Art & Sculpture Maker News
The Star Wars Cantina Bar Creature Project: ‘Hammerhead’

After viewing Star Wars – ‘A New Hope’ in the cinema, I decided there and then, that the film industry would be the career of choice; notably props/models etc.

Some years later after finishing design college, I found myself hanging out with one of the original Star Wars model makers(retired) who worked on the original ‘A New Hope’ classic Star Wars movie! 

I found myself lucky enough to be taken under his wing to show me a few things; a few tricks of the trade. I ended up working with him on some model which involved basic animatronics and modelling. 

This was my first taste of the models and props department in Film and Television. 

Years have past and I have been involved with dozens of major film works. My vision as a boy had been correct.

Forward to the present; I decided to create some creature, reminiscent to one of the Cantina Bar creatures, namely the Hammerhead character seen briefly gazed upon by Luke Skywalker. Another example of this character has been seen as Dok-Ondar in one of the latest movies of the franchise.

Furthermore I thought it interesting to re-create a mixture of the original cantina bar ‘Hammerhead’, with Dok-Ondar. 

The Sculpt

I had quite a bit of reference for Dok, but not clear reference of ‘Hammerhead’, as the light was dim in that part of the bar. But I went ahead anyway, fusing some of each best I could in my mind to refer to.

Now sculpting quite a large head like this character, I knew I would need a lot of clay; I ended up using about twenty eight kilos of the stuff! I would rather the clay be as thick as possible; not solid, but enough thickness outside the armature supporting the clay. 

I know even by the thickness I wished to sculpt in, I only had certain amount of days before the clay would start to crack(even after wetting with water and sealing with plastic sheet each day). 

It can be a race in time to get your sculpt completed and apply silicone soon as, before that clay starts to dry up and crack. Because yes, I have had sculpts cracking on me and yes its frustrating!

I have used plastilene oil clays in the past but I find them a bit much for large works; I use them more for models and miniature works.

The character was quite an awkward form to sculpt, so I had an armature built to begin with as the shape needed support internally. Normally I use metal armatures; I would avoid wooden ones as it sucks moisture from that part of the sculpt so will accelerate cracking.

Next, I blocked out the main form using ‘large blobs’ of clay. You can see how the form is developing with this method; like the equivalent of ‘pencil sketching’. After, I modelled the eyes roughly, ‘mouth rib’ areas along-with its long frontal segments of flesh. Then I started on detailing neck, face and forehead lines.  I began sculpting in skin, fleshy lumps, eye and eyelid details. 

I usually use a small wire brush with flexible bristles, to create that real fine skin detail. 

An artists brush was used to smooth out and blend fine skin lines with a little water.

The Mould/Cast

I decided to create a two piece mould. I created a vertical line of metal flanges overlapping one-another, which effectively split the sculpt into two halves. I placed small pieces of oil clay onto the metal flange strips, creating a key so that the silicone would create small hollows. I applied thixotropic silicone to the one side where I applied the oil clay pieces. I applied a second coat.

With the silicone cured, I took off the flanges carefully(you will be left with one side of silicone with keys around the whole form)

Next I applied release agent to the silicone area which held the keys(to avoid other half bonding to it). Then I applied thixotropic silicone with a brush, to the side with the release agent. I applied a second coat. 

Lastly the silicone needed a support jacket, so I applied fibreglass to one side, then brushed vaseline to the fibreglass wall to avoid it sticking. After, fibreglass was applied to the other side. I re-enforced the walls to support clamps. The casting process began. 

At the time I was creating this, I had not any fast casting resin which I would have normally used for a two piece mould. It is great for swishing around the mould for a couple of minutes before it sets, so ideal for a fast de-mould. So instead I used what was around; epoxy resin.

I decided to use mica filler to thicken the resin. Due to the shockproof nature of epoxy resin, it makes an ideal method if you wish to produce thinner casts. The mica is great to make the epoxy into a thixotropic state. Also epoxy has positive properties. It does not smell like general purpose resin, can be non-toxic, but the downside is its higher price. 

I believe its best to buy in bulk if you are making this into a regular hobby! 

So the two halves of the mould were separated. The epoxy resin was applied by brush to both parts of the mould. I believe it was thick enough with the mica powder; but also lighter! Which is what you need with a large cast. The mould was fixed together with some ‘G-clamps’.

I sprayed expanding foam all around the mould. I left it to cure in the sun(can be your best friend when casting!)

At the end of the day it was time to de-mould. Everything was cured. I took apart the mould and release the cast. There was just a few little bits of filling to be done and sanding down the flange line. I use P38 car body filler for small repairs on the cast. Takes minutes to dry and is easy to sand!

The Paint Job

Reference is everything when creating a paint job. I gathered about a dozen images that partially showed quite subtle-tones of the characters flesh. I put in as always, some artistic license. 

I created a paint pallet of browns; dark brown, pinky browns, orangey browns and pinky reds. 

I hand-brushed a basic flesh tone onto the white primed cast. Next I applied by airbrush, many glazes of pinky browns, reds and oranges. I painted the eyes black then sealed them with gloss varnish. I concentrated on airbrushing the various dips, fleshy lumps and the ‘grilly’ mouth area.

I started bringing out details such as eyelids, forehead and frontal segments with dark and light fleshy tones. 

The whole piece was starting to flow. I deepened the brown tones to may areas. Lastly, I applied epoxy resin to the eyes creating patches of ‘sweatiness’ to its forehead and eyelids. I wished the character to have a ‘salivated’ mouth area, so epoxy was applied there too.

Looking at the final result, I feel its character has been captured. This cantina bar creature looks like it may jump to life at any moment!

You can find all of my work, both for sale and not, at https://www.all-original-art.com/

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Robert Stannage

I have worked in the film industry as an artist for the last nineteen years, across several creative departments contracted out by major motion picture studios.

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