- Lesson details
In this series, David Simon shows you his entire process for sculpting a female figure in oil-based clay. In the sixth lesson of this series, David begins by reevaluating the model as a whole. He then revisits the lower body, dealing with the knee, lower legs, upper legs, and blocking in the feet. He also spends some time blocking in the head. With the exception of the hands and some awkward transitions in the arms, David brings the sculpture to a better sense of balance in form.
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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talked about last week going
through, looking at the knee, looking at
the hands, and the head.
Obviously, as I've said before, I'm gonna begin by looking at the entire thing,
comparing it to the model, looking for anything that really
stands out to me as needing more attention. I got
in today and already I've been looking over what
I have and looking for direction as
to what I'd like to do. I think the things that
jumped out at me were not that different from what I was looking at
last week. The knee definitely on both legs,
the hands, the head,
there are obviously lots of other things, the feet,
this part of the
back, there's a lot that needs attention, the back of the leg. But I wanna
focus first on the things that need the most attention and then work my way
up and down and start balancing things out.
looking through things.
And I try and do that
as much as I can
early on in the session when
I'm the freshest. I mean obviously
the model will get tired,
as a session goes on
the pose will settle and in
some ways that's good.
It will become more natural as the model settles deeper into the pose
but eventually it becomes uncomfortable and
you know and that will affect
how relaxed the pose looks
but in addition to that I'll get
fatigued. My eyes will not be able to
take in as much
and I think also I'll get less -
I'll be able to
see it kind of
in some ways without
prejudice only at the very beginning, in other
words when I came in this morning I looked at it almost as if
I hadn't been working on it. And I was able to say that doesn't look that
good but that looks fine there. And as I
worked more and more,
the familiarity with what I have with what I'm doing
begins to set in and it's harder for me to see
it with fresh eyes and to judge it
as a viewer as opposed to somebody who's
making it. And so that's why at the beginning it's best to
spend a little bit of time looking, trying to figure out
overall what I think of it
and what I think really needs to change. And I'll do
things like put on a little piece of clay in an area
just to mark something
that I'm thinking of. Here I'm thinking, I really
I want that part of a tricep is really pushing out.
I feel like it's not, I don't have that quite enough.
of the shoulder is coming out a bit.
This portion of the leg
looks like it's collapsing
in so I'm gonna add just a little bit
here. And I'm not gonna go in and start sculpting that
right away. You know I'm not gonna blend it and figure out how it all turns.
I'm just putting on little
almost like three dimensional post it notes. Saying okay make sure
you look here. And when I get to that
area, and sometimes like right here
I'm gonna take off a little bit. It's coming too far
out for this view. So sometimes
when I do that
okay this needs to come in.
When I get
to that area later on, I'll see that little
chunk of clay or that little slice that I took off
and remember what I had intended to do.
is gonna need to come out
Little bit more.
Okay I'm gonna
And now I;'m starting
to look at the knee, which was a big
just I hadn't
addressed it at all.
And I feel like it's
doing some important things in this pose.
There's a real rotation to this
leg that is holding the weight
so the knee is actually facing the back of that leg.
And so it becomes,
you know, a bit difficult just because
you have to look
at it from multiple angles to figure out what's going on because it's
twisted so far toward the inside here.
I need to see it from that way
and kinda from that way.
So both it's a challenge both with the light,
because obviously you need
a reasonable amount of light on it to see what you're doing,
but because of the position of everything else when
good light is on it sometimes a big
shadow is being cast across it and it makes it
difficult to figure out what's going on.
So I'm gonna turn.
And in addition to that
what's above and
below the knee is really
So I'm feeling like the leg is bowing out
a little bit
and I'm just trying to figure out
deal with that. In other words
a little bit more of an extreme movement inward
which I don't necessarily mind
but I want to
mitigate it a little bit. I don't want the entire
leg to bend in an unnatural arc.
gonna involve taking the
inner corner of the tibia here,
pulling that out
and I just have to check from the back,
make sure it's not hurting that
Pulling out here
is a bunch of tendons that wrap around.
You know so the more I pull the knee
the outward here the straighter that will become.
I'm also pulling out a little bit
here where the fibula is.
This skinny bone on the side of the
lower leg. So by pulling out here and here
I can increase how straight that lower leg
You know it's always a little bit of a balance
straightening that out
and keeping a sense of
movement.You know straight
in general means static
which is not really
But if there's too much
of a bend
then it ends up looking -
lacking structure, which is not good
either. So unfortunately
you can't give up one in favor
of the other. You're
constantly balancing between one and the other.
You know and this is something
that you know is true not only for -
angle of the leg or the curve of an arm.
It's true, you know, of almost anything
in art. You're trying to balance
the visual with the
psychological, you're trying to balance the
the aesthetic, you're always
sort of giving to one and taking away from the other
and evaluating whether that trade off
is worthwhile or not.
And that's ultimately
I think what makes it the most challenging - I'm just gonna
grab another tool.
When you're beginning
to learn how to do this
it's obviously gonna be a challenge
to do all of, you know, making
the armature is a challenge
and applying the clay is a challenge and making it look human
is a challenge and all of it
feels very challenging. Just like when,
you know, a kid is learning to ride a bicycle. You know staying
upright is a big challenge but eventually it doesn't -
it's not a challenge anymore. Eventually you're just able to do it
and that's when
other things enter into it. If you
race bicycles then you've got a whole other set of
issues that you're dealing with after you can
pedal without falling over.
With sculpture, once you can kinda handle all of the technical
I think the biggest challenge is how you deal with
all of the competing
elements that go into making something.
You know there's the aesthetic, the
technical, the emotional content, the
rhythmic elements, the finish,
all of these
can't be separated out
as individual things that you
one by one apply to a sculpture and end up with a good finished
product, they're always kind of fighting with one another.
You kind of want it to look more like the model but maybe even the
more you focus on making it look just like the model, the less interesting
You may want a certain amount of anatomical
accuracy but the more anatomically
accurate you make it, the less the rhythms
are working together. So at a certain point,
at least for me, it always seems like
the biggest challenge becomes judging what
the priority is. Do I wanna give up one thing
in favor of the other. Do I want to
try and keep
two things and make them work together? And by doing that
am I giving up something else, am I losing something?
and I think one way that you deal with all of that
is to have strategies for how you look at it.
You know the one constant thing is if you're not looking
at what you're doing in
a helpful way, then you're
gonna end up having problems. I think
in the however many years that
I've been sculpting, that
is the hardest skill
and it's the one that I've worked the most at
and that I see making the
biggest difference is just how,
you know, how I'm looking and thinking about something. Do I want that,
if I do that what is that going to do to eight other
then which of them is really important and which
are not that important?
And for me, you know,
that calculation is constantly changing.
Get out the
calipers and just check the measurement.
You know on some sculptures certain things I think become
really really important, whereas on other ones
those same things seem like critical.
and other things become more important
gonna turn her a little bit.
What I focus on obviously will change sculpture to sculpture but even
within the process of making
one sculpture, I'll focus on one thing early on
and then something completely different later on.
I always seem to lose things that I put down.
Okay so here
that should be the bottom of the knee cap,
that should be
roughly the top of the knee cap
and there's kind of a big diagonal
from the outer
section of the top of the knee cap going across
and it really
comes in all the way through there.
Gonna push all that in
a big movement here.
You know this area
is kind of a good example of
struggle between anatomy
and observation. There's a
band of tendon
that cuts across the thigh
as it approaches the knee cap and it's called the band of Richer,
which is named for a French
19th century anatomist and
on some people it's really visible, like
on Leah it's really causing this deep
impression or depression
around the top of the knee.
And on some people you hardly see
it at all. And so when
you're studying anatomy you learn about
the band of Richer, if you learn about it,
and, you know, because some anatomy books really
focus on it and others ignore it
and then what do you do with that
information if you see it on the model or if you don't see it on the model.
If you don't see it on the model do you put it in because it's in all the
of your anatomy books and when you learned anatomy you learned about this
structure that should be there even though you don't see it
or do you follow
only what you see?
And so there's
the challenge of
how you balance out what's
in front of you and what's in your head.
And interestingly, I think that's true also
in lots of other aspects of sculpture
and of making art. You know there are
ways you learn to do things and ways you learn to approach
things and, in some ways,
the more specific those approaches
are, the more helpful they are, you know if someone said
always do A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and then
do H, I, J, K, and then do L, M, N,
O, and P. You know you have this big outline of stuff
to keep you busy that makes you feel like you know exactly what you're doing
however, no one
wants to go to a gallery or museum and see
that all look identical. No one wants to read a book
that essentially is the same as
every other book. You know what you're looking for when you look at art
is to be surprised
and intrigued and to see
something that is in some way unique
doesn't mean that there can't be elements to it
have historical precedence
but ultimately art
making is about creating something
of your own. And so the more
kind of -
the more specific
the instructions are that you've been given
as a foundation, the less room there is for you
deviate from that
and to find your own
elements to add to it.
And that's one of the challenges, I think, of
being a student and being a teacher.
I think when a student is new to something
the more precise and specific the instructions
are the easier it is for the student to move through
those phases where they're trying to kind of get a handle of it
and as a student develops, the more specific
and precise the instructions, the more stifling
they become. The less room
there is for the student to be interested in
in the process because
essentially they're just following this
predetermined set of rules. So how
you break down something that's
as complicated as sculpting a figure
something that, you know, I've thought a lot about over the years and I definitely
on like what the correct way is because
there probably isn't a correct way.
The more open you leave the process for people
if you just say, you know, there are no rules you just kinda look and get a
feel and do what you think is right, I think
in a lot of ways the less helpful you are to
a student who has less experience.
The more specific you are and the more rules you lay out,
the more empowered I think you make someone who
doesn't have a lot of experience.
But ultimately I think that's
not a great way to teach because
the final result that you want is someone who feels that they
understand some basic concepts and are able to
make changes to
not only a specific sculpture but the entire sculptural
process based on, you know, how
basic ideas that they've been introduced to
and I think those two
those two things are
really at odds with one another, giving people
big sort of general ideas of how to approach something but no
hard and fast specifics,
which I think ultimately is good in the end
and giving people you know, very, very detailed
instructions about how to approach every aspect of it, which I think is
helpful in the beginning.
Okay I'm gonna rotate
Leah and get a back view of that same leg.
And, you know, you might say well why don't you just do both? When someone's starting give them
you know very specific instructions and then as they get
better and better, talk much more about
all of the ways that those rules can
be ignored or adjusted
modified. And I think, you know,
that's fine as a theory but I've been teaching for a long time
and it's really, really hard to - it's almost like
becoming two people. If you're saying one thing
for a long time because no one learns to sculpt in
a few hours, it takes
a fairly long time to transmit all of the
various bits of information and then even longer
to help somebody through the process of really integrating that into their
consciousness and how they
approach their work. And when you do that for a long time it's really, really difficult
to suddenly say now throw all of that out and think of it
in a different way.
And maybe it would be easier if you had one
student and you could kind of work through that process one on one over
a long period of time. But generally, you know, I have
lots of students who are at all different points in that
process. And the only
way that I've found to be
in any way comfortable to deal with that is to do what I'm doing
now and just sort of make it clear that there is a struggle
there and it was and is a struggle for me
and it, I think, is and should be
a struggle in some ways for everybody to try and
the inherent conflict
between the different components of
the process and
that, I think,
a good artist is constantly
how those different elements
come together in their own work.
And that goes not just for
kinda the idea of what the sculpture's about and the way
it's modeled in clay. It has to do with everything about it.
How it's molded, how it's
cast, how the
final product is displayed, how it's lit,
what you choose to
say about it or write about it.
You know all of it is part of
the process of
You know and then teaching is another
element in that, I think in some ways
if you've gone through many, many years of
learning and of exploring and
of doing it, it's a responsibility that you have
to try, whether you teach formally
or whether you're just
asked periodically by people who are in the same field that you are
for your thoughts about various
elements of it.
Okay so I'm
gonna - I'm going to
zoom out a little bit. I guess I began today
with a large idea
about the philosophy of
sculpting and now I'm gonna talk a little bit more about
the practical side of what I'm doing.
But I guess in still a fairly broad
way. So right now I'm beginning to deal with
smaller elements within the sculpture.
So how the forms on
her right leg are
moving in and out,
around, volumetrically, linearally
and depth wise.
Meaning, how this form is wrapping,
what the depth is between this form and the form
in front of it and
you know ultimately all of that
is important to the sculpture even if it's less
important than the overall movement, you know the direction of the leg.
The direction of the arm. All of the larger movements
are much more important than these smaller movements. But
when you do add those smaller movements, you can
enhance a sculpture or you can
undermine a sculpture.
If I have all these really nice big movements working well
and then I begin to add the smaller movements and they're
conflicting with what I had, eventually
I'm just gonna lose the feeling of those big movements and the whole piece
will end up looking jumbled.
And so it's really important as I add
some of these smaller
elements that I
keep in mind the overall
feeling of the thing and I keep stepping back
checking, you know when I add this piece,
when I step back do I still have the overall movement of the
leg? And if I do, then I'll just kind of switch back to
looking at the small things and say do I have
enough depth in that transition, should that
be rounder or a little flatter?
But if I feel like oh wait, suddenly that's not looking
as powerful as it did,
I'll stop what I'm doing and go back to the large movement
and try and reestablish that.
And then I can go back
to do doing the smaller things.
And I think,
you know, it's more difficult
to do multiple things
at once when I'm at this stage it's more
difficult for me to articulate what I'm doing, it's more
difficult to think and talk
and sculpt because they're more
things simultaneously going on,
is what makes, for me - I'm gonna turn her again -
to juggling. You know when you start juggling you maybe have
two items that you're throwing in the air and catching
and that takes coordination but
once you've kind of done that, once you're good at it
it's not that difficult. Once you add
more and more objects that you're throwing in the air and trying
to catch and lighting them on fire and doing all kinds of things
your focus becomes much more divided. You're trying
to keep track of all the things that are flying around
and when you're supposed to catch which one
to make sure that the overall movement of the knee
I wanna get the additional
I need in this area but I don't wanna lose like
the sense of solidity. So I'm dealing with
everything that I dealt with at the beginning in addition
to a bunch of other things. And that makes it that much more difficult -
I'm gonna turn her one more time - to
keep up a dialogue and
be clear about what
I'm saying. So
every now and then
you'll hear me kind of pause and lose my train of thought
and in general that's because
I'm thinking about
okay if I push that in, you know literally I'm thinking right now
if I push this in, I wanna pull that out because I wanna create more
of a jump
between the back of the knee
and the forms in the front.
And it's just getting more
challenging to have - to be talking
about something else and at the same time
think of, if I push this back
and pull that out is that going to shift everything too far or
And at the same time as I go through this
I'm thinking well if I just talk about literally what I'm doing,
okay I'm removing clay here to increase the
shadow and I wanna add clay below to
increase this form, which is
a pad below the
knee cap. The problem, for me, with
articulating it in that way is I'm
jumping around so much that it's going
to end up very discontinuous.
You know I'm pushing back here because I want
to turn that around, it will
at least in my
brain I'm thinking it will - it's not gonna make sense because
I'm gonna talk about how I'm moving this and then I'm gonna jump over somewhere else and move something else
because it caught my eye as being out of place
and so it seems to me that there are big
issues that are behind what I'm doing that would be good to talk about but then
the actual doing of the work sometimes
grabs my attention, slows
down my brain and how I'm
processing the words.
And I guess like ultimately
what I'm doing
in the moment right now,
really throughout the piece, is not
super important in the sense that
every sculpture I do this exact thing and you
need to learn how to do exactly what I'm doing right at this moment.
It's more that
what I'm doing now is part of a larger
way of going about moving deeper
into resolving a sculpture
and the important thing is understanding
the elements or the
issues that go into
resolving something. And those
exact movements, whether I push in behind the knee
more or less, will vary
based on, you know, lots of random
factors. How the clay went on initially when I
laid it on when I was sketching out the piece. The kind
of clay that I'm using, how
other things are
being dealt with.
If I feel, you know, that it's more helpful
to talk about the why than
the what. What am I doing,
what am I gonna do next?
But that, for me that's what
creates the challenge is to try and figure out
how to both
make what I'm
accessible and comprehensible
and actually be
Okay so I've done, you know, a number of things in that area
it's still fairly
far from completely resolved
but I'm also getting to the point where I've spent
a couple of sessions or one plus
session working on that area -
I'm gonna rotate here again - and
it's not gonna be helpful to completely
resolve the knee without dealing with
what's above and below it. And so I'm gonna leave for a moment
the knee cap and that kind of complex area
of forms and transitions moving around.
And I'm going to focus
for a few minutes on the volumes that
are leaving and approaching that area.
So this big volume
here on the front of her shin,
getting the arc of that, the turn of that
and then moving around here through
all of that, you know that stuff
and if I just finish up the knee and then I move into that area
I may find that
some of the things that I feel like I need to do to make that area work
are gonna require me to modify what I'm doing
in the knee. So it makes more sense
at this point to move from the knee
into this adjoining area,
figure out what the
main issues are, the main
changes that I wanna make are, and once I've
gotten them established I can go back
and finish up the knee knowing that I'm not gonna have to move things around
So there's a secondary curve that's really powerful on her that I wanna make sure
here and I'm also going to, I think, sketch in
the foot when she comes
back as part of
That's always -
light is always an issue
in sculpture, particularly in a pose like this where
you're tying to sculpt the inside of one
leg and the other leg is
casting a shadow, you know, so as I'm trying to get in here
at certain angles, this
let leg is casting a shadow over the
inside of the right leg and that makes it difficult to
see, understand clearly how the forms are moving. So
I keep turning it to get rid of the shadow but then I don't have
the best view of the angle that I want so I'll have to shift
my position to be able to see it better. And that's
why I keep moving. And there's really,
you know, there's no way to avoid that in sculpture
because you're - the thing that you're working with is
and you're moving through
various elements of it. Meaning, you know,
I could get rid of
the change in the way that the light is hitting the
sculpture every time I turn it by attaching a light
to the stand that I'm working on, then every time I turn the stand the
light would be turning with the sculpture so I'd have a consistent
light on the sculpture. But if I did that, I might have
great light here but not great light here.
So every time I'm shifting would -
I'm looking at what I'm trying to sculpt
the requirements of you know where I need the light to be to be able to
see what I'm doing are changing. And that's, you know, that's one reason
why the more
varieties of light that you can have
in your studio, the better off you are.
You know if you can have big lights on stands those are great, if you
can have like a little table light for your sculpture stand in addition
that's great, if you can have
overhead lights, skylights, you know all of those
together will add up to
the variety that you need
to deal with all the various situations that you run into.
You know in some ways there's almost nothing more important
than having good light.
You know I've definitely been in situations where I've sculpted
something under less than ideal lighting conditions and
think that, you know, things have gone well
and it could be an aspect. I've had it happen with
patinas where I've done a patina in light conditions that aren't great
and then I get the sculpture into a gallery or a museum and I put
really good light on it and suddenly it doesn't look as good as it did
under the lighting conditions that I made it in.
And that's a terrible feeling when you think that something
looks good and then you change the light to
something closer to what it will ultimately
be viewed under and things don't look good.
So the obvious way to avoid that is to make sure you have
the ability to
put your work under the best lighting conditions that you can
and you know everything else
I think you can adapt to, you can
make your own tools, you can adjust
and the temperature and all of that. But if you can't see what you're
doing and there's not a lot of
that you can do to correct that other than
just correcting that basic condition that you don't have
enough light or the right light.
Just gotta turn this before
she gets on so
I need - okay now I can,
you know, I do a lot of things sort of half way
to where I think they need to be,
not necessarily in terms of angles, I'll make the angles completely
if I need an angle to be
here I'll put it there, but in terms of the finish
I'm not gonna kind of really polish the
area I'm working on until I deal with everything around
it. So here I've pushed a bunch of things around, I definitely need
a little more volume here.
But all of this I want to address, all the way up
And the more, you know, the more I go through it the
faster each one of these things will go.
Now that I've got all this, it's pretty easy for me to
see what's going on up here. And this is
where I'm - I mean I'm not gonna go all the way, I'm not gonna completely
model out the section
that I'm working on right now,
what I'm doing is creating a relative
movement that I need. Meaning this
is really round, meaning it goes in here, which it did, but it also goes
in here and I didn't have that. So I'm just pushing it in
but I'm not gonna push it in necessarily as deep
as I think it ultimately might need to go.
I'll push it in
a certain percentage of that
just so I can begin to see the basic movement, then I'll move into
an adjacent area, like here
this all turning inward
and I need some volume here
so I'm not sure if I need to go in more here or
add more here
so I'm gonna do a little bit of both
so that I can create the relationship
and this goes a little faster than it did
earlier because I'm pretty confident
about other things about it, the angle,
you know some of the volumes - this could come out a little bit
more - so that the adjustments I'm making
I'm making with a little bit more
confidence that many of the things
around what I'm doing are -
I don't like to use the word right but
are reasonably within the same
kind of universe of what I'm doing
whereas when I began, you know, everything maybe
needed to move fairly far forward
so I was less - you know it took me longer to
make decisions because I had to
take into account
potentially major consequences of
everything that I did. If I do that, that's gonna push everything here that much further
forward, what's that gonna do to something else.
Now those concerns are lessons because
I've kind of established a lot of things. So I can go ahead
and make those movements, add that
volume, and then just turn it and make
smaller adjustments to it. Maybe that needs to go in a little deeper
that can come out a little bit more to clarify it but it's not gonna be
like oh her whole leg needs to move three inches forward.
And so I'm turning it
as I model through so I'm turning it to
see the kind of the complete effect as I go
as I'm working.
now I'm gonna add
So again now I'm really beginning to
hone in on some final
relationships volume wise.
You know I'm dealing with how wide
the thigh is right below the buttox
to the front of the thigh and then how much of a jump it makes as I move
I can do that just because I'm closer to
the volume everywhere else where
it isn't so thin that this is gonna look completely unrelated.
and so in some ways the process goes slow, slow, slow, and then
But in other ways
I guess I feel it goes the opposite way
because the very first day I start with like a big
piece of wood and a bunch of wire and pipe and by the end of the day
there's a figure standing there and that, in some ways, is the fastest
transformation and the most exciting.
You can kind of see something created from nothing
and then as it moves along it seems to
slow down because it's just taking one form and
adjusting it relative to another form.
And there are always
I think elements of the process
that I like
more than others
over time I've been able to try and
pull the elements that
that I like into the parts of the process I don't like
as much and then
I've learned to just deal with
things I don't like so much because they're
important in the
finished product, you know, and
that's something that I
feel is a dividing
line between an amateur and a professional
whether or not, you know, I guess technically the dividing
line is whether you make money from your work but
money aside, I feel that professionals are people
who take responsibility for the entire
process that they're engaged in whether it's fun
for them or not and amateurs are ones who like
certain elements and do them and just ignore the things that they don't
feel as passionate about.
And obviously there's nothing wrong with being an amateur, I
am an amateur cook, I only spend time
cooking things that I enjoy cooking and I
just ignore a lot of the processes that I don't like doing.
But I tell people who,
you know, come to me and ask me about careers
in art and in sculpture, that there are a lot
of elements to it
that go into
creating a professional career and you're not gonna like all of them
and the way to know whether
a career is right for you is whether you enjoy
the parts that you enjoy enough to deal with the parts
that you don't enjoy. And if you do
you'll do well, which is not to
say that you'll learn to enjoy the things you don't enjoy
but it's worth it, you know it's worth
it in life to do things that on balance make you
fulfilled and happy
and I think it's - you know when I when I was younger I used to think
that it was possible to be
completely happy with something and over time I learned that
in some ways that just doesn't exist. There's always gonna be something
that you don't enjoy about
whatever you're doing. And the way to know if it's something
that you want in your life
is to figure out if the things that you don't like about it
are less important than the things
that you do like about it. And I've known some
really really talented artists who just couldn't make that
They just didn't love doing sculpture enough
to deal with the things that they found
unpleasant about it. And that could be, you know, any number of things.
Mold making or writing grant proposals
or contacting galleries or keeping an inventory
or all the, you know, the elements that go into maintaining
Gonna turn her again.
And from here I can see this
needs to come out
and then back in,
needs to come out a little bit
and then this
rotate a little bit
And for me, you know, there's
a ton of things I don't like about
being a sculptor. I'm not -
I hate doing patinas. I'm not
super fond of mold making,
I don't like all of the
kind of photography and
issues of, you know, constantly maintaining a mailing list
and sending things out and all of the things that you need to do
career. But the things I do like about it
for me outweigh those things. And
so I do my best to
do and be
competent at the things that are not
so that I get to do as much as I can the things that
I enjoy about
not just sculpting but about, you know, a career as a sculptor.
And I think, you know, on a smaller level that is true,
true of the process of
modeling or sculpting.
There are, you know, parts of the process of
sculpting that I'm doing right now
that I like more than other parts
and I think that's, you know, that's just natural.
Certain people like finishing work more, certain
people like the early stages of modeling more
and you kind of figure out
number one what you do
like and how, you know what feels natural and good to you
then you just figure out ways to
design work that makes
it more enjoyable for you. Certain people just hate
with a passion, the finishing of the surface. They don't like
pulling forms together, they don't like
kind of cleaning up the surface and so maybe they
design a process where the finished product
doesn't have those elements to it.
And for me, you know, I've never
loved finishing the surface of the clay but the work
that I made that I thought was the best, that was an element
to it. You know when I've left
when I've left it with a looser
finish to the surface, the work, you know, just wasn't as
unique, which is not at all to say that work
that has an open surface, that isn't really tightly finished,
is not as good as work that is.
I think certain people are able to make
certain things work really well and other people
strengths and I think ultimately another
aspect of being a professional
is understanding what your strengths
really are and, you know, it's kind of ironic in a way
that they don't always line up with your
likes, you know
I may like a certain thing but I may not -
that may not be where I have
And I think that, you know, developing as
an artist - and that doesn't just mean like being a student and learning
I think it's a life time pursuit
is kind of being open and aware
of what things are successful that you're doing and what
are not successful. And you can
do something and love doing it and have a great
time and in the end it just doesn't move the meter very much
other than, you know, as a pleasurable thing for you.
And then maybe you do something else that was
not as fun to do but really illicits
a very, very strong reaction in people, they really, you know, there's something
that they find intriguing about it. And
for me that's what you should be doing, not
the one that you feel is the most enjoyable
And that's so difficult I think, especially at the beginning
to understand, to accept,
to kind of to deal with. You know
it was for me. I had
sculptors whose work I loved when I was a student
who, you know, all I wanted to do was make work that looked like
their work. And when I was doing it
I felt good, you know, probably
in part because I had this guidance. I could look at their work as
a guide to what to make.
And eventually I realized that
while the work that I was making was not terrible
it was certainly no where near as good
as the work I was trying to emulate. The artists whose
work I was, in essence, copying
and that if I wanted to be an artist I would have to
figure out how to leave some of that behind and make something that was more
And so that, I find that that process is always,
or frequently I won't say always, there are people for whom
it really it comes together
fairly painlessly and quickly but for me that wasn't the case
for me it took me a while of trying different approaches
to what I was doing and
if it gets, you know, it's still
to look at what I'm doing and try and
figure out if it's
good or not, if it's
working or not, if there's a different way I could
or should go about it.
So what I'm doing now
is moving down and
up through the leg from that knee.
I'm gonna sharpen up
this inward movement
here and here. When the model comes back I wanna
try and figure out a little bit more on either side of this form
and then I'd like to move down to the inner ankle
and foot. So I began moving the outside
of the foot here
out. So adding where
outside of the heel
was relative to the
fibula here, this bone
because it was much too far in
there. Let me turn
From there I'm going to have to do
the opposite on the inside of the foot just to
that's turning correctly.
Okay I'm also gonna pull out
even more toward the
front of the foot.
Okay so I'm gonna come up
sketch out a few
basic shapes, connect them
a little bit
make this turn
form is turning
and then this form is turning
and as it moves downward
the transition gets more and more
And as it moves upward, the form
both becomes a little bit broader
and, in addition, a lot
softer in how it transitions to the two
forms on either side.
If a want that in a wide
and pretty soft and then as it
approaches that kind of really
defined shape on the back of the knee,
the edges on either side get
deeper and sharper.
But predominantly on the outer edge,
the inner edge
stays a little bit
comes out almost as much as that.
I'm checking from the side,
you know, I
can't really tell exactly from where I am
I'm gonna check my
going over to the side to see it.
So there's a
real kind of sharp
broadens a little bit more
as it turns forward.
and the things that I don't like and how I deal with that. This is
like the thing that maybe I like more than
anything is when I begin to understand what's
going on. When I say like oh that broadens and turns exactly
in that direction, exactly that way. There's something
about that moment of suddenly
understanding where you go from
trying it to knowing it. Say oh that's exactly
where it goes. It turns that way and it needs more volume
and suddenly everything in that one little area
makes perfect sense and you feel like
you can hold it like in your mind and turn around, you know
what's happening. That feeling
is a thing that I really have never
grown tired of. And it's -
it's something that when I was
beginning to sculpt would only happen occasionally.
Occasionally if I worked really hard on something I'd suddenly kind of figured
something out. And then there were entire sculptures
that I would do that I never got that feeling from.
And then over time
I got to the point where I knew if I kept working in a certain way
that that would happen. You know
that I would figure out what was going on.
has always been that kind of the moment
that I work for and that I really
enjoy more than any other. That kind of feeling that
sort of understanding. Get that
feeling sometimes when you do like a crossword puzzle and you finally
get what the person who put the puzzle together was
going for in terms of
these kind of
either puns or strange clues,
like typically as the week goes on the New York Times crossword puzzle
gets more and more esoteric and they do
these plays on words and if you figure out
what it is, it becomes suddenly much easier to see the
very, very long string of
boxes that are asking to be filled in and you look at this
strange clue and suddenly you realize what they mean and you can immediately
fill it in and it's just a very good feeling.
what I've gotten to in sculpture is
a kind of understanding of how to get to that
an immediate understanding when I look at something
exactly how to do it and what
all the factors are that are going into making it
look exactly - look and feel exactly as it does but
I've come to a point where I know if I follow
on certain paths I will get to that point where suddenly
I'll really understand it.
And sometimes that
comes for a moment and for a form and then you get it
and then it goes away and you're kind of
back having to figure out
like okay that goes there
then I pick up my knife and I say okay, I kind of, I got that,
I still, you know, I can refine it, I can add
more of an arc to it but
like how that ends and what happens here, I still need to
figure that out. So then I'll
immediately pick up the knife and say okay if that's there and that's there
and the form is widening here
then okay, so then that form needs to end.
And sometimes, like right now, suddenly
I'll figure out oh that whole thing needs to taper and then that form will taper.
And I've had,
you know, relatively talented students
who don't particularly care for that moment
of understanding. And maybe
they've never really gotten to it. What they like is finishing
something and seeing the surface get all kind of clean
and smooth and they just they want the
effect and they're not that
into the process of getting there.
And I feel like that's a very difficult,
it's a very difficult challenge for me. Like I don't know how to
deal with someone who fundamentally
doesn't like the process of doing it.
Because to get that
it really working beautifully and everything moving
it takes a lot of experience and practice to
get there. And to put in that experience and practice
it takes hours and hours and hours of doing it. And if you don't
fundamentally like doing it, it's very difficult to get
those hours put in.
And I've had, you know, people ask me,
you know how do I get there, I just want my work to look good.
And I guess my feeling is
that you have to enjoy the doing of it and if you do enjoy the doing of
it, your work will eventually start looking really
good. If you don't enjoy the doing of it, it's gonna be hard for you
to put in the time that it'll take
until the work will look that way. It's sort of a
paradox in that way.
And there may be, you know, there may be other
ways to go about dealing with that
problem. But for me I have not
figured it out, other than to say
if you love it and you love
the process of doing it, then
lead to the result
that you want. And I've seen that happen
again and again. People who just really
love doing it. I had a student who was not very good
but really he loved, he just, you know, he
took every class I taught, he was working on his own outside of class all the
time, he just loved the process
very little natural feel for it.
And over the years he's gotten better and better and better to the point where
both his work is actually quite good now
and he can see it and so can everyone else, he's gotten
professional commissions, he's really
a sculptor. And it was not because he was
so naturally gifted, it's because he love it so much and he kept
doing it and kept doing it and the work just got better and better and better.
And I've seen him get a lot better than other people
who were more maybe naturally gifted at the beginning but just didn't have the same
amount of passion for the doing of it.
And art is a strange
area in that a lot of people feel like
you either have a natural gift for it or your don't.
And if you do you almost shouldn't need
any training. Which seems
crazy if you compare it to any other discipline.
I mean obviously you need to be taught to read and write to become
a good writer and you need to be taught how to play an instrument to become
a good musician. You can't expect to sit at a piano
and play Bach without any lessons.
But in the visual arts people kind of feel like
you know, if I had talent I'd be able to
make my work look
good without any help.
But just like, you know, playing piano. If you don't like playing piano, if you just really
hate it, it's just gonna be hard to
sit down and practice for the number of hours it's gonna take until
you can sort of play whatever's in your head and you can just put something
in front of you and enjoy the
social aspect of sitting around a piano and playing
with other people. It just takes a lot of time, by yourself at the keyboard
plinking away at it. And if you fundamentally hate that,
if you don't love it, you're just not gonna put in the time.
you know I'm kinda moving through here. And for me it's always,
you know, the things that transition from one area to another, that are important to
establish. Like how
those are working. How do I get from
here to here. Less so is this curve exactly right and
how does this to this to this to this work? Am I moving from one area to
in a way that seems to
carry your eye through those areas, to make them
And that's, you know, right now it's a little flat at the bottom
edge. So I'll turn that maybe
the whole area could have a little bit more
Okay I'm gonna go
in here and just clean up the
we're moving through,
you know I started with this knee,
which again is not completed but some of the shapes now
are there and I can kind of see
things are going. I move down and up, around.
I'd like to, when she comes back from her break, I'd like to
move a little bit into the back and inside of the
that knee and move down through here
and then back up that other leg.
Spend a little bit of time while she's on a break
just filling in some holes,
form kinda the rest of the way around. You know when,
when you're looking at something that's
turning, you know, as extremely
as this form is, three dimensionally
you know when I look at it from here and I see
a little bit more of an arc, that's all I can see. I know
it's gonna wrap but I'm not gonna just push it in from this
view point. I need to check from the side
view to see, you know, where does it
ending, is it broad enough? Do I need to broaden it out
which is what I'm doing here which means adding to the
back of the form here.
I'll broaden it toward the front a little bit.
And then combine
all of it
and then sharpen the edge of that
transition which I still want to be kind of
soft, not too
sharp but this curve being
from this curve right here.
again when she gets back I wanna figure out how
I'm gonna handle that little transition there.
I'm gonna sharpen up for the moment the
I'm going to sharpen a little bit
more the turn in here.
Sorta feel like there's more
of a sharp transition on
the outside than there is on the inside. So by adding
more depth there, I'll create a deeper shadow
and then as
it goes up it'll soften.
And so you can probably see as
I'm working in the way that I'm working now
I'm turning a lot,
you know I'll work like that
I'm gonna turn a little more.
outside here. So I'm working
essentially basically from this view point, but
very, very frequently turning to check
my progress from the inside.
of that inner
portion of the knee.
So I can see that I want
there's a kind of a transition through
that's very soft but the shape
in the front is a little bit different than the shape in the back.
and then this shape here
I'm gonna separate out and then
I'll draw it out
to be a little bit clearer right
is where the division
is. As it gets higher up it's a little bit clearer
And then as it comes down
it's a little bit less clear,
so I'm just gonna turn
the edge of that form on top.
Take a little of that screen.
When the screen gets a little bit gummed up I'll just
scrape it off.
And then as it comes down
you can see that there's a sharper
form. And I know,
you know anatomically that
this arm that I'm putting in now is the sartorius
but it's so
different on everyone and even every pose
will show different aspects that
that kind of knowledge
I think is of limited value. You know I know
that that's sartorius and I know where it begins
and I know where it ends and I know the direction and how it sits
but sometimes I don't see
the evidence of it.
I just don't deal with it. And sometimes like it's very kind of
clear in a certain portion
of its movement.
You know as I go up here,
these muscles of the inner thigh that are beginning
at the pubic bone and pulling back. Those are kind of
in front of the sartorius
and kind of obscuring, not necessarily obscuring it, but
taking over. When you look at it from the front or from the back view, you don't really
see it at all. What you're seeing is
those what are called the
I just can't reach to add clay in there so I'm using a tool
to kind of
like I'll lay it in as deep as I can reach and then use a tool to
kind of finish pushing
it in. It's one of those things that I guess I get kind of
self conscious with on camera because
it's not very fast and it's a little bit boring
to be picking away with a little tool kind of
compressing clay into an area that
ultimately is kind of difficult to see.
Okay but now as
it comes down, this form up here is beginning
to get overtaken by the form
of the sartorius
and this is moving inward and the form of the sartorius
is moving outward.
And that creates that kind of
complexity to that area.
And then there's this
depth in the front here
and part of that is
the band of Richer
which is kind of squeezed,
and making this form feel
kind of full and puffy above the knee.
I can turn that
looking for where I put
my knife. There it is.
So the bottom of that form
kinda tucks back
this forward and then this volume from
here cuts across here.
So I wanna come a little bit here and in
quite a bit here.
I could pull out a bunch of material
turn that -
so it's rounding and...
Think I'm gonna cut a little
smaller piece of
So I can get right in there,
and now I'm gonna come down
a bigger knife
would be more helpful.
big division where all the volume
of the two muscles of the back of the leg,
the soleus and the sartorius, kind of
divide from the bone.
a lot of volume here
and there's kind of an edge
here. So I'm gonna take
a larger tool and just
sort of like pushing in
so I'm pushing behind
the bottom of the tibia
and then at the same time I wanna
through here, this is the
that's moving into
and just kind of twisting as it goes up.
I want this kind of sense of this volume pulling away
from the bone.
And I'm just gonna walk around to the
that side and take a quick look.
And there's kind of a clear
but a clear transition right through there.
So I'm gonna wanna deal
a little bit with that. And then, kind of at the same time,
as I'm beginning to resolve that
I'm noticing a little
kind of sharpness that I was
You know and again like one of the things that
comes from experience is
knowing what I'm looking for. Not
just anatomically, not saying oh I know what's in this
area and I'm gonna look and find it and put it in, but
an area that is sort of all fairly soft back here
will benefit from a little bit of sharpness
and so if I see
something that I can use to get that sharpness, I'll add
that. So I just added this little
bit of an edge there.
Whereas if everything here is not
articulated, that's not
huge a deal
going in and looking for everything and making sure everything matches exactly what
is happening on her. I'm getting
all of the larger issues correct and then I'm looking for
the opportunity to do
a few compositional or rhythmic things.
Like sharpening a line. And I'll look and see
is there something in there that looks a little bit sharper and let me put that
in because that's a feeling or a
movement that would help and that's missing.
And ultimately I think that's, you know,
an important thing to understand and to
realize. Like you just can't sculpt everything. Even if
you could, she's constantly shifting and moving a little bit
and breathing and things are gonna be different.
There's no way to sculpt something so that it's absolutely identical
and if you, you know, if you start with that
view point then everything that you
put in to
a greater or lesser extent is a matter of choice, it's a decision that you're making to
include or to omit. You know
if you wanna get really kind of extreme, you can go down
in the pores of her skin. I could put the pores of her skin in.
But is that gonna make for a better sculpture?
Alright I could in certain
not for this particular piece, not for this particular
scale and not for what I'm trying to accomplish.
And so those
elements, the scale, the
piece, and what I'm trying to accomplish
important elements to have in your mind so that you know
what you should be including or what you should be looking for and what you
don't need to include or don't need to look for.
Which obviously is not to say that you may not see
something or find something in the process of doing it that
you decide to add that wasn't in your head initially.
But that's very different then
going nuts over adding every single
thing that you see and when something changes and immediately changing
what you've sculpted to match the new thing that you're seeing
Okay. So I'm gonna take a little bit of a break
so that I can kind
of come back, I can see there's a little
issue with that ankle I wanna adjust but I also wanna kind of get this
leg up to the point where that leg is and then get the feet
established. I'm gonna take a little break now that my model's on break
and I'll come back and begin to do that.
both this leg and this leg, dealing with the inside
of her right foot, the outside of her left foot,
and the entire, for now, back half of
her left leg. Just to try and
balanced out in terms of the
level of development.
turn a little bit.
This is one of the challenges of dealing with using
a pipe is that the shadow from the pipe is
a little bit in the way of seeing
exactly what I'm trying to do.
Not so much - I have a clear shot of
the leg, it's just
this shadow. There's like some subtle stuff
going on right under where that pipe is and
that pipe is casting a shadow on that.
You know not
insurmountable, but one of the
kind of things that you need to contend with.
you know I think
in terms of, I've thought a lot about
teaching and information and like how much to give and
how much to leave out.
don't pretend that I've figured out the best
ratio in that way but
I do kind of feel that
the only real way to learn something
is to do it and experience it yourself. Like
there's not really an option
of watching a video or reading a book or
watching a demonstration and knowing everything about something
in a way that will prevent you from making any mistakes.
In fact mistakes are
an important part of the process of learning it.
And in a
simple process, like changing a toilet
putting a new faucet on your sink, the
variables are gonna be fewer and smaller
so you'll be able to get more from reading
or watching a video and being able to adapt it a little bit better
to your situation. In a process that's
as complex as sculpting the human figure,
there's so many more variables
it really impossible to
provide you with like a
complete and unabridged
method that works in every situation with every model
at every scale. So for the
one of the things I think that's the most helpful is
being able to point out the
pros and cons of different
things and, you know, certain things that
you know you should be watching out for. And
that's why, you know, saying things about, you know, the negative to having this pipe
here is not so much
that it's getting in the way, like physically I've put it far enough away
that my hand can get in there and do what I need to do. It's
more the visual. Like it's blocking my view
of this area, the shadow it casts can make it
complicated to get a decent light on the inside of that leg. And
then, in the the end it'll be
up to every sculptor to kind of decide what
combination of benefit
and challenges is
optimal for them. So for example,
you know I rarely use an external armature
as I'm using now, although
it's probably the most
standard way to sculpt
the figure and I used it because I did want to
how to use it, what it's function is
and go into like why
a lot of people do like to use it. And I can
reiterate that now.
The, you know, the benefit really is two fold.
One is it's probably the most stable
way to support the figure. You know this really makes
it a very, very stable overall
the method that allows you the most
in changing the pose as you work. You know if you don't like the way
the legs are placed, you can move this leg out of the way
because everything's being held up here.
The other way to make the armature is to make it all
contained within the figure. And at this
scale, you know, it's a little bit tricky -
gonna turn her a little bit -
in that, the ankles are still
relatively thin. You know when I get,
let's say double this
size, the ankles are much wider
and so I can fit heavier
wire or even pieces of steel
rod inside of them. But at this scale there's
still pretty thin and so it's more of a challenge
to find something that's very rigid that I can fit inside the legs.
So I can use more flexible armature wire,
move the armature around for longer in the
process, meaning I can change the pose, I can
shift the feet, I can do a lot of
adjustments to an armature that's built the way
I built this one externally. The downsides to it
it can throw off my
the clarity of my ability to see the balance of the pose because
I'm constantly having to try and
filter out that hole, the
volume of it, the angle of it,
etc. So that, you know, that's the main
reason why I don't use them, especially
when I work larger
it's, you know,
it cast shadows in a way that can interfere with
my ability to see things clearly, it can get in the way
of sculpting that area. When I make a mold
it's also, it has to be eliminated at some point
otherwise I'll have a hole in the mold so
from a technical perspective it can make things
more complicated at the end of the process.
You know like almost everything else in sculpting
it's always a balance between
two things, one that will benefit
you at one point and hurt you at another point and
you're always trying to
thread the needle between those two, you know sometimes
the way you decide is just based on, you know, what
you're stronger at. If it's -
if you're a pretty good mold maker, you don't have any problem working
around the pole and being able to patch up your mold
sometimes you'll choose to use
the external armature, especially maybe if you're not, you know
if you like moving things around, if you have a hard time getting things placed at the very
beginning and you like to keep things open for a really long time
and moved around, this is really an excellent
choice armature wise
So it's very,
I mean, there are very, very few things that
are right and wrong.
Most of them are
trade offs. You can do it that way, but
here's the downside. You can do it this other way,
here's the downside of that or the upside of that.
pretty comfortable laying those out.
I'm much more comfortable laying those out than telling you that the way I'm doing it
it is the correct way, that you shouldn't do it any other way.
Almost always I regret
the choice I made at some point, which
is not to say that I made the wrong choice. I may regret it,
I may regret using the pole now because I'm having to work around it
but early on I was
happy to use it because I was able to move the feet around for a longer amount of time.
I can see I'm kind of running into this
piece of wire here
and I keep turning
the sculpture to - because I know
I have to make a lot of adjustments down here, so before I go ahead and
I tap that in with a hammer, I wanna see
like how much is this gonna move? Because if it moves a certain amount I may be
able to add clay and not have to worry about burying it.
I can see like this lower
portion of the ankle
as it approaches the foot needs to come forward
and the - this muscle in the front of the tibia -
needs to come out.
And so frequently I'll, when I know
that those things have to happen I'll do those first and then see where I am and if I need to
l'll adjust that bit of armature
and one thing you get from
doing this for many, many years is
the idea that nothing is irreparable.
You can always make a change, you can always adjust.
I mean maybe if an anvil fell from the sky
on top of it there would be, that would ruin it.
But I've had these things fall over, I've had, you know, problems
with molds, armatures sticking out in various places where I
hadn't anticipated. I've never run into a problem that
couldn't be fixed, it's just how much work goes into the fixing of it.
You have to go pretty
far to really completely ruin something.
And that's, you know, people
get scared of these things, say oh I'm afraid
to removed the bit of material or to add too much there. If you add
too much you can always take it away. If it were marble
you should be afraid because if you take too much away, you can't put it back.
But a sculpture like this you can just keep
adding, removing, if you need to you can -
I could even cut out a piece of that wire with a set of
clippers if that was the only way
I could remove what I needed to remove. There's almost
never something that's not
changeable or fixable
in one way or another.
And so if you approach it that way then
you can do what I'm doing in saying, you know, okay I see
a potential problem, I may be able
to pull that all forward and the only thing I can do
is just check the length of that area.
It should be one and three quarters from the trochanter
to where the knee bends and
I say the trochanter is right about here
you know that's,
that should be there, which means I probably could
come forward a little bit, right because I have more in the back
here then I have in the front there.
The reason why I didn't do that initially is because of this angle
which on her is less. So one
thing I'm doing is checking the depth
here. By cutting the knife in until I felt the wire
I know I have a lot of room back here so I can add to the
front and remove from the back if I want to, which is kind of
helpful to know whether that's what
I choose to do. I also know that I changed the position in this leg
leaned the knee in a little bit more and pulled the
ankle outward a little bit more to create a little bit more
linear movement from top to bottom. I didn't want this lining up.
And so when I do
something like that,
number one you have to understand that you've done it and when you
do you can't just then look at the model
and try and replicate what you see
because you've altered that.
So it's sort of combining what
I see with what I know that I did.
And how can I get all of the kind of
subtlety and movement that exists in
the forms that I'm seeing on her and yet, at the same time,
maintain the adjustment or the alteration
that I made in the positioning.
And so - and ultimately
like the final
the final or the ultimate or the most important
question is does it look good. Does it look
like it makes sense with everything around it. Is it working
visually and structurally and
if it's not then I have to change it. It doesn't matter if I
wanted to move things one way or another, doesn't matter
if it matches what is going on with her. It could match
exactly what I'm seeing in her, if it looks awkward, I'm going to
have to deal with it somehow.
And looking awkward obviously is
subjective, do I think
it looks awkward?
And that's, you know that's part of the weird,
the weirdness of this process is that it is
objective to a certain extent.
I have a model in front of me and my goal is to represent
the forms and the movements
and the shadows and the feeling
of the model but it's also not
a photograph or a cast directly from the model,
it's my version
of her. And so how much of that version
is literal, meaning exactly
as close to what I can measure
and see from her and what portion is an alteration
based on my preferences
structural, aesthetic, all of the things that I
want to bring to it.
And every artist has like a different threshold
You know somebody like Michelangelo
while we don't have any photographic evidence of what
the models that he employed looked like
it's pretty clear that they didn't look like
the sculptures that he came up with, which obviously
doesn't mean that the sculptures aren't
amazing sculptures, they're just not
pneumatic, they're not
closely align with models that they
were inspired by.
And this is, I would say
one of the more difficult
elements, especially when you don't have a lot of experience, is making
a change from a model that you're working with
and then figuring out how to
integrate that change with
the reality that's there,
that you're still using as a
You know and that kind of requires you
to hold in your head what you did
to make it different, what it is, and what you can
and can't use from what you're seeing.
You know if you
change the angle of something, those angles then are not
something that you can really rely on anymore because you altered it.
The form, the depth of the form, the arrangement of the forms, to a certain extent
you can use
but not necessarily they're exact
angular placement. So, you know, it's simpler if you didn't
change it, you just follow the angle, the depth,
how much overlap you see. Once you do start changing things
then it doesn't mean you have to abandon what's there
but you do have to limit the
amount of information you take from those things. And that can be,
that can be really pretty challenging
at the outset. But ultimately I think
it's, you know, kind of one of the points of
sculpting from life. And it used to not really be
an issue that needed to be
dealt with philosophically but with the advent
of 3D scanners and printers
I think it really, it does need to be dealt with.
Because we could put her in a scanner and scan
every, you know, square
millimeter of her body and replicate exactly what was there
at the moment that the scan was
And so you begin to ask yourself, you know,
okay if my goal is to be as perfectly accurate to the
moment that I'm
representing, meaning you know, this moment, this angle
is exactly like this and the relationship of this element
articulated in this way, then
you are beginning to compete, at least in a philosophical sense with
technology, with the scanner. You know it's the same
philosophical argument that
photorealism needs to deal with
you know and ultimately photorealism
a movement of painters copying photographs as
precisely as they could. Photorealism
was about dealing with the
fact that photography was a thing in society.
But from a technical standpoint, photorealists tended to use multiple
photos to build an image.
ultimately what you get from taking a photo would not look
very much like what a photorealist painting looked
like in a lot of ways.
And for sculptors
we just didn't need to deal with that quite as much because
there wasn't the kind of ubiquitous technology
that would allow anybody to replicate
a three dimensional form more or less instantaneously.
There still isn't in a lot of ways.
You know the software and the hardware are still
a little bit pricey compared to,
for example, point and shoot camera. Photography is much
more accessible and ubiquitous. But I don't think
that's gonna remain that way. And just
as there is still an important place
for painting in the world, I think there'll always be an important place for sculpture.
It just, it's gotta navigate that
in the same way that when film
began, literature had to
kind of navigate its place.
You know if you can tell a story with moving pictures, why sit down and read
a story? And there's still things that books can do that movies
can't do and vice versa. And I think there are things that
are sculpted by hand can do that things
that are scanned and printed can't do.
And making these kinds of
adjustments or changes to what's really there
that is more in the province of
a sculptor than a scanner
You know you can get into the idea that you can alter something
within the computer and then print it out
and that's certainly true but it's also true that you can do that
to a photograph in photoshop.
The fact that you can alter a photo
in photoshop doesn't make a painter any less
Okay so I'm doing a lot of adjustment right around that main -
I'm gonna rotate her a little bit -
and I'm mainly doing that because I know I have this issue
with the armature and I really want to
make sure that
I have the depth that I need
like around that knee, I need to go back in here.
So by kind of figuring out what was going on in there
it's allowing me to
figure out where that depth needs to go. And then I'll see
do I hit the armature? If not then I can move a little more quickly through
this area. Though it seems like I'm not hitting
it that it kind of ended up getting covered
that's coming down here,
that's gonna come across.
There it is right there.
Here, right here.
And as I go through this I'm also
going to come all the way up
everything as I go
because I really want
the overall feeling of that
leg to get resolved. Meaning the
whole thing feels a little heavy and I don't
like the movement so I want to increase
the division in here.
So we're gonna take a lunch break now.
And when I get back I'm going to continue pushing in
finishing up the movement through the thighs into the knees
and down to the feet to get that whole lower part of the body
going back into this left leg.
I'm gonna start with some of the big
shapes, particularly this adductor group
that area on the inside of the thigh, separating that out
from the front of the thigh and this lower section that
has a different movement to it and I'm gonna move right down through
the back of the leg into the ankle. And then I'm gonna
deal a little bit with the feet and get those all up to a certain point.
Once I feel like they're all basically around
level that this area is, I'll move right up through
into the hands and I think then I'll go back and forth and
get that entire area to work together. And from there I'll
expand outward and then hopefully
before the end of the session deal a little bit with some of the structure of
the head as well. So
I think what I'm going to begin with
is right in here. Before
we stopped for lunch I was looking at the fact that
I had combined this large
set of forms with the set of the forms on the front of the thigh
and it was making the entire area feel
a little bit heavy. So what I want
to accomplish is have kind of a step down from here
to this set of forms and ultimately to the genitals
and this thigh in back. And
so I'm gonna begin by figuring
out where the main break is in
terms of depth here, which I think is right about here.
I'll draw in the edge here
and then I'm gonna take a large
tool, if I can find it,
here it is. It always seems to be right under this thing.
And push in, right on this
border between the two forms.
And immediately this
form by the thigh is getting narrower and
that's gonna allow me to take the form of the adductors
and turn them over, meaning
round them in and create a top plane.
So pulling in here
turning to the side and I'm turning to the side to make
sure that this line is coming
inward here. I don't want this
line to be parallel with the top.
So as I do that
from the side view I'm making sure that the
form is turning and the
aspect of this is I felt like it was too
blocky and it felt
a little too massive but by adding that transition right
there - and I'm gonna take some screen and just clean
it a little bit. By
adding that transition, I can add volume
to the inner thigh and the overall
feeling of volume
won't increase. And what I mean by that
is if I had just sort of widened the
thigh without adding the transition, it would have
increased the feeling of blockiness and how, kind of,
static that shape was.
By adding that depth, I'm able to add more
volume here without adding to the feeling of weight of the piece.
And I can get a little bit of the overlap that I want
in those two areas. And the more I feel
like it's getting heavy, the more I'll just increase the
transition as opposed to the overall volume.
So now that I've got the transition I can take
a little screen and
clean up that
transition. And now I'm gonna turn
just a little bit.
And now I wanna move from here
and take - every time I put down the
tool it seems to disappear.
I'm gonna come down here and
make that transition. Because for me this is really
cutting the leg
in half. I want this feeling of this moving right into this area.
And what's doing that is the fact that all of that
volume here is too far forward.
So here's the transition,
and now I can see I can add quite a bit
in here. I'm gonna turn her a little bit more.
And kind of the way I'm deciding how much to turn it
or part of the way I'm deciding is not just how much
I need to see but also the shape of the shadow.
You know as she's turning the light's coming from the side
and if I turn it too much or not enough, the shadow
is gonna get a little bit confusing. So that's
why I may, like, as I'm turning I stop for half a second
and look at it and then maybe I continue to turn, just
so - and sometimes I turn back in the other direction a little bit just so I can get that
to be informative, meaning I make sure the shadow is cutting
in such a way that it's making the form clearer
or I might
just turn it until the shadow stops becoming confusing, which is what I
did here. There's still a shadow kind of going through this part of her leg
but before it was sort of right in the middle before.
So that's why I was making that little adjustment. Now
I can see that all of that can come back in.
So I'll grab a little tool and just remove a bunch
of volume here, a bunch of volume
here, and I'm just shifting all of that
toward the back of the leg.
And as I do it, I'll keep
adjusting my view. Now having done that
I'm going to adjust the
volume of the
calf. This portion on the back of the leg.
And now that to that
is working better. Now the thing that I wanna deal with
is this little section in
here. How that
transition is working. I wanna
increase a little bit the depth here
and here. Increase
the depth under here a little bit.
So when I'm
kind of moving from the large
blocking out phase, which more or less
has occupied me up until this point,
to what I've been doing today which is moving
into the secondary forms, the sort of smaller
I'm looking as much for
rhythm as I am
for accuracy. So I'm looking -
you know initially I was looking for the difference between what I
had and what I was seeing on her. And I
was marking every difference and then
eradicating it. Saying okay she's going in this direction let me make
sure that the clay is moving that direction. Now
I've kind of established a lot of things.
At a certain point it becomes pointless to just keep
trying to adjust your sculpture to
more closely resemble the model because
you've kind of baked in a whole set of observation
and choices that
are established. And to
make major changes to that, there needs to be
a better reason than either the model moved or something looks different.
So at this point, if I see
something different, it doesn't mean that I can't change
what I have to match what I'm seeing. What it means is that
before I do that, I'll ask myself whether
it's worthwhile to make that kind of investment and time
and energy to change it. Is it gonna make the sculpture
better or is it just gonna make it more closely resemble what
she happens to be doing right now? What I am doing
looking at what I have and how
one thing moves from one area into another.
And I'm trying to really
create different kinds of transitions
and different kinds of movements from one area to another. Some of them
I want to be, you know, pretty fluid, and
others I want to be more abrupt.
Depending on what's happening, where it's happening
you know you might think that you always
want the most fluid transitions in every area
but that eventually is going to get very boring.
If everything is equally fluid things will start to look a little bit
rubbery. So certain things should be much more
and others should carry
through and allow the forms to move from one area
And, you know, there's not a formula as to
which forms should be sharp and which should be
soft. Sometimes, you know, it
breaks down fairly straightforwardly. All the bones are
have quick turns and all the fat has soft
turns. But other times you'll
find that you wanna break that pattern. I think it has
more to do with the arrangement of
forms in space and how you have them moving
and how long you're going before you get to something
that moves quickly.
If you go through all
this and there's nothing that really kind of holds your eye
with the sharp shadow, you know, then you're gonna
end up with a lack of a feeling of structure. If you have too many areas
that are broken up with lots of harsh shadows
you're not gonna have a chance to really take in
the entire movement. So it's
kind of a balance that you're trying to
achieve and that's one of the aspects to the process
which makes it
artistic and not robotic. You know if this were a
machine scanning the surface and replicating
what was there, you wouldn't really
have the option to
make those really minute adjustments
of sharpening certain things and softening others.
And I find that if you haven't spent
a good amount of time studying the
figure, working at the kind of deliberative pace
that it takes to model from life
you know if you've only used a program like
Z brush and you've kind of learned to sculpt that way,
very frequently you don't have the
the awareness at times
to make the adjustments that you
ultimately need to make
to get the entire piece to work
You know there are different - I find personally that there are different points within
that kind of allow me
to stop and
think more about the
rhythms that I'm trying to create
and the feeling, even more so than the rhythms, the feeling that I
want to evoke with the pose and judge whether
that's - I'm achieving that or whether I'm not achieving that.
find that one of those,
one of those moments or one of those stages is this
transition between blocking out all the big
movements, which is essentially what I have up here. Everything is
basically going in the right direction, it's about the right size, it's about the right volume
it's oriented roughly in the right
way, but it doesn't have a huge sense
of connection between the components. There's not a sense of
overall of what I want to
achieve. As I've moved through this leg, particularly
the back through here, I'm beginning to think
more about how one thing moves into another and how they relate to one
another. And so, in doing that I'm not just thinking about these
smaller forms, like this form to this form to this form, but how they relate
and I'll emphasize one transition over another,
soften something, just so that they all work together even if
what I've done is not exactly what I see
and so I can move up through here and take some of this stuff I've done
and make those alterations as I
kind of articulate the smaller movements, sort of when I emphasize
the transition between this whole area of the shoulder
and the lat and how it moves apart from
the center of the back, the
erector muscles here. And
that's, I think, where
a lot of decision making comes in. You know, do I wanna
emphasize that transition or do I wanna underplay it?
Do I wanna
harden a shadow or soften it?
the best way to decide that is from a distance. You know
you step back and your eye can scan the entire thing
and you kind of become of where your eye
is stopping. And, you know,
from an aesthetic standpoint
there are things like what I just did, I just added this little, you know,
this smear of clay. And what I immediately noticed is that from the top
to the bottom the width was
about equal. And I don't like that. You know I like, I
want it to tape one way or another. And so
I think I'm going to tilt the knee inward so that it's
wider at the top, narrower at the bottom.
And I'm not gonna spend a lot of time doing it but I just put on a piece of clay
and I think that helped quite a bit.
So going back and forth
from like a close up type view
where I'm really able to see what's happening on a much
more intimate level with
the way the different forms are
And, you know, for me that's important. I want a nice
sort of interplay when you get close up and soft
to hard. But ultimately if it doesn't work when I take three steps back
then it doesn't matter how lovely those little
details are. And so I think
I'm at now is kind of balancing what I want to do
in some of the more detailed areas with
what I want the overall feeling to
be. And, you know, it's
not that you start out knowing exactly
how you want it to feel but as you work your way
through it, or at least as I work my way through it,
there are things that I keep coming back to as being interesting
that kind of catch my eye that I wanna make sure
represented really clearly
in how I finish this piece.
I do - I am starting to get the feeling I'm gonna need to hammer this
piece of wire in. I've got - it's just right on the
surface, I would like to get a deeper shadow.
So I'll probably
do that. But right now, you know I'm also feeling like
from here to here is very even.
in terms of the movement. I'd like for that to come
in just a tiny bit.
I think at the end here I'd like it to come in
and then very
slightly there to increase the sense of length.
to that area.
So I'm gonna move around again
to the back and try and resolve
a little bit of these transitions
and once I do that I'll be able to move fairly quickly into the ankle
and the foot.
So once again,
like there's a cast shadow and I'm just gonna move it right to the point
where the shadow, the cast shadow,
You know it's particularly important in areas
like this that are kind of difficult to
access, you know they're - you're
not able to see them flat on, you can't even reach
them. And if there's some bizarre
shadow being formed by
whatever it's being formed by, the lights or the
elbow casting a strange shadow, the more I can do to kind of
get rid of that so I can see it as
clearly as I possibly can, the better
off or the more confident I'll feel
in making decisions. Which kind of like
brings up like an interesting question about
confidence and about
the decisions that I make and
how I go about doing this. To a certain extent
the entire beginning of the process in particular
but really all through the process, you're making a lot of
guesses. You know they're educated guesses, you've got a certain amount
of information but you're lacking a lot of other
information, which is kind of strange because she's
right in front of me, I can see a lot
but there are two
factors that I think lead to
this lack of information. One is that
in three dimensions you're always doing
everything that you're doing from
more points of view than what you can see at one time. So in other words
whatever I add here, when I get
this view I'm gonna see what I did. But when I'm adding it, I can't see
how it's affecting that other view. And no matter like
how many times I turn her and how many times I turn the sculpture
there's always going to be that factor of like what you do affects
more than what you can see
at one time. So that, you know, that's maybe
a little bit more of an esoteric
idea than when, at the very beginning of the process,
whatever I put on, there's so much other stuff missing
at that point that when I'm putting it on I'm kind of guessing
how it's going to interact with stuff
that I have not yet put on. And that's
probably the biggest
kind of challenge in sculpting is that when you're beginning
everything that you're doing is
in some ways taken with the assumption of things that you
haven't yet done. And by the time you have done them
they don't quite match what your assumptions were.
So in some ways
what your doing is always in the end a little bit of a surprise.
And you do get better. You get a lot better as you get more and more
experienced at kind of projecting
what might happen if you did X, Y, or Z. If
I put more clay here, that's going to influence the way that looks in this particular
way and if I do it in this particular way it will
allow me to do this or that. So you get pretty
good at making those guesses. But in the end they are
guesses. And a lot of things
can get in the way of how those turn out.
And I think that ultimately
that that's really good. I think ultimately
you need to embrace the fact that what
you're going to get when you finish is not what you think you're gonna get when you begin.
And I think that if you don't, if you
were able to mechanically project
exactly what's going to happen when you do different things and so
in a more true sense you knew exactly what something would look like
before you began, you would get
very, very bored very, very quickly.
I think part of what keeps me coming back to
wanting to sculpt again and again is that kind of mystery
that exists when I begin of what will it look like?
And the years and
decades that I sculpt make the mystery
less in some ways, you know
it's pretty rare that I feel like I have no idea whether
this'll look terrible or it'll look okay. You know that
you can kind of iron out with experience. You can
kind of know that you'll be able to make it look human, that you can,
you know replicate the pose, there are a lot of things
that you can somewhat confident in. But on that kind of magical
level of whether all of these decisions are going to add up
to something that when you look at you're just sort of amazed by the
the life of the piece,
I don't think that's there's anything to know. There's certain pieces that I
do that I'm super happy with and I feel like I really
captures something and others where
you know they look fine, they're correctly proportioned and
things work okay but I feel like
there's just something that's missing in them. And that
difference is one of the things
that make it exciting to begin because you always kind of
hope that you can attain a new level
and also always try, that's my goal in
everything I do is to try to do something or to get something that I
haven't before. You know and obviously the
more you sculpt the smaller the list of things that you haven't
been able to achieve.
It works out and boom it gets cross off your list.
But it's not simply like oh I hope I make this look good
I hope this one looks good in the end. I generally try
and have some sort of specific goal
in mind and it can be
any one of
many, many different things. It can be a technical goal,
emotional, it could be a goal about content or scale
or there's always just some challenge that I'm
to give myself whenever
I do something to keep me engaged.
And I very, very distinctly remember
from being young, you know, some of the
early challenges. You know I really
I wanna make this look like skin. I wanna really,
you know they generally tend to be technical, you know do I want -
this is what I'm technically trying to achieve with this sculpture
that I've never done before that I really wanna try and I want it
you know I really want to achieve and then eventually
they became content based.
I really wanna make something that feels this way and
that evokes this kind of idea
And now I do - I make sculptures for all different
for here I'm doing this as a video to try and
be instructive in the process. And so
some of the things that I'm doing in this particular piece
are things that I haven't done in a while but that I think are
important to show
for someone who does have a bit of experience.
simply, you know, who has a different
kind of education.
You know I definitely think that it can be very
rewarding to get a different perspective on how -
I'm gonna turn you a little bit -
how to do things. You know even if you've learned a certain way
it certainly doesn't mean it's
the only way. That was me casting that shadow.
And I think that
it's always something, I'm always learning or trying to learn
new things and steal different ideas and approaches for different
things from as many people as I can.
And so in this piece I really
wanted to employ
a few approaches and a few
are maybe a little more foundational
for me that maybe I use
somewhat less now on a day to day basis.
So there's always, you know,
there's always something that
I have as a goal to be different from what I've
done before or I've been doing.
And I think that makes the process interesting
for me and engaging for me and
you know frankly it keeps me constantly looking for
solutions and for
the way other people
might approach them. And I guess that's because if I
if I always have a new goal, I'm never really
completely expert at what I'm doing
in a certain sense. You know if I did the same thing again and again
and again and again and again, I'd end up getting really really good at it
to the point where there wouldn't be a lot I could learn about
the way I was making sculptures.
If I'm constantly changing I'm never completely
expert at the thing that I'm trying
to do because it's something that's slightly new and that
constantly makes me intrigued to go look at
other sculptors and other sculptures and how they're
made and how and why people do different things
and the ones that make a lot of sense to me and that I
you know I see and say oh that's really interesting, I like how that's -
how they're doing that. Those are the ones that I
then grab and steal and incorporate into the way
I'm doing things. I'm gonna rotate.
You know and that's not to say that - I'm very, very
far from perfect in that.
I guess it would be more accurate to say that I tried to do
that. Every piece I do I try to have a different goal.
You know I sculpt every day.
Basically six days
a week, every day. And so it'd be hard to be perfect.
You know every single day I've got a new goal.
It's something I try and do. And sometimes
it's easier. Like doing this, I've never done a video really
before so it's a new experience,
it's sort of easy to become motivated to try something
slightly different with my approach to how I've going to sculpt.
When I do a demo in a class that I'm
teaching and I've taught that class many times before
and sometimes, you know, I can be tired, I can be -
you know there can be a lot of reasons why I just sort of turn on autopilot
and don't engage as
completely but one thing I'm
pretty confident about is that the work that I produce that way
is never the work that I'm the most proud of and the
most engaged with. It always
seems like when I'm really,
you know when I'm really present and
I feel like I'm being challenging
that's when I feel like
I do my best work. And
from an artistic standpoint I feel like
art in general is a
not a performance type medium.
aside, you know the fact that I'm doing this on video
would belay that. But there are all kinds of
figure sculpture and portrait sculpture competitions, which
you know I tend to avoid and don't particularly
interest me because I don't feel like
that it's a sport that you need to compete with others
to become more or less
proficient at. I don't know how you would really judge it anyway.
You know my goals are constantly
changing when I'm sculpting and so I don't know how I would
say this figure or portrait
is better than that portrait on some sort of objective level.
You know I have my own favorite portraits in the history
of sculpture and I acknowledge
that they're my favorites for really personal reasons, not because
they're the best that have been made but because something
about them is important to me.
It can be technically, it can even just be historically. You know I may have seen
something in a certain point in my life that was very kind of
in another sense, another
piece of artwork may be more or
technically proficient or emotionally engaging
but because of my personal relationship with it
it feels like,
it feels more important. So I don't like - all that's to
say I don't know how I would judge, you know
a competition. So the idea
of challenging yourself is
for me much more internal. Like I'm trying out
a new approach, I'm trying out a new technique, I'm trying to create
a new feeling or a new sense or a new way to
create a sense of movement or whatever it is. That's the kind of challenge
that I find helpful and interesting and
engaging. Not, you know, can I win
a competition to sculpt the
best figure in a certain amount of time.
It's another kind of
metric that I never found to be all that helpful.
But people seem to be very interested with,
which is, you know, how long something take to do.
And I've always felt like something should take as long
as it takes to do well.
I've made the
comparison or the
I've asked the question if Michelangelo's David took
a year to sculpt, would it be
worth more than if it took two years to
sculpt? And if he had sculpted it in a month, would it be
a better sculpture than it is? I mean it is
what it is and if it took him five years to make or five months to make
it's a great sculpture.
And however long it takes
someone to make something great is
how long it takes them. And I'd way rather look at something that's great and
is interesting than something that was done really quickly.
And I guess I understand the
impulse to want to quantify
you know this is really well done and it only took
five hours, whatever it is. But ultimately I feel like
it's, you know, that same impulse that
people use with age. Oh look at this
painting and the kid who did it was only 8 years old.
I mean I'm not interested, unless it's my 8 year old
kid, I'm not that interested in looking at something
that's not that spectacularly done that was
created by an 8 year old and if it's
spectacularly done, that's the main thing that I'm interested in,
not that the guy was 23 or the woman was
47 or it was done by a three month old baby.y
Okay, so I keep kind of going around and around,
shifting the high point
here and here, moving from here
through here and I kind of, I have
a sense of what I'm looking for
which I feel like I'm getting a little bit closer to. There's a sort of sense
of power in this leg and how it moves that I
really want to, I want to
come through and I think that's starting to work out.
Just cleaning up this line to make it more
continuous, you know it was getting a little choppy.
to really establish and plant
those. And then I'll move back
into this thigh and up into the hands.
Okay so from
here, I really I pulled out this point
and then pulled back in
and now I'm gonna turn
so I can deal with the inside of that foot.
You know and I think that there are parts
of the body that,
I don't think, I know that there are parts of the body that I have an idea
in my head about how to divide up
almost like a template. And the feet are
certainly one. And they tend to be areas that
are kinda complex, that have a lot of things going on
in a limited amount of room.
And I wanna have some sort of idea about like
the basic breakdown of how
I deal with them. And then from there
I will look at the model,
compare what I'm seeing to like that template
I have in my head, and sometimes I'll abandon
the template and just go with what I'm seeing, sometimes I'll
ignore a little bit what I'm seeing and go a little bit more with the template
and sometimes I'll blend the two.
And for the inner
part of the foot and I do
I kind of divide the outer and the inner just because it's almost impossible
to ever see them at the same time.
You know you're either looking at the inside of the leg or you're looking at the outside
of the leg. For the inner
part of the foot, there's this arch that starts
kind of overlapping with the heel and
then ends up behind
this bone that comes out
and eventually moves into the joint of the
it's kind of a lot about
the direction that things are moving
are creating a certain
sense of speed of those
movements, like how quickly one thing changes from one angle
to another and
and the profile. Like how - you know I want this
out a little bit further.
That's a little bit better.
And then I can pull that back together
and I can pull that forward. For example the
the bump on the inside of the
ankle, which is called the inner malleolus, will tend to be
further forward and further up
than the bump on the outside of the ankle or the outer malleolus.
And that -
that's one where I kinda keep that in my head
and then I look for it on the model.
I almost always see that arrangement
but when it's maybe less obvious
sometimes I will
And what it does is it helps create a sense of
direction, you know, high inside, low outside
will help to create
a sense of movement through there.
And I just added or I just moved the volume
up higher as I was saying that because
when I went in and looked it didn't have quite that
feeling that I was looking for. And now I'm gonna add a little higher.
So what I'm really doing is create this downward
sense of movement here. It can also be that I need to
outer malleolus to get that
completely working the way I want it to.
And I'm gonna rotate her a little bit.
Yeah definitely I need
the volume here,
right below that outer malleolus, to come out quite a bit.
I'm trying to get this to come out here
so that it can come back
So I'm gonna pull -
and one is kind of influencing the other -
I pull that down here
and then when I pulled out enough I just didn't have
the difference on top so I added a little bit more
to there. And now I'm gonna pull out a little bit more
on this form that
kind of mirrors the arch of the foot on the inside.
And now that I have
all that coming out
I'm going to arc it downward
here on the outer portion of the foot.
Always annoying when you get hair in the clay.
a muscle that sits sorts of diagonally on the outside of the foot
that comes out and
so all of those,
sort of the anatomical elements of the foot I view
as almost like little compositional
opportunities to get your eye
to move outward or inward
and then from a -
sort of template perspective, I was talking about how I
have kind of a template in my head for different areas.
The template of the foot that I have is, you know,
generally developed from looking at a lot of sculptures.
And I will generally start with the big toe
facing inward, sort of like that, it's coming from the
outside facing inward. The small toe
facing inward in the opposite direction so they both tape inward
and then the three other toes facing
outward in opposition to the
little toe. So that's sort of like the classical arrangement
of toes in Greek and Roman sculpture.
And I find it to be helpful,
to at least to begin -
I'm looking for
a tool and that time it's not under -
it's right in front of me. I find it to be
helpful because feet can be an area where everything just
sort of stops and they become lumps and they don't have
any of the linear movement that you
are able to get from your arms and legs and from the abdomen,
from the knees that all have direction and length to them.
Having a sort of
approach for developing a linear movement to
the feet and the hands can help
organize all the things that you're
within them. There's a lot of, you know, there's a lot of
detail, a lot of information
and if you just sort of nudge
the components to have
a very purposeful
direction in addition to having
all of the information
it can help
strengthen the -
some of the other ideas that you're trying to
pursue in the way that you're dealing
with other parts of the body.
So here I'm dealing with the, it's called the instep,
which is this high portion of the foot.
And generally I'll end that,
the real, kind of, big arc of it
about a third of the way down. So here
at a third of the way down the foot, that big
kind of peters out a little bit
and then this
area well before the toes
continues to taper but is much flatter.
And what that will allow me to do
is raise up
the toe itself.
So I can come down far enough
and sharpen up
let that fall away
group those three toes and sometimes I'll just kind of start
with the grouping, meaning I'll draw
a line with clay in the front
tapering it back, separating out
those middle three toes
from everything else
and deal with them as a group.
So that, from a distance,
it all reads really nicely.
So here I've just separated out.
I've separated the big toe, I'm gonna
separate out for a second the little toes.
One of the challenges of working on camera
sometimes when I can see it, the camera can't.
Sometimes when the camera can see it well, I can't.
But here I'm separating the small toe and the large
toe and then I'm grouping the three middle toes together.
And now what I'm noticing is
from the heel to right behind the big toe is
much too parallel for me.
For the outside of the foot
I'll tend to divide that into three or four
sections. I'll have the heel, which will start
from where I have it I'm gonna add
volume that way.
So I'm getting
wider here but only at the very bottom.
So as long as I keep my depth
above it, I can actually pull out pretty far
with this bottom area of the heel.
And that is going to come
to just in front of the bone of the ankle here,
there's a diagonal line, there's a tendon that goes down there. Then there's this
middle section, which is fairly deep, meaning
this is tapering inward
then this obviously just has to start inward because
it's, you know, starts at the end of this taper and it stays kind of deep.
and then this portion of the foot starts
right here, so I'm gonna kinda clarify
that a little bit.
we're talking about the bottom, you know, where the heel
is meeting the ground.
It's starting outward, here,
and moving inward almost underneath
the foot. The second component
is a short component also just
up from the ground that starts
inward and stays inward, then the next segment starts inward
at the end of that one and then
gets quite wide on her in particular
it gets, you know, significantly
And it's one of the reasons why, when you do that, you have
room for that little toe to move back
inward on an angle,
So here I'm going to
increase that angle
And there's kind of
a basic arrangement of the foot, with no detail
at all, far out
here, moving inward to the big toe and far out here moving inward
to the little toe and those three toes, starting down,
moving up to the
joint and then moving down again and grouping
and tilting outward. And now that I have it to that point,
I'll kind of work my way up, around, through the ankle, you know
you can obviously see the back of the ankle's not - hasn't been
dealt with at all and that will
kind of get me to the point
where I can start to go
all the way - I'll deal with this area a little bit more
and then do the same to this foot and then I can
start to block the hands in in the same way
and then as I go through this I'll do a little bit with the feet,
a little bit with the hands, a little bit with the head, so that I can bring the
level of finish up, essentially together.
Because I don't need every last detail, every
toenail and fingernail to be articulated, but what
I don't want is to have the hands at one level, the feet at a different level, and the
head at yet another level. I'd like for all of the
areas that hold a lot of small information to
have some sort of relationship to one another. And I find that that
is kind of the most easily done if
I'm adding kind of small
amounts of information and a similar type of
information to each element as I go. Meaning
I'm not gonna model the entire
toe or this transition
or the toenail and how it gets finished.
When that hand looks like that
I get the big divisions, how things
should be moving, get them to a level that
I feel comfortable with and then move on and then
as I get closer to finish I'll start adding
information here, here, here, here, and constantly
stepping back to see that all of those areas are working
together and one is not becoming a distraction to another.
So while there's still problems with this, I feel like the transition from here to here
is something that I'd like to address a little bit
more structurally. I feel like it looks a little
wiggly right now.
I'm gonna be
a little bit careful about getting too involved with
this looking the way that it does. So while
our model is on break, I'll kind of do a little bit more
work in here. But once she comes back
I'm gonna begin to jump onto this foot
and get a measurement so that I'm making the
two feet the same size.
And I'm gonna
work on the break down of the elements
to make sure that they
kind of make sense, one to another.
relationships are much more important than absolutes. Like
having a perfectly sculpted knee is much less important than having
what is there of the knee work well with what's there of the thigh
and the shin
And so that's, you know, the bulk of what
I need to do with the model. A lot of
the like little details, little forms, little movements
I can either do on my own, with the piece and just
sit down and play with it, I don't really need the model for that.
You know I don't need to sit with the model to sculpt the
the foot, every toe and every detail but I
do want from the model to get how those elements
move from one area into the other.
That little bit,
volume here and now.
I just wanna measure from the heal
to the big toe on that foot
and now I can chop off that extra.
I'm just gonna take a tool and
everything in front of that will become part of the base
I can just take that down.
And it is kind of nice to
have a flat surface
here. It makes
sculpting the foot a little bit
easier to handle than if it's really a rough
uneven surface. So I'm
gonna do that and then I'm gonna turn
and what I'm really looking for
when I'm looking at the foot is
how far out is this bone
behind the big toe, what's it's relationship to
this bone of the other ankle.
You know I think that
this bone comes out
quite a bit more than the ankle but on mine it doesn't
so that is a good place for me to begin.
You know it's one of those things that I can't -
you know I can't ever see a side view of that
because the two blocks of wood are in the way
which obviously also means no one else will ever see the side view
in that particular way
but it makes it a little bit more challenging.
You know I'm always, you know I'm always happy
to get like a nice, clear view of what I'm trying to
accomplish even if, in the end, you won't
area in a perfectly clear
way. I think it helps with a sense of
believability and a sense of
It certainly helps me with a sense of conviction if I feel like
I've seen it and analyzed it, I feel like I know what I want to
do with it.
a little bit. I'm gonna deal a little
bit with the back of the heel
and the Achilles' tendon, all of that.
The bottom of the bone
Take a little bit
length away from that
and I'm gonna push this
And now I'm gonna shift back
to this foot
and I'm gonna deal with the instep
where this sort of top section
of the foot and then the tendon
that connects it to the ankle.
I find it to be like a section that people
really have no idea about. And by
that I don't mean, you know, hey people are dumb
they don't have any idea what's going on there. I mean you have ideas
about like what a head looks like or what an elbow looks like
or what a ribcage looks like. If
you give it to someone who's never drawn or sculpted before, they'll come up
with some sort of like, even if it's very like
version of it, they have kind of an idea of what's going on
in the ribcage or in the leg
but the transition between the leg and
the foot, people really tend to
think is a square connection.
Whereas it really it comes out tremendously
primarily because this tendon that comes off the front of the
leg forms a fairly
And it helps - it's also this
distance is a lot bigger than most people realize.
And so that combination, if you just have those things
I think it goes quite a long way toward
creating a believable
foot. So here
I'm going to just kinda quickly
direction right inward
and what I mean
when I say that it's facing inward
I mean the foot as a whole has
what's known as a medial
and a lateral side. The medial side is the side closest to the center line.
Which would be the big toe.
Big toe's on the inside of the foot, little toe is on the outside
when I say that it's facing the outside
this toe is facing
or pointing toward the little toe.
the little toe, which is gonna be
is facing the big toe.
So I just need kind of a line
denoting where that
toe is gonna end
and then I'll draw an
angle, like that.
So now I have almost like an outline I can
add a little volume into that outline.
I have, you can see, little toe, big toe, they're both
and now I have this bizarre kind of
gap in between
and I'm going to
leave a little bit of a gap between the big toe
and the next
and I don't have to try with the little toe because they other
toes are facing the opposite direction so there's this natural
gap that occurs at the base of the toes and
I've exaggerated a little bit here and then
the essentially the plane
of all those I'm combining
like that, just one
movement for right now.
I'll let that all kind of
along a similar plane.
Right so I just kind of built up an edge here.
And I'm just kind of cleaning it
so that plane is more
And then the three toes here move backward.
Right the longest is the one closest
to the big toe and the shortest
of those three is the one closest to the little toe.
And I've got kind of the basic arrangement
of that area of the foot
and I can come in here I've
feel like the - moves down here
I feel like the
bone here is a little bit far back.
And on her it sort of has a feeling of moving forward.
Okay. So I've done
you know a decent amount blocking those out. I'm gonna take
a little bit of a break with the model so I can come back
and get a, kind of a fresh view of where I am
and then move into doing
a little bit more refinement, particularly of the transition between the foot and the ankle.
I'm gonna do is
I'm gonna spend a little time in here in this
transition between the thigh and the
torso, get that a little more resolved. That and the
ankles, the transition between the feet and
the lower leg I wanna get a little further. And then I'm gonna spend
a little time blocking out the head. I'll have the model
sort of sit down and get like at a better level for me
and I can lower this piece and just get the head roughly blocked out.
Okay so I'm gonna start by turning
just like that
and I'll go in here
gonna make a few
adjustments in here.
Like right here there's something
that I'm not
thrilled about how it's working.
I mean it's such a - it's a real nexus point,
you know her hands are coming together, her hip
is rotating into it.
The stomach is merging from there,
there's a sense - there should be a sense
of compression. I wanna make sure that
that happens because I do, you know,
I think it's very important
location in the pose.
There are always gonna be areas that
are more and less crucial to communicate
the kind of the essence of what is happening in a pose and
predominately because of the rotation and the position
of her hands. You know all kind of coming together at that point.
it's really important to have
a real specific sense of what's
happening and how things
are both coming together and emerging
from the section.
So I'm gonna have a little more depth
here. A little more depth I think
here, more depth
You know there are just certain things that are going on
and when I'm doing this I'm.
you know, I'm trying not to be -
not to think about the anatomy of this goes here and this inserts
I'm trying to think of it more compositionally. What's -
what do I want the effect
You know that I think works better
it's more depth here.
You know sometimes I'll go back in
and correct the anatomy or
kind of make the anatomy make more sense
out of the - I'm gonna rotate her
a little bit again. Out of the
movements that I'm
using to highlight the
rhythm or the
focus of the pose. So in other words
I may kind of push in or pull
out different areas within an area because
compositionally it works better. But then it may
end up being confusing anatomically
and so I'm not going to eliminate what I've done but I may
modify it a little bit just to make it
make a little bit more sense. But one of the things that I've always been fascinated
about when I go to Italy every year is looking
at some of the sculptors whose work I like the
most and respect the most and seeing like how often
they either abandon
anatomy or alter it or
seem to not know or care about it
in certain areas.
And the one thing that I feel like is never
abandoned and never shortchanged
the composition. You know very frequently they'll change
the anatomy or eliminate some of it or alter it slightly
to highlight some sort of
compositional element. But I've never seen the opposite. I've never seen
you know Michelangelo or Bernini
the composition or weaken
the composition in order to
make sure something worked
from an anatomical point of view.
And obviously, you know, there are stylistic
elements that come into
play when you talk about that, you know, Michelangelo
although to maybe to
an untrained eye might look very
but in reality it's quite far from being realistic.
And so it's not - when
the approach is
one that's not focused on realism
it's somewhat easier to get away from larger
believable and accurate anatomy. You know if part of the
work includes that
sort of believable anatomical
briefly. You know
like if everything is very anatomical and then one area I just completely
abandon it in a way that's very
noticeable, that can be - that can be a problem.
But if you - there are times
when you have to choose. When putting
in the anatomy and the sort of correct
quote unquote correct way
is going to
make the work less
it's going to undermine some of the
big movements that you're trying to create, then I think
you need to figure out a way
to either downplay
the anatomy enough so that the
composition over - kind of
overtakes it and works in the way that you're
interested in, or
blur it down or blend it in
its visibility to the point where it's just not
a factor. It can be anatomically more
or less correct
and you just don't see a lot
and sometimes that's the most effective, when the
anatomy is there but just not that
You know it's
tempting when you go through the - all the work of learning it
and putting it in and making
sure it's correct and all that can be really tempting
to highlight it but
many times it's more effective to get it all right, get it in
and then minimize it to the point where you can
barely see it. And that's
still incredibly effective. You know when the light hits it just right and
you see something emerging that you didn't notice before
and it seems completely in the correct place
and has a real sense of
accuracy to it and then
the light shifts and it just dissapears and blends into everything else.
That's what the human body most typically
does. It's very unusual that you really
see a ton of very articulated
musculature on a human being unless they're in some sort of
body building competition.
just kind of working through this area
right there there should
Get in there
just gonna take
a thin tool
get into that area and just
And then push through right in here.
You know that whenever you
add a transition
you give yourself room to increase
the volume without increasing
the feeling of weight. So
I needed this area
to get wider. The very top of the inner thigh
I want it to come in here. But I felt that the leg
was getting already a little too big and then I just put
pushed right in here and by pushing
in there, I gave myself the
ability to add to that upper portion
of the inner thigh without
increasing the feeling of weight or heaviness
to that area.
Let me pull in
And then I'll just continue to work
through and around
closing a little
of the surface
and just kind of connecting
a lot of the forms. And
that, you know sometimes when I do that I'll notice
discrepancies in volume. You know maybe this needs just
a little more volume. And once that - the surface of those
forms close up a little bit, like that,
there's some noise going on in there. I close that up
suddenly I can see that area
now there's this weird -
kind of harsh transition. I soften that
I can see a little bit more clearly how all that's working.
one is working better.
Okay so I'm gonna turn - yeah.
Okay now that I'm turning to
here, yeah I think all of that
is okay. I'm gonna check
the size of the foot, which should be roughly one head.
Okay looks about right.
But I guess I'm feeling that it's a little bit short.
And, you know, it brings up
an interesting point when you
feel like something is a little bit short. Like to my eye, the
length of the foot feels little stubby.
First thing I do is check the length. And if the length is right
then I have a number of options. One I can
ignore my measurement and just say well I wanna make that foot bigger.
Two - and what I'll more usually do -
is say okay, if the length is right then it must be something
else that's making it feel too short. Maybe the ankle
is too wide. The wider the ankle is, the shorter the
foot will feel. Eventually I'll make the ankle as wide as the foot and then the foot will feel
like a hoof instead of a foot. Or I'll make the ankle so
tiny that the foot will see super long. So another way
making that modification is to change something other than the thing
that seems like it's a problem. So both by pushing in
on that ankle and also by lowering a little bit
the instep - I might have gone like a little crazy when
I was talking about how high that distance
really is and how deceptive it is and how people think that usually
it's way too flat or low. I may have
gone a little overboard and made it too high. Because the lower
where the top of the foot is, the longer the foot will appear.
So those are the two kind of
options that I have when I feel like the foot is
Or the three. Number one, shorten the foot.
Number two, make the ankle
more narrow. Obviously making it more narrow from the front, pushing it backward
You know if I make it
more narrow by pulling it back in it's not going to affect the look of the front
foot. And three, lower the instep
or the top of the foot.
And by doing any
of those things or all of those things or a combination
of those things I will be able to increase the feeling
Okay now I'm
make the ankle a little bit more narrow in front of that
bone and where it kind of begins to come down
the top of the foot.
Add a little bit of volume here.
I'm gonna add a little more depth behind that bone.
And then right through
I'm going to create
right there. So I wanna turn that
over toward the top
and that, for me,
with that feeling of the
of the ankle. I'm gonna turn her back a little bit
And now I can see like the furthest
point forward should be here
and yet I don't wanna add because I felt like
this was enough
so I'm actually gonna push back
I'm saying that
right as I'm adding material. But what I was
doing was - I'm gonna just have to turn for a second to get
the light on here so I can see what I'm doing.
Because when I was standing in that other location
I was casting like a really harsh
shadow. Go back.
just adding enough clay to fill in a crack
between two pieces of clay. So I wasn't really adding any volume to the
to the piece.
I'm defining a little bit more of the bone
this blends together
with the volume behind
And then as we come up
it really begins to separate and the
roundness of the bone becomes more apparent.
So right up through
I'm going to add
a little bit of definition
to the inner and outer
edges. So as I
kind of clean that up a little bit
begin to see how far forward
I need to go.
So now we're gonna take a
little bit of a break and set up
sort of a stool so I can begin to block in
some of the shapes in the head. And that'll help
the feet, the knees, the hips, the shoulders,
and the head all stay like roughly in the same -
at the same level and not let one thing lag too
I'm gonna grab a stool and set that up.
gotten a block or a stool for the model so her
head is lower, it's essentially on eye level with me. I've lowered
the sculpture a little bit and I'm gonna spend the rest of the session
just blocking in the basic shapes of the head, the hair,
pulling out the ears to the right width, placing the eyes, nose, mouth.
I'm not gonna do like a very detailed portrait
but I want to get the basic structure of the head
up to the same point as everything else. So that's what I'm gonna begin by doing.
And I'm gonna start
I think - because I've done a little bit of work already -
I'm gonna start with her left ear, pulling it out.
And the ear
and the shape of the hair
are really pretty important
in getting a feeling of the likeness
of the head of the entire
the likeness of
the model. It sort of establishes, in some ways, the widest,
this point of the anatomy.
Meaning not if she were to wear a sombrero it would wider
than her ears but - or if she got a giant afro
it would get a lot wider but it's a kind of - the width
of the ears to the chin I find to be
a very powerful
shape. You know when I'm doing a portrait sometimes if I
just get that like really, really accurate, it
looks remarkably like the model without
eyes, nose mouth, without any detail being there at all.
And conversely I can get
lots and lots of very kind of exhausted
detail in the nose and the eyes and the mouth and if I don't have that
big shape right, it never seems to
kind of become as evocative a portrait.
So I'm think of putting a little bit more
That's a little bit narrower
There's kind of more of an upward
angle through her jaw line.
a lot more volume here.
So I'm going to
just break this down
a little bit.
Pull the hair out
and now I'm gonna turn her a little bit to the profile.
Could you lower your chin a little bit?
Yeah there we go. So that
matches pretty well.
I wanna add some volume into the eye socket, I don't
wanna create like a black hole in there.
I've put together like a very generic
proportion for this head
and the sort of generic head
is divided in half by the center of the
eye so I've kind of
begun the head using that
I'm gonna sketch out
of the hair
and how it's going to interact
skull. So here
forehead to come up.
And then I also want to
do a little bit with the chin
and the way the form underneath the chin
moves into the neck.
And then -
and the shape of the ear.
Again I hate to
return to that same analogy again and again
but it is really like juggling where you're
going from here to here, back to here, to here, add this, go
back to that, constantly trying to divide
your attention between
more and more things as you add to them.
In some ways it's even more important than when you're doing a measured
portrait, you know where you kind of
take measurements and you establish where different landmarks
are gonna be. When you do that
at least you have those measurements as kind of a
touchstone to come back to if you ever get lost.
When you're doing a purely optical portrait like this,
not that this is going to be necessarily an accurate
and detailed or specific
portrait of her, but when you are
a portrait that's purely
a visual reference and
no measurements are taken, it's really important that you
through it, not finishing
the lip or the
nose or the chin or the
jaw or anything because everything is so dependent
on everything else. You know what I do with the chin will affect
how the lip looks.
I make the cheek will determine how
the mouth appears so
I keep going around.
as many of the different
elements as I can to get them all working together.
So there, you know I kind of like to treat the ear as
a kind of a big shape initially
without any of the interior
detail. And then I can remove
material from the profile of the ear, from behind
the ear and create the correct shape and depth,
and then finally, once I have the correct
exterior shape in the correct
projection outward, then I can
go in and excavate the interior.
And if I do the set up all
correct then the ear is pretty easy
because it's just a few lines.
And you just carve along those lines
and fairly quickly
the ear becomes
dimensional. So now I'm
moving into the cheekbone,
the brow. I
continually turn to the front view
so I can see the effect
of what I'm doing.
Or I can see the effect what I'm doing has
on the width.
So here I'm trying to figure out -
her hair is pulled back exactly how far back
and how high up
is the edge of the hair
get that front view again then I can
deal with how wide
her head is and I'll know how far back that line is.
And in the same way, I'm
looking at the corner of her eye, which should be
kind of up here
and her cheekbone, which should be up higher
than what I have.
just gonna put a little bit of clay in there and
then I'm gonna rotate her again
to the front view.
And now I've already established some of this
depth, how far back that stuff comes
and now from the front view I can begin to establish
some of the width. Her eye
is very high.
How it arcs, it's almost like you see
the majority of the
eye socket or the - not the eye socket, the orb of the
eye in that upper lid.
But it's not super wide.
And so I wanna be able to see that cheek
The nose really narrows above
and then the
mouth is very slightly wider than
the center of the eye
I know that it's not ideal
but I do tend to
begin my head or when I sculpt
a portrait I tend to begin with the left side
because I'm right handed. It's easier for me to do this
than to do that.
It's be more ideal for me to
a little bit more equally
on both halves at once.
I guess for now I'm gonna try and do
what I just said
and although I could put more time
in to getting some
of the movements on this side
I'm gonna come over to the other side
and begin to
lay out the right side,
that is to say the side on my
It'd almost be easier if I could turn this whole thing upside down and do it with my
right hand. Especially I always have
a little difficult on really tiny
heads, working on
the opposite side
especially in this very soft clay.
So one thing that's really helpful and that I
is draw and keep
a center line.
And it allows me
to see how I'm
doing in terms of the symmetry.
this moves back, this
needs to move back in the same way.
And it's amazing
the addition of that line
just helps me so much in seeing it
accurately. You know if you eliminate that line and I try to
make it even on both sides, I'm not
very accurate. And the minute I
draw that line I immediately see what the problem is, I can see oh from that line
it's way bigger on that side and so
I found the best solution is to just keep drawing that line
Now I'm going to
add a little bit of volume
Okay so I'm just
gonna lay in some of the volume of the hair and now
I'm just gonna bring from the center line
out to here and
I can actually see I'm
a little wider overall
on that side.
And I can just add a little bit.
with a shape here and then.
And now I'm just laying in a little bit of volume
into the eye.
for my knife.
I feel like I've gone even a little too wide
on the nose and I've lost that center line.
So I'll bring that back. So
I'm gonna soften the transition a little
bit from the forehead to the
today I spent time
dealing with the knee, the lower legs, the
upper legs, blocking in the feet, beginning to block in
a little bit on the head, and with the exception
maybe of the hands,
and you know some awkward transitions in the arms
I think things are getting closer together
in terms of the amount of information in each section.
So next session I'm going
to do a combination of blocking in the arms,
a little bit more in the transition from the hips into the upper legs,
the ankles, and the back of the leg,
and the upper and the lower back. Then I'm gonna try and bring everything
to a sense of
if not completion, a sense
of balance and harmony
to the point where then I can take this
and go section by section and just clean and tighten it up. And then I'll
talk about some of the different ways that I use
to finish the clay. So that's where we're gonna leave it
today and we'll begin next week.
Free to try
1. Lesson Overview1m 12sNow playing...
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2. Identifying Problem Areas16m 34s
3. Adjusting the Right Knee & Thigh13m 37s
4. The Back of the Right Knee24m 47s
5. The Pelvis & Lower Leg21m 23s
6. The Back of the Right Leg16m 42s
7. The Back of the Right Leg Continued15m 13s
8. Balancing Out the Development of Both Legs31m 0s
9. Adjusting Large Leg Shapes21m 22s
10. Resolving Transitions in the Leg20m 56s
11. The Ankle & Feet25m 21s
12. The Feet & Toes8m 54s
13. Refining Transitions26m 28s
14. Blocking in the Head23m 34s