Friday, April 20, 2007

The Roc takes flight

First the body and head were roughly cut from various sized blocks of foam with a large bow-shaped hot wire. The pieces were bonded together and smoothed out to create the main torso. Aluminum rods were bent and welded to provide the armature for the wingspan and the skeleton of the claws. The larger feathers were cut from 1/4" plywood, given a veined texture with a grinder and based out with a black primer. These feathers were then glued to muslin and attached to the metal armature. Note also that you can click on any of these pictures to see a larger version in a new window.

Fabric called "cocoa fiber" was cut into sized feather shapes to cover the rest of the wingspan and also dress the head and body. These pieces were then glued into place.

Using a pulley system the Roc was hoisted up in order to test its stability and rigging capacity.
The rest of the dressing and sculpting was finished in this position inorder to be able to work with the object as it would be seen in presentation.
This was certainly an exciting day at the shop and we all got to see the Roc transformed from something that looked like a giant holiday turkey into a fearsome predator.

Cocoa fiber feathers once glued into place get based with the same black primer. The talons were dressed with a wrapped fabric to give them girth and coated with a workable hardcoating that allowed for their detailing. At this time the placement of the eyes was plotted out and the beak carved and shell coated.

Finally the paint process of black primer, a dark brown first coat and a couple layers of lighter dry-brushed highlights tied all the fiber and wooden feathers together. Painted detailing to the eyes beak and claws was added and the Roc was ready to be delivered. All this in about 10 days from a full time crew of two, myself and Chris Bertolf, the art director at Tom Carroll Scenery in Jersey City. We were able to draw on the help of the shop welder Adam Carretta who fabricated the armatures to our specs and we also had the aid of painter, Tim O'Neil to help apply coats and finishing applications. Meanwhile things were also crackin' on the Kraken.

All three of the large scale sculptures you will be looking at were crafted from reference to clay models (at a scale of 1" to equal 1' ) supplied by the design staff of the Museum of Natural History. And it is a regret of mine that I did not photograph those as well. It would have been an interesting study for you to note how faithfull the translations were and in what cases they were perhaps improved upon - or not improved upon. There is a good amount of open objectivity when working in what amounts to a group concencus design and often at the end of a project a lot of seemingly arbitrary changes can be decided upon by the clients who comissioned the work and the project is never really finished until they are happy (or they run out of money/time). Certainly though the feather technique we devised for the Roc added a fantastically real dimension to the object that could never have been indicated on the raw clay model we were given to work from and everyone was quite pleased with the results.


Til said...

Matt this is amazing work! WOW! Perhaps Springstead could replace the sitting duck one in front of the school with this magnificent one!!! LOVE IT!

discodandy said...

Hello Mr Mikas....
I would like to e-mail you concerning a proposal for a documentary about Les Baxter. Would you be interested? Robbert Voges,Amsterdam