Sketching with clay! A fun approach to figure sculpture

my rough sculpture

The rough start to my first sculpture

Today I had my two favorite classes of the week, Figure Sculpture and Storyboarding.  In sculpture we had our very first live model come in today.  For the last few weeks we’ve been learning about the human form and the main muscle groups that form the main shape of the body.  For our clay we use oil biased clay called “chavant professional plasteline” to create character maquettes (it’s nice because it never hardens so you can always go back and re-work what you did months later).  What I really enjoy is how our teacher, Cogswell sculpture professor Thomas Applegate, teaches figure sculpture.  The idea is to work fast and rough.  We start with getting the gesture in our armature and making sure that the weight and action is distributed well across the figure.  Once we are happy with the gesture we start putting on the clay. We start with the primary forms then move on to the secondary forms.  After that, if we are happy with how it looks, then the third step takes place and we refine the sculpture.  To me it really felt like sketching instead of sculpting.  The sculpture you see in the photo is a 45 minute ‘sketch’ sculpture.  I really like how it came out; unfortunately it will be torn apart next class.  Thomas really stresses working fast with the clay and really ingraining the intuitive feel of sculpting.  Like with sketching you create the basic form over and over and over and as you continue to repeat the process you get better at the process of sculpting.  It’s also a very instructive process.  Thomas will walk around the room and give pointers and test us to see if we can see what’s going wrong before he tells us what we need to fix, again, really trying to build that intuitive sense for sculpting.  When I was working on it I really got into the process of making it, like I was one with the clay (however corny that sounds).  It was a lot of fun.

I’d really love to get the chance to take the portrait sculpture class.  In that class you work on learning to sculpt the head, and more than just a human’s head.  One of the assignments is to combine an animal’s head with your own, thus making (perhaps) one of the strangest self-portraits I’ve ever seen.  We’ve got some great ones around the school and quite a verity of animals.  We have a fish, an ape, a giraffe, and a goat (to name only a few).  There’s more lecture in that class (I’m told) but when you’re learning about the muscles of the face and how the face expresses then you need more lecture.  I think it would be a very fun class to take.

-Amelia Davis

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