Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Moccasins

The type of moccasin worn by the trappers was called a "Pucker Vamp". Two variations of this style can be seen, one with a center seam to the toe and the other without. A piece of red cloth covers the vamp in nearly all the examples. In some cases white beads are sometimes seen in small touches. Alfred Miller said that the trappers obtained their moccasins from Indian women. This style of moccasin was called a "Kootanee" or "Chippewa". It was a style common among Eastern and Great Lakes tribes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Hat Brim Continued

Please refer to an old thread on Planet figure HERE where I made a tricorn hat for a 1/16 head. The somewhat different approach gives you another option for making a hat.

I'll now move onto the moccasins and shirt.

The Hat Brim

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hat Crown

The creation of the hat crown is the first step in making the hat. I learned this method of hat making from Mike Blank's book about sculpting figures. The first step is to lightly coat the top half of the head with Vaseline to facilitate easy removal when complete. For step 1 a small blob of putty is pushed down onto the top of the head. The objective is to work the putty down to the proper height and thickness required. In step 2 the material is worked down and marked to where I want the edge of the crown to be. In step 3 you see the amount material that has been removed. This process is repeated until you get the crown to where you want it. In step 7 I then go in with sandpaper or fingernail sanding boards and clean up the shape and thickness of the crown around the bottom edge.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The hat

This will be the first thing I do before moving on to the sculpting/carving portion of the figure. The figures in Miller's paintings appear to wear one of two different hat types. The first is a slouch or "round" felt hat with a three to six inch brim. These sometimes have decorations that consist of feathers, fur, and or tails tucked into the hatbands of strap, cord, or ribbon. The second is a type of "hunter's hood" mostly made from hide or cloth. They have small "ears" on either side and are also shown decorated with feathers, bird wings, and other ornaments. I'll be making a felt slouch hat that will be in the figure's right hand.

The 1837 Sketchbook

This sketchbook will be one of, if not the primary source for sculpting the figure. The reason being is that the author has translated Miller's paintings into a series of sections illustrated with line drawings covering every facet of the trapper's dress and equipment that can be seen in the paintings. This will save a lot of time as the research I would need (and find important) to do taken care of already.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Here is the roughed in armature for the figure. If you want to see the step by step process for putting an armature together look at my vBench on Planet Figure. Before "fleshing" the armature out I take a few left over pieces of putty that has cured and I cut and or sand them into a small square (chest/torso) and a small triangle (pelvis). I connect the torso with copper wire and then take brass wire and run it out from the area of the hip sockets and form the legs. Proportions are very very important at this stage and they could make or break your figure. There is very little to nothing that the best sculpting can do to hide an ill proportioned figure. After you're satisfied that everything is measured correctly you can then go about posing the figure. Though this figure may look somewhat stiff there are ways to add movement and drama to a somewhat static pose.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The figure

The figure will be 1/32 and I'll be using a Shenandoah Miniatures bare head and a scratchbuilt rifle. In keeping with the simplicity theme this figure will not be wildly animated. There are other ways to suggest movement in what appears to be a relaxed or fairly static figure, which is the route that will be taken here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A visual record

Miller's Mountain men appear to be very similar in appearance. While there is some variety it's not much. The amount of detail depends on if you're looking at a sketch or a larger more finished painting. Their dress is definitely influenced by that of Native American dress coupled with everyday type clothing. The collage of figures taken from a very small sample of paintings shows how he saw or at least depicted Mountain men.

In addition to Miller's paintings I'm also going to be using a modern day "sketchbook" that focuses on the clothing and other details that are sometimes hard to decipher using reconstructions done with line drawings.

Alfred Jacob Miller

Alfred Jacob Miller was born in 1810 and raised in Baltimore Maryland. He studied portraiture with the painter Thomas Sully from 1831 to 1832. He then traveled to Paris in 1833 to study at the École des Beaux-Arts and later at the English Life School in Rome. When he returned to America, he opened a portrait studio in Baltimore but had limited success. In 1837 he moved to New Orleans, where he encountered Sir William Drummond Stewart, a Scottish nobleman who had served with distinction at the battle of Waterloo 20 years earlier. Stewart had come to America to experience the allure of the Transmississippi West. Stewart was preparing for his fifth trek west to attend the annual rendezvous of trappers at Horse Creek in the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming. Stewart immediately admired Miller's work and invited him to join his expedition to record its exploits.

Although Miller spent more than six months in the West, the number of works he actually produced while on this trip is relatively small -- probably less than 100. Shortly after his return to Baltimore in the autumn of 1837, Miller reworked his field sketches into an album of 87 watercolors for Stewart. After Miller finished the sketchbook, he journeyed to Scotland to paint at least ten large oils for Stewart at his ancestral home, Murthly Castle. The work that he created for his patron featured Stewart at the center of the action: leading the expedition, hunting on the prairies, or engaging in acts of diplomacy with the Indians.

Returning to America, Miller spent the rest of his life painting and repainting nearly 1,000 works of the western genre for Baltimore's patrons and citizens until he retired in 1872. He developed patronage among Baltimore merchants whose business interests included the American West, men who sought the frontiers of opportunity that the West presented and who were willing to invest their resources there. For these patrons, Miller painted his subjects in a stylized, romantic, and sentimental manner, capitalizing on the prevalent tastes and trends of his time by drawing from the story lines and characterizations that could be found in the popular literature of the day.

The first sculpting project will be a trapper reconstructed using the art of Jacob Miller.

Sculpting blog open

I know, it's about time. Though I have some older projects in various stages of completion it's time to start posting here. So while I wrap those projects up I'm going to start something new here. This blog will mostly consist of step by step, how to, and other miniature related subjects.

The next posting will give you a little background information about the subject of my first sculpting blog project.I wanted to start out with something simple that hopefully can be completed in a reasonable amount of time and not a ton of posts.