Monday, June 24, 2013

Eye Love It!

 Made up a big batch of balls to test varies materials/ideas and ultimately found my way.

I've worked out my technique for crafting eyeballs for Halfland puppets. I bought some air dry clay at an office supply store, of all places, something I never would have bought ordinarily. It turned out to have very interesting properties for this task that make it ideal. It shapes smoothly, dries on its own without special equipment, carves nicely in the greenware stage before it's dry, and burnishes with a soft cloth to a wonderful, gentle sheen, seen above. Reminds me a bit of an eggshell finish. I love its natural dry color as well. No need to paint the whites.
From my experience making the Koi of Enlightenment's eyes and other paintings years back, I remembered that real gold leaf, not metallic paint, not iridescent mica, only real gold leaf, sitting at the bottom of a stack of painted layers carries forward with magical effect. It's as though the gold imbues whatever colors placed on top of it with an inner light, like magnified jewels. I applied gold size to flat faces of the balls and proceeded to layer up watercolors and other mediums to see what a mermaid's irises might be.

Back in New York, I bought several expensive pairs of hand-blown glass eyes from a taxidermy shop in Manhattan. Two seen top left, I noticed that what really gave them depth was how the pupils were not on the surface of the cornea but rather embedded under a thick clear layer of glass. I copied this with my liquid diamond glaze medium, building up the layers as each step dried. I used paper punches in black paper for pupils to get them as perfectly round as possible. My favorite results seen lower right. A smaller version, without its pupil, seen lower left, in the test Kyra puppet's face.

On the top right are two whimsical glass eyes bought on that same trip that I embedded into clay and painted many years ago. These were made for a soft plush monster toy idea I had so I made them have crazed bloodshot look by painting the whites with a porcelain crackle medium and tinting the craze with stark red glaze.
I also tried many things along the way that didn't work. I first tried using milk glass beads (upper left) for the eyes but found their holes showed up in the animation and their sizes too restrictive. A stick was used in the paper cast of the Kyra pupp to gauge the best size for the ball and the iris for her final eyes (upper right). Below left, I tried to recreate the intricate texture of an iris by gluing down a cyclone of painted faux fur and trimming to size when dry. But it didn't translate as natural and I found that simple layers of paint came across as complicated enough ad did the job much better. On the bottom right are a few selections of unraveled silk strips that will be glued in place on the pupps as eye lashes. Any colors you'd like!


  1. Hey, the gold leaf really does lift the iris colours! I wonder if aluminium foil would do the same thing, or whether it would oxidise and lose it's reflective quality.
    And what a great solution for small scale eyelashes, unravelled fabric. Never would have thought of that, but like many brilliant ideas, seems obvious one you point it out - I'm SO gonna steal that!

  2. Hey, Nick!! w00t!

    Foil may work, yeah.

    May I sent you a packet with a bit of gold leaf and silk eyelashes in the color(s) of your choice, meanwhile?

    I love sending you things.

  3. No need, I have some gold leaf somewhere. Needed gold flecks on a lizard and nothing else looked bright enough. And I can try the eyelash thing with fabric from my big box - I know I have some silk ties I bought from the charity shop and cut up for costumes, so if it has to be silk I've got that covered. It's the idea, not the actual stuff, that makes the difference, so thanks for the ideas!

  4. HI Nick, I should have said, sending you little inconsequential things. I only ever send you little swatches of things for fun and experimentation. More importantly, to share whatever I hope might be in some way useful for your art. Because there's no way to actually return the generous gift of techniques and encouragement you give to everyone.

    I'm sure what the Big Box holds will bear all that your imagination would ever need. But I will, with your permission, like to also slip you a swatch of the type of thin, gossamer scarf silk I bought at a designer fabric store here. Because I believe a silk used to make most neck ties may be more of a brocade?

    It would possibly work, but you might like (maybe not) having the thinner stuff on hand for very small scale characters?


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