Nick Allen Makes More Dinosaurs

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We have a real treat today. Nick Allen, who joined us in the past to show off his two museum-quality T-Rex sculptures (see posts here and here), is back with more great dinosaurs. He also tells us about his new studio and his new method of copying dinosaur skins, and he hints about his “other” life, when he’s not in his studio. (I suspect that his adventures are considerably more interesting than than mine. 🙂 )

And now, here’s Nick:

© Nick Allen, 2014 —  Happy New Year modellers around the world. I have popped up once more on the website to show a couple of new(ish) models I have been working on since I last posted in April 2012.

My, what a lot of water under the proverbial bridge. At that time I was building in my little Paris bedsit, mainly Georges the T-Rex (shown above) who then found a home in Le Musee des Dinosaures in southern France. I decided to do ‘one for the road’ before I left France, so set myself the challenge of building another head, of a horned ‘styracosaurus’ in the fastest time possible, to donate to the same museum on the occasion of their 20th anniversary. Alas, I didn’t manage in time, largely due to my prolonged detention and subsequent deportation to Tajikistan by Russia over a rather pesky visa issue. But that’s another story.

So Myrtle the styracosaurus was eventually driven to Esperaza from Paris by the director of the museum, crammed into the back of his Renault Clio. She survived the journey fine, but as a reminder to always expect cussedness to test our mettle in our ventures, then fell off a table in the museum that night, breaking several horns. Fortunately they repaired the damage and Myrtle now stands beside the main door (pics 2 and 2a).

Myrtle the styracosaurus
#2 – Myrtle the styracosaurus
Myrtle the styracosaurus
#2a – Myrtle the styracosaurus

I then loaded my gear, tools and the original styracosaurus mold into a van and drove 1,000km overnight to Berlin. After the trials of building a large model (T. Rex head) in a tiny space, I finally spread my modelling wings and rented a good-sized workshop. I bought a small welding unit, built a steel frame and my first full-scale prototype, a 20-ft carnotaurus. The technique was much like before, cardboard armature strengthened with bits of street junk, fastened with plastic cable ties, shaped with newspaper and tape, and then covered with a version of Jonni’s air-dried clay. Berlin is an hour from Poland, where I make trips with a rucksack and trolley, buy the materials at half the price than in Germany, and enjoy a day out in another country.

Dinosaur "Skin"
#3 – Dinosaur “Skin”

This current model is a much longer project, not just because of the dimensions but also because of the experimentation. The workshop actually now holds three full-sized dinosaur forms because I have worked on the technique of taking ‘skins’ off the basic mold, so I can in future duplicate without having to build completely anew. I made an entire second skin on the first model (which was waxed to allow removal), prised it off and hung it on a wooden scaffolding for expansion into a second mold. From this I took a further skin and that is what you see in the photo (Pic3).

It’s a crude form still, but finally possesses the proportions and general lifelike dynamic needed for a display model. So far this three-stage process has taken 16 months because I have been busy elsewhere earning a living, and grab time in the workshop where possible. But the joy of finally having a decent sized work space never seems to wear off. That said, I’m going to have to shift some of these beasties now as it’s getting a bit tight in there again.. (Pic 4)

dinosaur building workshop
#4 – Nick’s Dinosaur-Building Workshop

I am now fastening and sealing together this third ‘skin’ in Pic 3, maybe a bit prematurely as it should have first been fitted on a properly welded steel frame, using better welding gear than I have. I found a professional metal worker hidden away on my street but after a couple of months of trying to get him to visit a second time to discuss the task (a one-minute walk from his premises) I decided to do it myself or at least find another welder to help. So I’ll keep working on this model for now and will probably have to slice open its underside in order to raise and lower it onto the metal frame when built, and then reconnect it again. The head and tail are detachable though, making life easier during building and eventual transportation. Then comes the most satisfying stage, adding the detail, muscles, folds of skin, rendering the scales, setting the glass eyes, of which I now have a good stock tucked away. Then I’ll build a rock-like plinth and spray it to finish.

This will be my fourth completed large-scale model, or sixth if you count the other two that I used as a mould to take this skin. It might seem a very laborious and expensive pastime, and that’s what it is so far, although I am now having a website built in order to do this more professionally. I never set out to learn this specifically to make money, although workshop rent, material costs and general enlargement plans pretty much demand this now.

I remember once hearing that there is no surer way of spoiling a hobby than making a business of it, but well, evolution can be pretty brutal, just ask carnotaurus et al. That said, I don’t think I will tire of creating new models or of paleontology itself, and my fascination for the sheer vastness of the geological time frame that every living creature on earth is part of.  On top of everything else, I find it great therapy for the stresses of work, and having worked in some rough places over the years, there have been many. I don’t know what else 2014 holds, but more models for sure, so I shall stop by this wonderful forum and post again.

Wishing you all a great year, and good luck with all of your creative projects.

Nick Allen



17 thoughts on “Nick Allen Makes More Dinosaurs”

  1. Hi Jonni! I’m looking forward to seeing your giant dragon painted! I too am getting ready to paint a paper mache dragon soon – I’ll post it when I’m done. I have a question about these dinosaurs. I am interested in texture! Do you know how Nick did the facial scales, which fit together so perfectly, on the T rex? Or the larger bumps on Myrtle? I wonder if your air dry clay would work over shop towel paper mache to make bumps and such? Have you tried that? I feel comfortable with forms and what not, but I really would like to pick up some tips on skin texture, particularly for reptiles/dinos/dragons. Thanks and I hope it warms up enough for you to paint soon!

  2. Jonni,
    I too am new to paper mache and the clay but have dove in head first. Tried the clay recipe last night and not happy with results, very tacky and not too smooth. I tried something different with the toilet paper. I boiled water, put it in a blender and dropped shredded toilet paper in. Really liquefied the paper then pressed most of the water out. Is this an acceptable alternative? Should I also add more flour to reduce the tackiness? Thanks for any help!

    • Yes, you can liquify the paper first, if you like. The tackiness is actually useful, because it makes the paper mache clay stick to an armature. You can add more flour, or some corn starch, if you prefer the clay to be less sticky. Corn starch seems to make it smoother, too.

  3. Hi Jonni! Thanks for doing what you do and allowing others to post here. I’m nearly ready to start trying out paper mache for the first time in over 30 years, but it will be a long time (if ever) before I attempt anything in the scale of Nick Allen’s dinos. Impressive!

  4. hola Jonni

    soy de chile me encantan tus trabajos, y me gusta las figuras de papel mache, quisiera pedirte por favor como se hace una capa de dark vader para mi figura, no la quiero de tela o genero quiero que tenga movimiento, como dirigida con el viento , es lo que me esta complicando.

    muchas gracias de antemano

    agrego foto de una figura parecida.

    • I’m afraid Google Translate didn’t do a very good job with your comment, Carlos, so I don’t know the answer to your question. Help, anyone?

      • as I can make a coat, hood with movement as the figure dark vader, and I did my figure but that part of the suit does not make it as in figure photo, excuse not to translate my question, hopefully now if is understood

        • Hi Jonni. Im going to tell you what you said, he needs help:).
          hola Jonni
          Carlos says : “Im from Chile, i love your artwork and i like paper mache structures. I need help, could you please tell me how to do a Dark Vader cape? I dont want it made out from , i want it to be in “position”, like it has a wind air coming.
          Thanks you,i added a picture that could help”
          Im sorry if i added some words that arent.. English is not my language, but i tried to help. xx

        • Carlos, are you referring to the natural flow of fabric? That is difficult, I like to study how fabric moves in the wind and make sure my folds are smooth. Maybe try applying small roles of fabric to the clay, as a tool, and see if it creates the look you are after. Hope that helps 🙂

  5. I’m always impressed when someone has the sheer guts to follow his or her dream (I’m not really one of them)…
    Good luck with your enterprise, Nick, and keep posting – you’re an inspiration!

    • I agree with you all – Nick’s work is amazing. It reminds me of the resin sculptures at the Blue Rhino Studio in Minnesota. I look at their website occasionally, just to feel humbled. Nick’s work would fit in there, for sure. It’s a long drive from Germany, though… 😉

  6. I am a beginnerat papermache but find all your sites amazing I thought my work faily good till I see yours I want to try the eggcarton clay recipe but not sure what the joint compound isot where to get it in Tasmania thankyou anyone who can help me or give me some advice.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing all of your great adventures Nick.
    I wish you the best for your next Dinosaur!
    You do great work!
    I did life size caricature of humans in papier-mâché and would love to go back and do them once more. But as you said we got to earn a living, Ahhhhh.
    Also a big thank you Jonnie for this great site!
    Take care!

  8. What Shirley said and most impressive. As a paper mache beginner, I am so glad I found this site and Jonni. The posts shared are my guiding lights. Good luck Nick and get that website up so we can see more. Thank you for sharing.


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