Introduction: Clay Dragon Sculpture

A couple of years ago, I thought of the idea of making a dragon sculpture for my best friend, who is into fantasy and dragons. I looked up how hard this would turn out to be, and decided I could do it. Here are the steps I undertook in making this sculpture.

It is a real fun thing to do, but it took me way more time than I imagined.

Here is a list of what you'll need (I don't have a picture, sorry!)
- A reference picture (Optional).
- A base. I used an oval-shaped wooden board, and stapled some velt underneath to make it a bit more classy
- Clay. I used fimo clay and puppet clay. The fimo was great, because it came in colors, so I only had to paint the parts I did with the Puppen clay.
- Wire. To strenghten the figure and to have a handy framework during working, it is easy to make a wire 'backbone'.
- Foil. It will serve as a filler, making the figure not too heavy
- Sculpting tools. These don't have to be fancy; you can use old cutlery or throw away stuff like toothpicks as well.
- Bolts. This is optional, but I used two bolts to anker down the body to the board.
- Additional accesoires. I used beads for the eyes, and you can add other things of course.


Step 1: #1: Making the Frame

The picture might not be very clear, but here is how to make the framework. This step is sort of optional; it only works as to make the figurine more sturdy.

In the board, I drilled four holes:
- two to put the bolts in (the one on the right is still seen)
- one for the wire of the body to disappear into the board
- one for the wire of the tail to disappear into the board

After I attached the two bolts (with plugs on them, to prevent pointy ends from sticking out), I use Fimo Puppen to make the two stones on which the dragon rests. I tried to make them as much as the reference picture as possible, but some changes can be made, of course.

The next step is to make the wire for the body. Roughly see how long it has to be, then double the length and cut the wire. Twisting it around itself makes it more sturdy and helps the foil (or the clay directly) to stick better. Shape it in the form you want it to be, using the image as a reference for size. Stick the ends into one of the holes in the board.

Step 2: #2: Adding Foil and Starting With the Head

After we are done with the framework, it's time to put some foil on it. This can be done on any way you find pleasant. I just made balls, which I formed aorund the wire. Afterwards, I wrapped it all in a last layer of foil.

In the picture, I also made the limbs, and stuck them on the body with toothpicks. This did not work out in the end, just don't do it. I ended up attaching the limbs  after finishing the body.

The head, I chose to make separatly, and attach it to the body. It is fairly simple; cover a tube of foil with clay and mold it until you have a shape you like. I ended up making it all over again, this head was too lumpy. But hey, you learn from your mistakes.

Step 3: # 3: Finishing Up the Body

After covering up the whole body, and checking for empty spots (sort of important; during painting I found a spot of nicely shimmering silver foil), we get to finishing it up. This is my way of doing this:

First I check and check again for any empty spots

Then, I smooth out any transitions between different clays (which  still had to do in the picture)

I add features like the lines on the belly and eyebrowridges

Lastly, I smooth out the overall body, using my fingers. If you are using a harder type of clay (like the Fimo Puppen is), you can use a little baby oil  (or olive oil, but that don't nearly smells as nice) to soften up the clay.

Step 4: #4: Adding the Limbs

Like I said before, adding the limbs afterwards is easier if they are not part of the main structure. For instance, if the character is leaning on it's arms, it is hard not to make those before moving on. Adding them later makes working on the body easier (better accessible) and clay sticks btter to a surface already made of clay.

I don't think i used foil inside the limbs, for they are too scrawny. Of course, bigger limbs will need more clay, so fill that stuff up!

Step 5: #5: Adding the Last Details; the Hair

This dragon had this line of hair running all over his body. How to make this, was just a question of trail and error. I started originally at its head, but learned that with overlaying parts, it's better to work bottom up.

The pieces of hair I made by making tiny snakes, and pointing one of the ends. I stuck them on straight, and shaped them once they were on the sculpture. This made the whole a bit more realistic.

The end of the tail was basically the same; I just made the snakes a bit longer, and working from the tip outwards, I added them to the tail.

The last part of the claying was making the water on the board. Using the Fimo Puppen clay, I covered the base entirely and made the wave patterns in that. If you want to do it easier, only make the ripples with clay. You have to paint the whole thing either way.

Step 6: #6: Admiring Your Work and Firing It

Now we get to the fun part; shoving it into the oven, and anxiously waiting for it to harden.

Well, not for me. My sculpture was too big to fit in our oven, so I had to improvise. A blowdryer worked, but it took a very, very, very long time.

Also the whiskers did not survive in the end. :'(

Step 7: #7: Painting

After firing, let the sculpture cool down a bit, and sit down for some serious painting.

Using acrylic paints, I first painted the rocks. After a lightbrown base coat, I went over it with a darker brown, and brushed of the upper layer, leaving the dark color only in the pits and giving it a weathered look.

The water was fairly easy; I went over the whole thing with a mixture of blues and greens, and weathered it with a darker color like I did the rocks. Lastly, I lightened up the tops of the waves.

The last thing I did, was adding little accents to the dragon itself. Mostly it was on the head (inside of the ears, the mouth and nose).

I let it dry, and voila~ A dragon sculpture :)

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