Thursday, July 9, 2015

Clay Panther Sculpture Demo p. 2 - Sculpting the Panther

Once you have a drawing of the sculpture you want to make, a good reference book depicting muscle/bone structures of your subject is invaluable for creating a good sculpture.


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The Armature - use loosely smashed-up newspaper and form the general position using masking tape. Make an opening in the bottom for the pvc pipe, and using masking tape, tape the newspaper around the pvc pipe (do not tape the newspaper to the pvc, this will make removing the sculpture from the armature difficult later). 


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The picture to the left shows how the armature corresponds to the finished sculpture. Remember to make the newspaper form thin compared to the finished sculpture so that you can get a good, thick application of the clay (1/4" minimum to 1" maximum thickness of clay).



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Start adding clay to the newspaper, starting up on the back above the pvc pipe. Work your way under the sculpture to create a complete ring of clay, then work back to the hind legs. 

Make a general form of the back legs to support the sculpture as you work on it. I used small amounts of newspaper to roll the clay around in order to keep the back legs hollow. 
 
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I also placed newspaper under the legs to build up a clay base (see the picture to the above left). This will make attaching it to the base after it is fired easier. Do not start on details here, you just want the general form until the entire sculpture is laid out. Start your way from the pvc pipe to the front of the sculpture, laying out a front leg for more support, then working towards the head. Build the neck up thick at this point, that way while you work on the head the neck will not be too delicate and break. - When adding clay to the sculpture, use the scoring and slipping method, especially if the clay is slightly dry.

 
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Once the entire sculpture is laid out, start on the main muscle masses of the sculpture. Do not finalize any sections too early, you will probably have to change things as you go. For example - The back leg that is closest to the head was too long, and I had to shorten it after the sculpture was further along. If that part had already been finalized, the effort would have been wasted. 

Every once in a while, take a break from your work. When you concentrate for long periods of time, sometimes you only see the idea that is in your mind, not what is actually in front of you. Taking a break clears your mind and allows you to come back and see what you actually have. If you will be taking a long break, cover the sculpture (see bottom picture).

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Now that the main muscle structures are in place, start working on the head. Wait until you get most of the head complete before whittling down the neck and refining the details there. After putting in the major details to the front leg, add the other front leg.


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This picture shows most of the details intact. There are still areas of the sculpture that need bulking up, and still many more refining details, especially to the face and feet. Add and remove clay until you have the "feel" that you want, then begin to refine all of the details until the sculpture is complete.


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Once the sculpture is completed, it is time to smooth out the surface. Using either a smoothing tool or your fingers, rub over the surface once it has slightly dried to smooth it out. The dryer the surface of the sculpture, the better this works - to a point. Do not let the sculpture get too dry, but the clay should not readily give without some pressure. Touching the sculpture should not leave fingerprints. 

View the Unfired Sculpture page to see the difference between the surface of the sculpture here and the surface when it is finished.


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*Note - if the clay begins to dry out while your are sculpting, use a spray bottle to mist the clay and keep it pliable. Do not over spray the clay or it will sag. When the sculpture will not be worked on for a length of time (10 or more minutes) it is advisable to cover it with a plastic bag so it will not dry out. Be sure to cover every clay surface, and remove as much air out of the bag as possible.

If the clay surface is too wet, the more weight you add, the more it will sag and warp. If you get to a point where the clay will no longer support itself (a leg droops or the neck will not support the head) either work on a different area to let that part dry slightly, or if adding more clay anywhere will mess up the entire sculpture, let it sit uncovered for around 15 - 30 minutes to harden the clay (you can cover parts of the clay, leaving uncovered only the parts you want to harden).

If the sculpture droops but the clay is not too wet, then either your armature wasn't built correctly (in which case you can probably just tape in some newspaper), or you just need to make the clay a bit thicker in that area to strengthen the sculpture - do not go over an inch thick or it is likely that the sculpture will bust in the kiln. 




Page 1 - Armature      |      Page 2 - Sculpting      |     Page 3 - Finishing Touches
Page 4 - Unfired      |     Page 5 - Firing      |     Page 6 - Build Base

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