Horns and scales were next up on my agenda. You can use just about any clay that hardens for the horns, but I just happen to have three boxes of Super Sculpey I bought years ago for other projects I never did. Super Sculpey will still break, but I like it because I can mold it to the paper mâché piece before I fire it and get a better fit when I am attaching the piece later. I have learned, though, that long skinny things like claws and horns might benefit from being reinforced with some wire inside.
Once his horns were on, I wanted to see how the scales down his back would look. At first I started out with a template of a scale that I was going to draw on a piece of fabric which was treated with white glue. I cut one out and just hated the way it looked. I knew I couldn’t use the Super Sculpey for this because it needs to be baked and I couldn’t put the entire dragon in my toaster oven. Now to find the Crayola Air Dry clay. It had been more than a year since I used it and it was either dried up or moldy by now! To my surprise it was neither. I had stored it away with a wet paper towel dipped in bleach and water.
Forming each clay scale took some time, but I was so much more pleased with the way that it looked. I was able to place the scales directly onto the body with just a little water from a paintbrush. As I worked on the scales, I had to wait and let sections of them dry. The hazards of not doing this was to accidentally grab the dragon in the wrong place and squish the scales. Of course if I grabbed them after they were dry, they would snap off! At least if they were dry, I could glue them back on with white glue.
I went ahead and primed the cloth scales after I had completed the vertical scales in that section. When I got to the part that was already painted, the clay scales would snap off quite easily once they were dry. I fixed that problem by painting white glue over the entire line of vertical scales. After that dried, I primed them again and put a coat on finish paint on them. They seem pretty sturdy now.
I was still working on the vertical clay scales when I decided to paint his head and upper body. There was a lot of back and forth work on this dragon and I was constantly cleaning paint brushes in-between forming scales. The entire dragon was painted with a white primer first and then a top coat of the finished acrylic was added. I cut a small piece of foam rubber to sponge the gold acrylic paint over the white cloth scales.
Different close up views of his head before ear “wings” were added.
I inched down his tail with the scales. By drawing a line with a pencil down his back and tail, I could keep the scales relatively straight and move them in the direction I wanted them to go. I finished with 92 clay scales.
I have no idea what the correct term is for the flaps that dragons have around their ears. For simplicity, I will refer to them as ear “wings”. I bought some chiffon fabric, but chiffon is very, very thin and difficult to cut. I had used similar sheer fabrics before and they are always difficult to work with, but I like the end results. The method I usually use would be to dip the sheer fabric in diluted white glue and wait for the fabric to dry. This works well just for cutting purposes. Therefore, I did this with small pieces of cloth for the ear wings. After it dried, I made a template for the shape of the ear wing and decided how many of these each ear would have.
I cut wires long enough to glue onto each piece and left enough wire to hold the “ears” up to dry. Each wire was dipped in the gold acrylic paint and dried before gluing it to each section.
Another layer of treated cloth was laid on top of the piece with the wire, sandwiching the wire in the middle. This was done by using a brush to paint the diluted glue over the top piece.
After they dried, they could then be cut out. Each one was painted with Scribbles glitter fabric paint on both sides and edged with a thin bead of black acrylic paint.
I did the same thing with the end of his tail adding two more “petals” than the ears. I poked a hole where each ear need to be placed and used the wires to hold in place. Super glue gel works best for this. To float out the seam on a painted surface, I put a small drop of white glue over the edges of the fabric. Once that is dry, it looks more consistent with the head. A little more paint is added over the dried glue to blend the ear into the head. Here is how the ears look finished.
Now that all the scales, ears, and tail are done, I painted the tips of each scale black to give it some contrast and highlight the black edging around the ear “wings” and tail tip.
On to the wings! I always kind of dread doing the wings. I am not as good as Dan Reeder at rolling the masking tape around my wires for the wing frame. I am never sure exactly how I am going to do the muscular part of the wing. For this dragon, I decided to use the Super Sculpey for that part after I cut my wires the size that I wanted the wing span to be.Because my wings are a lot smaller than most dragons, I lay each wire on a flat piece of masking tape after it has been rolled with tape. Another piece of tape is put over that, it is pressed together, and trimmed. When I was forming the lower end of the wings, I molded them to the body so they would fit closer to the cloth scales. I gently removed them and baked them in the toaster oven.The smooth texture on the clay section of the wing frame didn’t seem to mesh with the rest of the dragon so I needed to do something to conform it more to it. I thought about doing the toilet paper clay texture but ultimately decided to add cloth scales.
Before those were completely dry, I fit them to the dragon, molding the scales so they didn’t look so separate from the main scales. They were painted to match the dragon. The other wire pieces were glued together forming each wing matching the bend in the wires the best I could. The frame was painted with the gold acrylic paint.
Now for the really hard part! I took a larger piece of fabric and treated it with the diluted glue mixture. After it dried, I glued a single piece to the one of the wire frames. For this I used the white glue. Even though the the fabric was dry, the white glue did not want to hold the fabric. The more I played with it, the more it would come apart. Finally, I got it to stay so it could dry. Each wire had to dry separately as to not risk one coming unglued. I guess it looked “okay”, so I just moved on to the next step. My usual method was to glue another piece on the other side of the wire frame. With the curve of the wings and the slippery wet cloth, I was having difficulty getting the fabric to stay where I wanted it. Then I thought maybe I could use one of my Styrofoam heads to keep in place with straight pins while it dried.That seemed like it might work until it dried and I looked at it. The fabric on the underside had wrinkles in it and bubbles in some places where the fabric didn’t glue together. I also didn’t like that the transparency I was going for looked more opaque. Basically, it just looked like crap! Back to the drawing board! I wet down the wing, ripped the fabric off, threw that in the trash, and repainted the wing frame.
Wings -Take Two! Luckily I bought more fabric than I thought I was going to need. I treated another piece of fabric, but this time I decided to only use a single piece. Since I wanted to conserve the Scribbles glitter paint, I created a pattern to generally fit over the wing frame. I didn’t want to cut yet until it was painted with the glitter paint so I just traced around the pattern with a pencil, painted just outside the line on both sides, and then cut when it was dry.After I cut out my wing section, I decided to use a different glue to hold it to the wing frame. I had a bottle of Tacky Glue which is basically very thick white glue. It dries clear like white glue. Once again I laid the fabric piece over the frame and made sure all the spines were covered adequately.Then I gently peeled back the fabric to the first wire and ran a bead of glue down it. Because this glue is so thick, I smoothed it out with my finger making sure the entire top of the wire had a thin layer of glue over it. Carefully I placed the fabric back over the spine and pressed it in place. Success!!! This glue was going to work!!! I didn’t want to take any chances with the fabric shifting so I waited for that one to dry before I did the next one.The Tacky glue did not need to be totally dry in order to move onto the next wire so that saved me some time. I did not want to use the hair dryer on this because it did not work well with the chiffon. After the frame was completely dry, I was able to trim off any excess fabric and cut the curves between spines. The edges of the wings were painted with a thin bead of black acrylic paint to match the ear wings and the tail piece. Now the only thing left to do is finish the hook on top of the wing. For this I used the air dry clay forming it over the extended wires from the wing frame. Those were painted to match his toenails. The bottom piece of fabric from the wings was cut to fit the top of his back and glued into place with Tacky Glue. Here is how he looked once the wings were attached.
A wooden base was painted gloss black after holes were drilled for screws to hold him in place. I bought a pre-cut piece of unfinished wood from Hobby Lobby. Their unfinished wood is fairly inexpensive compared to the other craft stores. If you use their coupon, you can get a base this size for under $2.00.
Next post: The completed dragon and a SPECIAL SURPRISE!!!!