Mar 17, 2016
When I saw this page at Propping Up the Mythos, I knew immediately who I'd be making a Deep One embryo in a bottle for - Derek Pegritz, the Crawling Chaos Himself. Pegritz's encyclopedic knowledge of the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft never ceases to amaze or impress me, and I know he'll get a kick out of it.
I started off by finding a jar of some kind that would be ideal for holding something roughly fist-sized, like an embryo of one of Lovecraft's creatures. I eventually found a suitable container at Wal-Mart, of all places, for just a few dollars. Once I knew how much space I had to work with I began molding an odd little lump of aluminum foil that easily fit inside the jar. That actually wound up being the easiest part. Once I'd worked up something that looked like a big jellybean (thank you for that mental image in Wetware, Rudy Rucker) I began covering it with plain white Sculpey (which is polymer clay; it doesn't dry out if you leave it uncovered, you can mix and cut it easily, and it bakes hard in the oven). Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of these parts of the process. Sorry. Once I'd gotten it covered more or less evenly with Sculpey, I took some straight pins and cut them down so that they wouldn't go all the way through the body of the Deep One and then pushed them into either side of what I was thinking of as the embryo's head where the eyes would be. The shiny steel balls on the ends of the pins give the eyes a multifaceted appearance. After getting them suitable arranged I cut off little flaps of Sculpey and draped them over the pins to form partially-closed eyelids and blended them into the rest of the skin. Next was a little ring of Sculpey to make a circular, open mouth (on the theory that it was so underdeveloped that it hadn't even developed true jaws, just a hole in its gullet to breathe and perhaps suck fragments of food into). After a bit of consideration I left some of the ridges from my smoothing tool (a nut pick, actually) to serve as gill-flaps around the mouth (water goes into the mouth and out through the gills, like a sucker fish).
Next I rolled thin cones of Sculpey to form six tentacles, which I attached in two rows down either side of the Deep One embryo. Extra Sculpey was used to build up leg-stumps below the tentacles, which lends it a more fetal look. I also curled the tentacles together to mimic the position of a human fetus, and subtly blended the polymer clay together from the back to provide more support for them. If you were to remove the statuette from the jar and examine it closely, the tentacles form a single unit at the front of the figure.
Texturing was the hardest part. I wanted to give the skin a smooth, almost slick appearance, which a deep sea creature would naturally have to reduce drag as it moved through the water. This would also be indicitive of an embryo early enough in development that it hadn't even begun developing scales yet. My own fingerprints, stray marks and indentations from the tools I was using, and tiny points in the surface of the foil sticking out every which way complicated this process immensely. It took me a good four or five days of intermittant work to get the Deep One statuette smoothed off. Before I could mess it up any more working on it, I baked it in the oven upstairs until the surface was hard, which didn't take longer than twenty-five minutes in total. It survived the process beautifuly (dreadfully?).
Next, I carefully sanded the figure with increasingly fine sandpaper (120, then 220, then 400 grade), using a can of compressed air and a thick horsehair brush to remove the particles. Once I was sure that it was as clean as I could get it, I gave it a few coats of Folk Art acrylic paint, a dark green/grey shade called 'thicket' (#924), and let it dry for a half hour between coats. Later, I painted thin stripes of metallic blue sapphire (Folk Art #656) and light grey (Folk Art #424) along the back and tentacles, and outlined the rims of the eyelids. Last were tiny dots of more light grey and lemonade (#904) to define the contours of the statuette better. Last was a number of top coats of DecoArt DuraClear varnish (satin finish, #DS21) to seal the acrylic paint in place. I noticed something as I applied the first layers: Some of the paint began to flake and wear off, which actually gives it an interesting appearance close up. The paint that came off of the bottoms of the eyelids makes it look slightly decayed (when small things decay, the lightest, finest tissues tend to flake off first), and the inside of the mouth hole looks like there is a row of tiny, tiny teeth if you look closely (due to the process of smoothing the inner edge of the ring of Sculpey to the body with the tip of a nut pick). I decided to keep this. The rest of the paint stayed on through another few coats of varnish, so those are the only imperfections that exist to explain away.
The Deep One fit nicely into its bottle; after swabbing out the inside of the bottle I dropped the statuette in and took a couple of pictures, both with and without a flash.
Here's a better look at the paint job on the tentacles.
Detail shot of the the stripes on the back, contouring, and gelatinous floaty-things in the water (no idea where they came from, probably dust that was in the jar).
A profile shot of the Deep One embryo, clearly showing the stripes running the length of the body and the spots on the tentacles (they're not suckers!). Clearly visible are the leg-stumps (think of a tadpole: The legs stay inside the body pouch until they develop sufficiently to find the weak spots in the skin and break through) and the floaty-things.