Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, cooking, make-up, travel, art and the occasional rant!


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Making a Serpopard

Bet you are asking… What’s a Serpopard?

I didn’t know myself until about a month ago.  I was getting a bit of a head start on my final 3D Studio project by googling “mythological creatures” as we had to do a large sculpture – had to be four-legged and a “real” creature from any culture’s mythology.

I was looking for something unusual that would fit the parameters and a Serpopard or Serppard image came up in a search.  I thought that was pretty interesting. The image has been found in Ancient Egyptian artifacts and in Mesopotamia of a big cat and snake combination creature – long snake neck and lion or leopard head and body, with some variations in design among the images found.

There were photos of the artifacts and other ancient depictions, and also quite a few artists’ renderings on Deviant Art and other places too.

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According to what I read, experts aren’t sure exactly what it was meant for – the representations are old and there is no explanation accompanying them, so it is guesswork about the purpose of the creature.

I did some sketches to figure out my version and roughed-out the structure of the armature. It was to be done using Sculpey which is a polymer clay that you bake in the oven.

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I used steel wire to make a basic structure then wrapped it with about an entire roll of aluminium foil to bulk it up and get the basic shape built. It needed to be pretty close to actual size and shape as you don’t want to have very thick and/or uneven coverage of the clay. Optimum is about 1/4 inch thick.

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I started to think about how to do the details – I wanted to make scales. I looked at photos of cobras (very Egyptian!) and their scales look just like sunflower seeds! So I bought a bag of sunflower seeds and sorted through the entire bag, I looked at EVERY seed, to find the perfect one.  Then I made a mold by pressing it into a disk of air-drying clay. All my scales would now be perfectly uniform and the proper profile.

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When I was ready to sculpt I started with the basic creature shape getting the profile right and building up muscle. Then I did the leopard head. For the ears, to make sure I didn’t break them off later, I used small bits of flexible metal mesh, made them the exact shape I wanted then covered with a thin layer of clay.

Then I carried on with attaching the scales, ONE AT A TIME. It looked awesome and just like cobra scales! I did the initial patch on the back… later I went back and added more to chest, and patches on the tail and neck.

I also wanted to build the Ancient Egyptian jewelry separately and attach it to the finished animal, so that it looked worn instead of a solid part of the sculpture. I went and bought coloured Sculpey – turquoise, red, gold, blue and black.

I used the flexible metal mesh to build the collar and head-dress – they needed the interior structure and had to support the weight of the clay. One piece of mesh cut and then folded and/or twisted into shape that was then covered with the gold clay very thinly. Then I rolled and cut all the teeny tiny rectangles in the coloured clay to inlay, and create the designs. Oy, I do like to make things difficult for myself! I also used real beads and one small lapis disc to make a scarab on the collar.

I was using King Tut’s mask as my inspiration so… I wanted to do the crown of the combined kingdoms which has the Vulture and the Cobra on it.  Teeny tiny little Vulture and Cobra heads, on the forehead of the Serpopard. So I twisted up some craft wire as they needed to be reinforced to prevent breaking off later, then covered and shaped them.  My hands are not designed to work on this small a scale! But, I think they turned out pretty cool!

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I had bought a board to use as a base for it, so I rolled out all my leftover gold clay, and enough of the flesh coloured to fill the board. It looks quite cool, like sand, so I left it as is and didn’t paint it.

I attached the jewelry and checked it over for flaws, mounted on the board and then into the oven to bake!

I spent about 3 hours building the armature at home, 11 hours plus on it at school, then brought it home again and spent 16 more hours on it which included the baking time. After it cooled (and I ate dinner) I started the painting. I did a double layer of white as a primer over the creature’s body, and then mixed up a cat body colour base and a base colour for the scales and applied them. That was all I managed before heading to bed.

I had to take it back to school and finish the painting there, and handed it in after spending almost 4 more hours doing the final painting. It was graded (don’t know what I got yet) and I did the paperwork to enter it in the end of year Juried Art Show, and left it with the instructor.

I’m really REALLY pleased with how it turned out and I put it in the show marked For Sale.

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End of term is looming

Hard to believe that my first semester at college is over next Friday. It really went by fast!

I’ve only two works in progress left, everything else has been completed and/or already handed in and marked.

I completed my film editing yesterday for my Fundamentals of Video/Audio Production final project, and submitted it. We will view them in class on Monday, and be given a final quiz.  I will share it on my Facebook page once it has “premiered” in class! I am hoping for laughs… oh god, please be funny.

I finished all my Sociology course assignments ahead of time and it has all been marked, so I am just attending the last couple of classes to get the “participation” marks.

I’ve got everything finished for Digital Drawing. Final project is complete, printed and ready to present next Friday – this Friday I’ll be twiddling my thumbs, I guess, as I have it all done and the class was to be a work period. I will probably spend some time using Photoshop on work from my other classes and tweaking some images.

In 3D Studio Practice we are doing our final large sculpture and have 10 hours of class left to work on it. I am well ahead on my build and will start on fine details tomorrow. We are working in polymer clay so have to bake it when done, and then paint it, to have ready for the last Friday for marks. Last week we handed in our recycled book project and are waiting for the grades to be posted.

This was my “Exquisite Corpse” small sculpture – it is 4.5″ tall, for 3D Studio. It was drawn in three parts, by three different people who didn’t know what the others drew. I had to sculpt it by interpreting the drawing – it had to stand on its own. Luckily mine was pretty easy, lots of students ended up with mermaid tails or tentacles!

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This was also for 3D Studio – a relief mask sculpture of another student. This was done in an air-drying clay.

This is the one Taylor did of me…

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We traded – no point in keeping one of someone else!

We handed in our Portfolios today in Presentations & Portfolio Techniques, and our final project is due next Tuesday – a detailed drawing of footwear. I’m about 1/4 of the way on mine so will be working on it over the weekend.

In Presentation & Portfolio I did these two drawings for Projects 1 & 2. The first is a vulture wearing a gas mask – I altered the image (took out lettering) after marking. And the second was to draw our own hand holding something – I call it “I miss the Rain”(let me know if you get the reference!) These were both done in liners and water-colours.

We had to do hand studies before starting the hand… I really like the little red pinky finger! I did it all in pencil crayon (three colours) and I think I might finally be getting the hang of it.

We had our last class of Drawing II (Figurative) yesterday. I am sad about that, it was so much fun.

These are a few of my more recent sketches from Figure Drawing. The first is a two-minute sketch, the colour one is 20 minutes, and the group is of 30 second drawings.

I did this landscape while sitting in the hall between classes – was working on erosion and trying different colours in pencil crayons (still working on my technique with them.) My favourite is the big ridge in the back, I think I nailed that one.

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I am in the process of looking for a summer job – I’m able to apply for full-time summer jobs at the college and so far have four interviews out of ten applications (three were already filled, three I haven’t heard back from.) That makes me hopeful. I’m still applying for pretty much everything that I see as I need to work!

I’ll be back to school in September to finish my second semester of the program I am in, which is actually the first semester of the program. I was a January intake so I did semester two first so I’ll be with a new batch of students in the Fall.

I am really thrilled that I have been able to go back to school to study art! And, being mature, I value the opportunity and haven’t missed a class or assignment! Those marks are really important – I could get a scholarship to help with the costs to go on to more advanced arts education!