When it comes to building a maquette, there’s always a little voice inside me that says, “You can skip this step. You’ve got a good enough idea where you’re going. You can pull it off.”
Sometimes I struggle to overcome that voice, especially with a pressing deadline. But I once I start sculpting, I always have fun, and later I’m always glad I did it. In the end it saves time and yields better results.
For this “Lepidopter” maquette (thanks for the name, Sean and Moai!) I had to decide between glue gun-and-cardboard or sculpted polymer clay. The former would have given it a more flat geometric look, but I wanted to get that organic insect look.
Here’s the armature, twisted together out of thin aluminum wire. It doesn’t look like anything yet, but actually all the lengths are carefully measured against the elevation drawing I showed you at the end of yesterday’s post.
Those four loops will hold the wings and allow them to be poseable. I start blobbing on regular white Sculpey until I bulk out the body.
As I get to the outer layer and the thin parts, like the tail and the legs, I switch to Effect Fimo. When this special kind of polymer clay cures, it become slightly translucent and flexible, about as flexible as a fingernail. That way a delicate part won’t break if you drop the thing (which I do often).
The window details are built up with little slivers of Fimo, using a toothpick and an Xacto knife as sculpting tools. The maquette is only detailed on the side I’ll see; the far side is not finished at all. I cured the fuselage in the oven before painting and assembling the wings.
Then I drew the wings on tracing paper and made two sets Xerox copies, forward and reversed, on card stock. I used a waxer on both sides and laminated the layers together so that the veining pattern lined up. With the intermediate layer of beeswax between the card stock sandwich, the wing will hold any airfoil camber.
Then I epoxied the wings onto the wing struts and painted the fuselage with craft acrylics—the cheap liquid kind you get at the big box craft stores. I actually like the opacity and flow of this stuff more than artist acrylics.
Here it is. The wings look too much like an actual butterfly right now, but I’ll change them a little to look like they were fabricated by the same mind that built the rest of the aircraft.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about lighting and photographing the maquette.
Part 1: Initial Sketches
Part 2: Researching Insect Flight
Part 3: Maquette
Part 7: The Painting