Clay Dragons with Clay Works by Jen!

By Michele Thymmons and Jennifer Sloan of ClayWorksbyJen

Note - This post contains affiliate links, which means I will make a commission at no extra cost to you, should you click through and make a purchase.

Have you ever wondered about dragons and dinosaurs, if they are connected and could they even be the same? Could you sculpt them if you knew more about them and how to sculpt with clay? Ever wonder how Jen creates her awe-inspiring and beautiful, inticrite sculptures and what inspires her? Keep reading while she shares all of this and more! Then find out how dinosaurs still exist! As well as several myths of dinosaurs that have been started by movies (Jurassic Park/World - my favorites! and others) that are different than what we know.

Jen: Instagram and Etsy shop

Art has always played a very important role in my life. Creativity is my passion and my vice.  I started by drawing and painting with acrylics, explored mixed media and even dabbled in fantasy makeup art. It wasn’t until my first daughter was about 2 that I started to show an interest in sculpture. My daughter would always ask me to create things for her in Play-Doh. When it was time to clean it up, she would be furious that we had to destroy my little pieces of art. I actually got pretty good at sculpting in Play-Doh and wondered if there was a way to make my creations more permanent. I started searching the internet and found polymer clay. I did a ton of research and then dove in head first. 

Polymer clay is frustrating and fantastic all at the same time. It’s always an adventure – whether it’s knowing what kind of clay to use, figuring out how to make an armature, deciding on a color palette or anything in between. I started with Super Sculpey and finished each piece with acrylics. It was a great start but I wanted to branch out. I took the inspiration and ran with it – creating baby dolls of my own using Fimo Puppen and immediately fell in love. It stays true to color when baked and holds impeccable detail. I also found Genesis Heat Set Paint and loved the way I could layer and blend without my pieces looking over-painted. Eventually Fimo Puppen became very pricey and difficult to find. I began to use Fimo Soft and a whole world of possibility opened to me. I began creating everything I could dream up in clay and then bringing my imagination to life. I started to add black glass beads for eyes and then upgraded to glass cabochon eyes for more realism and personality. 

Out of all of the pieces I have created to this point, dinosaurs and dragons are the most rewarding. The challenges I face when I am sculpting a dragon or dinosaur can be overwhelming. The details are far more tedious than any other creature that I have made. That being said, they are without a doubt my favorite things to create. I love finding new ways to create skin texture with everyday items in my home. I have even made a few tools of my own out of old paintbrush tops and small copper tubing - which are especially useful for scaling a dragon or dinosaur. Wings prove to be the most difficult for me, but I am always researching new techniques for making them stronger. 

Fantasy art books played a large role in my inspiration for sculpting dragons. When I was younger, I would spend hours trying to learn how to draw a dragon and was unsuccessful at making art I was proud of. Clay opened a whole new world of possibility. For me, creating a three-dimensional piece felt more natural than trying to bring one to life on paper. I started by making smaller dragons with very little detail and worked my way up to more intricate details, such as sculpted scales and supported wings. 

I have always been fascinated with dinosaurs, but I didn’t start sculpting them until about 2 years into my polymer clay journey. My first successful dinosaur piece was a mounted velociraptor bust, with which I quickly entered a love-hate relationship with the whole process of creating them. As the demand for more dinosaur creations increased, so did the high expectations I set for myself. They were expectations that I couldn’t live up to. With the determination to bring them to life, I would research them thoroughly and try to make them as realistic as possible. As with any artist, I’d often spend countless hours on these creations – only to toss them in the trash when they didn’t turn out the way I had envisioned. I finally realized that instead of focusing on how to create tiny replicas of history, I should try adding my own personality into the mix. As soon as I lightened up a bit, they came to life!

 


Selling my art was even more difficult for me than learning how to create it. My sculptures are a part of me. I took baby steps by first sharing photos of my art to Facebook just as sort of a, “Hey Mom, look what I did!” From there, I moved on to small commission pieces for friends and eventually started a Facebook page for my business. Things were slow-moving until I found Etsy. Etsy has been a wonderful tool to keep me organized in my sales. Once I had that going I consulted my sister, who worked with me to design a brand with as much personality as my creations – complete with an awesome logo and a layout for my Etsy page. Shortly after, I started experimenting with the many ways I could use Instagram as a marketing tool. It took a lot of work, but four years after I sold my first piece of art I can finally say I have a little business of my own.

For anyone interested in sculpture - I say go for it! You will love it, and you will hate it. Expect to fail and fail again before you succeed. Never give up, never stop learning, and look for inspiration everywhere. Although it’s tempting, don’t you dare compare yourself or your art to others. Embrace your own unique style and allow it to shine through – trust me, you will be amazing! Creating your own one-of-a-kind pieces is both fun and unbelievably rewarding, so stick with it and enjoy every minute of the ride.

Resources:

Polymer Clay Artist has amazing tutorials on YouTube. Subscribe and enjoy endless learning about creating armatures and full pieces from start to finish.

Bountiful Babies is an excellent resource for purchasing Genesis Heat Set Paint.

Stan Winston School has excellent YouTube videos for learning how to sculpt skin texture.

Vista Print is a great site to help with creating marketing tools such as stickers and business cards.
 
Instagram.com is my number one resource for marketing my art. Share and use creative hashtags for everything!

Most of my purchases for supplies are through Amazon Prime. Amazon is easy and fast as well as competitive in prices.

Pinterest is a wonderful way to search for and organize things that inspire you.

Boris Vallejo Fantasy Art Techniques was one of my very first fantasy art books and I still love it to this day.

Nix Creations on Etsy or on Instagram has beautiful quality glass cabochon eyes.

Etsy is an excellent resource for turning a hobby into a business. This site does charge a percentage to users but I have found that it’s worth it considering how easy they make the set up.


Note - This post contains affiliate links, which means I will make a commission at no extra cost to you, should you click through and make a purchase. 

Everyone creates, designs, and learns things differently.  With this in mind, I’ve tried to include a variety of articles/resources below and will continue to add more even after the article is published. Most of these resources are free but others include classes or resources that are paid. 

Dinosaur Myths and Legends:

Debunking Dinosaur Myths and Movie Misconceptions delves into the various myths that are found about dinosaurs. These have often been because of misconceptions or movie artist license when the actual fossils and knowledge of dinosaurs is different.  Such as the velociraptor in actuality was the size of a turkey and was very feathered. Unlike the Jurassic Park/World velociraptors (my favorite dinosaurs :)) which are more of the size of the deinonychus and “naked” i.e. without feathers.  T.rex is another one - their bite is three times stronger than a lion!!! There are several other very interesting facts found in this article.

Why Today is the Golden Age for Dinosaur Discoveries reveals why now is the time when more dinosaurs are being discovered, more information about them is being found, and how the technology of today is revolutionizing our knowledge of dinosaurs to include old favorites like the T. Rex. The T. Rex is very smart and has a very large brain capacity. Many countries around the world are opening up more and more to allow people to come in and explore and discover new dinosaurs.

Jurassic World: Can We Really Resurrect a Dinosaur? asks and answers this question looking at DNA and the technologies of today. While according to this article, dinosaurs cannot be resurrected, dinosaurs still exist in the form of birds and even if we were able to resurrect dinosaurs, this world would not be a good environment for them to live in successfully.

95 Interesting Fact about Dinosaurs is a list of 95 amazing facts about dinosaurs to include that dinosaurs were mostly the size of humans or smaller, dinosaurs could have lived for as long as 200 years, and the largest dinosaur eggs were the size of basketballs! And that’s only 3 of the 95 interesting facts about dinosaurs. Check out the article for the rest!

Dinosaur Sculpting Courses/Lessons:

youtube.com -  searching for “sculpting dinosaurs” or “how to sculpt a dinosaur out of clay” results in a huge number of videos for sculpting dinosaurs that can help you on your sculpting journey.

How to Create a Clay Dinosaur describes what equipment is needed to make a dinosaur with clay with your kids, as well as a short tutorial. 

Craftsy has a number of courses and patterns available online and range from how to create silver metal clay , fairy doors , beads , jewelry , and canes for cutting and use in sculptures or jewelry. Some of these are free while others are a small amount (less than $10). I have included links (affiliate links - which means I will make a commission at no extra cost to you, should you click through and make a purchase.) on each of the items above so you can start your journey to make your own clay sculpture. In fact, this link will allow you to save up to 30% on all craft supplies!

How to Sculpt a Dinosaur Part 1 - Armature Building & Sculpting Primary Focus  is part one of a two part paid series where paleo-sculptor (there is such a thing!) Chris Darga talks you through his way of creating dinosaur sculptures to include the sculpting, painting, and finishing of them.

Equipment and Materials:

Consumercrafts has a wide variety of clay brands from plast-i-clay , sculpey , craft smart clay , and other smaller brands. You can also choose from modeling clay , oven bake clay and other types of clay. Equipment needed to create your clay sculpture such as clay tools can also be found on the website. The clay comes in so many colors that you may not have to paint, just use the clay. I have included links (affiliate links - which means I will make a commission at no extra cost to you, should you click through and make a purchase.) on each of the items above so you can start your journey to make your own clay sculpture.

Thank you for joining us for this 8th Maker Feature! Check out Jen’s Etsy shop for some amazing works of art and own your own dragon, dinosaur or one of a number of other creatures. :) You can also read more about her and other dragon makers in the article 29 of the Most Talented Dragon Makers on Instagram. Other maker features about sculpting, pattern writing, blog creating, and wood carving can be found here. I’d also love to hear from you about what types of resources you want more information on as well as Makers you would like to nominate for a Maker Feature! Please email (vamicreations17@gmail.com) or leave a comment on this article! Looking forward to hearing from you and have a great day!