Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Introducing-Pulp City

Hi everyone,
I just wanted to introduce you to the new company I am working for called Pulp Monsters. They produce an awesome superhero skirmish game called Pulp City. The concepts and art for this game are really fun to work on I love working with them. Here is a link to their site to go check it out:


The rules for this great game are absolutely free and it takes very little investment to start playing as it is a skirmish level game so you only need a few figures to start. If you like superhero's you will find something you like about Pulp City(one of my favourite parts about the website is the cool sound effects).

Keep an eye out for upcoming photo's of my stuff that I sculpted for them, I will post them as soon as legally possible!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

End of an Era?

Well as most of you have probably heard the plug was finally pulled on Wizkids yesterday. Imagine my surprise as I was perusing The Miniatures Page and saw the announcement. It was a complete shock to me as I had just finished having a great conversation with the product manager on Friday about future plans and commissions for Wizkids. I feel very saddened by the news after working on a product for so long (my first figures were in infinity challenge and I had just sent out some for B&B) and my sincere condolences go out to the employees of Wizkids who had this sprung on them.

I would like to thank all of the Heroclix fans who supported the game so much and made it such a success over the years. As a result your commitment has allowed me to keep sculpting the characters I love and feed my kids over the years by keeping me gainfully employed. It is such a shame as some of my best work was done for HOT and B&B which may now never see the light of day. I have to walk away with the knowledge that I can at least use them for my portfolio.

I feel very disappointed by the raw deal that many of the fans have gotten from the way this was all so suddenly yanked, you guys deserve much more for all the support and money you all have invested in the game over the years.

On a positive note, you never know this may be the best thing for Heroclix if it gets picked up by another company it may breath new and exciting life into it. It also opens up the property to any company willing to pay the licensing fees.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Photos Uploaded

I updated my Flicr page with some of the sculpts I did for the new Arkham Asylum set.
Check it out: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24546626@N04/

Lyssa Drak was my favourite. The set was diffucult because alot of the characters I did were unknown's to me. In total I did 7 figures for it.


Saturday, October 18, 2008


Here are some photos of a Thor figure I did in my spare time. I really enjoyed this because it is rare that I actually get to paint one of my figures. This is for personal use only and will not be sold as a part of any product line.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New Tutorial Series

As some of you may know I taught a beginners sculpting class a few months ago. I thought I would post some of the material that wrote for the textbook that I used for the course here.

Here is the first part that talks about some basic fundamentals that are handy to keep in mind when sculpting. (You may notice that the text refers to the reader directly, this is because I wrote it to address the students)

Level 1 –The Basics

Key Things to Consider When Sculpting

Before we start, I’d like to cover a few basic ideas that we all need to be aware of. Sculpting is an art and it takes years of practice to learn how to do. The one important thing to remember is that skill increases with practice and time. It is important for you to remember this when you look at not only your own work but each other’s work. Do not judge yourself by the quality of a sculpt or conversion that you have just done, ask yourself these important questions; is this piece better than my last? What did I do that worked out well or was easy? What did I do that didn’t work out? And the #1 question; what can I do to improve? The goal is not to sculpt a Bernini off the bat; the goal is to always strive to make each sculpt a little better than the last. Don’t stick to what I teach you, there are many different ways to sculpt something, there is no final word. Don’t be afraid to redo something you screw up or experiment with a new technique.

Most importantly don’t give up, one of the most important attributes sculpting requires is patience. I have had figures where I have re-sculpted the face over 5 times before getting it right. Sculpting requires an immense investment in time and you must be able to take that investment and flush it down the toilet if it goes wrong. You must learn to self examine your work with an impartial eye. This can be very difficult when you pour so much creativity into a piece, the personal interest you place in a sculpture is enormous and you must be able to see past that to accurately judge if a figure you do is good or needs improvement.

You must also train your eye to see in 3D. Examine the people and things in the world around you every day. Train yourself to look at the contours of each object you see, this can be something as simple as the texture of an orange or the pattern in the bark of a tree. Study people. Look at the folds in their skin, the shape of their bodies and the folds in their clothes. When you train you eye to see in this way you will subconsciously train your mind to recognize these different patterns and textures, which will in turn help you sculpt them when you are working.

Check your ego at the door. You must try to be humble. If you believe you know everything and are the greatest talent since Michelangelo you simply will not learn anything. The best way to learn is from other sculptors and they will avoid you if you have an attitude like this and certainly will not share their techniques with you. If you believe you are the best you will be blind to errors in your work and as such will never be able to improve. Eventually if you do seek a career in sculpting you will end up facing an art director who doesn’t approve of a piece you do and your ego will probably cost you the job. Your talent can only take you so far.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Joker

Hi Everyone,

I put the photos of the Joker I did for the Arkham Asylum expension up on my Flikr page. It is a bit different than the production model, they changed the scenery.

Here is a link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24546626@N04/


Monday, September 1, 2008


Hi everyone

I did an interview for a fellow artists blog. If you are interested here is a link to it:



Thursday, August 28, 2008

Likeness Exercise

Greetings to everyone who missed me. I have been very busy during the summer finishing figures for the Hammer of Thor expansion for heroclix (26 figures in all) and after a short break I am back.
One of the hardest things to do on a miniature is a likeness and I like to try and practice it as much as possible. Here is my attempt at Luke Skywalker, I had to primer it in gray to get a good photo.

What do you think?


Friday, July 18, 2008

New Photos Uploaded

Hi everyone

Just a heads up to let you know I uploaded photos of my Young Avengers Hawkeye sculpt I did for Secret Invasion. Just go to my flicker account to see.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Just a quick post to let everyone know I'm still alive. I've been busy with a deadline so it has kept me from posting for the last couple of weeks. I'm mostly caught up now so regular programming will resume shortly. One of the realities of being a freelance artist is that you often get to set your own hours but sometimes you have to work extra hours to meet a deadline; this means weekends, overtime, and holidays.

James Van Schaik

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Vimy Ridge-Part Two

Here are the photos of my sons Vimy Ridge model project. We stuck to simple painting techniques, nothing too fancy because I wanted him to be able to do it himself. The board had a base coat of mud brown, one dry brush of graveyard earth highlight, and two washes to bring out the detail in the ground. After it was all dry he added flock and stones with white glue and water mixture.

The same went for the miniatures themselves, they just had a base coat of the overall colour of the uniform, then he painted the faces and hands flesh, the rifles and boots dark brown, and a wash of citadel flesh wash to add some depth to the figures.

He made the barbwire by wrapping wire around a wooden spool and then wrapping it around matchsticks for the posts. The roof of the bunkers were made from corrugated cardboard.

Monday, June 16, 2008

New Captian America Cameo in Hulk Movie

I just came across this exclusive spoiler about the new Hulk movie. Apparently Marvel studios is continuing it's cross-marketing scheme with it's characters and has put a scene in the new Hulk movie with Captain America. Unfortunately the clip was cut from the theatrical version but http://www.comicbookmovie.com/ has managed to get their hands on the clip.

Warning: apparently part of the reason for it's omission was that the course language would bump it from PG to AA so beware of the harsh language; not intended for young viewers! Maybe they'll put it in the DVD.

Here is the video:

James VS

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Skills to Pay The Bills?

Often one of the most difficult parts of being a freelance sculptor in a industry where many of the companies have very little regard for the artist is getting paid. Add the fact that there are a lot of amateurs who are willing to work for next to nothing just to get their work out, and the end result is that those of us who do the job for a living often get undercut by people who don't depend on sculpting to feed their family and make money. Recently, the arrival of cut rate sculpting services from China has made the situation even worse. Some artists are independently wealthy or have spouses with high paying jobs and have sub-par rates as a result.

Often companies expect the artist to work for free and have the opinion that they are doing the artist a favour by giving them exposure. When you do ask for proper compensation they end up turning to one of the above mentioned cheaper sources. Often companies just don't pay their bills on time or put off paying for months on end. I don't know how many times I've had a company with long outstanding debts just leave for weeks on end without paying their bill. It's usually at times where you need the money like Christmas; the convention season is also a time when this is a common occurrence. I've often wondered what some of these people would say to their boss who left town the day before payday and said "oh by the way, I'll be off at Gencon this week so I'm not going to give you a paycheck".

What any artist should realize when they undercharge or low ball a price is that they are taking food from the mouths of my children, not just my own but every other professional sculptor out there who depend on their trade to pay the bills. Any new sculptors who low ball are really only hurting themselves because once you charge a company one price they will never, ever, give you a higher rate; you are just locking yourself into a low wage. There is always another desperate artist waiting to give them what they want for next to nothing.

The sad part of this environment means that there will be fewer and fewer professional sculptors in the gaming industry as it becomes more and more impossible to make a decent living from sculpting. The death of the metal miniature, and rise of the cheap, pre-painted mini sculpted by a cut rate, sub par artist from China will also drive many of the great sculptors into other lines of work.

My wife is a writer and unfortunately the writing Field is afflicted with the same rot that plagues the gaming industry. She found this video on one of the writing sites that she visits, which is an interview with Harlan Ellison and he eloquently sums up how I have felt for many years. My first reaction after seeing it was "Amen to That," then I wrote this rant. Here it is, he is talking about writers but if you swap the word writer for sculptor it is the same situation. I'm sure my peers will truly appreciate this.

One word of caution, this isn't a video to listen to at work or if you have your kids present.

James Van Schaik

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Vimy Ridge Model Part1

One of my favourite hobbies has always been terrain building. I think it reminds me of when I was a boy and my dad would take me to one of his friends house whose elderly parents lived in the upper story. His father was an avid model railroad enthusiast and his entire attic was converted into a giant model train display; complete with towns, mountains, and real working lights. I used to spend hours there playing with those trains and I guess that's why I like building terrain so much.

One of my favourite boards that I built was a section of Omaha Beach from D-Day for a huge game a friend and I ran over the convention season a few years ago.

When my 6 year old son's school sent home a notice about a model contest at the local museum I jumped at the chance to help him build a model. The criteria was that it had to be a significant person , place, or event from Canadian history. We gave him several examples and options to choose from like D-Day (one I personally was rooting for), the war of 1812, the Canada Arm, The Trans-Canada railroad, Terry Fox and Vimy to name a few. He chose Vimy because he liked the fact that it was the birthplace of Canadian National Identity and Pride.

I wanted to make sure he did the model himself so the only role I played in the making of this was using the sharp tools and showing him how to do each step, he did all the work himself.

Here is a scan of his blueprint. He wanted more machine guns and "Lasers" but I tried to keep it realistic!

Here is the first step after cutting and gluing the base foam shapes. The material we used was pink Styrofoam insulation. Once the layers were glued down he coated it with plaster of Paris to fill in the seam lines and create a rough "mud" texture. Once he layed the "PoP" down he just took some rough grit sandpaper and dabbed the surface to give it the rough look.

Once that was all dry he primed it with a base coat of white house paint.

Next post I'll add the painted photos.


James VS

Saturday, May 31, 2008

More Photos

Just a heads up that I uploaded yet more photos to flicker.

James VS

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Video Tomorrow and New Photos

I will be posting a new video tutorial tomorrow. It would be up tonight but the downloads are messing up so I have to fix them.

I also uploaded new photos of Howard the Duck to my flicker page so go check them out.

James Van Schaik

Sculpting a Closed Fist

Ok At long last here is another tutorial.

I figured for this one I would do sculpting hands as that is one of the most common conversions used in modelling and one that is fairly easy once you get the hang of it. I apologize for the distance of the video but my recorder doesn't zoom in that close, however I tried to explain each part using my own hand as a reference point. Hopefully it is clear, if you have any

P.S. There is one more part to this that I am trying to upload, I may have to post it on another post. I apologize for the inconvenience but this program is very picky when it comes to video

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sculpting Lessons Begin Friday

Just a quick reminder that my sculpting lessons start this Friday, there are still spaces available so if you are interested check out the link below and call the Comic Book Collector.
For more information and details for signing up you can see the original post on Sculpting Lessons here. Ignore the pre-registration deadline, you can enter right away.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Photos Uploaded

Hi all
Just added a bunch of cool photos to my flicker account. These include the Fantastic Four and some other cool Marvel stuff, I really liked working on these so go check them out.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sculpting Lessons Deadline Reminder

Just a quick reminder that the deadline for the Pre-registration for my sculpting classes is fast approaching. If you are planning on taking the course be sure to get into the Comic Book Collector and pre-register before the 14th. It looks like the class is filling up quite quickly so don't wait if you are planning on attending.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

New Photos Uploaded

Hi Everyone

I uploaded the photos of Spider Girl and the Super Skrull to my Flicker account today so be sure to go and check them out. They are part of the new Secret Invasion expansion set for Heroclix coming out in July. Once Wizkids previews anything that I have done I can release the photos to the public so be sure to check it regularity.

P.S. Don`t worry I`ll be doing another tutorial soon, I just have to figure out what.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Free Comic Book Day

My sculpting demo at the Comic Book Collector went well on Saturday. It was great to see all the Heroclix and comic fans out in force and I'd like to thank everyone for their great compliments and enthusiasm. One of the drawbacks of being a sculptor is that you work alone most of the time and you don't get very much feedback on your work so it I really appreciate going to events like FBD. You get to meet the fans and get face-to-face feedback. Special thanks to the two Tim's at the CBC for having me.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sculpting Lessons Finalized

The Course Details are finalized so here is the updated information for anyone interested.

Have you ever wanted to sculpt or convert your own figures but didn’t have the knowledge?

Do you look at the pages of gaming magazines and wonder “how can I create a miniature like that?”

Have you been continuously beat out by other people in painting competitions who have entered miniatures with poor paintjobs but excellent hand sculpted conversions?

Now you can learn from professional sculptor James Van Schaik in a professional level class that includes a sculpting kit, full textbook for reference and over 25 years of gaming experience, 9 as freelance and staff sculptor.

He has worked for renowned miniatures companies such as Games Workshop, Wizkids, Ral Partha, RAFM Miniatures, and Reaper.

This is an eight week course and students will learn the fundamentals necessary to carry on to more advanced sculpting classes. Learn to sculpt: Hair, Straps, Fur, Basic Jewellery, Pouches, Skulls, Chainmail, Chains, Wood, Stone, Cloth and all the fundamentals of sculpting.

Spaces are limited so please reserve your spot at the Comic Book Collector today for only $200.00, plus $35 for the sculpting kit.
This is an excellent deal since it is a rare opportunity and other art courses, in comparison, can range in cost from $200 to $500 dollars.

Course will be held at:
The Comic Book Collector
779 Dundas St.
London, On
N5W 2Z6

For more information call: The Comic Book Collector at 519-433-6004, or jamesvanschaik@excite.com. Course Starts May 30th, and run Fridays at 7:30 PM, Pre-registration deadline is May 14th.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sculpting Tip-The Design Phase

Whether you are starting a project first thing you need to do is come up with a concept. A concept is a blueprint or guide for you to follow. Take some time to find reference for your project. If you are sculpting a character from comics or another source get as many angles as you can, include front back and each side. Take note of any equipment the character carries, if it is something from real life gather as much reference for it as possible. If it is a specific item created for the character again gather as much reference as you can find. The internet is a resource library you can draw from to find reference. Another great source for reference is your local library.
Once you gather all your reference you need to organize it and condense it into “cheat” sheets that you can refer to easily and display in front of you. I often use Photoshop to create reference sheets for each specific part.

At this point you need to take some time to consider each aspect of your project and jot down any notes you come up with on a rough sketch such as pose and height. If you are doing a conversion plan how you are going to alter it's pose. Record any alterations on the rough sketch. Plan out the details you want to add or alter and record it on your sketch. Plan out any other details like weapon, head or hand swaps. The rough sketch will give you direction throughout your project and help you anticipate any problems you may encounter.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How a Miniature Begins-The Armature

For this weeks tip I thought I would show everyone how a miniature starts. I know this is a little advanced but I thought everyone would like to see how a figure is sculpted from the beginning.
The videos below show how I stretch and pose an armature and I go into underpinning a little.

The tools I use are simple miniature pliers and clippers that you can find at most hobby stores, and a pair of calipers which you can find here . Calipers are essential for measuring proportions so if you are serious about sculpting humans I'd pick up a set.

If you are interested in getting some armatures Reaper miniatures sells some Here. They also have some with muscles, these are good if you want to get a handle on how things work for practice but its always better to do it on your own.

As always if you have any questions feel free to post them and I'll answer them as best I can.

I apologize for the number of videos but I had to break them up into parts because blogger only accepts short length videos.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Upcoming Sculpting Demo

For anyone interested I will be doing a sculpting demonstration at a local comic shop on Free Comic Book Day (May 3rd). Feel free to come in and ask any questions and bring anything you want signed.
Here is the Name and Address of the store:

The Comic Book Collector
779 Dundas St.
London, Ontario

Monday, April 14, 2008

Upcoming video

Just a quick heads up to watch out for a new video I did about armatures, I am still trying to get it uploaded but I have had some problems with the program.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Professional Sculpting Lessons

The first course for my sculpting lessons will be starting soon in London Ontario at the Comic Book Collector.
Course 1 – Sculpting Fundamentals and Miniature Converting, is a 8 Week course and includes a sculpting kit that contains all the tools you need to start sculpting. This course introduces the student to the tools of sculpting. In addition, students will learn how to use the media (putty) and also learn how to implement many different effects and surface details. This course is designed for the miniature enthusiast who wishes to learn more advanced techniques to create highly intricate conversions or modeling projects. Students will learn the fundamentals necessary to carry on to more advanced sculpting classes that involves creating entire miniatures rather than conversions off existing miniatures. Some of the areas covered include:

Basic Jewelry
Skulls and Skull Reliefs (shoulder pads detail etc.)
and more....

Space is very limited so if you are interested email me at: jamesvanschaik@excite.com to obtain more information about the course and pre-registering. As the deadline approaches and dates are set I will post more information.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sculpting Putty Part Four- Drying and Storage

The putties I described earlier all have the same properties and methods for storage and drying. You should only keep about an inch or so of putty out in your work area at a given time, chances are you will never use more than this amount on a given project. The rest should be stored in the freezer to keep it from drying out. If putty is left out it will slowly cure from the exposure to air and you will notice that your putty will have small lumps of hardened putty that will generally not mix and leave your putty with a rough, gritty texture. Make sure you "pick" out any such lumps before you start working.
Keeping putty in the freezer retards the natural hardening process so if you find you are working on a piece and have to leave for any reason before you have a chance to finish you can put the piece in the freezer and it will keep it from drying for a short period of time ( I wouldn't push it past 24hours). When you come back to work on the piece just pop it out of the freezer and in a few minutes it will thaw and you can resume work.

Once putty is mixed it will "air" dry within roughly 20 minutes. Air drying does not mean that it is fully dry, in order to completely cure the putty needs to be "cooked" in a oven or type of kiln that we sculptor's refer to as "The Cooker". This precision engineered piece of equipment is an amazing amalgam of common household parts that can easily be assembled by even the most novice modeler. Here is my cooker:

I know.. I know.. your asking yourself "how can I ever obtain the parts for, let alone construct, such a wondrous device?" Well here's how:

"The Cooker" Parts List*

1. A large empty coffee tin (don't waste the coffee! Drink it!)

2. A simple desk lamp or heat lamp (these are larger and may be necessary for larger coffee tins, you want to be able to rest the lamp on top of the tin)

3. 1 50 watt bulb (DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, use any higher wattage, it will melt your figure!)

Once you have gathered your part simply cut open one side of the tin with tin shears or similar cutting devise (be very careful here we don't want any dismemberment) as shown.
That's it your done!

To dry putty in the cooker just place it inside for about 20 minutes and the putty should harden. Brown stuff will harden to the point where you can shave or sand it and green and procreate will fully cure so that when you touch the piece it won't warp or distort. I recommend cooking any project at each stage before going on to the next to ensure that you have a solid base to work on and you don't accidentally smudge something you just spent a half an hour sculpting (trust me I've learned this the hard way).

Hope you enjoyed the tips on putty, oh and yes the photo didn't make it past the sensor due to NDA reasons.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sculpting Putty Part Three- Procreate

In this last post on putty I am going to cover one of the newer putties on the market- Procreate. Procreate is made by a company called Kraftmark, here is a link to their site http://www.kraftmark.biz/. From there you can find many suppliers. The average cost for a package is about 10.00.

The makers of procreate boast that their putty has the consistency of green stuff and will harden like Brown stuff, making it superior to both for sculpting. I have to admit that at first I had my doubts about these claims, after all how could such a miracle substance exist? After using it I can tell you that it does come close to the companies claims as possible. Since trying it I have switched to it for most of the sculpting I do. My only complaint with Procreate would be that while you can shave it slightly, it still does not compare to brown stuff when it comes to hardening. It is for this reason that I still use Brown Stuff for all my hardline sculpting which is still the best for that job.

It mixes and dries pretty much the same as the other putties. Add more hardener and it is thicker and dries faster, more softener and it takes longer to dry. I am not certain about the ability for procreate to be vulcanized as the company I work for at the moment uses RTV technology. A few years ago I did do a piece with procreate for a company and when they vulcanized it it warped and broke down from the heat however many companies seems to be using it.

My next post will cover storing, drying, and sanding all the different putties.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Jus t a quick post to let everyone know I'm still alive. I have been very busy for the last while so I haven't been able to post anything, regular proramming will resume shortly.....

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sculpting Tip #2-Clay Shapers

I thought I would continue profiling the various sculpting tools I use and picked one of the most useful - clay shapers. The clay shaper is an awesome tool used for smoothing and creating folds in clothing and many other jobs. Clay Shapers rank in my top three tools that I use and they are a must for anyone that is serious about sculpting.

You can find them easily on the web by doing a Google search for "clay shapers", be sure to order the size 0. The type I use are made by Royal Sovereign. The shaper comes in three different colored tips, white (soft), grey(firm) and black (extra firm). I use the black tipped ones the most although I do have a grey set.

Here is a link to the Royal Soviern website:

There are five different shaped tips in a set. A flat tipped shaper that is great for smoothing out broad surfaces, a pointed tip which is used for creating grooves and folds, a circular "cupped" tip that I use for rounding off things, a wedge that is great for cutting lines, and finally a curved tip which I honestly haven't found a use for but I'm sure there is.

I decided to include a little tutorial video of the clay shaper in action. In this video I'm using the flat clay shaper to smooth out a figure I'm working on and a cupped tip to round off the "naughty bits". These tools are quite easy to use, to smooth with them you just run the tool across the surface of the putty in broad even strokes. Please note: the little munchkin in the background is my 3 year old son, he decided to add the commentary to the video. Also please excuse my stubby fingers, I'm still working on my cinematography degree.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Email Correction

It was brought to my attention that the email address that I listed to send questions to had a problem so if anyone sent me any here is the correct email : james_vanschaik@yahoo.ca

Sorry for any confusion this may have caused and thanks to Derek for giving me the heads up on the error.

Sculpting Putty Part Two - Green Stuff

Today we are going to cover the most commonly used sculpting putty "green stuff". Green Stuff has been popular with miniature sculptors for many years. Also made by Polymeric, green stuff is widely available, here is a link: http://www.warehouse23.com/item.html?id=PSI000-23.

You can also find green stuff at most miniature companies however I would recommend doing some price shopping before you buy, compare the price to the length of strip you get. The product above is about a 2 foot strip (don't quote me on the length but I'm very close) for $12.00.

Green Stuff comes in a multicoloured strip (yellow and blue). The blue part is the hardener and the yellow part is the softener. When mixed in a 50% 50% ratio it will cure in about 20 minutes. Again if you use more hardener the putty will be thicker and harden faster; add more softener and it will have a thinner consistency and take longer to dry.

Green stuff has a very soft consistency to it. This characteristic makes it ideal for organic sculpting. It's great for things like faces, capes, hair, and other non technical objects. It is somewhat hard to master using green stuff (something I still haven't managed) but once you do it can hold very sharp features; just take a look at any of Tom Meier's work and you can see how truly amazing this putty can be in the hands of a master.

My only gripe about green stuff is that it can't be sanded or shaved once it dries. It is very unforgiving in this way. If you mess up a part or need to smooth something out you pretty much have to cut away the offending section and redo it.

Next up -Procreate

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sculpting Putty Part One-Brown Stuff

On my other post anonymous asked the question: "What are your sculpts made with?? I.e. what kind of putty are you using, it looks like you use at least 3 different kinds and are there reasons you use certain ones?"

I have in total about four different types I use and each has it's own unique properties and uses so thought it would be a good idea to make a series of posts about each one.

The first we will cover is "Brown Stuff". The company that produces it is called Polymeric and it is readily available on the Internet. Here is a quick link to a supplier : http://www.warehouse23.com/item.html?id=PSI011-24. Other suppliers include Rafm miniatures and Reaper Miniatures just to name a few.

Brown stuff is a two part epoxy putty, the white strip is the hardener and the brown strip is the softener and when the two are mixed the putty will cure in about 20 to 30 minutes. Normally you mix the two 50% white, 50% brown. As with all expoxy putties a trick to remember is that your ratio of hardener to softener will determine the eventual density when it dries. If you want a harder surface for armor plates or technical pieces use more hardener, if you want more organic shapes or flowing texture for things like faces and drapery use more softener. The mix ratio will also determine how quickly it cures. If you are working on something that is particularly challenging that you know you want to spend extra time on use a higher ratio of softener; this will make the putty cure slower and give you more time to work.

The main advantage of Brown Stuff is that when it hardens you can sand it or shave it with a scalpel. If you want to sand it use a fine grade sandpaper. This characteristic makes it best suited to hardline sculpting where you require a keen edge and flat surface. I often use Brown Stuff for things like armor plates, guns, and other technical parts. I normally recommend Brown Stuff to beginners because unlike say green stuff, which can't be sanded very easily, if you make an error with brown sometimes you can rescue a piece by going back and shaving out rough spots and uneven surfaces. This is something you can not do with green stuff. Brown also has a thicker consistency than green stuff so it is a little easier to work with for beginners.

Next time I will cover green stuff.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Do you have any questions about sculpting, the gaming industry, or terrain building? Working on a project and need advice? Ever wondered how something works in the gaming industry like the production process. Any gripes, complaints or topics you would like me to discuss. You can post these questions or, if you wish to remain anonymous you can email them to me at:


(just add "knife's edge" to the header) and I'll do my best to aswer them.

James Van Schaik

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sculpting Tip of The Week

Each Wednesday (schedule permitting) I will post a sculpting tip. To start off the tips section I thought I'd begin with a valuable tool I use called a glue tip. These tools are used for applying resin or glue and are common in the jewelry industry. If you have ever seen a company logo pin with coloured resin, medals for kids sports with coloured centers it is very likely that the coloured parts is really expoxy that has been applied with a syringe. Here is what they look like (minus the putty handles I added):

These are readily available at most hobby supply stores. You can find a set here at Lee Valley tools http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=1&p=20003&cat=1,110,42967&ap=1 . This is a good set but the only drawback is that you only get a few different sizes of tips. I got my set from Rio Grande tools. You can also use mechanical pencil tips but you are limited to one size if you do.

This tool is useful for doing things like rivets, buttons, lace eyelets, and many other effects. They are very simple to use, you pretty much just have to press them into putty to create the above effects.

Here is an example of making a rivet with a glue tip on a squat that I am working on for a Space Hulk campaign I am playing in.

Step:1 The first thing you do is apply a small amount of putty to the place where you want the rivet to go, in this case it is on his shoulder pad. Press down on the putty to make sure it sticks to the model firmly.

Step:2 Gently press down with the tip into the center of the putty. Make sure you use plenty of lubrication (Vaseline works) or the tool will stick to the putty and pull it away from the figure and stick inside. Make sure you press all the way into the putty.

Here's what you should end up with. You can see the outline of the rivet and the excess putty around it.

Step 3: Next take a pin tool or exacto blade and gently pull away the excess putty. Be careful not to push toward the rivet- pull the excess putty away.

Presto! The perfect rivet making tool!

I used the same technique for the studs on his gauntlets. You can find these tool very easily, what you want to look for is adhesive tipped syringes if you Google them. I would highly recommend picking up a set because the have a multitude of uses and will improve your modeling projects immensely.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Inside the Sculpting Process

I thought it would be interesting to go into the "making of" a miniature for the first few posts. Often I get asked how the sculpting process actually works overall. The first thing that happens is the planning process. The client will provide all the specifics like scale, desired pose, number of parts etc. Some clients provide full concept art that includes an exact pose and full turnaround art.

What is turnaround art you ask? Turnaround art is a drawing that includes the front, back and complete blueprints of any equipment like guns etc. A lot of gaming companies use this art because they need it commissioned when they design their game to get a unique look and include it in any rulebooks they produce. It serves a second purpose by allowing them to supply the art to sculptors if they produce miniatures for their game. Other companies that own major Intellectual Properties insist on turnaround art to control the quality of the property.

Turnaround art makes the sculptor's job easier because it cuts out a lot the research that I would otherwise have to do myself and provides an excellent guide. The only drawback to turnaround art is that it limits the sculptor's creative license and means that you have to follow the art exactly, which can be difficult when you are first starting out. The above photograph of the ninja is a piece I sculpted for Aberrant Games and is an example of a figure that I was given turnaround art for.

Often you are not given turnaround art, in which case the client usually provides a set of guidelines as to what they are looking for but otherwise leaves the details up to you. This is normally done for historical pieces or fantasy pieces where they will say something like" I want an elf with a bow". If the character is already established like a comic character, such as the figure below, or from a movie, the client will provide you with reference but not turnaround art.

So once I have the art, I get the scale from the client, which is usually in mm. This is provided by the client and if I screw up and go over the given scale, I am responsible to fix it. Scale is one of those skills that you have to constantly work on and develop, and it grows with experience.

When I first started sculpting, I struggled with scale and often my figure grew to be to big and I had to redo them but it is a natural part of the learning process that develops with experience.
By no means am I infallible when it comes to scale, but I have trained myself to watch scale and my figures usually match the specifications I am given more often than not these days.

Often a client will ask you to sculpt in a specific style. Clients usually have a complete range that is done in a specific style and will desire any new figures to match that style. This can vary from sculpting more realistic proportions to sculpting more cartoony or misproportioned figures. As a professional you have to be prepared to meet the needs of your client regardless of your own tastes.

The last thing you consider before starting a project is production requirements. This usually involves how many parts the client desires the piece to be when it enters production. This can effect the complexity of the pose because any parts of a figure that are on a different plane will need to be molded separately which increases the cost of production.

That's how a sculpt is commissioned, how it is actually sculpted is another matter altogether.

James Van Schaik

Monday, March 10, 2008

Welcome To my Blog!

Hello and welcome to my new blog.

In this blog I will share with you the everyday experiences of a sculptor as well as modelling and sculpting tips and other insanity that goes on in the gaming industry. I will also offer and comment on things like industry ethics, iP rights, and current events taking place in the gaming world and offer an insider's point of view that is both new and unique.

Throughout these posts I invite you all to chime in with your own comments, the goal here is to create a environment where like minds can engage in a interesting and informative dialog about gaming.

Until Next Time
James Van Schaik