January 10, 2013

SBS - Modelling a dead tree


In this post I will try to explain how I have built the dead tree that is part of the groundwork for my Roman legionary of the 1st century AD.

The first task was to find a piece of wood that could be adjusted to the theme (groundwork and figure) without overpowering the final scene. Normally this can take some time but as I happen to have a dog, my daily strolls in the nearby park have provided my already with quite a large collection of this kind of forest debris. It was just a matter of picking the most suitable piece out off the scrap box.

For the theme in question I chose a piece with articulate relief and a nice curve which I cut to the right dimension. This curve and the way of positioning it in relation with the figure, enhances the typical defensive attitude of the Roman legionary: the large shield protecting the bigger part of his body and the sword ready to stab at any opponent coming to close.

At the bottom, the stem was drilled to receive a protruding piece of metal rod needed to fix the tree firmly onto the groundwork.

Of course a tree without any branches is a little bit too nude. So the second stage was to mark the convenient spots where the branches will have to meet the stem. Once the right spots are marked, I drilled little corresponding holes in the stem and the branches, put in some metal rod to strengthen the joints and added a drop of cyano glue.

The same procedure was repeated afterwards with the two main branches to add the extra smaller side branches. These side branches are small roots taken from the rooting system of shrubs in my garden. You really never can have too much of them!

Then when the complete form of the tree was established I fixed it to the base.

Now it was time to get out the Magic Sculp to recreate the bark. During this process one has to be very careful as the small branches are extremely fragile and easily damaged.

My intention was to leave some areas uncovered by the bark to emphasize the effect of a dead tree. Nevertheless I had to cover the joints to create a fluent transition between stem and branches. Also, at the bottom the bark was modelled as such to connect it in a natural way with the rooting system and the rest of the groundwork.

The sculpting of the bark started as a piece of thinly rolled out Magic Sculp which was left to harden for 15 to 30 minutes. Then small sections were cut out and wrapped around the stem and adjusted to the branches.

When this was done, the actual sculpting could start with a simple needle and I began to draw at random deep grooves but still following the general lines of structure. It took a while before I reached the desired rough look of the bark’s surface. Then little cuts were added to emphasize the overall structure.

All that was left to do there after was to let the Magic Sculp set, add some mosses and grass tufts and paint the groundwork. To apply the Humbrol olive drab (M66) base colour I used my airbrush. Detailing was done with consecutive dry brush stages using Humbrol enamels.

At the end some fallen leafs (not from the dead tree of course but from the imaginary surrounding living trees) were added and fixed one by one to the groundwork. Then these received some washes to tie them in.