30 Days of Sculpting
I took the month of december off to try to finish the sculpture of a Colossus I’ve been working on (and off and on and off…) for over 4 years now. We get a week off anyway, so it only took 3 weeks of PTO to get that 30 days. I wanted to record the results for future reference. This post isn’t really meant for others to read, so don’t expect to be entertained.
Ok, now that all the losers left, you and I can have a BLAST reminiscing.
Oh, for the record, this sculpture is a monster from a game called Shadow of the Colossus. Look it up if you don’t know it.
First, let’s look at the big picture. How close did I come to my goal? That’s easy. I don’t know. I’ve never done anything this big and complex and detailed before. At the beginning of December I had done that thing where you sort of imagine all the steps left on a project, and your brain does that thing where it only thinks about the cool parts and represses the repetitive grinding parts. That’s how the Planning Fallacy works. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_fallacy
For this project, I have the problem that I had done MOST of the complex armor bits years ago. It was not fresh in my mind how long and grueling the process of making them was. And I didn’t think about just how how large the pieces I hadn’t done were. See, I did all the pieces that could work for both the left and right side. The outer thighs, feet, shoulder pads, etc. Because I could mold and cast those parts so I wouldn’t have to sculpt the same thing twice. But the front thighs slope inward in such a way that I couldn’t do that. And I knew it was such a hairy task I think I repressed it. Well, those bits ended up taking almost half my 30 days!
Speaking of 30 days, how many of the hours in that 30 days ended up actually going towards this sculpting? Well, since I’m recording the whole thing for a video, I’ve been keeping track. I have a count up timer I use whenever I’m working. It was at 30 days and 3 hours when I started. Now it’s at 36 days and 6 hours. So 147 hours. If I’m doing my math right. And that’s never a guarantee. A typical workweek is 40 hours, so four of those would be 160 hours. So I did a bit less than 8 hours a day. No. That’s not right because I worked weekends as well. The only day I did no work on it was Christmas Eve. But I FEEL like I worked MUCH harder than I do at my desk job. Sculpting this thing is incredibly physical. First of all, it’s in my unheated garage. I’ve got two little space heaters that barely keep my fingers and toes from being numb. Any more heat that that and a fuse blows.
Secondly, 100% of the time my hands/arms/shoulders/back/neck are CLAMPED like a vice around whatever it is I’m sculpting/carving/sanding. I think I’m holding my breath about 80% of the time too.
And finally the sculpture is big and HEAVY and awkward. I had enough forethought to build it in pieces so it’s modular, but it’s still a brute. So any time I have to move it around I’m forced to lift with my back at awkward angles.
Speaking of my back… this was a really big problem the first couple weeks. I was in complete agony. I was going to both a PT and massage therapy and even that barely made a dent. I did all my stretches and rolling on the rolly thingy, ice and heat, etc. etc. and still agony. I was downing Ibuprofen like an addict. But… apparently it really was just a matter of wearing my back muscles out from all that sustained clamping. Think of it like doing a plank but with your back and neck for hours straight. I think that’s what was doing it. Now, at the end of the 30th day, I’m a bit sore, but overall the past week has been quite mild pain-wise, and I’ve been doing fewer stretches and no pills.
Since I’ve never taken this much time off, I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of schedule my body/brain likes where there are no time requirements. It turned out to be pretty wonky, but I like to be up for about 20 hours and sleep for 12. Now, if you do your math right, you’ll notice that doesn’t add up to 24. I think it’s closer to 28, or maybe 87. I don’t know. I’m not getting the calculator out again! Anyway that meant that there were days I was getting up at 6am, and going to bed at 2am, and days I was going to bed at 9am and waking up at 9pm. Fortunately I have the coolest wife in the world who never complained once about this madness. I did squash and stretch my natural tendencies a bit here and there so that there was almost always SOME time we’d have together every day.
Burnout was something I was concerned about. Since it’s so cold and painful to work, I thought there might be days where I’d just play games all day instead. But it turns out the pressure to fully take advantage of my PTO pushed me just the right amount. There was a day or two, around the middle, where I was fully aware that I wasn’t going to be able to finish the sculpture, and I was hitting a logistical/creative roadblock where I started to feel hopeless and unmotivated. But I guess being 41 and having done much harder things in life prepared me to just power through it, and in no time I figured out the roadblock and got my second wind. Speaking of figuring things out. Here’s what I overcame: A final painting technique, attaching and interlinking the armor pieces, and the final technique for the skin. Now the only other unknown that I unknow of is the fur. But I don’t find that problem to be nearly as hairy as the others.
One thing I did during the beginning of the staycation was to completely finish the base. This doesn’t make a lot of sense because I still have to do a lot of work on the colossus while it’s standing on the base. (There are two giant iron rods sticking out of it that slot into the feet to hold it up.) So once it’s all painted and pretty now I have to be careful and protect it from blades, hammers, spray paint, glue, etc. However, the insight I gained from bringing one part of the sculpture to completion was great and exhilarating. Look how good it looks!
Those weird cracks are emulating what happens in the game when the colossus stomps around and breaks the ground. Here’s the unfinished feet so you can see what I mean.
Being able to do a lot of experimentation with how to add super subtle color, aging and specularity variation was great for coming up with my final plan for doing the colossus’ stone armor.
Anyway, here’s where the colossus is at as of the first of the year of our Lord 2017.
I’ve got him entered in the Norwescon Art Show on Easter weekend, so he HAS to be done by then. THIS time, I’m actually legitimately confident he will be!