Wednesday, April 8, 2009


When I’m working on a sculpt I want to get the entire piece roughed out. That way I can just see the entire form at once and make adjustments. The ears were going to be interesting. Not only do they have a fur texture, but some amazing folds that I wanted to really get to look right. It the same process adding hot clay to an armature, getting the rough form, then using finer tools to smooth and refine the shape.

The delicate fur texture I’ll make with a small tool. A simple etched line repeated over and over until it feels like your hand may fall off. At that point I was almost finished.
After the first pass of fur texture the clay gets brushed down with 91% Alcohol then I’ll etch the texture again. Doing several layers like this will give a richness to the overall fur texture. With vinyl it is always better to go a little deeper with the details. Details can get toned down in the process of manufacturing.

In this picture early on there fur on the outside of the ear too. Mark thought it would look better if the outer ear was smooth to contrast with the texture on the inside. This was a good note.

The outside is smoothed, it’s time to get the position on the head right. The ears had about 2 inches of armature wire sticking out so it was easy to just stab them in and play with the pose. Once the pose looked right then I added the clay, and sculpted the parts that would join them smoothly to the body.

At this stage I had done much smoothing and refining of the body and eyelids. The smoothing technique is what I get asked about the most. It’s mostly just taking a flat tool, working the clay into the rough curves and shapes, then using a large rake to take down the sculpt to smoother plains and slowly graduating to finer and finer rakes.

When it’s time to start working the final smoothing these are your best friends.
A mini torch, 91% Isopropyl Alcohol and circuit freeze spray. The first step I’ll take alcohol on a sea sponge (I like these better then the artificial sponges) rub down the clay with the sponge and smooth it out. Next fire up the torch, (Put the cap back on the alcohol and move it away. A couple times in a concentrated work frenzy I have set a lit torch down flame pointing to an open alcohol bottle) Hold the torch about 5 inches away from the clay until the surface gets nice and shinny. The blast it with the circuit freeze.
Repeat. I’ll have more smoothing as we go through the project.

I’ll return the YHWY but we must start the girl. As I said the girl was going to be challenging. Mark has mastered a very specialized female characterization of his female subjects. Capturing the subtleties was going to be hard.

The additional challenge is only having the semi 3/4 art to work with. The first step foil ball with armature wire. There are many ways to make the armature, some sculptors prefer a ball of wire. I like my foil. Next step to just get the very crude building blocks of the head and face in place.

See it looks just like the art! Next step, to just start measuring the head and face to create the rough land marks of where the features will live. In marks art I thought the eyes were a good feature to use as the measuring standard. How many eyes wide is the head? How many eyes tall is the forehead? Etc.

Many hours later the very rough face and head with basic facial geography is taking shape.

Also just looking at the art in the same angle and seeing if it looks right.

The other aspect of figuring out the girl is how will she fit together. She has a very specific pose in Mark’s painting. There was talk early on about changing her position so the vinyl would have better balance. I believe the vinyl should be a replica of the painting as much as possible. I was determined to work out a way for the girl to stand firm even with one foot up on the toes.

1 comment:

Xavier said...

Forgive me if the other post went through, as it didn't seem to. But I'm trying to figure out what kind of clay you're using--I've been working with Super Sculpey to make figures based on my work and any help would be greatly appreciated.