Chris Walas.... How I did "The Ruined Lemurian Temple!," (Building log)
Who are the Lemurians you ask?
Good question, Lemuria was the Victorian name for a mythical Pacific Ocean Lost Continent that was supposed to be the source land of the human race. It was really based on widespread islanders' myths of a land called MU.
The Darwinians had problems explaining the widespread presence of the LEMUR primates on the Earth and came up with the notion that there must have been a lost source continent that they all spread from. They adapted the legends of MU and created LeMUria, somewhere in the Pacific. All a lot of Victorian Nonsense, but fun.
Helldorado is the name of my Rogue County gold mine. I thought it was a witty combination of Hell and Eldorado. Eldorado being a mythical kingdom of gold that the miners sought, and hell being the reality they wound up having to face. Unfortunately, I found out that Helldorado was actually the nickname of the city of Tombstone, Arizona. I don't know the genesis of that particular.
Nonetheless, these long lost tales and notions appeal to me and so I'm appropriating them into the mythology of my RR. What the heck, it's my railroad!
I'm hoping to use it as the entrance to my Helldorado Mineral and Mining Company. The concept fits in well with my overall "mythology" for Rogue County, so why not?
The above is just a quick sketch, trying to hone in on a look for this thing. I don't think this is it, but it's close. I like the idea of this being the entrance to the mine and I suspect that I'm not going to define a plan very precisely. I'll just start building once I feel comfortable with the visual approach. I'll probably build it as a new structure and then "weather" it down to an ancient ruin.
I did a quick test. I took a scrap piece of blue foam and shaped it into a couple of sorta pre-Columbian skulls to see how workable the foam would be for these sculptural pieces on the temple. I rasped the basic shape, sanded it relatively smooth (A bit too much as the rasping has a nice "broken stone" look to it), then I drew the features on with a felt pen and used a hot wire tool to draw in the detail. On the right is an unpainted foam skull and on the left a relatively finished one.
I started with a base coat of a warm charcoal grey, very dark. Then drybrushed over that with some almost flesh toned tan. In person, it's actually a bit more grey-brownish. If you wanted to it to look more like the photo, I'd suggest starting with a dark, dark umber.
I would still be adding more weathering and aging to the look. I'm not too happy with the look that the hot wire tool gets for this effect, so I may switch to a dremel or hand files. These two skulls will be fine for background decoration on the sides or back of the temple.
The important thing is that this test showed me that I can probably do everything I need to out of blue foam on this project. I had been considering several other materials, coatings, etc., but it looks like I may be able to do the whole thing with a few less steps.
I painted the first skull with a coat of exterior latex primer> thinking when the temple's all done, I'll give it a good coat (or three) of a flat polyurethane varnish that I've been doing tests with. I coated a small paper model (just computer paper) with this varnish and it has survived well outside in rain and shine for a full year and a half and is still going strong! This varnish provides a tough skin against minor scrapes and such.
Another test piece of blue foam has been outside for almost four and a half years now and is also still doing well. That had a primer of latex paint and has only acrylics over it.
I'm thinking that the more I limit the number of materials and steps involved, the greater chance I have of finishing this one!
Well, it's turning into less of a temple and more of a shrine every minute! This is the basic starting "box" for the temple. I don't really want to make it any bigger, even though it would look better.
The stuff on the roof is just there to help me visualize the upper floor(s?). I'm thinking of a sort of baby ziggurat design. Of course, as I'm designing as I go, this could change any time!
The relief sculptures on the side were not as easy as I'd hoped they'd be. This blue styrofoam works well for some things and less well for others. Still have to fiddle with different tools for sculpting it.
The relief sculptures for the other side of the temple are done and additional frieze pieces put above them.
Also blocked in the upper level which will (at this point) be topped by some sort of sculpture (the top block). Entry and exit have been cut and the pieces for the entry sculpture also cut. the legs of the front idol are also roughed in.
I did a quick test on a piece of foam. I sprayed MEK solvent on the foam to get that worn rock look I'm after. I brushed on additional layers to deepen the erosion and then drew in cracks while the plastic was still wet. While it's time consuming, it'll help get away from the styrofoam look.
I'm still developing sculpting techniques with the styrofoam. Not entirely happy with anything so far as this foam likes to tear. I don't think heat tools are the best choice for this project because the skinning of the styrofoam will get in the way of the MEK techniques. I'm having some luck with certain moto-tool bits, but not convinced of anything yet.
I started out using hot wire tools and in fact, that's what I'm using for cutting the outlines of the relief sculptures. It's great for cutting the fine lines, but that's about it. I'm having better control with blades and rasps for forming the curves and finer lines. I'm really looking for something that I can sculpt with rather than just cut or sand. I'll let you know if I ever find it!
The foam so far demands a variety of tools to work as well as I need for this project, but hey, that's the fun!
The urethane foam blocks that are used for inuslation are quite different from the Styrofoam insulations and are wonderful for sculpting. I've used them on projects for years and they're fast and easy to sculpt with. The reason I'm trying to do this all in Styrofoam is to try and develop techniques that I don't have. I really enjoy coming up with new approaches and techniques. It's not always the most effective use of my time, but I like it.
A good coating for Styrofoam is regular exterior latex house paint. It adheres extremely well. I plan on giving the Temple a final coat of water-based polyurethane varnish. This has really helped skin the foam.
A popular technique here is to cover foam buildings with vinyl concrete patch. I haven't done tried it yet, but it seems to work very well.
The top floor has been glued together; the bottom floor has been glued together. Each as a separate "building". That way they will be easier to detail out before final assembly.
I've begun the detail of the base. A pattern for the blocks was drawn on in marker and then ground out with a Dremel. I'm in the middle of rasping a preliminary stone texture on the foam;
The footprint of the temple is 20"x30" and it should stand about 27" high. It's just one building, but I'm dealing with each story (2) as separate structures so that it will be easier to carve and add the various pieces.
I've started on the sculpture for the top and it looks like it's going to be a tough one. I'm doing everything out of the blue foam because when I start to "ruin" it I want to use my MEK "texture" technique of spraying in a very fine mist layered on for control and other materials wouldn't respond the same.
You can see just how rough it is in this closer shot. By the way, the hole in the center is the sacrificial Pit of Eternal...something. Haven't figured out all the details yet.
The Seahorses of Death (Lemurians weren't as peaceloving as one might hope) will be split; two in the front two in back.
The front demonic entrance deity have been glued together, but the bad part about all this styrofoam is that there's no quick, strong adhesive so it's a bit of a waiting game at times.
Here's a view of the temple as it stands now. The base is separate and the Pit of Eternal Despair is dead center with the tracks going right over it. The pit will only be visible from the front and back, but I picked up a solar light to stick in the pit for an eerie nightime glow (he, he!). I've had to change the temple's proportions quite a bit to fit a train in and the open mouth Entry God may have to turn into some other kind of thing.
Hey, this is an evolutionary process!
The big bottom story is separate from the upper "high priest's penthouse". The statue on top (still separate) is the great Lemurian God Taheckwitcha, Protector of Lemuria and Destroyer of everything else. Taheckwitcha is a terrifying god with the head of an octopus and the body of...well, it looks like a jumbo shrimp. Terrifying.
As you can see in this next view of Taheckwitcha, this will probably be the most detailed of the statues. It's really going slow and I'm not sure how it's going to turn out, but the good thing is if I screw it up, I can just smash it into "ruins"!
The rear of the temple will be guarded by two of the Seahorses of Death and some other lesser deity over the opening.
Here's the as yet unnamed giant saber-toothed cyclopean jaguar that guards the entry;
I've done them in different colors because I want to cut them to two different depths and I don't want to confuse them! Decorative corbels have also been glued in place here and there.
Here's another shot of Taheckwitcha showing its tentacles.
I've widened the sacrificial Pit of Eternal Stuff to look more menacing. and the archaeologists are working feverishly to uncover the full glory that was LEMURIA!
Painting this is going to be a challenge in itself!
I knew this one had some room to grow when I started it. I suppose I do need some Lemurians around the ruins to ward off the Rogue County locals. What DO Lemurians look like? My first thoughts are to steal from the images of Frazetta and Edgar Rice Burroughs; brutish half-ape men and stunningly gorgeous women. But that's not enough. How about blue skin for the women and green for the men? Maybe spirits and apes or a lost tribe of prehistoric apes (Gigantopithecus?) to guard the ruins?
The opening is about 7&1/4" from the railhead, so no Shay. I've got plenty of other locos that will do the job, though. In the far future, maybe I need to develop some Lemurian low-riding attack railcars?
At this point I'm planning on sealing the foam with tinted latex primer as it adheres so well. I'll coat the finished temple with a final sealer of water-based polyurethane matte varnish. The tests I've done seem to show that the polyurethane is a good scuff resistant coat. This is all subject to further testing, of course!
So, just where in Rogue county does this fit? - I gotta tell ya, I thought I had it all planned out to fit at the far end of my mine line (which is on a reversing unit). The original concept(such as it was!) was to have the temple half buried coming out of an as yet unbuilt mountainside. I figured I'd only have to build half the temple that way!
HOWEVER, the best laid plans of mice and men...squeek! As soon as I started building this I realized I had devised a very effective trap for myself. The real reason I wanted to do this, aside from it just being a weird choice, was to develop some techniques for working with this blue foam that would give me some freedom in creating more freeform constructions. The trap I set for myself was simply that I couldn't design the ruined aspect until I designed the temple itself! What this means is that to get a consistent look to the final surface treatment, I'm going to have to use ONLY blue foam (because the final surface will be a solvent treatment) and I also have to build the darn thing as a complete unit before I "ruin" it! I'm sure after this first one that any subsequent attempts will be much easier!
The temple is winding up bigger and more involved than I planned. Big surprise there, I know. I'm not sure it will even fit on the layout anymore!
As far as the process for ruining goes...still working on that one! The plan at the moment (I'm winging it) is once the temple proper is finished, to pick and choose areas for broken sections, worn areas, etc. I suspect the foam will be easily workable for all this and that once I get to the Solvent stage, I'll be able to get some nice wear and tear on it. That's another reason that the temple is in layers; I don't want solvent dripping off the top section and burning through the lower section!
At some point in the dim future, once I know where this thing is going to wind up, I hope to "dress it in" as we say in the movie biz; add vines and such. I'm also hoping to do a few scattered statues (maybe Easter Island-like heads?) to place around the temple so that it doesn't look so "alone" in the field.
The "foam' Stage of construction is complete!
Now remember, the foam base will be very nearly entirely buried so the stone base will be at ballast level.
I've added as many little bits of statuary and decor as I can stand at this point and although I realize I could go on and on for a good year or more, I suspect the Lemurian High Priestesses will forgive my desire to find an end to this madness!
The side panels have been finished off in simple (one might say even cheezy) Lemurian hieroglyphics. Hey, even Lemurians had to get on with things, eh?
One nearly devastating disappointment was having to abandon two of the Seahorses of Death. As the temple grew, space for add-ons decreased and the rear Seahorses of Death (although half finished) were just slightly too large. They have been retired (for the nonce). Two completely separate and different Rear Guardians of Taheckwitcha's temple have been fashioned at great expense and effort at the last minute;
Naturally, I couldn't let the Death's Head Rear Guardian over the exit stand without a touch of whimsey, i.e. the missing tooth.
The next step ( I think) will be to apply the deadly MEK "stone" texturing overall to the temple. Once I get a feel for what the heck this thing may look like, I'll start breaking and cracking bits here and there and then hopefully, it's on to the painting!
Well, RUINATION has begun. Much was learned as I began the MEK treatment on the styrofoam. Styrofoam is not all created equal. Some sufaces resisted the MEK much more than others; MEK through an airbrush is too darn even a coating; and MEK will eat into one of those pump spray bottles.
HOWEVER, the spray bottles work the best. For the heavily worn, pock-marked effect that I was going for, the very uneven splotchy spray worked well.
The major concern I ran into was that on this scale of uneven, large surfaces, the effect of the MEK was very difficult to gauge by eye. The blue, fine surface of the foam made the texture extremely difficult to see as I worked it. So much so that I had to adjust my plan (again!). I've done a heavy texture over most of the temple, but held off on the really heavy "ruining" until the first coat of paint is on so that I can really see what it looks like. Even after the MEK is dry, it's still very difficult to judge the effect until a suface color is on it;
The statue of Taheckwitcha has come out with a look that I like quite a bit. I went with a lighter treatment on the penthouse section. As I'm hoping to do a fairly involved texture paint scheme with washes, sponging and drybrushing, I'm hesitant to do too much physical destruction too soon. I may even have to get the whole thing finished before I do anymore damage. I don't want to wind up with only three walls left!
Finished the MEK treatment (I think). I get the impression that some of the styrofoam sheets have some form of mold release on them, possibly a wax of some kind that really diminishes the MEK effect. What I got was the MEK penetrating through very small pores and attcking the foam underneath so that the outer surface seemed unaffected while it was attacking the subsurface. It may be as simple a matter as washing the surfaces with alcohol before using the MEK? It seems that the sides with printing on them are the problem areas.
Getting closer! While I had my doubts after the first coat of paint on the penthouse, now that the whole thing is no longer blue (thank You, Lord!), I'm getting my hopes back up again. I really ate into the surface a lot in some areas and although it doesn't show as much in these photos, I think once I get the first wash of color over it, the detail and texture will stand out nicely. The surface at this point looks a lot like pumice, which I'm hoping will work well to suggest the worn sandstone look I'm after. My yard is populated by sandstone boulders and it would be a mistake to go for a different look!
The temple also (to my eye) looks a lot more cohesive when it's not blue! I really was starting to get sick and tired of the color!
Now comes the fun part! Soon (soon as I get the time!) the temple will get a full weathered paint job.
Is that a light at the end of the temple I see???
Here it is with two different coats of washes on it. I got to try to accent the detail a little bit in this photo;
Getting kinda mood evocative, huh? It still has three or four more colors to go on; it's way too bright at the moment.
Maybe I'd better start planting a Lemurian jungle out in the yard!
I have been thinking about vines or something to dress up the outside, but that's such a job in itself that I'll probably take a break before attempting them! I'll need to test a few materials first.
I DID miss a few spots! That's why I've been thinking seriously about vines...to cover the boo-boos!
There are a few noses, teeth, etc. missing off of some of the smaller figures,. The big entrance guy needs something more... Still working on that one. I am planning a few broken pieces here and there, but not till I'm happy with the paint job. I think it's time to start looking at some real temples for inspiration again!
The vapor emitter sounds pretty intriguing, pond & plant stores now sell an inexpensive water vapor emitter's... So far all I have planned for this is the solar light in the Pit of Eternal Stuff and then I'm hoping to put a cd player in the penthouse playing "those incessant drums!" , if I can find a good cd of incessant drums!
I will be adding bits of slime and mold here and there. I'd like to do vines, I saw a photo of a temple in Thailand that had this incredible root system growing all over one side of it and it was really thick, as thick as a tree. In my vision (still forming) of this temple, I want to go for a really ancient look, decrepit. More of the dead vines than the greenery look, so I'm thinking I'll have to create these vines. Hopefully, I'll eventually find a placement for this where I can actually plant a little jungle around it.
I am planning on doing figures for this thing as well. The possibilities are mindboggling.
I'm open to suggestions!
Well, spent the majority of today dumping paint on this thing!
Most of the time was spent trying to hide all the things that didn't work or details that were melted away in the MEK stage!
I added a bunch of painted cracks which help a lot even though they don't show up much in these pics.
I layered a bunch of color on to knock down the overall color value so it wasn't so vibrant.
The funny part was that I had to take it outside to paint it! The flourescents in the garage were skewing the color horribly.
I've started my "shoulda' done it this way" list, not that I'm planning on making another Lemurian Temple! This really has been a learning experience...and I haven't even gotten to the vines yet!
Good suggestions on the vines,guys, thanks. There wasn't anything to my liking at Michael's today. Been thinking of a few new techniques to try out for the vines, but I'm out of town for next week, so I don't think I'll get a chance to do anything. I'm tired! This thing may only be styrofoam, but after lugging it around for most of the day it feels like it weighs a ton! Well, maybe not a ton, maybe just a few pounds.
I don't know where these Lemurians ever found the time and energy to do this kind of thing!
Some thoughts on.....
As far as using the same techniques for your own stuff, you might want to wait till I finish this thing up. While high-density styrofoam works really well for some things, it's really not the best choice for others. Also, there are considerations when doing the MEK treatment, depending on what look you're going after. I'll try to put what I've found out into some kind of readable document that makes sense (hey, there's always a first time!) One thing it is great for is straight wall stuff. California missions, the Alamo, etc. Simple rounded shapes aren't too bad, but stay away from the detail stuff I've done, it's too much work and it's nearly impossible to get a quality finish on the small stuff.
I suspect the styrofoam will hold up very well outdoors. I've had a piece of foam with a stone texture on it outdoors for four years now and the only wear on it is from it getting blown across the yard and smashing against rocks and stones! And even that damage is less than I would have expected. The latex paint gives it a surprising strength. It's still not the strongest in the world, but strong enough to weather the elements. I'm planning on coating the RLT with clear polyurathane varnish which should really help protect it.
I have a problem in my area with birds tearing off anything that looks stringy, fibrous, thatched, etc. to use for nest building. They've already pulled the roofs off a couple of buildings. So I'm a little concerned about what I use for vines and moss. It'll have to be something that is pretty sturdy. Time for some testing!
As far as what I'm going to do with this thing when it's done...I don't have a clue!
Well, haven't gotten much done on the temple (or anything else) lately. Did some detail painting and I'm fiddling with vine tests now. Nothing fantastic yet, but in the name of expediency I may just go with what I've got so far.
The big news is that while I'm wasting my life in front of this computer for work I can still make figures! So here's the first resident of the temple;
She hasn't got a name yet and I apologise for the quick and dirty paint job, I just don't have much time these days. She'll get a bit more clean-up work on her before I repaint her, but she looks pretty good up on the temple,
luring unsuspecting Helldorado miners to their doom.
I'm not very good at doing women figures yet, but I'm getting a little better.
the facial proportions are the tough part.
Still playing with trying to get the proportions right. It seems Chris has fallen into his "Babe" faze, but don't worry, I've started on the apemen for the temple as well......
While I think it would look really cool to have the temple draped with babes that are guarded by lumbering apemen, these ladies are a lot of work!
I may still do a blonde as the "offering to Taheckwitcha", but not until I get a few other things out of the way!
and by the way....The first of the Lemurian guards has arrived! So don't even think about gettin' near those Lemurian babes!
Just finished the 2nd Lemurian Guard! Here's an almost finished, unpainted shot just to illustrate what these things look like before paint as well as to show the various mixing and matching of polyclays I often do;
I like this guy, mostly because of his attitude, or pose, which I took from and old movie gorilla guy, Ray "Crash" Corrigan. Here's the finished figure atop the Lemurian Temple protecting another babe. And yes, that is a Lemurian mummy in the alcove;
This closer shot of the figure shows just how "loose" the sculpture really is;
Here's the last, an apeman; not a guard, but a lookout. I really enjoyed this making this guy. he's almost pure ape, but what the heck. He's the Lookout hanging on the statue of Taheckwitcha and if he sees you before you see him...Look Out!
These artifacts will be used to "dress in" the temple...when and if I ever figure out where I'm putting it!
Still have to find flicker lights for the torches, mount the cd player and speakers inside, polyurathane seal the whole thing, add vines, make apemen guards,....hmmm, can't think of anything else!
Just when the memory of the Lost Lemurian Temple had almost faded from memory a, strange new vision has aroused suspicion that Lemuria may not be as long lost as Professor Emeritus believes!
The vehicle sailed smoothly across the rails and it was only the keen observer that caught a glimpse of it.
How did it get there?
Who was the mysterious babe?
Stay tuned for the next chapter in the Lemurian Chronology!