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Part 2: The Bare Bones - preparing for my skeleton journey

Updated: 2 days ago

by Christina Bain, Scotland


Our student blog continues! Welcome to Part 2 of NO STRINGS ATTACHED.


In this post, Christina Bain, who described the creation of Stanislav in her last post, discusses what it was like to create a skeleton in our Online Skeleton Workshop this past year.


Gung-ho and hot off the adrenaline of making Stanislav in Prague, I sign up for this advanced online Skeleton carving workshop. Prague had gone so well! I was so proud of my puppet and the skills I had learned in that magical, colourful workshop. I couldn't wait to get stuck into my next project - the mad skeleton marionette that danced and split apart like it was truly alive.

 




Of course, Stanislav had been created in a fully equipped workshop under the watchful gaze of Mirek and the other teachers. Every tool, screw, nail, block of wood and piece of equipment I could possibly want was right there along with someone to show me how to use it. Now I look around the cluttered spare room in my Edinburgh tenement flat and take stock of the tools at my disposal...a carving knife, a hand saw, a small hand drill, a large tin marked "screws and stuff" left over from various home improvement projects and long forgotten Ikea furniture. Hmm...not exactly Mirek's workshop.



I look at the tool and equipment list sent with my workshop welcome documents. It is a far cry from the miscellany of allen keys and bent, paint-covered screwdrivers that a dive into the chaos of my hall cupboard has unearthed. Ok. I can't have it all, most things I'll have to beg, borrow or steal but one thing I am going to treat myself to is a few proper chisels. Don't worry, I didn't have to go in blind and hope to buy the right thing, Puppets in Prague had sent 3 different options of useful combinations of chisels and where best to buy them. I say again, trust in Mirek. I opted for the small set (Cinderella can either have 5 chisels or she can go to ball and you can't gouge things at a ball so I'm more than happy with my choice.)

 


Next crucial ingredient - wood. Linden/Lime or Bass Wood to be precise. Turns out, not the easiest thing to source in the middle of Edinburgh. Search as I might I struggled to find anything in a decent size and quality that would be right for my Skeleton. Fear not! Once more, Mirek to the rescue. It turned out to be cheaper for Mirek to ship the wood to me than to source it here. I have not given up, I will find a Scottish wood supplier but as time was of the essence it was better to have some expertly chosen Czech wood sent my way.

 


Ok! Now I have wood, I have chisels, I have built a little wooden carving platform out of my bedroom shelves and bits of old bed. I am ready for anything!



Oh crap. They're going to want me to draw again. Oh well, here goes!


Designing my Skeleton Marionette.


A bit of research was needed, I have great fun diving into an old crusty copy of Grey's Anatomy and pouring over the bone diagrams. I am swept into macabre internet searches of medieval and renaissance images of death and demons. I pillage my local library in search of interesting interpretations of the human form. Finally though, I can put it off no longer.


I must draw my skeleton...



How hard can it be? We all have one. Every Halloween we see them decorating the shops and houses. I look at my collated pictures for inspiration. Be brave Chris, get the pencils out and draw...Oh dear. I hope no one has a skeleton that shape! Never mind, rub it out, try again....STOP...It's worse!!


 

Ok. So, it turns out you can't not draw anything for 15 years and then expect to be able to draw a perfectly articulated skeleton - who knew?! You know something else though? Practice really does help. My sketches won't be gracing the walls of a museum anytime soon but with a little patience (something I have oodles of for other people but zero for myself) I manage to draw something that at least doesn't look like it was born in a nuclear reactor.


It still isn't right though; it isn't what I see in my mind's eye. I am a bit of a perfectionist so this is frustrating. I need another way to find the form I want. Generally speaking I work better in 3D, my brain can make sense of the shapes if I can hold them and mould them. Oh yes, it's plasticine time! (Yes, of course I have an ample supply of plasticine in my home, what self respecting adult doesn't?)



I mould a variety of skulls, experimenting with exaggerated proportions in a way that I currently can't capture by drawing. Also, if I make a mistake with plasticine I can simply crush it into oblivion and turn it into a model of a cat thus erasing the offending perceived failure.


From my mad collection of skulls and bones I reverse engineer my sketches and technical drawings. Mirek helps me with proportions, ensuring I don't make any rookie mistakes in the placing of the skeleton's many many joints.



With the technical drawing approved and done up to scale I can trace each bone and transfer it to the blocks of wood ready to begin carving. I am itching to get cutting!


Stay tuned for the next blog post - carving, carving, and carving some more.


Did you miss Christina's last post about making Stanislav? Read here!



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