How Art Can Progress; Polymer Clay Dragons


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There is an interesting idea that a skilled artist can always just jump into a new medium and Voila! Instant beauty. While there may be some truth behind the idea that those with natural skill have an easier time than most, there is still quite a bit of trial and error that goes on. It can be a lot of fun to look back on older projects to see just how much the style has changed and improved along the way too.

Recently, we were taking a look at some of our oldest dragons and comparing it to some of the newest ones. Both of us had such a fun time looking over them we wanted to share them with you.

Branden was the first to start working on the dragons. Made with a low quality polymer clay, these little guys didn’t have the capability to hold a vast amount of detail without a lot of fighting with it first. It had much more give than a regular clay body so sometimes trying to do some detail work would inadvertently distort the rest of it just by holding it. Polymer clay needed to be molded rather than carved. So some of the early dragons, while cute, were kind of crude as he was getting used to the material. He quickly found ways around some of it by making miniatures on top of bottle caps or playing cards. Each one better than the next, and always evolving, Branden was soon working with some elaborate designs in miniature.  We’ve shared a few examples so you can see the progression too.

I started working with the polymer clay after Branden had already experimented with different tools and brands, so I had a bit of an advantage. I got to see what worked and what didn’t before trying my hand at it. But there were still plenty of hurdles to overcome. Taking a different approach, I wanted to try and more gentle type of sculpture that had much less detail to press into the piece. Tiny hatching dragons were born. But despite observing Branden for long hours, they had some definite flaws. Trying to work in larger scale allowed a bit more ease in trying out some new designs. I eventually scrapped most of it in favor of a completely new design. It was the trial and error of all the earlier work that made it possible to work in the feathered dragon designs.

There’s an unspoken rule in the art community that you never show your previous work. You only show your best. So why show your ours? Because the idea that a skilled artist can always just jump into a new medium and Voila! Instant beauty? That is just silliness. Skilled artists become that way though a lot of stubborn ambition to make the material become what they envision. We don’t possess a magical ability to create without error. So don’t let the beauty that another creates convince you that it’s not worth trying to create your own if you don’t get it right the first time, or the first ten times, or the first year of trying.

Every artist progresses.

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