Thursday, March 17, 2011

I made this snow sculpture about a week before the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan but hadn't posted any pictures of it yet. (We wish the people of Japan the best as they face several catastrophes.)

 It's a sculpture of a Valkyrie VF-1S R.Focker Custom Snow Sculpture from the Robotech Macross Saga, a cartoon I watched as a kid.  Maia is standing in front of it for scale.  It's painted with non-toxic finger paint and I shot it in the morning as the sun came up over the horizon.  There are no build instructions for it but I ended up using a broom stick in the torso after the thing fell over twice while I was in the middle of making it.  There is a stick for the gun since it hangs over so much.  Hope you enjoy the photos.  Now it's back to getting Chris-bot and the animation project going again!

This is the non painted version.  I personally like the painted version because the colors really add to the shading of the thing.

Sometimes, it's not cool to mess with a robot.  Don't worry about Maia.  She was outside for 2 minutes and it was nice and warm in the sun.

She just didn't listen when I told her not to play with the robot.
This will probably be my last snow sculpture as the snow is starting to get crispy and not very usable.  I may give it one last shot this weekend, maybe a snow speeder in the woods, or possibly an Imperial tie fighter.
We'll see.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How to Make a Star Wars Taun Taun out of Snow

I asked my cousin Don Solo what kind of sculpture I should do next and he suggested a Tauntaun which I think is rather appropriate since it gives something for the kiddies to ride on.  Not as technical as the AT-AT snow sculpture but it still was pretty fun to make.  I also made a timelapse video (Click here for link) of the making of this thing with some music by my friend in Orange County named Mark Dumas of Trailer Studios. 

Here's the build instructions for you.

  • About 30 shovels of sticky snow (Standard snow shovel about 24 inches wide by 18 inches deep)
  • 1 stick about 2 feet long to hold the neck in place (you only need the stick if kids are going to be sitting on it so they don't knock off the head when they try to hug the thing)
  • 1 Spray bottle full of Snow Glue (AKA water)
  • 1 Butter knife (now with 1 million and 2 uses)
  • 1 hand saw to cut away extra snow if necessary
  • A hammer to nail stick into upper torso
  • A leather harness or piece of rope
  • A small child (preferably your own or used with the permission of a parent)
  • A picture of a Tauntaun found at a Star Wars Wiki Site
Build Time:
About 2 hours (can be cut down if one person brings snow and the other person builds)


1.  Again, start off with sticky snow, preferably when outside temperatures are about 35 or 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 C).  Try to use more powdery snow which can be found underneath the thin layer of crunchy snow.

2.  Begin by making a base of snow in the shape of a small R2 Unit by packing snow together tightly. The base should be about as tall as the child you intend to put on the thing.

3.  Once you have your base, hammer in stick so it sticks up at a 30 degree angle from vertical.  Make sure it's nice and solid.  If not, pull out, repack with snow and try again.

4.  Proceed with building the tail by creating a thin wall of snow to support the main tail and build on top of that.  This wall will be carved away after the snow freezes a bit. 

5.  Build up a bit of snow around the neck.

6.  Begin piling up snow on the sides of the base to make the legs.  Tauntaun legs are really big, like dinosaur legs so make sure you get some nice bulk there.

7.  Once you have your general leg shape in place, star working on the saddle by piling up a small wall around the top of the back of the base.
8.  At this point you can test the saddle size by placing the test child on the sculpture.

9.  After removing the test child, proceed with building up the torso of the Tauntaun and then work your way up to the head.  Make sure the head is turned to one side as this makes for a more interesting sculpture than just looking straight ahead.
10.  Proceed with building the arms and extending them outwards.  The claws curl in to tho the body.  Spray with Snow Glue once you're happy with the arms.

11.  Add horns and ears by placing bits of snow on the side of the head and building up a little at a time.  Once you're happy with the horns, spray with Snow Glue (water) so it will freeze up a bit.
12. Form the mouth completely closed at this time.  It's easier to carve out later.
13.  You should now have a general shape of the Tauntaun and you can begin carving in the details with your butter knife like the eyes, the nose, extending the feet and ears.  Don't forget the saddle strap that goes under the Tauntaun.
14. Once you're happy with the details, remove portions of the support from underneath the Tauntaun to make the belly as well as removing portions of the support from the tail.  Snow doesn't overhang very well for long distances unless it's frozen so you may have to leave a bit of support at the end of the tail or simply let it support itself on the ground.
15.  Spray the entire sculpture with Snow Glue (water) and let sit for about 15 minutes.
16.  Add harness or rope and smooth Tauntaun with bear hands to create smooth surface.  Please note in the picture it may look like the Tauntaun has a fin on its tail but it's not a fin, just a piece of snow in the background.

17.  Finally add child with goggles, light saber and/or laser blaster and fun captions.

'Captain Solo.  We've spotted the children and it seems their Tauntaun has frozen before it reached the first marker.'

Photo Tips
  • When shooting photos of you (yes, you'll also want to try it out) or the kids make the shot more interesting by shooting from low or high angles.
  • Picking up the details in the snow may be difficult if you're using direct flash but if you can bounce the flash in from an angle, you'll get better shadows which brings out the detail.
  • Use a photo editing program like Photoshop or Gimp (Open source) to increase the contrast and bring out more detail.
  • The light saber glow is done by using three layers in Photoshop.  First lay down a straight airbrushed line across the edge of the saber.  Second, overlay that with a thinner feathered white line and fade back to about 30%.  Last, add a layer underneath the saber layer and paint the surrounding areas with the color of the saber.  Fade back to about 7% and this gives you a nice vibrant glow in the surrounding area of the saber.
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Starwars and Tauntaun are registered trademarks of Lucasfilm Ltd.