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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn
Scaramouche (or Severus Snape)
take your pick...

As I mentioned in the intro, I read this wretched retread of Scaramouche, and, being a huge fan of (the movie version, starring Errol Flynn) Captain Blood, decided to check out Scaramouche, which after all is free on the Gutenberg project.[1] I was quite surprised to make the following discovery:

In body he was ... slight...with a lean, astute countenance, prominent of nose and cheek-bones, and with lank, black hair that reached almost to his shoulders. His mouth was long, thin-lipped, and humorous. He was only just redeemed from ugliness by the splendour of a pair of ever-questing, luminous eyes, so dark as to be almost black.

coe 96 glass. December? 2009. Hollow, about an inch high. Private collection.

Now as it happens, one of my relatives is into Harry Potter, and the wizard thought she'd like a Snape head for xmas. People, if I haven't mentioned it, are difficult to do, and a particular person—that is to say, a portrait—is even more so, because not only does the face have to be symmetrical (unless you're doing Quasidmodo, the hero of another great old public-domain story, though the Dizzy version has a much happier ending:) it has to be recognizable as well.

Snape (who basically matches the description above)[2] is a nice in-between stage, because on the one hand he's got some very recognizable features, namely the nose and the hair, on the other, from a visual point of view, he's something of a caricature, so once you nail those, you've got something that reads as the character.

So now that I was making ones I could stand, I actually started making them in something besides scrap glass, i.e. effetre. I built the base in ivory, which is very soft, so I thought perhaps stiffening the surface with some thompson enamels might help, besides evening out some of the opacifiers, which as you can see they did:

late December 2009 or early January 2010. 30mm high. Hollow, sculptural bead.

I wasn't awed by the Harry Potter books, but I did find his character the most interesting (not to mention the easiest to do) so I had the will to do the over-and-over-and- over practice needed to get to this point. How much practice? Um, about a mason jar's worth. Sigh. Never let it be said I learn quickly. But I did think this particular iteration, who has a sort of ancient phoenician head look about the eyes, was awfully cute. I still haven't decided whether to put him on etsy yet;).

I duly made some more failures, then wondered if building the base bead in clear, and putting the flesh-toned thompson enamel on top of that would work better.

2010. roughly 35mm high. Hollow, sculptural.

The short answer is no, it doesn't. I ended up swiping ivory on top of the TE, and I suspect it's the cause of the grey aspect floating through there. Which can be cool—I was just at my friend Cindi's house, and she had a gorgeous head bead with this effect even more pronounced, with beautiful, luminous eyes—but not what I'd intended.

Yes, the bottom hole exits a bit to the right side, giving him this attractively (and incharacter, I'd say) cocked head.

I was pretty happy with the way I made the eyes and the nose. And the eyebrows were great fun: they start out as dots, and I use knotting tweezers (No. 5 forceps) to pull them into shape. Similarly, I use a #11 x-acto to rake the corners of the mouth. (Shaping the mouth has proven to be by far the most difficult part of the learning process.) I have a special tool—just a nail I spent mebbe 5 minutes grinding into a pointed oval—that I use to indent the eyes.

Shaping the nose is probably the most fun, though swiping on the hair is close.

And yes, I basically dent the eyes, form the mouth, then dot and shape the eyes, and then do the nose. I cannot tell you how many iterations it took me to figure this glaringly obvious sequence out, and it's one of the reasons I had so much difficulty with the mouth. —Also why using Rickman for inspiration was such good discipline, cuz the actor has beautifully and complexly shaped lips: not necessary for the character but essential if I'm ever to truly achieve real portraiture.

photos 25dec09, 02jan10, 06jan10; file 06jan10 (minor cleanup later, same day. Needed a lunch break folks, my blood sugar was dropping like a stone.)

[1]Honesty compels me to reveal I'm only about a third of the way through, though.

[2]In appearance as well as temperament: “Of the whimsical quality of his mind and his rare gift of graceful expression, his writings—unfortunately but too scanty... Of his gift of oratory... he had already achieved a certain fame for it ...[b]ut the fame he had acquired there was hardly enviable. He was too impish, too caustic, too much disposed—so thought his colleagues—to ridicule their sublime theories... he protested that he merely held them up to the mirror of truth, and that it was not his fault if when reflected there they looked ridiculous.” Sound like anybody we know? Nah...