Thursday, January 12, 2012

Landscaping 101

The journey of the “Cooling His Heels” project marches forward.  While ideas of add-ons and details continue to parade through my mind like a marching band, I thought I would let those ideas solidify for awhile as I focused my attention on crafting the scene that would be the new home for my cowboy.  It would have to be something that would not only showcase the figure, but a landscape that that would capture the mood of the message that I am trying to portray.
The first decision that I was faced with was the overall shape of the scene.  I enjoy landscaping in the real world, and I truly love curved lines as opposed to sharp corners.  I sat my figure on a piece of paper and envisioned where he would sit, where the stream would run and location of the other features that I wanted to include.  I decided that a circular scene would be the best shape to portray the serene feeling that I was seeking, and ten inches was the perfect diameter for the circle.

I made a trip out to my workshop and found a piece of 3/4" MDF (medium density fiberboard) that was the perfect size.  I cut a ten inch diameter circle out of the MDF using my circle cutting jig on my band saw and sanded it perfectly round using my circle sanding jig for my disk sander.  After placing my figure in the location that I wanted it, I traced in where the stream would go, making sure that the heels of the cowboy were in the right spot.

With the stream located, I used a router with a straight cutting bit to remove the wood for the stream, going roughly half way through the base.  Once the stream was routed, I positioned my figure once again and cut two more pieced of MDF out of the scraps that I would use to form a small hill that the caricature would be reclining on.  Using wood screws, I attached the two additional layers on the scene.  Once everything was positioned and attached, I used my rotary tool with a small sanding drum to round off the sharp edges and give some contour and definition to the landscape.  The following photographs show the progress at this point.

As you can see in the photo above, the rear end of my figure does not quite reach the bottom of the base.  This was by design.  If I were to relax on the bank of a stream with my feet in the water, I would want to be sitting on something comfortable.  Therefore, I provided him a nice log to sit on that cantilevers over the edge of the stream, adding to the effect.  Here’s what I came up with.

Now, with the bones of the scene in place, it was time to make it look more realistic.  Using auto body putty, I filled in the edges around the log to make it look as if it were sunk into the mud.  I also used the body putty to elevate the level of the ground where the figures hands would make contact, since it was slightly too low.  I also spread the putty around at the edge of the bank in front of the log to simulate the texture of mud.  The following is a picture of the scene after this step.

Since the bottom of a stream is not often smooth, I chose to add some texture to it.  Using Mod Podge as a binding agent, I applied course, granular sand that I had purchased years ago from my local hobby store.  Here’s the scene after the stream had been textured.

I was really starting to like the direction that this piece was going.  I got so excited in fact, that I neglected to take any more photographs of the progress of the landscape.  Here are a couple of pictures of the finished landscape, with a verbal description of the process to follow.

The sandy beach behind the hill was textured using salt.  I know it was a strange idea, but it worked out even better than I could have imagined.  The hill was formed by using model railroad grass that I purchased some time ago from an online source, and the bushes were formed using a similar material.  I brought color to the landscape using multiple layers of different shades of colors to build up the effect.

I am more than please with the final results and am getting very excited with the progress made.  I am also energized and ready to start filling in the scene with details and add-ons.  The final photographs show the finished landscape with the cowboy in his position. 

I just love the way his toes overhang the edge of the bank.  He looks so relaxed and happy to be soaking up the cool water and the warm sun.  I simply can’t wait to get this fellow painted and the scene filled in.  The next step will be to paint the figure and attach him permanently to his new home.

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