A PASSION FOR DRAWING FROM NATURE
by Florian Barthe
Since childhood, I've been fascinated by nature: animals, bugs, plants, all kind of minerals, colors, textures, and shapes. Nature, in general, provides an inexhaustible database of references. I've spent a lot of time exploring different techniques to find the best way to replicate an effect or a texture I noticed on the shell of a beetle, or the skin of a snake.
Pictured above: The Alien Art Contest winner, Mylho from Venus by Florian Barthe.
At first, I was much more interested in drawing and painting than sculpting. As I started sculpting seriously, drawing and painting became not ends in and of themselves, but parts of a much longer creation process. Painting and drawing were tools, steps among several others, that would allow me to bring my designs to life. Sculpting for me became a more advanced part of the design, a kind of drawing 2.0. Once I started, I couldn't stop.
THE SOURCE OF INSPIRATION
I've always wanted to create monsters. I spent hours and hours using found materials to reproduce the awesome creatures from movies like the Predator, the Alien under all its evolutions, dinosaurs, and even hybrid creatures described in the Science Fiction and Dark Fantasy I was drawn to. My family always supported me in this passion. Several visual and literary artists inspired me, specifically H.R. Giger, Yoshitaka Amano, Moebius, Roger Dean, John Howe and Howard Phillips Lovecraft. I'm also a huge fan of Jordu Schell, Akihito Ikeda, Don Lanning, Steve Wang and all the great artists of the Stan Winston Studios team.
Pictured above: A completed Alien bust by Florian Barthe.
Zombies from George A. Romero and Rob Zombie's great films also fascinated me. The amazing behind-the-scenes clips I found showing Tom Savini's tricks and techniques inspired me a lot and I spent years obsessed with recreating them.
Pictured above: A zombie, as created by Florian Barthe in 2016. This one's name is Charlie Walker.
Before I ever sculpted, I made illustrations, here a music band's CD, there a book cover. In 2009, I made illustrations for an archeological book, called Un Pays des Pyrénées Centrales, "Le Castillonnais" by Aramond with the National Center of Scientific Research, for which I studied real antique pieces and reproduced them. The same year, I made a big painting as the background of a Twinkle Brothers' concert in St. Girons, France. For fun, I began work on a heroic fantasy comic, with a writer friend. Over two years, between monster projects, I'd come back to it.
Pictured above: An acrylic painting from 2015 by Florian Barthe.
Today, my house has a big basement that I use as my workshop. During the day, I'm a teacher in public school, but when night comes, I become a creature maker again, there's always a monster to bring to life.
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES
I discovered the art of molding a few years ago, and now I mold all I can. My molding skills are still quite rough, but molding allows me to consider making more realistic resin anatomical structures. I also plan to make animatronics as soon as I can. I'm questioning myself a lot about the bodies, the movements in general, and the biomechanical side of living forms. Recently I've started to find inspiration in 16th and 17th-century artwork which are also a great source of anatomical knowledge.
Pictured above: Mummy's head. Sculpture and photos by Florian Barthe, 2014.
Pictured above: Fantasy bio-mech scorpion. Sculpture and photos by Florian Barthe, 2015.
Pictured above: Bio-mech heart. Sculpture and photos by Florian Barthe, 2015.
I work with different materials including silicones, resins (PU, Epoxy), latex, natural clay and air hardening clay, acrylic, water, oil paints, inks, etc. I used to paint my creations only with brushes, sponges, and toothbrushes. Then, one day I bought an airbrush. Tim Gore's webcourses allowed me to approach this tool in a pretty comfortable way. Profiting from Tim's great techniques and advice, I found that shading, coloring and texturing with an airbrush gave me amazing results, an incredible amount of detail, and smoothness in color variations that I'd never experienced before. Today I'm totally converted. I'm an airbrush painter all the way.
Pictured above: Reptile bust. Sculpted and airbrush painted by Florian Barthe, 2015.
Working on the anatomy of Myhlo's body was a big challenge for me. In the design, I wanted to separate it from the traditional bipedal, human-like alien representations. However, I still wanted to keep some link with to our world, something recognizable to enhance the disturbing effect. Choices I made to enhance the weird included imagining a creepy way of walking, making the top of the body weaker, almost whithered, with skinny arms like a T-Rex, but spooky, giving it powerful, long legs that indicate something that can run very fast. The idea of a tripod stance fit with my intentions, so I made a kind of ostrich foot on each of the three legs.
Pictured above: Work in progress images of the understructure for Florian Barthe's Mylho maquette.
For the understructure, I created a twisted metal wire base which I attached to a wooden board. Then I built up the forms with aluminum paper. When the shaped structure was done, I began to apply air-hardening clay. My natural inspiration for the shape of the face and the head were orchids and sea anemones. I included some wet, disturbingly weird tentacle-styled tongues, between organ and pistil. Even though this was to be a fictional, and unknown life form, I tried hard to achieve authentic organic details, thinking about a credible muscular structure and how it would work if it were real.
To make the base I used a cardboard box and polyurethane resin. To make it heavier, I added some ceramic pieces before pouring the resin. Once it was done, I covered it with air hardening clay again, mixed with sand to give that sandy, muddy effect.
Pictured above: Work in progress photo collage showing the base and clay finish of the Mylho maquette.
To give the finished sculpture a dynamism, I decided to capture the creature in the midst of a stride. One leg is off the base leaving a footprint that indicates where the creature stood before stepping forward moments before. The idea of naming it Mylho from Venus is a play on the famous greek sculpture of Venus de Milo. Suggested by the fact of my creature's armless main shoulders and the contrapposto of the trunk of the body which echo that of the Greek fragment. Though the name started as a clever reference, this little joke also gave me the idea of the colors I wanted for the finish.
Pictured above: Finished painted creature maquette, Mylho by Florian Barthe.
I painted Mylho with my brand new I.HPC airbrush. First I tinted the ground on the base with burnt colors, then I gave Mylho variations of bluish colors, providing a cool contrast and invoking the fact that maybe there is liquid water or a similar substance behind the over-burnt ground of Venus.
Pictured above: The Mylho maquette, a rear view.
By the time I heard about the Alien Art contest sponsored by the Stan Winston School on their forums, there were only two weeks left, so I worked day and night for nearly a hundred hours to finish the creature in time to submit my pictures before the deadline. I just made it.
Pictured above: Alien Art Contest winner, Florian Barthe with some of his creatures.
I am so happy that Mylho was selected as the winning submission of this Alien Art Contest. Amazingly, this is my first ever participation in any kind of art contest. The win has only inspired me to keep creating. As long as I have the will to imagine, the work to do, and things to learn, I will not rest. Thanks again to the entire Stan Winston School of Character Arts team.
- By Florian Barthe
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