Prop Concept Art 1

Posted by Glen Moyes on Tuesday, 17 November, 2009 at 5:59 pm

One of the aspects of the story for Hackberry Hollow are votive figures. These are sculptures that are used to remember the dead. We won’t get into the cultural significance as they apply to the story right now, but lets just say that they are significant enough that we are thinking about incorporating them into the new Hackberry Hollow logo.


The votive figures have different designs, styles and varying levels of craftsmanship depending on who they got to create the sculpture. They are commissioned by the family upon the loved one’s death, and they are typically displayed at the funeral, so the artists need to have a quick turnaround. For that reason the figures may not be that detailed, or they’ll be based on templates like the 3rd figure holding the brush and palette. The very detailed ones are most likely for rich self-worshiping bastards who had theirs made in advance (rich people tend to not trust their family to get it right).

Votive figures are permanently displayed at the grave site, and sometimes a copy is made for the family’s home.

Curious to see what these might look like in real life we decided to made one. No, not a 3D model; a real one.


Adam made this sculpture while I was working on the concept art. We’ll be experimenting with some more abstract and friendlier designs, just to give the votive figures more variety. The ones I did were intended to be more recent votive figures, while Adam’s was based on more ancient designs. Here’s what he had to say on it:

When working on this I came across a few challenges that I anticipated but wasn’t sure going in how I was going to overcome. The concept is an abstract skeleton, but it should also look peaceful, tranquil, and somewhat religious. But most abstract skeletons out there were stylized to make them look scarier, rather than peaceful. So I had to come up with a different approach.

Ultimately I looked at what made religious statues themselves peaceful, and applied those ideas to a skeleton. Specifically, avoiding hard edges on the face (the skull in this case) while allowing them elsewhere for contrast. I put robes on him, simplified and abstracted the hands, thickened out the neck (which would normally have just been a spine), omitted the teeth completely and used the cheek bones to try and create a pleasant looking smile. The pose was inspired by a real life votive figure I found online, which conveyed the tranquility I was after.

Another trick was to observe what made “scary” abstracted skeletons, well, more scary than the real thing and do the opposite. What they did is actually quite simple, just cut the form more with concave angles. Most of the bone detail on my figure is therefore carved into the solid mass, thus avoiding concave angles, but it doesn’t show up well in the photos; in person it has the cultural look that I wanted.

This is made of Super Sculpey and stands 18 inches tall. Start to finish, this took about four hours. (it’s just a quickie) I may do a more complete, detailed one at a later time.

3 Comments to Prop Concept Art 1

  1. avatar

    Silverfish says:

    November 17th, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    This looks interesting, I like the whole idea and that scultpure looks cool. I think it would look cooler though, if you somehow managed to make it look scary, but still peaceful somehow. I don’t know, that just how I feel it should look.

  2. avatar

    Adam Weber says:

    November 17th, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    The votive figures would be commissioned by the family, so whatever the family wants is what would be produced given budget and time constraints. Usually only a few days are availeble, especially when deaths are sudden, since the figures usually make an appearance at the funeral.

    That said, a scary figure wouldn’t be common (who would want to remember their loved one in such a way?) but wouldn’t be unheard of either.

    I’m sure that’s not what you meant though, you’re probably thinking along the lines of more detailed. I may try one with a smaller scale—the 18 inch tall one here is life size—and sculpt the skeletal details to see if I can find a way to make a correctly detailed skeleton look peaceful. The poses help, but even with the most peaceful pose in the world it can be difficult to get past the fact that you’re looking at a skeleton. However, that’s what the concept art phase is for, and if I’m going to take the time to do these I may as well explore available options. It’s a fairly safe bet that all of the variations I churn out over the next few months will look very different from the one above.

    I’ll get some more votive figure concept art up for sure, perhaps with some sketches since those don’t take nearly as long as a sculpture. I have about two pages worth of concept sketches for this guy here that were used to explore ideas.

  3. avatar

    Shaun Williams says:

    November 23rd, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    OOOOH! this looks like fun. I have some super sculpey left…

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