Sunday, August 4, 2013

Cultists of R'lyeh pt.5 - the Sanguine Gorge

So, when the Mountains of Madness cold porcelain sculpt didn't go as planned, I decided I needed a new sculpting technique. I watched several YouTube videos on sculpting mountains and came across several that used a hot wire knife for carving polystyrene foam. Of course, I did not have a hot wire knife, but I did have some polystyrene foam. And, I'm pretty good at improvising tools.

I dug out my old electric soldering gun and some craft wire. I removed the soldering tip and cut a length of craft wire (about 10 inches or so) and fixed the ends of the wire into the sockets where the soldering tip screws in. Then I did a few tests to see if it was going to work.
It did work. Maybe not as good as the commercially available ones, but well enough for my purposes. It didn't seem like it got quite hot enough to cut cleanly, but it wasn't too bad. Before tackling the mountains though, I decided I needed a little practice with the tool, so I decided to work on another tile, the Sanguine Gorge. The Sanguine Gorge actually started off as a mesa, or plateau (as in, the Plateau of Leng).
It wasn't until I saw one of the foam wire cutter video tutorials on carving foam terrain that I thought of making a canyon that ran down the middle of it. It just looked so easy in the video. I bent the wire to an irregular shape and ran it in an organic path down the middle of the mesa, almost touching the tile beneath at the deepest point.
Then just remove the center section, and voila.
It really was as easy as the video made it look! Actually, the whole foam carving process was pretty darn easy. And clean too! No messy white balls everywhere, no tiny chunks of foam. Well, maybe a few tiny chinks of foam, but not the really tiny chunks, like you get by sanding or carving with a knife or rasp. And it really was easy to get nice organic shapes and lines. This is quickly becoming my favorite technique for carving terrain features. I'm sure it's not the best suited technique for every type of sculpture, but for things like this, it's tits.
 Polystyrene foam, however, is hard to paint. Water based paints, like acrylic tend to bead up on its surface, and spray paints will dissolve the foam.  It needs to be sealed first. I still had my cheap PVA glue that I used for my cold porcelain sitting out, so I thinned it down a little with some water and gave it a brush coat with that to act as a sealer. Actually, I gave it three brush coats of thinned PVA to act as a sealer. Here they are sitting on my dirty stove top, drying. I also used the PVA to glue the foam to the MDF tile.
 And wouldn't you know it, that wasn't enough! The first piece I tried to paint with a spray primer, the foam started to dissolve in tiny spots. I was sure I didn't miss any spots. Well, pretty sure. It is hard to see white glue on white foam, but three coats? Before spray priming any more of them, I decided to give them all one more good coat of PVA sealer. This time I didn't thin it with water, and I did add some black tempura paint to the PVA. That made it a lot easier to see if I missed any spots, and the tempura paint would act as its own primer base coat (but I sprayed them with primer afterwards anyway).
After flat black primer, the cavern was sponge stippled and dry brushed with four shades of red acrylic paint. The top layer was a florescent red that would react in the UV of the Rogue Cthulhu room. In these pictures, it looks like just one shade of red painted over black. It person, there is more depth to the color than the pictures show. I don't think I mentioned it on the other tile posts, but all of the tiles also got a top coat of matte sealer after they were painted.
These tiles, and the mountains, were super easy to make. The clay was fun, but these were a real pleasure. And super fast too. It seemed like it was over before it started. Had I done these in clay, I never would have been able to get such great organic shapes with my manual sculpting abilities.

See also:
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.1- the Desolate Waste
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.2- the Pits of Despair
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.3- the Ravenous Cavern
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.4- the Cyclopean Ruins
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.5- the Sanguine Gorge
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.6- the Mountains of Madness
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.7- the Game Pieces, Portals, et Fini
Cultists of R'lyeh - After four years of wear and tear

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