoughts?


Cernunnos' Tree

I spent a lot of time on the tree today, I think it's starting to take shape. Long way to go still. It rained all day long here. It was a great way to spend the day, sitting in my studio playing in the clay with the sound of rain outside my window.


Cernunnos' Tree

More work on the tree. Cernunnos is associated with the stag. He has stag antlers (though as I mentioned before, my version of him is going to have a stag's head along with the antlers). The word 'stag' can also refer to a dead tree, which is why I thought Cernunnos should be sitting on an old gnarled crook of a tree. The issue I have is one of scale. I don't want the tree to be enormous because I don't want it to overshadow the figure himself, but I also don't want Cernunnos to look like a giant sitting on an itty bitty tree. My idea here is to make the tree look like it was once much larger and all that's left is this smaller side branch. I'm going to try and sculpt a broken stump (the part sticking out on the right side of the trunk, in this photo) to convey this. Hopefully it'll work and look correct. I've started adding polymer clay over the epoxy clay, and added the branches. The little balls of clay on the ends of the armature wire are for self-preservation. I was working on the trunk of the tree earlier today and when I spun the base around to see the other side I swiped the snipped end of one of the branch wires right across my lower lip and cut it. D'oh. Gotta be more careful in the studio!