Can’t We Play Fetch, Maestro? Part 2

Part 2 by Matt Springer. editor

Composition of the scene:

When putting together ideas for what I wanted to include in the vignette, I took some time to develop how I wanted the scene to be viewed and what are my main elements and what are the supporting or secondary elements. At the beginning stages of the piece, I knew I wanted to incorporate a miniature version of one of Bouguereau’s paintings as well as the artist himself. These were my two main elements. Secondarily, I liked the idea of portraying him on the painting ladder as I had seen in my reference pictures. In order to do this, I thought the painting should be one of great size that would necessitate the use of the ladder. I also wanted a piece painted in Bougeureau’s prime which was in the 1870’s. After narrowing down the candidate pool for paintings to depict, I settled on one of my favorites called “The Nymph’s and Satyr”. I love the painting for its fantasy elements, drama, lighting and mood. It also fit the bill for size and scale as the original painting is nearly 9 feet high by about 6 feet wide. In terms of scale, mine might be a little on the large side compared to the actual painting, but its very close and. I think the painting looks in scale with the 75mm figure and scene. I decided that a 5×7 piece of gesso board served my purpose for the painting. I added plastic strips to the back of the board to simulate the frame of the canvas.

I also constructed the easel out of various sheet plastic pieces using a reference I found online. The ladder that holds the figure was done next so that I could have the figure’s pose done to fit the seat. One of the things I found interesting was the little wooden crate that he had made to sit on the steps of the ladder that could be moved up and down depending on which part of the painting he was working. The ladder was again made from strip plastic. Once I had the main elements of the scene built in the form of the painting on the easel and the ladder, I was better able to determine the right size for the base for the scene. I did this by laying out the main elements on my desk and simply measuring around the pieces leaving some small bit of extra room for secondary elements.  I didn’t want too much empty or dead space so I ordered the appropriate sized base from my friend John Jefferies who operates Birch Tree Enterprises out of New York. After a few email exchanges and discussions about wood types and finishes, he sent me the finished base. Perfect for my needs. Thanks again, John!

With the ladder complete, I set about making the figure. I use a similar technique to other sculptors in which I start with a wire mannequin sized with a scale template. Once the pose is set, I begin to sculpt the anatomy. My putty of choice is Magic Sculpt which is a 2 part epoxy putty that comes in a hardener and resin tub. When equal amounts are mixed it has a nice, soft and slightly waxy feel that I have grown to like over the years. I use it straight with no other putty mixed in. I soften with water and smooth with brushes using my knife to refine detail after the putty cures. You can let it air harden which takes a few hours, or you can use heat as I do since I’m way too impatient. I have a small toaster oven by my sculpting desk that I use only to cure sculptures. I cook the clay at about 200 degrees for 10-15 minutes and it comes out hardened and ready to sand or polish. The magic sculpt also sticks to itself very well so it’s possible to build up forms in layers more easily. I also did internet searches for reference photos used to model the period appropriate dress and for examples of clothing folds I would model. After a lot of shaping and carving, I had a finished figure of Bouguereau. I used pictures of him as reference in order to get his likeness close until I was satisfied.

In the next, section, I will discuss the staging and composition for the scene as well as painting. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the article.

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