It probably wasn’t until the last ten minutes of this fourth session that this sculpture started to ‘click’. Up to that point it was pretty mechanical: set up armature, pose, mass, refine. But something about the gesture just wasn’t satisfying me. It just felt too angular and stiff. So, I took a break, walked around the block, and came back. I looked at it again from across the room and found a couple of things to add. A little more curve on the forearm, more mass on the thigh. And then it was starting to look human–And then the session ended. This is definitely one I’m going to work on some more without the model this week, so I can evaluate the sculpture on its own merits. In the end, it’s not what the sculpture represents about the model but what is internally consistent within itself.
Here is a portrait that I just completed modeling. I’m pretty happy with how the texture and anatomy finished. This is probably a piece that I will continue to casting with. Which means of course, that I’m sure I will spend a few more hours modeling it in the cast wax before final.
Sometimes despite your time invested, you just have to walk away and start something else. Sometimes there is some part of a project that still has some intrigue. Sometimes those parts keep you working on a piece far beyond its merits. And occasionally those parts become happy accidents.
It is dangerous to recycle work and my teachers strongly discouraged it. And it is something that I would discourage beginners from doing as well. Very quickly you have to decide what was correct in the original pose may no longer be relevant with a new model. Proportions change, anatomy changes. Age and body type change. So, sometimes you leave something that you really like from the first model, only to realize that it is forcing you to make incorrect observations with the new one. That said, I have found that if you are willing to look at your new piece with a bit of ruthlessness, you save a lot of time in the basic construction. Most beginners lack the confidence to make fundamental changes and tend to be too precious about things that need to be changed or thrown out.
But like so many things, much of what I do now is breaking the rules of my teachers and not how I would teach others. At this point, I am finding what works for me whether or not it is a ‘good idea’. Sometimes these experiments turn out to be train wrecks. So far, for this sculpture, that has not been the case.
I am two sessions into working on this sculpture of Belle. It feels like it is going in the right direction. This is not the pose that she is actually modeling in. In reality, her left arm is laying across her leg on her lap, and her right arm is more forward. And her head is more upright.
For reference, below is a picture of the sculpture of Hannah that I repurposed into the sculpture of Belle. The part that I liked was how her shoulders pulled back, which defined the back muscles and shoulder blades. It created an interesting tension. However, the rest of the pose just felt boring. I experimented with changing the gesture of the arms, hands, and the angle of the head. I often will make minor tweaks to the sculpture from what the model actually did to exaggerate the pose or make it more expressive. Holding a pose for hours, days, and weeks is hard work and it forces the model to sometimes take more neutral positions. Tweaking things allow me to sculpt things that the model would not be able to hold for any duration.
Sometimes when you salvage previous works, you make minor changes that fundamentally change the pose. Other times you make major changes that obliterate what you started from. The trick is to not spend more time fixing than creating. In software development, there is an adage, “build a prototype, then throw it away’. You solve a lot of problems in trying to define something by making something and then recognizing how it is not working. At some point you have to decide whether to build on what you have started, start from scratch, or reuse pieces. That is the art, whether it is sculpture or software.
I believe this is week 5 for me on this pose. I have been neglecting to post in progress pictures on this one. Two more weeks with the model to finish it up.
It has really just been in the last couple of weeks that this one has started to come together. This is a return to oil-based clay after a lengthy foray working with hard wax. I’m still using hard wax, but I wanted to use something I could work faster on and in a looser style.
I started this pose with my usual drawings to better understand the pose and figure out proportions.
This was a portrait that I never really seemed to get into the groove with. I missed some sessions because I was traveling for work. And the there were holidays. I usually start with drawings, but since my schedule was I erratic, I did some drawings, a few quick water colors and a sketch portrait sculpture.
Some of the sketches turned out well though. When I starting a sculpture, I will draw the model from multiple angles. Not only I do I get more practice at ‘seeing’ the model, but I can also get a better sense of form. Once I create a sculpture, I will often go back to these original drawings for reference. In the drawing below I also did an anatomy drawing to better interpret what ‘all those bumps and shadows’ were.
All of these sketches are intended to help me understand what I am looking at. As such they are focused on planes and form, rather than line or tone.
In these drawing and painting sketches you can see what the entire pose was. As I mentioned previously, I didn’t have time to put together the whole figure, so a portrait sketch is where I wrapped it up.
Day 2 of this pose. Really, I only managed to spend a couple of hours on it. Having done the prelim art sketches last week helped a lot. However, it was really only in the last 20 minutes or so that I started to get into the groove… And then it was time to be done.
I’m starting to get a little more familiar with this wax. It really is about keeping it as cool as possible–and yet still workable. Everything just goes to mush once you have overheated the model, the tool or both.
Pictured you can see some of the tools I am using. Alcohol lamp, steel tools (not unlike dentist picks), a lighter for the lamp, and a very porous sanding sponge. Still haven’t gotten the hang of hot sanding. As mentioned above, it is very easy to overheat and then you just smear the surface rather than finish it.
I will probably work on this one a little further to smooth the forms and just practice the finer finishing.