Created for Plymouth's #polarbearexplorers event, the desire was for us to create a realistic but "kind of cute" Polar bear cub and then make 20x duplicates. Join Greg Lawrence as he describes the process and pain of creating a lifesize sculpture of the world's cutest mammal!
Stage1 - Research
I wanted to design the cub with a keen yet vulnerable look, so I set to researching Polar bears and cubs. I immersed myself in the look and feel of the little mammals, watching them walk, run, roll around, sniff the air...it all helped gain a really good feel for how I may bring some of the expression out in the sculpture.
Stage2 - Digital sculpture
Creating sculptures digitally in my view is the most efficient, expressive way. It gives me a chance to try multiple poses, shapes and anatomical variations in a way that is simply not practical with real clay or modelling materials. I have a mad passion for digital sculpture and founded the Freelance 3D Modeling group on Linked In as a result of my passion and to join virtual hands with sculptors the world over.
You can see below the cub went through various stages from early blockout through refinement and finally I found the form I was looking for. It was a really painful process, trying to create a kind of light, fluffy look to something which will effectively be a solid.
I gave the digital sculpture a little paint so I could be sure I would be able to find the right look with the real finished model.
Stage 3 - 3D Printing the Cub
Taking the digital file and creating a 3D print is the simpler part of the process for an object that is only 600mm tall. The body was created using SuperHuge 3D printing, which is made for objects 1m up to unlimited size, so this was on the smaller side of things. The face was 3D printed in ABS and fixed to the polystyrene before cleanup ready for moulding.
Stage 4 - Moulding & Casting a Polar Bear Army
I created a silicone jacket mould - a soft rubbery jacket with a hard casing - so the cubs could be spray-cast in resin. This is a really cost-effective way of quickly making a short run of casts. Each cast came out, and was cleaned up and primed white ready for painting.
Stage 5 - Painting: Bringing the Cubs to Life
This was a fantastic challenge. We all have preconceptions that Polar bears are white - yet in fact there is a marvellous depth of colour to their fur. Additionally the colour is affected by two other factors: light and dirt. The quality of light and time of day affect the colour of the fur dramatically as each strand of fur holds and absorbs the light rays. For example at sunset the fur takes on a glowing, deep, creamy colour. Yet in a blizzard the fur is a flatter, whiter colour. Our cubs would be in shops on the harbour front in Plymouth, so also had to look natural in their retail environment. Dirt was the second factor, and often the fur is grubby around the feet and belly area. Reds and browns, clay-like from the natural habitat (when not on snow and ice) give a realistic quality. I took all these factors on board and decided to go for a clean, warmish design. Not too grubby.
When it came to painting the face, I worked really hard to paint and airbrush an inquisitive, alert look. I spent hours looking at Polar bear eyes, desperate to understand how and why they looked vulnerable in one image, yet happy in another. Finally I reached a look I was happy with.
The Final Sculptures Launched at the National Marine Aquarium
Airbrushed to look consistent across each cub. I was pleased to have achieved a soft, fluffy look with a vulnerable yet inquisitive feel.
#polarbearexplorers #sculpture #3dprinting #3dmodelling
Watch the YouTube Timelapse Video
Timelapse showing the painting and airbrushing of the little army...