Sculpting belemnites for a museum exhibition - your thoughts are welcome

Sordes

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#1
Since some time I am sculpting models for a new exhibtion at the paleontological museum at Tübingen, which houses one of the largest fossil cephalopod collections of the world. My first models will be some belemnites, as there are many wonderful fossils of those cephalopods in the museum, as well as many fossil marine reptiles and sharks with relics of belemnites in the stomach.
I started with a small and simple model at first, which is based on Belemnoteuthis, as there are extremely well-preserved fossils with great soft-tissue impressions. I decided to make at first a version with closed tentacles, as the many tiny hooklets are very painstaking work, and because it is much easier to make molds and casts from such a model, for example if you want to have a whole swarm. But at least one model with open arms, probably of Passaloteuthis, is also planed.
I have attached some photos of my model, which is made from sculpey. As a result of the colour, it is not very easy to make photos which show the smaller details. I have given it a shape very similar to those of many modern squids. The fins are still not attached, as I wanted to discuss them before. Many belemnite reconstructions show them only with comparably or very small fins which cover only a third or the half of the rostrum. However given the fact how man modern squids with a comparable body shape, have very long and well-developed fins, which run down to the tip of the mantle, like in Onykia robusta or Mesnychoteuthis.
So, what do you think about the model, any comments and improvement suggestions are welcome. I want to make it as realistically looking as possible, so I want to sculpt the anatomy in a correct way.
 

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Sordes

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#4
There is one fossil (I think from Holzmaden) which could possibly show fin-impressions, but they could be artifacts as well. I think they look very strange and much too small, and I don´t think they are really impressions of the fins.
 

DWhatley

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#5
I can't offer suggestions but iIt is always fun to see what you are sculpting so please post them as you create your newest grouping.
 

Sordes

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#8
This are some good questions. I have to admit I have no idea... But there are parallel groves on the sides of rostra, which are in the same position where modern squids have their fins, so there could be a connection. I personally don´t like this reconstructions which show only very short fins, which are only attached on the middle, of the rostrum, as there are only very very modern squids with comparable fins, and in most, even very long-bodied species, the fins extends to the tip of the mantle.
 

Sordes

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#11
I added some more details on the first model and carved the arms of the belemnite in a more rounded shape. Sadly I have made no more photos of it before I delivered it yesterday to the museum. I have also finished the head of the second larger belemnite, on which I could sculpt more details. It´s really a bit sad that squids (and probably belemnites as well) have so little skin details, unllike for example an octopus, cuttlefish or nautilus. But I won´t use this skin-coloured and half-opaque sculpey for my next models, because you can´t see the details, reflections and shadows on it very well.
 

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OB

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#12
Did you try glass beads for lenses?
 

Sordes

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#13
No, as this model is not a one-of-its-kind but only a prototype which will be casted, I didn´t use any other materials for the eyes, as all the casts will consit of the same homogenous material anyway. I have still not used any commercial glas eyes for my models, as you always have to order them from the internet, as there are no stores for taxidermy supplies in Germany. But anytime I will surely try glas eyes for some of my models. But as the structure of cephalopod and fish eyes is anyway different, taxidermy fish eyes don´t work that well for squid or belemnite models anyway. In this case I built the eyes in a similar way as the real squid eyes look, and after being painted, they will be covered with a thick layer of clear epoxy to imitate the cornea.
 

Jean

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#14
Great models, how do you find the sculpey to work with? I found it goes quite brittle after it is fired, which is not so great for jewelery or for plankton dropping models!!!

We make different sized plankton (Dinoflagellates, diatoms etc) and drop them through a column of water (&/or oil, up to a 2m drop) to look at the effect of size and surface area to volume ratio on sinking rate.

But I do like the range of textures, opaque/translucent etc. Mainly I use a product called Du-Kit, which seems a little more robust once fired.
 

Sordes

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#15
I have started to sculpt the mantle of the larger belemnite, but I still have to do the rostrum and the fins.
I like sculpey (I use the german product "Fimo") very much to sculpt, as it allows to sculpt even very fine details. It´s true that it can be comparably brittle, at least thin parts. You can make it significiantly more durable if you bake it for a longer time and at a higher temperature at the ofen. It will become dark brownish. But as it softens during the baking process, you have to make sure that things like necks or limbs don´t deformate from their own weight. As this belemnite models or only prototypes which will be later casted in epoxy, it doesn´t matter that much that thin structures like the fins are not very durable.
 

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Jean

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#16
Thanks Sourdes, maybe I will try Fimo then, we do get it here, although it's a bit more expensive but if it's more durable, it will be worth it!
 

Sordes

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#17
I have finally finished the rostrum and added also some more sculpey on the mantle. It turned out to be extremely difficult to get it into the right shape, and I had to sand it for a long time on a grinder to make the surface even. It can be really much harder to sculpt a completely detail-less but even and smooth surface than sculpting a highly textured and detailed surface.
 

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Sordes

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#19
After a pause I finally managed to finish the bigger belemnite. I made it slightly different from the first model, with some more details. I gave it strong and big fins, as I suppose those belemnites were fast and aggressive predators, despite the fact they were common prey for many other larger predators too.
 

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OB

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#20
So lifelike, great work!
 

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