It all starts with the request. In this case, my client requested a Larry Allen figure for his collection. Right off the bat in our initial conversation he said, "I don't want a William Roaf or Johnathan Ogden repaint." Fair enough. That pose has been played out when it comes to lineman. Unfortunately, it's played out because it's the only offensive lineman pose/figure that McFarlane has produced.
After talking some more, my client decided that he wanted Allen in a classic offensive lineman pose and we settled upon something along these lines:
After the pose is decided on, it's time to start brainstorming how to create that pose. What base figure is close to that? What parts could I cobble to together to make that? Unfortunately, there was no good answer. There aren't any good base figures to start with and most parts are too small/thin for guy his size. After much thought and debate, I came up with the perfect base figure... Johnathan Ogden!
I know my customer said no Ogden or Roafs but that was in terms of a repaint. My plan was take the Ogden figure and completely repurpose it to match our reference photo. This was going to be a fairly complicated undertaking and I really wanted the challenge.
The next step was to completely break down the figure and create "joints" so that I could repose the figure. After cutting the figure at the hips, knees and ankles, I inserted armature wire into the figure to act as flexible bones. This allowed me to create all sorts of stances.
Now the figure is really starting to transform. Once, I have the figure in what I think is the final pose, I take pictures from every angle. This is so I can get a new look at the figure. I'll spend hours working the angles and setting up the figure and I'll start to overlook or miss flaws. By stepping back and then examining the photos, I can find those trouble areas before I start gluing and sculpting. I'll also use these photos to get feedback from other customizers as well as the client.
Once I'm happy with the rough pose, I can start gluing and filling in the gaps. I like to use a 2-part epoxy for all my gap filling and sculpting. The epoxy has a 2-hr work time, dries hard and can be sanded and drilled. You can see here that I've filled in the hip and knee areas as well as resculpted the left shoulder.
After the initial sculpting is done I hit the figure with a primer and take new photos. The neutral uniform color really helps simplify everything and brings out all the details and flaws. From these photos, I was able to identify several flaws in my sculpt - basically areas that weren't properly smoothed. This process is repeated until sculpt is perfect.
Here is a close-up of Allen's resculpted glove. I decided to not use Ogden's right hand/glove since I didn't like the finger position. I swapped out the hand for Dick Butkus but then needed to sculpt a right glove to match the left.
Finally I can start laying paint which really brings the figure to life. It's important to work multiple light coats so that you don't get brushstrokes showing. After painting is complete, the first clear coat is applied and then it's ready for decals.
And that's the process in a nutshell. It's weeks and weeks of work and a lot of trial and error. Hopefully this gives you a better idea of my process and maybe a new found respect for the work that goes into customizing a McFarlane Sportspick figure!