Hi everyone! So unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy movie was a huge hit, breaking all sorts of records and defying all expectations. I'm super happy about this success because I have been waiting for this movie literally before they officially announced they were going to make it. So in honor of Marvel's success, I decided to make a sculpture of Groot's head!
NOTE: This is my very first time sculpting anything, so if you already have sculpting experience, go ahead and use your techniques. But if this is your first time sculpting like me, I emphasized steps and techniques that I think are important for a new sculptor, but you should also know that there could be better tips elsewhere on the Internet. People of all experience levels should feel free to leave me feedback and to give me more tips.
Step 1: Materials
Here's what you'll need (I got everything Michaels):
- Styrofoam head--IMPORTANT: I'm only keeping this as one of my materials because it's the one I used, and I'm basing this Instructable on my experiences. After I finished my project, I did more research and learned that a better armature is a wooden plank with a stick coming out of it; Using this head will result in LOTS of cracks. If you don't have enough clay, I saw a video where the sculptor simply balled up some newspaper and covered it in clear packaging tape and put the clay over that. So use the head ONLY if you're using a clay that doesn't shrink while it's drying. I did the opposite and the sculpture destroyed itself :(
- Sculpting clay--If you're a beginner, I HIGHLY recommend the CraftSmart brand of clay I used, I've been stuck with lame clays before. But this clay shrinks when it dries, so use an armature other than the styrofoam head.
- Sculpting tools--I also highly recommend these because this is going to be super detailed and no amount of makeshift, household sculpting tools is going to do as good of a job as the ones meant for sculpting will
- A clear plastic bag--Only if you have a water-based clay. I used one of the vegetable grocery bags
- A spray bottle with water in it--Only if you have a water-based clay
- Reference materials, i.e. pictures, branches for texture reference. Collect as many reference photos as you can. I chose to model mine after the movie version of Groot, but you can get pictures from the comics or some cool Groot cosplay you've seen. This one isn't really necessary; you can just make your own unique Groot, which is totally cool also. But if you are aiming for an accurate representation of an existing Groot, I'd recommend reference materials because he's pretty intricate.
OPTIONAL (not pictured):
- Wire--for making the smaller, less sturdy branches
- Black stones--I got them for the eyes. They're the oblong shiny ones that your mom uses for potting plants in a fancy vase
Step 2: Shaping the Head
If you like, you can adjust the styrofoam before you even open the clay. Despite its creepy appearance, I glue gunned his eyes and sawed off the mouth region of the head with a hacksaw because the geometry of the styrofoam was too unlike Groot's.
Cover the entire head in clay. Even if you plan to add detail onto a specific spot, I advise covering the entire thing anyway because you can smush the clay onto the styrofoam and make sure it sticks because if you don't, your details won't stick to the styrofoam as well as they will to the clay, and you'll have to ruin your details to make it stick, so get all your smushing done now.
As you cover the head in clay, start making the general shape that you want Groot's head to be. After you're done with this step, you should have the BARE minimum shape of Groot's head, nothing fancy yet.
If this or any of the steps carry onto the next day, just spray the sculpture everywhere and cover it with the plastic bag so that the open end is on the bottom and can be made airtight by the sculpture's weight. Make sure you can see condensation in the bag after a few hours; If not, you're sculpture is too dry.
IMPORTANT: If you have water-based clay, periodically spray your sculpture as you're working on it, like every 10-15 minutes. After all, Groot is a tree and he needs his hydration.
Just kidding, it's to keep the clay wet and pliable.
Step 3: Shaping the Neck
Groot has a series of branch structures that run up his body all the way to his head. But for this structure I didn't trust the structural integrity of the clay to run branch-shaped clay all the way up, so I started by attaching bottom portions to the neck. Just roll up clay in columns of various sizes, as you see fit. Then, the easiest way to attach the branch to the clay without smushing it is to scratch up the surfaces that are going to contact and spray them both with water and attach. Once the tube of clay is attached, smooth the branch to the head so it looks like the branch goes into the clay. It's okay if this isn't how you want the branch to end, we'll work that out later.
You can go ahead and have fun with this step because Groot's branches are like our neck muscles, so they intertwine and split off everywhere. You can do the same with the clay; it doesn't has to be symmetrical (unless you want it to), it will look good either way.
Step 4: Sculpting the Face
Okay, back to the face. Looking at your reference photos, focus the geometry of Groot's face. Look where he has major protrusions and dips or where he has really prominent features: for me, one of his prominent features was his continuous jawline. Then just add or shave away clay where you want to. My method, which I found pretty effective, is to roll the clay into long tube shapes (like the neck but thinner) and stick it where you see a protrusion. Then just smooth the sides of the tube with your thumbs until they blend in with the rest of the clay, which is really easy. You can see how I used this technique to form Groot's cheekbones, eyebrow bones, and jawline.
This is the step I recommend spending the most time on. By the end, you'll have the actual shape of the Groot head that you want, minus the detailing. Don't worry if it takes a lot more time than you bargained for.
REMEMBER to spray the back of Groot's head. You don't want to get carried away and make a beautiful face and end up with a dry, bald-looking head.
Step 5: Detailing
This step entails various mini-steps:
- Finishing the neck/head area: Now is the time for you to finish the details of your sculpture's neck. Add branches that hide where one branch attaches to the head, or just add onto an existing branch and make it extend as far as you want. To avoid making the entire neck look like a mess of branches, I added some large flat pieces that kind of look like a huge piece of bark, and I also added a few branch stumps. If you like your detail the way it is but there' still empty spaces, don't worry. You can make those look natural later, or you can add small knots without messing up the overall look of your branches. Now is also the time to add the small sticks made of wire to the head.
- Gouging/Adding lumps: To make the clay look more wood-like, add random lumps and bumps and gouge the heck out of it. I did this by using the round wire tool pictured above. This technique makes it look like the wood has a directional grain, which makes it look more lifelike. This is the step I used my reference wood the most.
- Scratching the Surface: This step is similar to gouging except the scratches aren't as deep. Using a knife-shaped object, you can further define which way you want the grain of the wood to go. Don't be afraid to overscratch the surface; You can always smooth it over with a wet finger. Use the scratches to define certain areas, like the eyes and where the cheekbones lead.
- More Detailing: This is when your Groot sculpture actually starts to legitimately look like wood. I used my reference wood kind of like stamps all around the sculpture. Just take the wood where the grain and details are really visible and gently stamp the clay with it EVERYWHERE. If there are parts of the sculpture that are too weirdly shaped for the wood to reach, I also found that scratching the surface A LOT and then smoothing it down slightly makes the clay look the same. You can also add rough angles where the wood is too round and then scratch it up to make it look like the wood has chipped or something. This is the step where you can make the more empty places in between branches look natural and woody.
- Final Touches: Step back and take a look at your sculpture to see if you are happy with it, because the sculpting part is about to be over. If you aren't satisfied, you can easily fix it at this point. But once you've decided you're done, there isn't much you can do after.
Step 6: Drying
**IF YOU'RE A BEGINNER, THIS STEP IS A LOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU THINK**
FOR WATER-BASED CLAY: Generally, the slower you dry the clay the better; Slowing the process down helps the sculpture dry more evenly, which as a result prevents cracking. I simply put the sculpture in a trash bag and tied the top with a rubber band to slow the evaporation. To prevent the wet bag from messing up my details, I put some newspaper between the sculpture and the bag. I changed the newspaper everyday and let the bust air dry while I changed the paper. I've also read that loosely covering the sculpture in clear food wrap works too, but I never tried it.
If your sculpture does crack, don't worry, you have plenty of options. First, let the bust dry COMPLETELY before you try anything. Your first option is to simply leave the cracks; I left some of my cracks because it really made it look like weathered wood which I thought was cool. Your second option is to add more of the same clay to the cracks; I didn't try it but I read that it won't crack again. Thirdly, you can fill the crack in with paint or fake moss if you decide add more detail.
FOR OIL-BASED CLAY: My best advice is to follow the drying instructions on the package. Some oil-based clays don't require any drying, which is perfect. Others need to be baked, which is also fine because the baking temperature generally doesn't affect the styrofoam at all.
This is the step I'd like the most feedback on because I'm not that knowledgeable about drying. Comment if you have tips for drying either type of clay.
And there you have it! Your very own Groot! I hope you love your sculpture as much as I love mine. Feel free to add paint and extra decorations to make it look extra cool, or you can lifecast it to make a mask. Comment any suggestions you have about your own process, or really anything at all. I AM GROOT!