Archelon, The River Styx Tortoise

A close up of my tortoise. I tried to avoid it looking like Mitch McConnel but I failed miserably as you can see.

Not sure where the idea for this creature came from although it might have been inspired by a painting I saw on Pinterest that had a turtle with odd stuff growing out of its back. Anyway, the image haunted me with the result is what you see before you.

Being the proud owner of both filament & resin 3D printers, I surmised that the construction of the scene would be within my grasp using those terrific tools. As I have described elsewhere on this web page, I went to Thingaverse, a site that one can download printable 3D files of just about any object one can imagine. In this case, I needed a turtle or tortoise figure along with access to a variety of tombstones and the like that I could print.

The rocks are sculpted builders foam painted dark gray and dark blue. The background is a painting I did with black, white and blue acrylics on foam board.

There were an abundant amount of turtle and tortoise files available and since I could alter their shapes somewhat in the software that makes the printable file, I ended up choosing a tortoise file that was a bit thicker than I needed but I could squish it down to suit my needs. The head of the tortoise looked a lot like the Kiaju Gamera (which just wouldn't do) so I ended up cutting off the head once the print was completed. I sculpted a new neck and head for it out of two part epoxy clay while trying to avoid it resembling Mitch McConnell too much. Alas, I failed. Anyway, for the eyes, I went to my doll eye stash and inserted a 8mm sized pair into the figure before the epoxy set.

For the next step, I printed the tombstones and crypts in resin due to their fine detail and small size (~1/4” tall) which would have been next to impossible using a filament printer. I made the dead trees out of multi-strand copper wire that I painted gray after twisting and trimming the wire into tree shapes.

I decided that I wanted the tortoise to be emerging from the River Styx with the newly dead on its back. This required some removal of its hindquarters to give it the illusion of it emerging from the black water. I came upon the idea of filling a shallow tray with soupy plaster so I could push the truncated tortoise into the plaster which I laid a piece of plastic wrap as a barrier between the tortoise and the plaster facilitating it's easy removal later on.

  • A "God shot" of the tortoise showing the mobile cemetery of newly deceased.

  • Close to show the remarkable detail that a resin printer can produce. The crypts are about a 1/2" on a side. You can see writing on a few of the tombstones.

While the plaster was setting, I carved some background rock features out pink builders foam which I painted with Mod Podge to protect it from any spray painting. Once the Mod Podge set, I spray painted the foam rock carvings with glossy black followed by a misting of dark blue. I placed most of the rocks at the rear of the scene with a couple smaller ones in the foreground. I added a couple dozen half pearls of various sizes to the water to suggest a bubbling mire.

For the background, I painted a subterranean scene using black, dark blue and white to display stalactites and stalagmites on a sheet of foam board which I glued to the backside of the foam rocks I had carved earlier. The title was something I had designed using the Paint program on my PC. I then transferred the file into my 3D slicer program which generated a 3D printable file which took about an hour to print.

I have mixed feelings about this project. I'm pleased that my printers had the capabilities to generate the objects I needed with little or no fuss. On the other hand, I'm not sure what the scene really means if it means anything at all. Maybe one of these days it will come to me. 3/9/22