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  • Sculpting Ancient Bark

    Ever wanted to sculpt something? Many of us, before we dare sculpt something like an actual humanoid, try our hand at something big, something monstrous, something where mistakes only add to the the monstrousness, and where sloppy proportions are fitting and details are larger. Things like trees are good. Things like treemen are good, too! Whatever the reason, if you want a quick, easy way to get a good ancient, peeling bark effect, look no further. Here ya go!

    Stuff You'll Need

    You really won't need much, just a few small tools to push clay around, and of course, the clay itself! Here's what I'll be using for this tutorial, although your own array may vary a bit.

    In the image above, you see my tools and materials. They are as follows:

    1. A colour shaper, a tool with a little rubber head that's shaped kind of like a chisel. This one is an "Angle Chisel." It shaped like a point with two flat faces, and one rounded side. It's excellent. If you don't have any of these, go get them!
    2. This is a head to a clay shaping tool. Anything that can make large, gouge-y depressions is fine.
    3. This is the stylus to a compass. (The circle type, not the North type) You can substitute a pin, needle, or anything comparable.
    4. A pin with a flat head. I have the tip bent over as a finger grip, so I would stop poking myself with it.
    5. Lastly, your medium. I'm using Super Sculpey Firm, here, which I recommend. You can use Greenstuff, Fimo, ProCreate, or whatever else trips your trigger; but for large, relatively simple areas like this, I'd say Sculpey is the way to go.

    Basic Form

    Okay. I'm going to assume that you are familiar with creating an armature for your sculpt. If you're not you'll definitely want to check out this tutorial first. You'll save yourself a lot of pain and rage, trust me! Moving on. What you'll want to do first is to roughly lump out the shape of your tree/branch/limb/whatever you're sculpting bark onto. Remember, it's a tree, so you don't need to get too finnicky. Also, remember, it's a tree, and a big old one at that, so it should be lumpy, uneven, and full of twists and surprises. Your large, gouge-y tool will come in helpful here, while you're trying to get interesting shapes and bumps on the trunk.

    Defining Edges

    You good? Good, let's keep going. We've got a basic shape, but now we need to define some borders. We want the tree to be all bark-y, yes, but we want it to be aged, peeling bark, so there will have to be some bald spots. Decide where these bald spots will be. I've placed mine at the ends of the "claws," and a few other spots. Taking that flat-headed pin, push the clay down and outwards from these spots, so that they are depressed, and surrounded by a sharply defined, raised edge. Remember, this is peeling bark, so the edge should be irregular and messy. (Yay, right?)

    One thing I must mention, is that you take this in sections. For now, just do a small bit, the section farthest from where you wll be gripping the model. This way, if you have to hold the actual model, or if your grip wanders a bit, you don't end up smooshing all your hard work. Start at the top, finish each section before you move in closer to your grip.


    Now we get to do what I call the "under-texture" of the surface. What I mean by that, is that we'll be creating a lazy, general idea of the texture we're aiming for, in this case rough bark. Take that same pin again, the one with the flat head, but this time use the edge of the head to lightly press and drag a whole bunch of shallow lines into the bark. They should generally follow the direction of each branch, but don't be afraid to get sloppy, weave back and forth, add some loopy-knothole-y bits, or whatever. Again, just work on that top section, the area farthest from your gripping hand.

    Clean up Edges

    Ok, we've got a shape, we've got some areas defined, and we've got a basic under-texture laid down over all the bark areas. For a minute we're going to focus on the non-bark places, the bark-free zones. Take your stylus, pin tip, needle-thing. We're going to go around each of those raised edges around the smooth areas and rough it up and separate it a bit. What you'll need to do is insert the tip of the stylus juuust barely under the edge, and then lift up through the clay to rip and roughen it a bit, also creating some space between the edge of the bark and the bare wood, as though the bark were peeling up a bit. If you're using epoxy putty of any sort, be careful not to stretch it out into chewing-gum spaghetti!

    After you've ringed an area, trace under the raised edge ever-so-gently to get it all clearly defined, but make sure not to smooth out the ripped-up roughness. Then once you've got that nice definition, come back in with your colour shaper (or just a pin head and patience) and caaaarefully smooth out all the bare wood. Try to remove any finger prints, scratches, poke marks, and the like, but be gentle and don't accidentally smooth out your rough bark edges while your at it: then you'd have to start over! You can see that on some of my bare wood extended tips, I've also chopped up the end of the stump for a broken, splintered look.


    Ok, the moment you've been waiting for! Finally, we get to add some real texture onto this puppy! Take your stylus (or substitute) and, using the side of the point, trace in a whole bunch of short, shallow, gentle lines, following the rougher lines of the under-texture. Try to get smooth lines, not jagged, harsh line. Smooth lines will create a bark effect, harsh lines will create a chicken-scratch, I-drew-in-some-clay-with-a-pin effect. If you let too much of the point drag in the clay, you'll get the latter, so make sure you're using the side of the tip!
    While you're tracing these lines, you should be following the general pattern of stripes, swirls, and eddies layed out by the pin-head in the under-texture, but don't worry about exactness. In fact, if you follow precisely, and all your short, little lines are in parallel, it'll look silly. Let the lines come organically, and smoosh into each other, drift apart, and occasionally cross each other. Take your time, make the lines close, and go back and re-work anything that looks funky.

    Move on Down and Do it Again!

    Alright, we've figured out what to do, now just keep doing it! Repeat the whole process for each section, moving down the trunk, until you've covered the whole sculpt in your bark-y, peeling goodness. Shouldn't be too hard, and remember, roughness is ok, this is a tree we're talking about!

    This tutorial was taken from a section of the Work-in-Progress for this Treeman sculpt.
    Attachment 25800

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