This female troll marks the last of my Fairies Gnomes and Trolls inspired journey from 2014. My goal for last year was to work on my sculpting skills. And while I got busy and sick along the way, I definitely see some improvements.
This sculpture was influenced by Humboldt the Fourth in Maureen Carlson’s Fairies Gnomes and Trolls Page 61.
By this point I simply let the book ‘suggest’ the sculpture but applied my own twist for the purpose of starting to develop my own skills and techniques.
As you can see from the photos, I’m still an amateur at best. I find that writing about my process helps me understand and analyze for the purpose of getting feedback to improve my skill.
If you’re with me on this journey, feel free to sculpt the troll in Maureen’s book, or follow my method as detailed below.
Want to Follow Along?
Here is what you will need to sculpt your very troll. Pick up at your local craft store or purchase on amazon using my affiliate (referral) links below:
- Thick wire for torso armature
- Thin wire for hands and feet armature
- Aluminum Foil for the torso bulk
- Premo Sculpey Polymer Clay in various scrap colors
- Original Sculpey or more scrap clay
- Sculpting tools of your choice
- Genesis Heat Set Oil Paints and brushes – for painting and facial features
- Oven – I used a dedicated one for clay – the Deni Convection Oven
- You’ll need Maureen’s Book of course – Fairies Gnomes & Trolls
Preparing to Sculpt
sculpting goblins, trolls, and other ‘ugly’ creatures is a great way to learn. They are fun, and they provide a great learning opportunity. And since they are SUPPOSED to be ugly, it’s hard to go wrong.
Nose too big?
She’s a troll?
Feet too tiny?
Did I mention she’s a troll?
I find these creatures are also great for working on individual quirks. Since they’re magical they don’t follow any strict rules.
Size, proportions, color…
And speaking of size, my sculptures tend to grow as I sculpt. It’s so easy to keep adding clay that I have a hard time sticking to a pattern, but I’m working on it.
So with this troll, I didn’t, and still don’t know her scale.
I mean, how big is a real troll anyway?
If she stands up she may be a foot tall. So if a real troll is 12 feet then she’d be a 1:12 scale sculpture. But if a real troll is only 6 feel tall then she’s a 1:6 sculpture.
Mixing Clay and Sculpting the Head
Softer clay is easier to distort and mess up. Firm clay is less forgiving, especially to an amateur like myself.
I mixed up random scraps from previous projects including Super Sculpey Original (very soft), Sculpey Living Doll (soft) and random scraps of Premo Sculpey (not so soft). I laid out the general body parts to be sculpted to ensure I had enough and mixed them all together.
Many artists begin with the armature and body. I prefer to start with the head.
- The head defines the character to come. Is it big or small, happy or sad? For me, if I can SEE the face I know what has to follow. And of course if I don’t like the face, I don’t waste my time sculpting the rest.
- Since my sculptures tend to ‘grow’ I like to have the face complete for the purpose of using it to measure the rest of the body.
I created a simple add-on face then pushed, pulled, and added more clay for at least 5-6 hours.
Step 1 – Learn how to sculpt a face
Step 2 – Learn how to sculpt a face in under 5 hours.
It’s not perfect by a long shot, but what a cute troll! This is my most realistic face to date. Yes there are still flaws (and I’ve love to read your constructive feedback in the comments below) but I see her features are so much more aligned. I paid special attention to the eye area since I always put them too high. Her mouth/lips are better than what I’ve done in the past, and overall so much improvement. I even like her ears. And ears scare me!
I wanted to give her ‘real’ eyes. I usually paint my sculptures with acrylic paint or genesis heat-set oils.
My last acrylic painted sculpture lacked… life. I find the acrylics to be thicker, more difficult to detail/define, and less vibrant overall. They’re great for quick painting and simple sculptures though.
I tried a new experiment with this face adding the first layer of paint to raw clay. I normally bake the face so that I won’t accidentally mess it up. But this troll is so big I felt safe.
This turned out to be a positive experiment. Not only did it save me an extra baking step, the paint on raw clay helped me notice some last minute changes, especially to the eyebrow area. And even better, I now have a live face staring back at me as I sculpt.
I love her expression. She looks curious, eager, and still a bit confused as a troll should be.
The Troll Armature
The single biggest lesson I’ve learned about armatures
Don’t skimp on the armature!!
Especially on the larger sculptures. Or they will sag, crack, break, and overall prove to be a disappointment
Since she will be a seated figure I chose to fortify her torso more than anything else.
I used a thick 26-gauge wire for the main frame, then secured the head in place with a thinner 20-gauge armature.
Since the hands/feet will be resting on the troll or flat surface they only need enough support to hold the limb in place.
Each arm/leg was created using 20-gauge wire with a loop for the hand or foot.
Next I padded the torso with foil to provide her bulk and help reduce the overall clay thickness of the sculpture.
The wire hands/feet proved too slippery for the clay so I wrapped a thin 16-gauge wire around each one giving the clay something to ‘bite’ into.
Sculpting the Hands and Feet
The hands and feet were fun. I have to admit, I’ve focused so much effort on practicing faces, that the limbs baffled me.
I built up each hand and foot with clay and played around for a few too many hours.
Not bad overall, though somehow the hands turned out really big, and the feet really tiny.
I was going to scrap the feet and redo them when I remembered
She’s a troll!!
Tiny feet are just fine, big hands too!
I baked the hands and feet for 15 minutes to protect the fingers and toes while sculpting the arms and legs.
I added clay up to the knees for the feet and elbow for the hands.
The rest will be covered by clothing.
Because I really don’t feel comfortable sculpting a full figure just yet.
Sculpting the Torso and Creating Clay Clothing
A layer of scrap clay on the torso served as ‘underwear’ followed by blue pant bottoms.
I really need to sculpt a few more dressed dolls. These pants really gave me a kick in the rear…
Many trials and errors later and she is dressed in a blue t-shirt, blue pants, and short green dress.
I gave her a black belt to hide seams of her dress. I especially love how the buckle turned out. A tiny bit of silver accent clay made the whole outfit come together.
I debated using mohair as I did with my o ther sculptures but decided against it.
Mohair is very soft and ‘pretty’ and she’s a troll. Not to mention I’ve seen some beautiful sculptures with sculpted hair.
So I gave it a shot using a mix of gold, brown, black, and translucent Premo Sculpey.
I mixed the clay till the colors were nearly blended, then textured each strand with a needle before adding to her head.
I love how the back turned out.
I’m not too proud of the front.
I’m not sure if it’s the hair or simply because I didn’t give her enough of a forehead.
Painting and Baking
I finished her eyes, nailes, and paint details with genesis paint and set her in the oven.
Baking is always the scariest part. 1 wrong move and hours (days) of work are ruined, just like that.
I use 2 separate oven thermometers to keep an eye on the temperature and surrounded her with support to ensure she didn’t fall or roll in the oven.
Another concern is scorching. She sits pretty tall so that her face came right up to the heating element of my dedicated clay convection oven.
I’ve burned many a sculpture like this in the past.
Half hour into the bake, once I was confident the hair was cured, I draped a wet paper towel over her face. This is a trick I learned after my last burnt troll mishap. I swapped the paper towel every half hour, and baked her for a total of 90 minutes.
I’ve long suspected that overbaking isn’t a bad thing so long as the temperature is closely monitored. My pre-baking research led me to Ginger Davis Allman’s amazing article on How Long to Bake Polymer Clay. This is a must-read
The Morning After Big Reveal
Freshly baked clay is warm, soft, and delicate. I kept the troll in my oven, untouched, till the following morning.
She came out alright!
She’s not beautiful, she’s not a masterpiece
But she is my beautiful ugly troll
I learned so much about proportions, armatures, support and clothing with this project.
Next up… Babies! Stay tuned
As always, I’d love to read your feedback and constructive criticism in the comments below. I’m still learning so any and all guidance along the way will be greatly appreciated.