This was a great creative challenge! My friend asked me a little while ago to make him two Merlion sculptures, although I wasn’t sure if I could pull them off and put the project to one side for a while. I did a bit of research and my friend gave me full creative range to make them. I am more of an expressive artist than realistic so I decided to approach it that way.
I watched a few YouTube tutorials for sculpting ideas and tips and ordered my favourite Super Sculpey for the project. I did some research into lions, in particular the way they moved and the structure of the skeleton so I could make a decent armature to build the sculpture on. I also looked online at fish scales and fins to get an idea in my head on how to combine the two creatures.
Making the main body was straightforward but the face really was a struggle for me, I had a few reference pictures but realised the nose was too long. I eventually trimmed that back and remodeled the shape. I added some black beads I had for eyes and decided to build the mane in layers of stripes, adding detail with different tools. I also found the feet a challenge as I had to make them look right from all angles and spent ages shaping them with my new dotting tools.
I then had to think about how to make the scales, and as the sculpture was going to look like a statue, decided overlapping thin layers of clay would be an effective way of adding the texture. This took ages! I used a small oval shaped cutter to get each scale but it was worth it in the end. To make the tail I cut out two pieces of foil and covered them with masking tape. I attached this to the end of the Merlion and positioned it in place before covering it with a thin layer of clay and added detail into the clay with tools.
Once I felt he looked complete I baked him in the oven and let him cool. I then brushed him down to remove any smaller bits of Sculepy and painted him with a mixture of copper, white, light blue and deep green to get a verdigris look my friend wanted. And I am so happy with how he turned out. Considering I’d not really done this kind of sculpture before, it could have gone very wrong!
Having made the first Merlion I had a good idea on what went well and what didn’t to make my second one. I knew I couldn’t make them exact so I decided they should have different qualities. I made the second one smaller and bulked out the armature with more foil to keep the weight down after baking. I made the tail bend in a different direction and used a diamond shaped cutter to create the scales, rather than the rounded one. I found this one easier as I had a guide with the first and was more relaxed. I accidentally used a different green when painting this one so it is a different colour but I also like how that turned out. I think they have their own unique charm but also similarities. Finally I added some glaze to protect them and add some shine. Hope my friend loves em!