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Realistic clay creatures

Traditional modeler Tibor Kéri creates clay sculptures packed with detail and texture. We chat with him about his work and what inspires him the most...

Traditional modeler Tibor Kéri creates clay sculptures packed with detail and texture. We chat with him about his work and what inspires him the most...

3dtotal: Thanks for speaking to 3dcreative, Tibor! First off, could you introduce yourself with a bit about your background and career?
Tibor Kéri: Well, sculpting has accompanied me throughout my life. This story began in kindergarten along with boys typical love of dinosaurs. Growing up, there wasnt enough money to buy many toys, so I had to keep myself entertained making my own little figures.

Later in school I always kept a bit of polymer clay in my pencil case, to give shape to the many ideas buzzing in my head and thus work off my restlessness since I always had a lot of patience for detailed work.

After high school I decided to go on studying arts and started training in goldsmithing. Two years later I tried to enter university, unsuccessfully. Therefore I started an apprenticeship with a wonderful master goldsmith who taught me the professions basics and honed my precision (0.03 mm was the tolerance margin for any mistakes in my handiwork).

Although sculpting faded into the background during this training, I felt that goldsmithing couldnt fulfil me completely. Once I left the workshop, I tried out my skills on a larger scale. Without the painstaking, accurate working method I learned, I wouldnt be able to create such figures.

<em>Elephant figure</em>  A Super Sculpey Asian elephant figure without a base. Photo by Julianna Nyíri

Elephant figure A Super Sculpey Asian elephant figure without a base. Photo by Julianna Nyíri

3dt: Who or what are your biggest inspirations as an artist?
TK: As a kid, Jurassic Park went beyond my wildest fantasies. How was someone able to make those animatronics? As an artist, H. R. Giger inspired me the most because of his daring look at the world: captivating richness of details, unimaginable forms. Later I found out that the figures in the Jurassic Park and Alien films were made by the same team of sculptors, the Stan Winston Studio. I was amazed that somebodys work could consist of bringing these creatures to life. That inspired me. Of course, classic artists technical skills and knowledge of the materials fascinated me as well.

<em>Elephant figure</em>  Asian elephant figure without any base. Made of Super Sculpey. Photo by László Khegyi

Elephant figure Asian elephant figure without any base. Made of Super Sculpey. Photo by László Khegyi

3dt: Could you tell us more about the tools you use? What are your favorite materials to sculpt with, and why?
TK: I use relatively few tools. Most of them were made out of wood myself, responding to some concrete requirement, so I rarely need to use prefabricated ones.

In Europe we usually sculpt with the traditional plasticine, which unfortunately has its limits. Bakeable plasticines are very expensive and I dont like their characteristics and malleability.

A new world opened up for me when I was able to get Super Sculpey from America. It has similar properties to traditional clay but remains flexible once cooled off, which is a big advantage. Thats what Ive been using ever since, though there are lots of other materials Id like to try out.

<em>Baby Velociraptor</em>  A baby velociraptor made of aluminum. Photo by László Khegyi

Baby Velociraptor A baby velociraptor made of aluminum. Photo by László Khegyi

3dt: What is your favorite aspect of traditional sculpting, compared to other media?
TK: The fact that you make it with your hands and give shape to a thought or feeling using simple materials. For me the greatest joy is to see an object in 3D in front of me just as I pictured it in my head.

Through goldsmithing I became aware that technical knowledge affects designing too. Those who only design on their computer sometimes conceive unfeasible objects. Id like to learn how to make 3D graphics, though I think my trade experience would help me in that.

<em>Chameleon figure</em>  A chameleon in action, made of Super Sculpey. Photo by Sára Varga

Chameleon figure A chameleon in action, made of Super Sculpey. Photo by Sára Varga

3dt: How do you create such detailed and realistic animals and creature designs?
TK: I build the animals skeleton and musculature based on their real anatomy, and that way I get to understand their shapes. Then I can apply this knowledge to my own creatures too.

I tried out several techniques that allow me to create realistic textures, but I am always learning and experimenting. Hence one can observe the technical evolution of my figures over time.

<em>Australian Tree frog</em>  Tree frog resting on bark. Made of Super Sculpey. Photo by László Khegyi

Australian Tree frog Tree frog resting on bark. Made of Super Sculpey. Photo by László Khegyi

3dt: Lastly, what are you currently working on? Any cool new projects we should look out for?
TK: I have several projects running now. Im trying to apply my sculpting skills to metal, combining goldsmithing and sculpture. A number of practical objects are underway, such as individual pen-drive cases, bottle-openers, and even individual realistically fashioned chocolate ornaments. So my works are not only nice to look at, but can be put to use as well in many fields still not so practical for computers.

At present I dont have much time to design my own creatures, but I have loads of ideas, so new posts are coming soon on my blog. Watch out for it!

<em>T-Rex</em>  Mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex posing alone. Made of plasticine. Photo by Sára Varga

T-Rex Mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex posing alone. Made of plasticine. Photo by Sára Varga

Related links

Head over to Tibor's website
Grab a copy of Beginner's Guide to Creating Characters in Clay

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