Below is a brief account of the creation process of my “Little Deity”. This little guy is my submission to an exhibition that was curated by Melbourne illustrator, Daniel Atkinson. The exhibition is called Little Deities and each artist is given the same base doll to turn into a deity of their choosing.
This one-of-a-kind deity is now available for purchase from Etsy here.
He is revered as the little deity of natural balance. Those that worship Spirix believe that in addition to the natural cycles documented by science (such as those of water, carbon and other energy), there is another cycle of spiritual energy in which Spirix plays a key role. It is said Spirix is responsible for absorbing the spiritual energy (or souls) released from dead organisms and radiating it into newly living oranisms. He ensures that no spiritual energy is lost in the cycle, keeping it in balance.
I created Spirixs’ shape using a combination of Super Sculpey, Plaster of Paris and 2-part Apoxie Sculpt. It was my first time working with the Apoxie but my verdict is that …I love it! It comes in two parts, smells like pandan (although I wouldnt recommend deliberately sniffing it – it gave me a headache just working with it), is water soluble (and somehow also solidifies underwater!) and sets very hard and sturdy. Although the curing time is about 3 hours which is partly why I sculpted some of the larger parts in Sculpey (such as the skull and the wings) and adhered them to the base structure using Aradlite and the Apoxie. This allowed me to work at intervals rather than have to commit to one long sitting and hope that I could finish it uninterrupted before it started to set.
I started by filling the arms, legs and half of the lower body with plaster of paris. I did this so that the baby wouldn’t be top heavy later and so that I had a firm surface to work on. The baby’s head was a bit of a challenge because I also wanted it to be firm so that it could support the weight of the skull without distortion. I tried filling it with a foam filler (that stuff used to fill holes in walls) but the dolls head became airtight once the foam in the neck area solidified and so the foam inside failed to set. Also the foam didn’t set as firm as I thought it would so I eventually dug it all out again. Then I thought about the amazing strength of the Apoxie and decided to sculpt two strips of Apoxie crossing over eachother inside the dolls head. One strip went up the face and down the back of the head while the other strip went from one ear and over the head to the other ear. This gave the head exactly the support I was looking for, without adding a lot of weight to the sculpture.
Once the doll shape was stabilised I sculpted the deer skull. This was probably the most difficult part to sculpt because it required a wire skeleton of it’s own to support the shape, especially the horns. I find Sculpey doesn’t really stick to wire so the clay often just tries to fall and sag away from the wire. With a bit of patience I managed to get the job done and whacked it in the oven with some other small sculpted items. The wings were sculpted without a wire support, I just drew a template onto non-stick baking paper and sculpted two identical wings. Unbaked, the wings were still very flexible so I baked them slightly curved by putting some scrunched up baking paper under the sheet they were resting on. I did this so that they would set with a curved shape and wrap around the body slightly, once attached.
I sculpted the bird skull, butterfly body and dead mouse separately and attached them later with Araldite (for instant adhesion) and some Apoxie sculpt (for aesthetic sculpting and extra bonding). Once these basic structures were all in place I sculpted the rest of the details in Apoxie sculpt. This includes the flowers, the grassy base, butterfly legs/antennae and the furry ‘mane’ on the baby. For the halo, I drew a template onto baking paper and sculpted over it. Apoxie sculpt adheres so well to most things that I was amazed to find that it doesn’t actually stick to baking paper. It was easy to peel the halo off once it was set (this property of the Apoxie came in handy for the base as well). The flower base actually took two turns to create because the Apoxie feels a lot like blue tack on a hot day; it’s quite limp. So I set wire stems into the base first and then built the flowers on top once it had set. The butterfly’s wings were cardboard shapes glued on with Araldite and painted thickly with gesso to give them strength.
Once everything was set/dry I gave it a few coats of watered down gesso until it had a decent coverage and the random colours of the various clays and the doll couldn’t be seen anymore (the photo above is only about half the amount of gesso I applied). I then began to paint with acrylic and instead of getting the thick coverage I expected, the paint was acting more like a wash on the gesso. I completed the skull this way and decided I liked the pastel look it gave the whole thing (the doll’s structure and theme was a bit dark so I wanted to lighten it up a bit) and went on painting the rest of the sculpture with the same technique. I used a middle ‘base’ colour and then a second darker colour to wash over the top (this darker colour seeps into the creavaces and gives more depth the sculpture). Sometimes I will dry-brush a lighter colour over the top but on this sculpture I only did that to the antlers, wings and brown mane because they were getting a bit too dark and not really complementing the pastel theme of the baby.
Unfortunately I was too engrossed in the whole process to get any real process shots.
Little Deities Exhibition
If you want to see more crazy baby gods be sure to check out the exhibition as it’s on now! I went to the opening night last night and the exhibition is awesome. I will have a post about that later. The babies are funny, disturbing, cute and thought-provoking all at the same time. Be sure to check out the website if this is something that appeals to you! You can get a glimpse of some of the others there.