Carving a dragon #4: painting

We’re getting close to the end!  Just painting and assembly to go.

Painting.  UGH.  Have I said before how little I enjoy painting?  Here it was particularly difficult, because it was important to get some variation in the surface so it looked like wood, make the background a little darker, and not create a blotchy mess. The idea was to try to match the pear-wood being used on the remainder of the piece.

Painting supplies

Painting supplies

The piece was painted with successive thin layers of paint.  The background was painted a little darker than the surface.  The raised dragon on the finished piece was drybrushed with a lighter color.   The final piece was washed with a thin coat of dark gray water color (using a water color pencil) to get the color a little closer to the stained pear wood.

If you’re interested in learning how to simulate wood with paint (and know as little as I do)–there are a few videos on YouTube that should be helpful, both those by model builders and real life “faux bois” painters. The colors used consistently–whether full size or miniature–seem to be burnt and raw umber, burnt and raw sienna, black, and alizarin crimson. In this scale, the main messages are: use very thin coats,  bringing out the different tones in real wood–from pinks to browns to grays–with each layer. A few drops of glazing helps thin the layers.

The finished painted resin piece

The finished piece turned out reasonably well. It could look more like wood, and the scales on the tail could show up better, but it’s not bad for a first effort, and hopefully future versions of this chest will turn out better, as I learn more about painting!

The pear wood was also coated with a thin coat of paint, to create a more uniform surface and tone closer to the painted resin piece.

Brushing on paint

Brushing on a thin coat of the paint, quickly

…and then wiping it off quickly with a foam wedge

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Carving a dragon #3: final carving

finished cast piece

The cast piece is ready to be turned into a chest!

     Once the cast piece was ready, it went through a few steps:

  1. Sand the surface–from 320 down through 1500 to create a hint of wood grain and get rid of the texture from the bristol board.  Smooth as the board was, the mold picked up whatever texture there was, and it doesn’t look like wood!
  2. Add detail–to the fins, tail, wings, eyes, ears, and reinforcing some of the detail (e.g., the lines), etc.  This was done using the carving techniques taught by Ann High in her dragon chest class at IGMA school in Castine in 2013.  Details were added to the dragon using small gouges, gravers, and different scalpel blades and chisels. (For a tutorial on making a small carving gouge, see this post.)
  3. Sand the outside to the right size.  Since the piece is a little thicker than the 1/32″ wood that will be used for the remainder of the chest, the right and left edges need to be thinned a bit on the back. so the chest could be assembled.
  4. Spray the piece with a good quality primer–this is light gray from Testors
  5.  Complete the final detail on the tail–using a gouge made just for this purpose.

Cast piece with detail added, sprayed with gray primer, and the beginnings of the scales on the tail added.

Carving a Dragon Chest in Quarter Inch Scale

In June 2013 I took a class from Ann High at IGMA Guild School in Castine, Maine, in which we carved a dragon chest.  Ann does truly amazing carving and is an excellent teacher, getting the best from her students–even the newbies.

Front of chest carved in class with Ann High at Guild School in 2013

Front of chest carved in class with Ann High at Guild School in 2013

The finished chest is about 5 inches long and a little over an inch high. This is the almost finished chest–all that remains is to add the final finishes over the stain.

Finished dragon chest

Finished dragon chest

Chest with tools by David Brookshaw displayed

Chest with tools by David Brookshaw displayed

The beautiful period-appropriate carving tools are made by David Brookshaw, who makes museum-quality reproductions of full-sized antique tools, as well as 1/12 scale miniature tools.

Being incapable of leaving anything in 1/12 scale alone, I tried to make one in 1/48 scale.  The results were not stellar.

Attempt to carve the dragon chest in 1:48 scale.  UGH!

Attempt to carve the dragon chest in 1:48 scale. UGH!

My carving skills were simply not up to the task–and the intricacy of the pattern–even with simplifications–was difficult to reproduce in wood, as small as it needed to be. So, what to do? Perhaps there is another way….