BEWARE THIS TUTORIAL IS OLD!
I still use more or less the same process when making my sculptures, although I have altered certain bits. If you have any questions or are not sure wheter parts are still actual or fitting your sculpture concept please ask me
I dont bite
okay, first of all, I didnt really LEARN how to sculpt, I just figured it out. Most of what I do is a simple putting the flat image in my head into 3D. This requires that you KNOW how your sculpture looks in your head.
Do never start a sculpture without knowing how it has to be. If you are new to this medium or the creature/animal, do work with sketches first. You will need to know how the animal looks from all angles infront of your inner eye, know its anatomy or you may end up frustrated with the sculpture or stuck with things you cannot solve in the process because you did not plan it. This may be lacking clay, weight pressing the armature, prortruding stuff, limbs that need to be lenghtened. This cann of course still be corrected, but it involves a lot of time and destruction of the existing process. and nerves.
I consider myself ready to sculpt when I can play, fling around, turn and move the creature infront of my inner eye, like a trained doggie ("lie down! play dead! good boy!")
lets get going:
Either use a skeletal reference of the animal/human or be sure to have a sketch of your creature with all its bones.
simply follow all the important bones, the spine, the arm bones, leggs. The bigger you go, the more you wire. For full safety wire EVERYTHING that would be bone in nature (also fingers and jaws). Be sure to use strong wire, a wire that requires strenght to bend, not the random soft stuff. (also beware of wire that melts at low temperatures)
I usually use the same wire that I double and tripple. Be sure to turn tightly and spin the wire so its solid, you may end up having protruding stuff. A good skeleton shows a lot of the animal and its pose already. Use it to try out some new poses or movements too, you will be surprised how much you can do with your wire animal.
Always remember, be sure to have wired it strong enough.
Please note that this sculpture in the sample has way to little /fine wire. Be sure to use more than shown here.
2. then we add the foil. Start with a ball that will be the ribcage, add various sized sausages to add legg, arm, neck, tail etc volume. Be sure to add enough as not to end up using to much clay, but also not to much to have to much protruding foil at the end. A note must be added to this: you dont really have to foil a lot, or at all, I do because I wish to use less clay, you can indeed if you follow the curing rules of 30 mins for half an inch make up to 3 inch thick layers. Personally i tend to keep my clay a half up to one finger thick over the foil and wire depending on the final size of the sculpture (the bigger, the thicker). If you have a heavy bulk section as the ribcage it does not really matter in my experience, but it is rather important with supporting and thinner parts, such as arms and leggs.
3.then foil up the rest of the wire, in thinner layers (ex: fingers) it will make the clay hold better. To keep the foil in place simply wrap foil around it, or even tie/wrap with thin sewing thread. I personally recommend thin silverwire, especially for the delicate parts such as the fingers and thinner limbs. Do not use tape, it will make changes lateron difficult. Be sure that you have no wire left that is just blank wire, be sure that it is covered with a material, may it be foil or wire, to give the clay something to hold on. slipping clay can be very annoying when working. Incase you can also use superglue or cementit to actually glue the uncured glue to wire or other uncured/cured glue.
4. start adding clay. Start by making flat pancakes and covering the whole sculpture. then, make the single muscle strings. The more you make, the more it will have an anatomy look lateron. Remember, it is best to add the muscles from the begining in a muscle like form, if you make a big blob of clay and try to cut/etch in muscles it will just not look good, especially big muscles).
then start to put on the head, give it a face, so you won't have to work with "blooby" but with a Balrog
5. Beware of holding your figure to much, it will smush in the clay. I tend to work my figure out as rough as possible and then set it down. Get yourself a spinning disk (for sculpting) to reach every angle. if you have to hold your sculpture to reach other parts or stabilize during sculpting, decide on a place where you can do so to the very end without smashing to much. I usually take the waist or tail for that.
Follow the muscle strands and etch fur, skin or scales in, whatever you have. Keep in mind that nature is not perfect and not all same sized. Aswell add folds where anatomy/movement requires it (leggs, ellbows, etc)
6. Give your sculpture a break before you put it in the oven. Once its cured you can still change things that are minor, but it always pays off to put the figure in, when you consider yourself done. You can also cure your sculptures multiple times, for example if you have things like wings.
Adjust final changes and put in oven. BE SURE to watch the sculputre while it is in the oven, warmth will soften the clay and can cause the wole thing to crash. If you did all correctly with a good wire skeleton this should not happen, however you should not give it a chance. If you're unsure support it in the oven (be sure to use stuff that can stand the polymer curing temperature, ex porcelaine cups, glas, metall). So keep an eye on it. Not all sculptures can be saved fully with this method of watching, but if you see a sculpture is starting to slant the earlyer you can give it a support and heighten the chance of not having something that looks like its been run over by a car.
let it cool in the oven, do not (NOT!) attempt to remove it when it is fresh cured, polymer does a good deal of keeping warmth, got burned fingers to show you if you dont believe. Aswell touching it when warm increases breaking.
thats it for today