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Last week, Vinylmation Custom Artist Jennifer Bednarski started the journey behind the creation of her Elsa Vinylmation. Response from the community has been great, and we are excited to continue the journey today. This week, she goes into the sculpting phase of the process. Take it away, Jennifer:

Welcome back! With the concept drawing as my reference, it’s time to begin creating the Elsa vinyl:

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I had planned from the start that this would be a 3” design and I have found, what I like to refer to as, my “vinyl victim”. Before I can begin sculpting or painting, I need to remove all the factory paint. This is important because the original paint is typically put on in layers. These layers can create a high low effect on the vinyl surface which will show through a new design, no matter how many layers of paint are applied. Typically, I will use either nail polish remover with acetone or Goof Off. When dealing with these products, I wear safety gloves and work in a well ventilated area.

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I pop the vinyl apart using a twist & pull force. 3” vinyls tend to come apart pretty easy. Then I begin dabbing the remover on with a rag or cotton swab. I do not the soak the pieces in remover, as it will damage the vinyl. Once everything is stripped down, I wash the parts thoroughly with soap & water. Then I let them sit overnight to thoroughly dry.

Due to the elaborate braided hair design Elsa has, I’ve determined that the head and left arm will need to be immobile. I place a drop or two of Gorilla Super Glue on these joints before reattaching the pieces. The blue arrows indicate the areas I’m referring to.

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Now that the factory paint is removed and the figure is prepped it’s time to start sculpting! Currently, I’ve been using Makin’s Clay. It’s an air dry polymer clay that comes in a variety of colors. Since I will be painting the entire figure, it doesn’t really matter what color I use…typically it’s white or natural. Being an artist, after many years of trial & error and lots of tools, I have learned that what works best for me is: a flexible silicone sculpting tool, a paintbrush, toothpicks , a needle or stickpin, and, of course, my fingers!

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Each tool provides an important function:

~ The paintbrush, with a little water, is used to blend edges and smooth clay.

~ The flexible silicone creates great tapered shapes. When rolled it smooths large clay surfaces.

~ Toothpicks create small lines & details.

~ Needles create even smaller lines & details.

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To give the sculpted pieces added strength I’ve decided to “pin” the vinyl in the areas where the clay will be attached. First I lightly sketch Elsa’s hairline. Then I pushed small pins into the crown of the head and along the body where the braid will lay. It just gives a little something extra for the clay to hold on to.

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Now the actual sculpting begins. It comes down to these steps…
1. Glue
2. Add clay
3. Shape with fingers
4. Smooth edged with damp brush
5. Sculpt large details with silicone tool
6. Sculpt lines & details with toothpick or pin
7. Smooth details with damp brush.

Wait a minute add clay…what does that entail? Nothing too tricky. Nearly every piece of clay that will be add to the Elsa vinyl will start as a ball but then end up as either a tapered oval or tear-drop shape.

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OK, now it’s time to sculpt! Starting at the lowest part of Elsa’s non-braided hair, I begin adding pieces and running each piece through the sculpting steps described earlier. I just keep stacking the tapered ovals, one after another, until I reach the opposite side of her head (A-E). At this point there is a lot of sculpted details that are wet so I take a break for a couple of hours and let things firm up. It doesn’t take long and this clay has some stability. With one more tapered oval and a small tear-drop of clay, I finish Elsa’s right temple (F).

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Moving on to the braid, I repeat the same process. This time, I use tear-drop shapes of clay instead of tapered-ovals. The tear shapes get progressively smaller as I get near the end of her braid (G-I). I finish the braid with a long tear shape (J).

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Moving to the back of Elsa’s head, I finish up the sections of hair that flow back from her crown. Again, I use tapered-oval and teardrop shapes(K-M). Finally, I return to the front of the figure and add Elsa’s signature short piece (N). I will now let the figure cure for several days. Once the clay is good and dry, I’ll use a fine grit sandpaper to smooth out the sculpt.

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final

The sculpting is done! A few things have changed from the concept drawing. Some will work to my advantage. Others I may have to go back and change. Overall, I’m happy with the results.

Thanks for hanging with me through this part of the creative journey. I know the pictures weren’t all that exciting (brown, white, brown, white). Next time, however, I’ll be adding all kinds of wonderful color and detail!

Take care ‘til then! ~ Jennifer

Credits: It’s vital that I give Dylan Pommer of Rust this World full credit for my knowledge of material compatibility. I read his tutorials. I studied them well.

Great work, Jennifer! I know I am looking forward to seeing the finished piece next week.

To see more of Jennifer’s talented custom work, some of which is quite breathtaking, you can visit her Facebook Page.

To see amazing creations for a lot of very talented custom artists, don’t forget to join our Artists Unleashed Facebook Group.