- Lesson details
In this series, David Simon shows you his entire process for sculpting a female figure in oil-based clay. In the fifth lesson of this series, David Simon resolves the forms and relationships of the shoulders, breasts and ribcage. He begins to put in some of the elements of the face, then ends by moving down to the pelvis and adjusting those large forms.
A sculptor of international acclaim, David Simon’s career has ranged from life-size portraits and figures to massive bronze statues. Among others, he helped oversee the giant Leonardo da Vinci Horse project. David created maquette and sculptures for films such as Where the Wild Things Are, Fantastic Four, and Watchmen, and holds private workshops abroad and in his Los Angeles studio.
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we're gonna start off by just checking everything
top to bottom, the position of everything, the volumes,
the rotation, and
last time I noted this area, which I did
notice when I got in this morning that is still
a little bit of a problem.
There are, you know, obviously a number of areas that are
underdeveloped. I think probably the upper back in particular.
There is a problem in the pelvis from
the back view. I feel like
this whole area's a little stretched out, I wanna take a look at that. So
I wanna start by addressing those elements that are
bothering me a little bit as opposed to elements that I just haven't
refined yet. And once everything is ironed out, which
I would imagine would be, you know, fairly quick, then
I'm going to begin to address
this area and then move through, back and forth,
deal a little bit with the volume of the head, the forearm
and begin to go in a little bit deeper to each area. So that's where we're
gonna begin today. Okay whenever you're ready.
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break and I wanna, you know,
I noticed while I was walking away from the sculpture that
this arm is getting thick front to back because I kept building it out that way.
So I wanna make sure that I address that and pull that
in from the outside. But right now I wanna
get a little bit more sort of done in this transition.
this transition here.
So I'm just, I'm
lining everything up
and it looks like I keep needing to come out
so I'm just gonna come around, take a look
this. I want
to make sure that the abdomen has that feeling of
compressed by the arm.
I'm pulling that arm in a little bit.
Make sure that the edge of the forearm
is compressing to the edge
of the abdomen.
I'm gonna turn again.
again. By and large I'm pulling
that arm out, away,
and then there are times when I would do that
just by taking the entire armature and pulling it out
but I have quite a lot of room in the
clay there. And that wouldn't really accomplish
what I really need to accomplish, which is
adjusting all the forms and making all the forms
move in the correct direction. Like the mass would be further out.
But all of the
forms would still need to be
adjusted, so it seems
as efficient to pull it out
The primary reason why
I would move the
And that's, you know, any area. The head,
arm, the leg,
as if the entire thing were basically righted, just need to face a different
direction. If that's not the
case and I have the room to do it, I'll generally just move
And so frequently the way I'll make that decision is by
putting a cut with a knife in the direction
away from where I need to move.
Meaning, if that arm needs to move
in that direction, I'll cut in on this side.
If I run into the armature very quickly, I know that if I just start
building on this side and removing clay there, I'm gonna run into the armature.
And so then I would probably move the entire armature
in the direction that I need to move.
So now I'm gonna turn a little bit more.
Now I should be able
the width here.
And that'll allow me to pull that forward.
All of this forward
and this tool
that I'm using now is a handmade rake
that I made out of a piece of brass tubing
and a saw blade.
I used a coping saw blade
and a blowtorch to
bend it into the shape that I wanted. And then I filed the teeth down
so that they were still there but not as
And it's a great kind of mid
size tool for the kinds of forms
sculpting right now.
And it's, you know, it's particularly good
on these edges where I want that form
in the front to end and this
triangular shape from the elbow
to move outward.
That allows me to get
deep in and around
whatever shape that I need
to, which would be very difficult to do with
the screen. Once it's there
the screen is, you know, good to
clean and remove some of the marks that are left behind by that tool.
it would soften
the forms of the transitions. In terms of the
of the precision of getting in and around little shapes
rake tool is really handy.
I'm gonna turn it one more time to get a really good
side view of that arm.
you know I think it's fine, I can just increase
the transition here between
of the, or the top of the tricep here,
and the shoulder
but as I come down
this to become narrower as it approaches the elbow.
Gonna clean up that relationship between the
forearm and where it hits the
That turn under.
I'm gonna turn it one more time,
I want the back view of her forearm
and then I can really see
that deep transition
That's coming out
through the tricep.
There's a little bit of
right here, which is the
it needs to be
begin to turn forward. This is sort of tricky because I'll have
a very good angle
in order to do that, both
my body to get the right angle and
the sculpture to get light into that.
and then add to the
So essentially I'm just tightening up the edge
of the torso,
the edge of the upper arm
and getting a clean
between those. And, you know as
the inner area becomes cleaner I can take
the side, which is more easily accessible, and blend
it into that
and then the same thing with the arm. Instead of
using that larger tool on the arm I'll just use this
slightly smaller one and that'll
allow me to get in there
and then I'm going to have to
get into the transition between that upper arm
and the forearm.
Which still is a bit of
in terms of how it's
being resolved on the inside.
And the trick is getting all that
clay kind of moving
in the right direction
Ultimately create the
that there is actually
compression taking place between the arm and the
torso but obviously there is no compression,
it's just a whole bunch of clay shoved into an area.
But if the drawing is
right, it would arc here
and arc here
then it will be pretty convincing.
You know it's one of the more time consuming things
because you just have to very carefully
lay the clay in
you know right now I'm moving the abdomen lower into that
place where the two meet.
Now I'm turning the forearm away
from the abdomen
and it doesn't help
clay is kinda soft and mushy right now.
I don't have any with me now but next week I will bring
some baby powder and that's one
way of helping in an area like that where
it's kind of a tight, confined area
things are getting sticky as I try and add clay
and move it around. And the baby powder will, in essence,
me to work with the clay, work with tools in that area
without everything getting gummed up.
It almost acts as a release. So if I dip the tool
in it, the clay is not gonna stick to the tool, it'll cut a little bit more cleanly.
You have to be careful with
baby powder because once you add it
clay doesn't like to stick any more.
So if you - you don't wanna put clay in, add
baby powder and then try and put more clay in because that
then, you know, the new clay is not gonna wanna stick, it sort of
more toward the end when you feel like you have enough
clay in there and you're trying to shape it
and it's sticky and
causing problems and the baby powder is really, you know, quite helpful
allowing you to create
shapes and move things around without creating a big
sticky mess. There's also
solvents that I'll bring that I can
demonstrate which help in a kind of a
similar way. They definitely are more to
reduce the friction, which is what the baby powder does
but they also tend to melt the surface of the clay a little bit
an opportunity to blend things
a little more
aggressively than you can without it.
you know for right now
I'm gonna forgo the baby powder and
and just resort to cleaning
the tool frequently. And ultimately you can
get away without using anything if you just keep
cleaning off the clay that builds up on the tool.
I'm going to now move into the
Pull this in a little bit.
Sorry I'm mumbling.
I'm gonna move into this area
under the -
under the arm.
Sort of the bottom of the shoulder.
And I guess like the thing that I'm doing
now overall is
is looking for depth and volume
so you can see by pushing in
here. Pushing in
I'm creating, you know, quite a good
amount of depth.
I'm going to clean up this area
with a broader tool.
I was seeing a lot of
You know I see a little bit,
kind of a broader, fuller,
surface here. So I'm just gonna come out.
and I'm gonna let that come
a little further out toward the shoulder blade here
and then combine
and now I'm coming across the top
of the shoulder blade.
I wanna turn
her back a little bit counter clockwise.
Now that'll let me see just how the
shoulder is a ball
shape in the shoulder
And behind that
the forms soften. You know there's not really a harsh
to the top of the shoulder.
You know it kinda gently moves from this top
plane right here
to the side plane. But that
kind of rounded shape at the end of the shoulder
caps that movement off.
Now I wanna widen it
as it approaches the
the inner edge
of the shoulder blade here
I'll flip that,
inward and then kinda...
Right you can see like right
here it's moving in
then rounding into this fuller
And then the transition
is a little bit higher up.
Okay and while I'm here
we're also going to look at the
I'm gonna come down into
the back of the neck, through
and do a little more
letting the hair
get a little further here.
of what's known as the seventh
cervical vertebrae, which is a sort of
bump at base of or the nape of the neck.
And that's -
the spine is divided into
four sections. The cervical
or the neck section, the thoracic or the rib
section, the lumbar, the lower back
section, and then the sacrum, which is the
series of vertebrae that are fused together
right down here, below the lumbar.
And one of
the more pronounced, if not the most
pronounced, vertebrae is the seventh cervical, which forms a
kind of lump or bump at the
base of the back of the neck.
here and cut here, here.
And I'm just looking for
the shape of
the hair. You know very, at this point, very rough.
You know I'll
look for the center line, which is here.
that is the top of
this is going up and over.
This will need to come out a bit.
I'm gonna turn her
back a little bit so I can get more of a profile.
Moving back forward.
This is coming out and then coming back
then overall all
of this is facing downward,
this is all coming inward,
this is all coming
This is gonna come back just
a tiny bit.
Pull that ear back a little bit
you know I'm looking more than anything for big
shapes, what direction they're facing.
You know for example this hair is facing upward
and then by the time it gets to the
part that's tied back
making sure I have
enough of an angle there.
In getting the, you know, this
area that's a little tied back, making sure there's a volume.
You know whenever I'm dealing
with hair, I'm primarily looking for
like to divide it up in big chunks and
figure out which direction
the chunks are moving. So in other words, is it moving
underneath, to the side, to the
top, and is it moving backward, forward, it's almost like
And figuring out where it divides from
the next chunk.
kinda looking through the whole
sculpture for the things that I find
to be jarring or out of place or not
You know I find that whole
lower part of the neck to be coming out too far.
pushing it back in
sternocleidomastoid right here
as the throat.
I keep pushing
that back in.
Create that little sort of
the feeling of how she's holding her head.
Which is pretty
There's a lot of depth here
which I can
with a rounded tool.
So it's kind of like rounded
portion of her jaw line
and then that
So I feel like I wanna
move down - like I feel like everything in this area has
gotten, to a certain extent, reduced in volume.
And this sort of pelvic
area hasn't lost any. So I feel like
I'd like to move down into here, increase the depth
in a few places that will lighten up the feeling of the area and kind of
balance it more with what's going on up above.
And then once I'd done that, I moved
in through the knees and feet, then I feel like everything
will be around the same
from here I'm gonna go down into
the area around the naval.
I'm gonna start by increasing the depth
of the transition here.
And I'm moving the
a little bit forward
at the bottom by pushing
in a little bit up above.
So by pushing in
add a little bit to the ribcage
I'm going to try and get a little more direction
So here -
So below that line
very carefully push in
and then turn.
So again what I'm looking for is this
outward movement slightly.
So by pushing in a little bit more
I'll check it from
A little bit of a division here.
I can use a little bit of screen.
Just soften that transition.
I might have gone in a little bit too far -
a little bit back.
And now I'm just softening that edge
and then I'll follow that
So I'm just going back and forth
to create an even
And I want the top edge
of that narrow
strip to be further in
than the bottom edge.
And that's why on the model you can see the highlight there because the
that little area's facing the light.
come in there
turn that form into
I just kinda wanna broaden it. It kinda comes up to a line and then
ends as it
comes out of that area I wanna broaden that
That's better. Now here,
top edge of that form needs to come
and the bottom edge of the form
above it needs to do the
opposite. It needs to turn downward.
I'll turn that form
gently away from the light so
I should get just a very soft shadow.
right down here
I wanna change the shape just slightly.
and I want this,
the sides here as they come outward towards the hips,
to go deeper.
And then the center line
to have a more,
like a straighter line that turns a little bit more rapidly
at the end.
So a straighter line through here.
And then come back.
So in an area that's like small and tight
I might go back and forth between
drawing it in
and modeling it
with a tool
a number of times.
So right here I feel like there's an extra little movement.
And it's, you know, a really crucial
area because this is
the corner of the pelvis.
And as I
work into it, I definitely feel
like I'm understanding what's going on a little bit better
pass I make
And so that's the bone.
Got the edge
of the pelvis, the
anterior superior iliac spine.
And so I wanna make sure I have
just that very
Just gonna come down
gonna turn her a little bit
push into that area.
Pull that in underneath a little
And I'm carefully kinda turning it
in the light to see, like there's a
spot here that
is too low.
There's a little piece of something in the clay.
So I'm just cleaning
that surface, that's an area that
you know I want a lot of very
kind of subtle movement.
on the side there
the center line.
And now I'm gonna
add some depth, this depth I have here I'm gonna add
to the other side.
And I feel like already that's helping lighten the feeling,
just adding the depth here.
On that side it's a bit more
diagonal. This transition.
the ligament which is this
This vaguely triangular form here
a little bit like that.
transition or actually it's like a
crease that's moving through here.
So I'm just gonna take a piece
of the screen that I've been using, I feel like it's getting a little
gummy, and cut it and that exposes a fresh
That will allow me to
deal with this area a little more cleanly.
Okay now back to
I need to and can
go in that area.
So I'm just moving a
little bit of material. Now on this side, it's
That part of that line is a little deeper than the top.
start on one side and then I'll move
to the other side of that line.
And I'm gonna actually rotate her a little bit
and that'll help me see the depth
So here now that I've pushed that
bottom, the bottom of that line
now I feel like the top
I can just pull
And now I'm just changing the edge.
And that I'm doing just
by drawing it from both sides until those two sides
meet and then I can just pull out
that piece of clay. And now I've got the depth
that little section
And this is, you know,
where the thigh is compressing into the
genitals and the hip,
is an area where I kind of
a number of things happening
in a pretty smaller amount
will end that, which will allow me to round
here and then
and there and that'll allow that shape
to become rounded.
But there's no rounded shapes without depth
on both sides of them. So in order to create that kind of rounded
shape I just made
I needed more depth here and I needed some depth here. Now
although I initially put in that depth
it looked pretty extreme,
it was because it was just one little spot.
And once I broaden that out, it won't seem as
Now here I'm not putting back any clay, I'm actually,
I'm removing a tiny bit that was
and all that
toward the inside
this line's probably a little too sharp.
So I'm gonna soften it.
Okay and now
that to the outside.
Here I'm just gonna soften this
I'm pushing here,
softening that edge and then
move all that outward,
meaning I want the quadriceps or the
group of muscles
on the front of thigh to move outward.
So I pushed in a bit of a
transition here, just by
kind of leaning my thumb outward
as I went down to try and shift
and then widening
the transition from the inner thigh
and then from the high point
here I'll just
blend it into the transition.
And then as I come down
I'll try and clarify
the overall movement of that
big group, the transition
through here and then
move all of that
down into the knee, which
really doesn't yet exist, I haven't put in the knee.
But its helpful to begin to get some depth
in this area,
all through here, to balance some of the depth
It's a little tight
so I'll soften it just a bit.
Just turn that
So today I did
quite a bit of work, I think I made a good
amount of progress, particularly in
this area here, which was really unresolved.
I was able to
deal with the shoulder,
the breast, and the ribcage and how they related. I did a little bit of work
moving from this shoulder into the shoulder blade.
I began to put in some of the elements of the face to begin to balance
that out with what was going on below it
and then at the end I moved into the pelvis to try and even
everything out. Next week I'll continue down the leg,
try and establish particularly this knee, the hands,
and then begin to move up and down through it,
jumping around to begin to pull everything a little
bit more together and to look for rhythm
throughout the piece as we move towards