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Creating Your Own Original

By Joe Sid

This article, "Creating an Original" was originally published in Modelers Resource, Issue #27 (April/May '99) and is reprinted here with permission. 

Lara Croft
Joe Sid

Hello, I'm Joe Sid, founder and head sculptor of Neo Modeltech. I'm here to show you the basics of converting my Generic Vixen into a full-fledged character and maybe provide a little inspiration along the way. Neo Modeltech offers a full line of "Original Generic" kits that are just waiting for your skills and motivation to transform them into your favorite characters. This project involves our female figure, the Generic Vixen, and I'll take you through the steps to rework her into Lara Croft, the heroine of the Tomb Raider video games.

Lara CroftBefore we begin the project, I'd like to give you a bit of background on myself. I was born in Thailand and moved to the United States when I was eighteen years old. I suppose I inherited my artistic abilities from my father who is a comics artist in Thailand. I've never attended art school or had any formal art training. I basically taught myself sculpting and became serious about it in the early 90's. Most of the work I was doing then consisted of one of a kind sculptures and prototypes for various companies. I was inspired to create the Generic Man when I saw how so many people converted existing model kits from one character to another. I thought, "I can sculpt, why don't I sculpt and cast just a plain figure so other people can use it as a base to customize different characters?!"

So the Original Generic Man was born. Now that you know where I come from and where the idea for the Original Generic Man came from, lets start this project.


Photo 1- These are all the parts for the Generic Vixen kit and the tools used for sculpting. These tools can be found at any art supply house. Aside from these tools, you may find toothpicks and other small pointed objects handy. That block in the corner is the basic material for this conversion, Super Sculpy.
Photo 2-#2 This is the assembled Generic Vixen, striking a typically dynamic "hero" type pose.

Adding Support For Sculpting-
Photo 3-#3 Dotted lines serve as a guide for drilling holes to place support pins in the feet.
#4Photo 4- Drilling holes, using pre-drawn lines to guide the direction of the drill bit.

Beginning The Sculpture-
Photo 5- Now we're ready to start, first, the Sculpy is applied in thin layers in the areas where the clothing will go. Be sure the layers are not so thick that they hide the musculature and form of the figure underneath.#5
Photo 6- Once the Sculpy has been applied in the basic form of the clothing, details are added with simple sculpting tools. You can check photos in magazines or in catalogs to determine where the wrinkles are placed in the clothing. Be careful not to overdo the wrinkles.
Photo 7- A flat brush dampened in a bit of alcohol helps to smooth the finished surface, removing any stray bits of Sculpy and smoothing out fingerprints and imperfections. #7
Photo 8- I use an industrial heat gun, set on high temperature to set the Sculpy right on the figure. Keep the heat gun moving to prevent scorching and bubbles. You can tell the Sculpy has set when the surface goes from shiny to dull.
Photo 9- Lara's shorts and shirt, completed.
Adding Accessories To The Sculpture-
Photo 10- Since Lara is a gun totin' woman we'll start with her holsters. I begin by drawing the holster to scale.
Photo 11- The drawing is cut out as a pattern and that shape is transferred to a slab of Sculpy.
Photo 12- The individual holsters are cut out.
Photo 13- The holster strap is added to the belt. Belts and straps are made from small, rolled "snakes" of Sculpy, which are flattened and added to the figure.
#10 #11 #12 #13 #14 #15 #16 #17 #18 #19 #20

Photo 14- Attaching holster to the strap.
Photo 15-18- Adding details to the holster.
Photo 19- The finished holster.
Photo 20- A drop of super glue helps hold the holster in place.

Creating The Boots-
Photo 21-22- The first step is to add the sock tops that show above the tops of the boots.
#21 #22 #23
Photo 23- The basic shape of the boot sculpted in.
Photo 24- Using a small scribe, fine details are added to the boots. #24 & 25#26 & 27
Photo 25- The first part of a two-step process, adding eyelets for the bootlaces. First a small circle is pressed into the Sculpy with a small tube, like the end of a paintbrush with the bristles removed.
Photo 26- Part two, a small, pointed tool adds a hole to the center of the eyelet.
Photo 27-29- Sewing thread is added for the laces. A small drop of glue at each eyelet holds the laces in place.

#28 #29

Adding The Hair-
Photo 30- Hair is an important part of some characters. I often refer to photos of different hairstyles for reference. Lara's pony tail calls for a little extra work. First a hole is drilled in her head for the support wire.

Photo 31- Armature wire is attached to the hole and bent into shape.
Photo 32- The basic shape of Lara's hair is roughed in.
Photo 33- Additional hair details are added.
Photo 34- Adding fine detail to the hair
Photo 35- The brush and alcohol are used to finally smooth the hair and remove any loose Sculpy.
#31 #32

#34 #35
Finishing The Gun-
#g-1 Photo G-1- Measuring gun barrel against holster to figure the correct size.
Photo G-2- This will serve as a template for the final gun barrel.
Photo G-3- Cutting lengths of .030 plastic strips to the size of the barrel.
Photo G-4 & G-5- Shaded areas are removed from the two outside panels of the gun to provide recessed areas.
Photo G-6- Completed upper portion of the gun, formed from laminating four strips of .030 styrene.
#g-2 #g-3 g-4 g-5 #g-6 #g-7
Photo G-7- The final barrel being placed onto the pistol grip.
With the gun complete, Lara is ready for the paint!

This has been a simple demonstration of what is possible with a bit of Super Sculpy and a Generic figure. The figures that you create can be as simple or as elaborate as your imagination allows. Now it's your turn to create your own customized  figure and show the world something they've never seen before!
Lara Croft Finished! Lara Croft

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