Friday 12 February 2021

Samson and Delilah by Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens’ figures are really substantial and full of energy. I like the theme of Samson and Delilah and it follows on from my Susanna and the Elders Old Testament piece. I read that other great contemporary artists of Rubens time didn't think much of this painting, referring to the dirty shadows. But many art critics nowadays grade this as one of his top masterpieces.

I also like doing figures set out of context particularly Renaissance paintings with wrong sumptuous costumes and settings for the wrong periods. Button counters and uniformologists really can't find fault here.

There are a total of 8 figures which is contained within a room and I can experiment more with forced perspectives. I'll also be adding lights to this piece. Again, a small shadow box footprint.

Here, I am using commercial pieces to quickly develop the forms. The foreground figures are sculpted to about 1/24 scale while the background figures are 1/32 and 1/35 scale. The musculature of Samson was carefully developed. 

Most of the four main figures are completed. Now focusing on the furtive soldiers in the background. Notice the difference in size between the soldiers.

I've started to lay down oils on the main figures. Some changes were made to Samson's musculature. I resculpted the old lady and the barber. The details from the painting sometimes aren't obvious at first, necessitating these changes.

Also I've sculpted a background worship deity and am now finishing it to add to the wall.

Starting to work on the internal scene and walls.

I built up the interior scene with forced perspectives and staged the figures with the frame in place.
I also sculpted in drapery from the bed hangings. I painted the scene in brown and blue matt enamels.

The soldiers behind the door  are shown in this photo.

Some LED light strips were added

That's all for this piece. Hope you enjoyed it.

Monday 11 January 2021



There was really only a single satisfactory viewpoint for this piece, with the monument walls blocking off any other viewpoints. Hence the shadowbox approach was selected as it confines the viewer to this singular vision. 

Bringing the scene to the front minimizes the depth and size of the shadow box and keeps the scene compact and visually tight (Fig 25, 26, 27 and 28). 

The shadow box genre remains a daunting and challenging modelling prospect but was an ultimately and satisfying project following completion. The shadow box can be displayed tilted up to rest on the display stand (Fig 29).


Fig 25. The completed scene fully fitted out. 

Fig 26. The frame was added. A brass name plate was added to the frame. 

Fig 27. A close-up of the framed scene. 

Fig 28. The framed scene fully lit up. 

Fig 29. The completed shadow box diorama.

Saturday 9 January 2021


Final Assembly

The settee, statue and figures were pinned and attached to the stage. Some minor accessories were also added to the stage (Fig 21). The ropes were then added to the scene, linking the Anthony Group to the Cleopatra Group figures. This was very fiddly work, and was carried out using tweezers. An LED light strip with a driver and wall plug was used to provide an internal light source (Fig 22). The LED light strip was installed on top and the driver was tucked underneath the stage (Fig 23). The frame including the glass panel and cutout frame was now fitted to the front and secured with magnetic latches on both sides (Fig 24).

Fig 21. Further test-fitting of components. 

Fig 22. LED light strip with driver and 240 Amp plug. 

Fig 23. The LED light strip and driver installed inside the shadow box. A hole was drilled at the back of the box to pass through the wall plug wire. 

Fig 24. Magnetic latches were installed to secure the frame.

Tuesday 5 January 2021


The parapet walls were made from wood and plastic tubing (Fig 17).

When I was satisfied with the initial trial fitting of the scene (Fig 18), I proceeded on with the final adjustments and painting. As I was dealing with an internal light source, I took every precaution to mask off any gaps to prevent any light filtering through to spoil the final scene. Cutouts were made for a backdrop side monument wall and obelisk which were painted (Fig 19). These will be fitted to the left side of the scene.


Oil paints were used because I like to mix my colours. I notice that homogenous colours give off a very dull effect when compared to heterogenous colours. Simply put, this is the “pointillism” approach where the individual colours are constantly mixed and processed in the viewer’s eyes and always appear refreshing. Oil paints are never mixed perfectly and the various colour flecks create this interesting effect.

I approached this piece as if I was doing a painting. As stated earlier, all the component parts were painted at various stages during the construction to facilitate access to awkward areas. I matched all tonal colours as close to the original painting as possible. The backdrop and stage were painted. The figures were given basic undercoats with enamel paints and finished off with artist oils. Where appropriate, I applied matt varnish or semi-gloss to the figures after the oils had dried out.

The walls were sprayed with matt white and painted. An old toothbrush was used to flick small drops of paint onto the painted walls. This creates a nice “granite look” to the walls. A fine-tipped brown-coloured pen was used to draw in the granite slabs and Egyptian hieroglyphs. Cuts and nicks were made to the walls along the granite slabs to further create a 3-dimensional look (Fig 20).

Fig 17. The parapet walls being constructed. 

Fig 18. The first framed trial fitting of the scene. 

Fig 19. The side monument wall and obelisk cutouts for the backdrop. 

Fig 20. Detailing the monument walls. a - spray painted; b - hieroglyphics and shadows added. 

Monday 4 January 2021


The Shadow Box Frame and Shell – A commercial IKEA Ribba frame was adapted for the shadow box. The frame has side depth which creates an overlap for strengthening the shell for this diorama. The shell was constructed from light basswood cut to fit neatly inside the IKEA frame (Fig 13). The back of the frame was attached to the sides to complete the shell. The shell was carefully sanded smooth, stained in dark red brown and varnished in gloss.

Backdrop, Stage and Walls - The backdrop was formed from thin cardboard and then covered with gesso and lightly sanded. The backdrop was glued to the inside of the shadow box shell before it was painted (Fig 14).

The elevated stage was made to slant slightly downwards towards the foreground and the front edge was hidden beneath the lip of the cutout frame. Some minor ground work with small stones and details were added to the elevated stage and it was painted (Fig 15).

Using the cutouts as templates, the monument walls were made from thick cardboard and a cardboard carton tube. The tube was trimmed to size and diameter to fit into the scene. The monument walls were glued at obtuse angles, visually adjusted for slight perspectives. The left edge of the monument was made with plastic tubing. Cardboard pieces were glued to the back of the monument wall structures to provide structural strength which were adjusted to fit snugly against the backdrop. 

A basic test-fitting of the scene was carried out. The elevated stage was placed in the shadow box and held in place by wooden strip runners. The monument walls were glued onto the elevated stage (Fig 16).

Fig 13. Shadowbox shell constructed to fit within the IKEA frame. The backdrop and elevated stage have been constructed. 

Fig 14. The backdrop has been glued to inside the shadow box. The elevated stage and the monument wall structures being test-fitted within the shadow box. The position of the stage is finalized by wooden strip runners. 

Fig 15. The stage scattered with small stones and painted with artist oils. 

Fig 16. Construction of the scene within the diorama box. a - basic test-fitting; b - monument walls being constructed to fit into the scene.

Sunday 3 January 2021


Then the fully painted figures were assembled. The assembly sequence was important as all the figures were interlocked. First, the two Egyptian servants were epoxied into their positions. Then the Antony-soldier pair was epoxied. The Nubian slave was now added and epoxied. Some minor details were re-worked to ensure that the figures integrated well within this group on the settee.

The statue of Sekhmet was sculpted from epoxy putty over the wooden armature (Fig 9). When most of the statue was sculpted, the helmeted soldier standing on it was pinned and epoxied to the statue to fix his position (Fig 10). The wire insert from the hoist was attached to the helmeted soldier. Putty was then used to create basic shapes for the hoists and the details were then sculpted later.

The Roman Group – This comprised a Roman senator (fully visible) and behind him, a Roman standard-bearer. A piece of brass wire was cut to serve as the Roman standard handle (Fig 11).

The Cleopatra Group - The women figures were easier to sculpt as their lower bodies were not visible below the parapet (Fig 12).

Fig 9. Construction of the Sekhmet statue. a –armature and head; b – finished sculpture; c – undercoated with enamels. 

Fig 10. The Sekhmet statue with attached helmeted soldier, fully painted. 

Fig 11. Construction of the Roman Group. a – figures being sculpted; b – the Roman standard was made from a Historex eagle, cardboard and some brass trinkets; c - figures fully painted. 

Fig 12. Construction of the Cleopatra Group. a – figures being sculpted; b – fully painted.\

Wednesday 30 December 2020


Due to the complexity of the Antony Group, this whole sub assembly was completed as a project in itself. A mattress for the settee was made from putty. This was epoxied to the settee frame to create a solid platform. The settee arms and legs were made from wooden ship railings and plastic strips (Fig 7).

The figures have to be partially attached to each other to determine the poses. I started with Antony and the Roman soldier holding his head up. A wire was drilled and inserted into the right shoulder of Antony which mated with the left thigh of the Roman soldier. The legs of Antony were pressed down to rest on the right hand of the Egyptian servant kneeling at his feet. Once I was satisfied with the position, a drop of superglue sealed the wire joint. 

Further support was created between the Roman soldier and Antony by wire inserts to the right and left hands supporting Antony. Except for this fixed pair, all the other figures were attached only temporarily to each other with wire inserts at this stage for further adjustment of poses and final detailed painting of separate figures before final assembly.

There are two hoists made from clothing in the painting - the white one being held up by a helmeted soldier and the red one being attached with ropes. Wire inserts were used as structural supports for the hoists.

The Antony-soldier pair and the kneeling Egyptian servants were pinned to the settee to fix their positions. The legs of the Nubian slave were adjusted to straddle the bed and the ground. Then the arms were adjusted to support Antony. The pillows were made from putty. The cloth sheet of putty was draped onto the settee and then sculpted in several stages. The spears were added and tied to the settee arms. The settee was sprayed in matt undercoat. The settee was now fully painted (Fig 8).

Fig 7. Legs and railings were added to the settee. The height of the settee had to be finalized to adjust the hoist positions. Figures were pinned onto the settee to fix their positions for readjustment of poses. 

Fig 8. Construction of the settee. a – details added with pillows, drapery and spear handles; b - sprayed with matt undercoat; c – fully painted.