From King Unicorn:
“Swinebalg was one of a group of upright-walking pig creatures. He’s not the sort of hog you’d see on the farm (pink and hairless), but more like a wild boar with a layer of brown fur and thick tufts of black hair around the shoulders and neck. His mouth was a mess of chipped teeth and curling tusks, and his heavy jowls were spotted with short, stubby horns. The legs ended in traditional pig hooves, but the ankles and shins were encased in iron greaves that served as leg irons. An iron loop jutted outward from each of the greaves which attached to a short length of chain. This appeared to keep the Swinebalg grounded and restrained as he also had a pair of dark wings. These were never clearly defined in the dream. I saw them descending in a herd and can could the wings flapping, but never in a way that I could tell you anything more about them. They could be airy vapors conjured in some strange way to simulate wings.”
My interpretation, standing at 17.5″ high, created with Creative Paperclay, faux fur, fabric, wire, glass eyes, acrylic paint and chain:
Some detail photos:
This whole experience was both challenging and inspiring, forcing me to create a much darker creature than what I’m normally used to. No stranger to illustrating creatures of a decidedly stygian nature, actually sculpting and sewing one most definitely is out of my comfort zone. Before diving in to the sculpting, I wrestled with which clay to use. Normally I turn to polymer clay when wanting to achieve a sense of realism, and higher level of detail, which I thought would be a natural pairing for the Swinebalg. Paperclay is my stand by when a more vintage, worn look is called for. However, I decided to mix things up this time and attempt to use Paperclay in order to emphasize that this is, indeed a doll, not a sculpture, and to see how much detail I could achieve.
Sculpting is probably the easiest part of the whole process for me, and I very rarely sketch out what I’m going to sculpt, letting the doll tell me what it wants to look like. That’s not to say I don’t have an idea of what I want the doll to look like…just that I’m not married to a more detailed and fleshed out concept. The few times I have attempted to create a character from sketch have often resulted in the doll becoming something entirely else. Indeed, I initially thought Swinebalg would be even heftier and massive, but he managed to retain somewhat slight hands (even after sculpting them over several times) and a more limber stature despite my best attempts.
Once done with the creation of head, tusks (which I greatly enjoyed creating, as well as the horns dotting his cheeks), hands and hooves, it was time to build the armature, and begin the sewing process. Deciding which fabric, outfit, or faux fur that will match the feel of the doll is an often a tedious, though fun process. I knew that I wanted the fur to look more like hair, rather than fur. After much searching and false starts, I found a beautiful synthetic fur from one of my favorite sources, Sassy Bear and Fabrics. The pile and feel was perfect for boar hair…but not the correct color. I needed something much darker and turned to a quick fix, using the Copic Marker Airbrush system. This in itself was a learning experience…though wonderful for coloring the fur it would have been better to use a regular airbrush with acrylic paints. The marker made the fur feel somewhat, well, greasy. This may be fine for smaller dolls, but not for one requiring so much surface area to be covered. The areas under arms, legs and chest were airbrushed several times over to darken, indicating form and shadow.
Next up was the fur for the shoulders and mohawk, which was initially a very long, light and fluffy troll-type hair. Great stuff…but not gritty enough for this. Turning to several textile stiffeners, I ran a few tests (requiring the hair to be completely saturated then manipulated to achieve a matted look) to determine which made the hair look the messiest and more natural. The winner turned out to be Golden’s GAC 400, achieving a “dirty” look while cutting down some of the sheen in the synthetic fur.
Once the painting, airbrushing and sewing was nearing an end, I had to think about the extras. Namely, the wings and greaves, or lack there of. Given the description, I eventually decided “airy vapors” was much more appealing to me than actual wings, and something I’d like to work into a photo illustration in the near future. As far as the greaves were concerned, my initial thought was to create them out of polymer clay, and paint to get that iron look. After a few tries, in both clay and leather, I came to two conclusions: the polymer clay greaves made the legs look too bulky and awkward, and the leather…well, let’s just say that’s a craft I now realize must be incorporated into my skill set. Opting instead to purchase some jewelry chain at my local craft store, and wrap them around the legs, it was now a matter of figuring out a technique to tarnish the chain. On a lark, I mixed Golden’s matte medium with some raw umber/black and painted it on the five feet of chain purchased, and was pleasantly surprised by the results. Then, Epoxy glue was used to coat the lower mouth in order to give it a wet, drooling look. Lastly was the addition of a glass reptile taxidermy eye earring set within a decorative element I had pried off an old sandal. The size of the eye matched the setting perfectly.
I can’t wait to begin work on the next doll…muwhwhahahahaha!
To see King Unicorn’s version of my dream inhabitant, the “Plague Doctor”, visit his blog, Anathema Arcana. You WON’T be disappointed.