Monday, July 19, 2010

Skybax Maquette

In 1990 I constructed a reference maquette for the Quetzalcoatlus or “skybax” in Dinotopia.

If you’re thinking of making a maquette for a dragon or pterosaur, you might try some of these techniques.

I wanted to make this "hero" model to be fully posable so that I could position the wings in up and down flying positions. I also wanted to be able to fold up the wings so that I could imagine it perched on the ground.

It has a skeleton of aluminum armature wire running from head to tail and out through the wings. Toothpicks serve as wing bones, pipe cleaners as legs, and zigzagging floral wire support the wing. The head is made from a chunk of pine, with Sculpey bulking up the crest and eyes.

The neck is made from flexible squishy foam, allowing it to bend or twist. The prone rider is made from Sculpey, resting on a saddle glued together out of scraps of leather.

The wing membrane gave me the most trouble. My wife donated a pair of her old stockings, which I stretched over the wing bones and coated with a thin layer of latex. I added another layer of latex a few years later, but the wings got too thick and lost their elasticity.

The whole thing was knocked over several times by the cat. During one crash landing the rider lost an arm, so I replaced it with cardboard.
Previously on GJ: Cellphone tour spotlighting "Skybax Rider" painting.


innisart said...

Did you consider replacing the cat with cardboard?

margplum said...

You must have an incredible amount of, um, "stuff" in your studio. Now I feel better about the amount of junk that I have! (old camera parts, rusty bits of metal, interesting-looking plastic casings, rocks...)

goat89 said...

Wow... looks like an interesting weekend project! ><

Moish said...

awesome! As much creativity as what follows.

Andrew said...

Hah, that's awesome. If you had a hero maquette, did you have some simpler ones as well to figure out more complex scenes or something of that sort?

Since you're talking about maquettes, this seems like a great time to ask about something in Imaginative Realism regarding maquettes. I've search high and low for the flexible metal tubing you used for your bust maquettes, but I've turned up bupkis (and none of the hardware people I talk to know what the heck I'm talking about.)

It sounded like a sturdier option than using armature wire, which eventually breaks from repeated stress, so I've been really curious to know just what the heck that stuff is.

James Gurney said...

Drew, try searching "corrugated flexible brass tubing" or the brand name "Easyflex."

Margplum: Yes, us lateral thinkers can't throw anything out.

Innis: Poor cat. She got diabetes and is no longer with us. But the cardboard replacement sounds like a good idea.

innisart said...

Aw, Jim- Sorry to hear about your cat. They can be lots of fun, but they always do manage to go straight for the things they shouldn't (just like kids). I have had to clean up too many oil paint cat prints in my time.

Thanks for tip on Easyflex.