Thanks to Jennifer Buxton’s cleverly titled post about messo, I’ve discovered a wonderful new material and technique. I made great headway today on my two in-progress sculpts using my new toy.
Messo is a mix of modeling paste and gesso. Jennifer uses Liquitex brand, but my local art store didn’t have it so I went with Golden’s Hard Modeling Paste.
The paste was about $12, which is pretty affordable considering how much you get and long it’ll last you. And I assume (and hope) that the airtight seal will keep it fresh. Since I work on small scales and I’ll be mixing this with gesso, this one bottle will probably last me about thirty years. I’m only sort of kidding.
I already had gesso on hand, from back before I discovered the joy and ease of spray on primer. I had my tools, but pretty much no clue how to start… so I just did.
For my mix, I used about two parts modeling paste to one part gesso.
Then I stirred it up with brush and let it sit for a bit to set up. This was on recommendation from the guy at the art store, who always knows his stuff. But I’m not that patient, so it didn’t set for long.
I first used the messo as a prepping material to fill little divots where I can be hard to work with epoxy. Like Jennifer demonstrated, the messo fills in little holes nicely and can then be wiped away and sanded smooth. It was surprisingly nice to prep, sand smooth, and still have a white surface- unlike when I used epoxy, which makes little grey pock marks all over my horse.
Next I tried using the messo to make the delicate skin wrinkles on my Fjord stallion reference. In my first attempt, I put down a thin layer of messo and then used small sculpting tools to put lines in. The remaining raised messo represented the wrinkles. This was great practice, but it didn’t really give me the result I wanted.
For one, I felt that sculpting down into the messo resulted in the wrong look- I’m trying to illustrate raised areas of skin, not lowered ones. And while this method (with careful drawing and sanding) can make nice little wrinkles, it didn’t make the big folds that my horse’s position dictates.
So I sanded it off and tried again. This time I used paint to show the contrast, both for myself and for the pictures.
First I painted a base color (brown) and then in red I planned where I wanted my big wrinkles to be. Then I used a brush to apply linear blobs of messo over my red lines, trying to keep a smooth shape down the whole line to make a raised wrinkle.
After I had all my wrinkles painted on to my satisfaction, I used broader, wetter strokes over the edges to sort of blend the wrinkles gradually into the neck.
Then I did an even thinner layer (mostly gesso, really) over the whole neck to blend things, fill in any little divots, and to give it a more uniform tone so I could admire my handiwork.
Time (and when I say time I mean primer) will tell, but I am much happier with the results this time. There’s plenty of sanding to do, but I wanted to make sure my thick blobs of messo dried fully. When messo is applied thinnly it dries wonderfully fast and is quickly sandable, but not so when it is thick! So while I waited I built up his mane and tail armatures and added a bit of epoxy. Here he is at the end of the day:
He also has a name, as of this evening. I was looking through lists of Norwegian names and found “Kettil,” and remembered that I’ve long wished to name a model Kettil Blacksmith after the ridiculous character in the (ridiculous) movie Erik the Viking. So here he is!