The next step in the painting of the giant fossil snake was to make a maquette of the snake and the croc out of Sculpey, painted in acrylic. It only took a few hours to do this rough model, but without this step I never would have understood how the forms needed to wrap around each other.
I set up the maquette in a tiny diorama, with a rock and some sticks that I found in the backyard.
The wrestling reptiles are sitting half submerged in a take-out food container which I painted black inside and filled with muddy water. The background is a piece of mat board.
I lit the maquette with a theater spotlight and shot it with a Canon Digital Rebel single lens reflex camera and printed out several variations.
With that information, combined with many photographs of living snakes, I proceeded with the final pencil drawing and then the painting. For more info on this procedure, check out these earlier posts “Technique Nuts and Bolts” “Utopiales Line Drawing.”
Here’s the painting in progress. The pencil drawing shows through in the lower area.
And the final painting, 14 x 19 inches, finished five days after starting the maquette. By contrast to the Cumberland painting, this painting went together pretty briskly. Inset in the painting is the page layout as it will appear in the October issue of Ranger Rick magazine.
I find that the greatest value of the maquette in a case like this is in providing little accidents of cast shadows, like the hand of the dying croc on the snake’s neck, and the tail’s shadow crossing the snake's body farther down. It also helped in the placement of the highlights, something that can be tricky to guess at on an organic form.
Those little unexpected nuances are almost impossible (for me) to invent out of pure imagination but they give the ring of truth that I believe is vital in a piece like this.