Sculpting A Giant Troll Head For Your Mantle

Art & Sculpture Maker News
Sculpting A Giant Troll Head For Your Mantle

As a television series adaptation of the Pre-Lord of the Rings story is being eagerly awaited by millions around the world, I thought it apt to stir the imaginations of those who have yet to taste the magic of JR Tolkeins world.  

I was thinking of all the iconic imagery of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Trilogies. One creature came to mind: the Cave Trolls of Moria.

I was determining what scale I should work in; full scale seemed overwhelming for one guy to sculpt and I set a challenge to create this troll as simply as possible using clay, silcone and paints. 

I concluded a half scale head would be dramatic enough. Better still I decided to create the face trophy of a cave troll; slain by a knight and mounted on a castle wall(and in your home above the fireplace if wished)

The Troll Sculpt

I began my sculpt out of potters clay; the cheapest clay I could get my hands on. Now working with clay presents issues of cracking when certains areas of the sculpt begin drying easrlier than others. To avoid this I decided to sculpt the troll in solid form and over a fabricated backing made from cardboard soaked in resin to not dry the clay out; to not let any moisture be absorbed in the backing. 

For this to be realised I had to create an armature out of metal and thick wood (as seen in the beginning photo) to support the mass of clay that I wished to sculpt almost vertically. Also I had to sculpt in a way to create a ‘one-piece’ silicone mold.

I bought 30 kg of clay(hense the metal/wood supporting armature) for very little money on one of the main internet shopping channels much to my surprise(normally would get at an official sculpting suppliers) 

Next phase was to ‘block out’ the general dimensions of the troll by using ‘blobs of clay’ method(lumps of clay knotted together to form a shaped mass) Then via the reference from the movies and artisitic license, I began to work out the bones and muscles features; the shull bones I changed to more ribbed ones rather than the smoother forehead depicted. 

After I felt the general features were there I started to work in detail like nostrals, teeth and eyelids not touching the skin texture as yet.

The last phase of the sculpt was ‘skin texturising’. The general lines around cheeks, chin, forehead were worked in, then I got to work on an ‘elephant-like’ skin texture that I thought appropriate for a large and lumbering being such as a Cave Troll.

The clay sculpt was complete. I left the clay to harden somewhat before I would apply silicone for the molding process.

The Trophy board

In the meantime I fabricated a trophy board on which the Cave Troll face would be mounted upon. I decided to use bits of polystyrene sheet(which is cheap; again from the same shopping place) and glued the pieces together.

The sheet was then carved out with a ‘parma ham’ knife(handy long slender knives for ‘poly slicing’) to create angled sides to the effect of a classical design; much like that of a ‘Coat of Arms’ mounting board. 

The Troll Mold

After a few days of the clay scuplt ‘firming up’, I applied ‘non-RTV’ silicone onto the clay sculpt as RTV is ‘room temperature vulcanation’ and the temperature in my garage was too cold for this cure as my garage had lost electricity temporarily! 

I applied the silicone in a liquid state first to ensure the silicone fell intio the detail of the skin texture. There can be a lot of silicone waste in this process but its crucial to get that silicone into the sculpt detail; using thixotropic silicone first may result in lost detail due to trapped bubbles in your sculpt detail!

A layer of Thixotropic silicone was applied by brush to the first layer after first layer was non-tacky(I just find this preferable for me; others have their preferred time to apply the second layer)

I repeated this ‘silicone layering’ process, until I felt the ‘skin mold’ was thick enough to bear the process of ‘resin casting’.

The ‘Poly’ Trophy board was simply brushed over with ‘thixo’ added silicone in several layers.

When the silicone had fully cured on the Troll and Trophy board, I carefully removed the silicone and placed it back onto the sculpt. There’s a reason why I did this. I wished to avoid trapping the mold onto the sculpt when backing the siliocne with resin and glass matting.

So I went to the task of backing both molds with polyester resin and glass matting. I worked with a grade of light glass matting, to save on the general weight, as these large molds that require kilograms of silicone can be weighty to move around!

The molding process was complete.

Casting The Troll and Trophy Board

I made the choice to cast the Troll in epoxy resin with filler of mica powder which is  preferred for me, as mica can get epoxy into a ‘Thixotropic state’ thus is ideal for vertical applications of resins upon a silicone surface to avoid ‘slippage’ (running down and collecting in pools resulting in wafer thin sides and overly thick resin cast fronts)

I applied the Thixotropic epoxy by brush, easing it into the details of the skin first. The thickness needs to be worked out as too thick will result in a too pasty epoxy and thus awkward to apply to fine detail or too thin and slow slippage of epoxy resulting in pools of collected epoxy on bottom of mold(gravity being your enemy here)

So its worth experimenting with the amount of mica you use with resins in vertical applications.

With the Troll, I applied two layers of the epoxy; sufficent in my mind to be firm enough take some knocks etc. I backed the epoxy layers with hard setting foam which resulted in weight saving.

With the Trophy board I poured around a centimetre of resin into the flat part of the mold. After the resin had cured, I applied thixotropic resin to the angled walls. I filled the rest of the mold and like the Troll; backed the resin with hard setting foam. 

The time arrived to take the casts out of the molds. 

The silicone molds were washed in soap and water to clean any residue out and placed back into their resin glass supports. 

Both the casts were prepared for painting. Any minor holes were filled with ‘easy sand’(p38)car body filler. Rubbed down with light sand paper and de-dusted ready for painting.

Painting the Troll

The Troll was primed with a glaze tinted with basic flesh colors; various tones, all applied with brush. Next, light and dark tones of skin were added in layers, thus deepening the depth of skin. Since the Troll had been lurking in caves; its skin was greyish with dark spots here and there suggesting an unhealthy effect due to the absence of sunlight.

I decided the teeth should have some level of decay but not overly. The eyes were painted by artists brushes; its colors I based upon the orcs and a little artistc license.

I applied veins to the white of the eyes with wiry dry roots I found in the nature around me.

I still wanted the eyes to be relatable to humans but still retain the wild stare of a beast.

To bring out the shin texture, the major lines and winkles were mostly filled with a yellowy-cream color to contradict the greyish dull fleshtones. 

Next, an airbrush was used to spray layers of translucent flesh tones over the whole cast furthering the depth of tones. 

Finally epoxy resin was applied to tongue, lips and teeth to suggest a salvating mouth. Parts of the skin was made to look sweaty and clammy on then Trolls brough, eyelids, forehead and nose area.

Epoxy was then lastly applied to the Trolls eyes which I think give them a sort of glazed look which accencuates the Trolls fearless nature when stirred up, or in battle.

Painting the Trophy board/shield

Lastly, I thought about the different finishes I could apply to the Trophy board. I finally decided to go for a weathered Bronze look to reflect the patinated statues of ancient time. I started with a basecoat of black glaze straight onto the bare resin cast. The glaze in the paint helps it stick like glue I find. 

I applied layers of translucent glazes tintewd with light green-blues and darker ones. This I find builds the depth of the bronze and amounts to a ‘heaviness’ associated with bronze and an allure of its attractive patinations and weathering.

Whilst I went about the process of painting this Trophy board, I imagined a Knight from ancient time removing the Trolls face and mounting it upon what better than a bonze trophy backing. The backing; almost shield-like, as though this was the shield that was used in the battle to slay the Troll.

The final task was to mount the Trolls face to the bronzed Trophy board to forfill the whole drama.

I applied simple ‘houshold’ bathroom silicone sealant to the troll cast foam backing and firmly squished the cast onto the Trophy board.

A day later, the silicone was cured. Job done. 

The final effect is pretty dramatic considering you now have a slain Cave Troll face fixed upon a bronze Trophy board/shield. 

Now I suggest it be mounted to he wall! (Preferably above a fireplace, or, perhaps, in a prime position in your man or woman cave!)

Troll face mounted on Trophy board/shield limited pieces are for sale on my website (sculptures page):

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

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.

View more articles by Robert Stannage