Rusa Deer and Mauritius Island Part 2

A while back I published an article about a Rusa deer hunt on Mauritius Island (see the Hunting category: Rusa Deer and Mauritius Island,  Part 1).  In that post I mentioned that when I received the capes and skulls back from overseas I would sculpture a new Rusa deer form.  Finally, that day has come. The following is a look into the process of mannikin sculpture.  There are certainly varied and different methods in the creation of a new taxidermy form that could possibly end up with similar final results, but the following procedure is one that I use quite often and is perhaps one of the most enjoyable for me, as it presents the opportunity to start with nothing and end up with, well hopefully, a helpful new industry product.

So to start with, I needed numbers.  How big are these deer?  What is the length of the face?  How big is the neck circumference?  How long is the neck?  How tall are the shoulders?  And so on.  The only answer to these questions can come from having an actual  specimen in hand (thus, Part 1, the hunt on Mauritius Island).  And the more specimens the better  to be able to understand some of the variations that might exist from deer to deer.  In this case we had three different animals to measure and to come up with similarities and differences.

With this information in mind, I set out to build a basic armature to which I could apply oil clay and create the form.  To do this, I first laid out a sheet of butcher paper on the floor and made an exact size silhouette drawing.  The drawing is scaled to my measurements and the position is based on my personal preference and photos I have taken in the field of the live animal.  For antler clearance purposes I drew this sketch in a lower semi-sneak position with the head down slightly. This drawing is part of the “art” of envisioning what I want the mannikin shapes to be, but I need to get this drawing right or the form itself will reflect any errors I make.  The skull is then positioned and incorporated into the drawing:

This drawing will now serve as the center-line of the armature.  To accomplish this I cut out the the paper template and drew around it on a piece of cardboard.  I then cut out the cardboard template and foamed it to a backboard as below:

Now with the cardboard outline in place I added foam to make the armature silhouette 3-D, as you can see in the series of pictures that follow:

After the foam build-up, I began to cut and rasp the armature into “shape”. See below:

With the neck and shoulders roughed in I turned my attention to the head.  I attached the bottom jaw to the upper skull and foamed in all the open areas.  And then I attached the head to the armature:

The armature is now complete!  Below are a couple of full views of the armature:

Now I add clay and the sculpture is underway:

The final step was to remove the antlers and voila’ … we now have a Rusa deer form as seen below:

When the mold is completed by McKenzie and a form is available, I will mount a Rusa deer on the resulting new mannikin. Watch for Part 3 of this series.

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