- Lesson details
Join internationally acclaimed artist, David Simon, as he teaches you his approach to modeling a three-quarter life-size portrait in clay.
You will learn how to build your armature, take measurements of your model, block-in the facial features, hair, and neck, and how to build relationships between them. David will also cover the materials and tools he uses, and demonstrate his finishing techniques.
This course is a comprehensive representation of the sculpting process from a few blocks of clay, a pipe, and a wire, to a finished portrait.
In this first lesson, David introduces his modeling approach, shows how to build an armature, measure a model, and applies measurements to the portrait. He also covers the measuring tools, including calipers, dividers, and nails.
Discuss this video in the forums!Discuss
I'm a sculptor from Los Angeles. I'm gonna be doing
a lesson and demo on sculpting portraits.
I've been working with models for 25 years maybe
and still every single time I've learned so much.
I'll talk to you about how I design and
build the armature and then we'll get started with measuring the
The next step is that I'm going to lay in the
profile of the model in between those nails and then I'm gonna continue
around the entire head. You can study anatomy and you can
study kinesthiology and get a convincing human head but a
portrait is really different, a portrait is a deep understanding
of an individual.
And the real challenge
is to make it an interesting dynamic,
layered, nuanced sculpture. You have to
have the patience to figure out the connections and what makes
someone really feel the way they feel to you.
sculptor from Los Angeles and I'm gonna be doing
a lesson and demo on sculpting portraits.
And I've brought a couple of three quarter life
sized portraits which is what I'm gonna be doing a demo of today.
These have both been sculpted in portrait
sculpting class that I teach in Los Angeles. They've both been
sculpted using generally the same methods,
the same tools, and the same approach but I've used slightly different
finishing techniques on each one, which is why
I've brought them in to show you. So I'm gonna turn them
and take a closer look at them.
And I wanna point
out a few things.
in the pieces that I've done and that I'm gonna be showing you how to
deal with in this
lesson. So here,
you may have to get pretty tight
on this to see this clearly -
yeah there we go. So here you can see that there's a nail
embedded in the clay, another one here,
another one here, and another one
in the chin here. There are also two
on either side of the head
in the specific anatomical point in the ear that I'm going to be
point out. And those are there to give me a very, very
precise beginning to the process so I know exactly where
key features are going to end up.
And they allow me really to look at the
forms that I'm seeing in a much more specific way
because I already know where things need to be, not just
linearly, in other words up and down, but also
depth wise. So these points
give me the
height, for example on - why don't
I switch to this portrait - on her this point
represents where the hair begins and the forehead ends. Or where the
forehead ends and the hair begins. Here you can see this point
represents the spot right at the top of her eyebrows
and as we go through the process I'll explain exactly
how I select these points on each model.
Here the tip of the nose, here the tip of the chin.
And if I know, for example, where the tip of the nose is
and where the tip of the chin is, I can look exactly at where
the top of the upper lip is, where the bottom of the lower lip is, where
the center of the mouth is within that interval in a really
specific way without worrying that my whole nose
is too long or too short. So those points
are really key to establishing the
likeness of the model, to make the sculpture look very, very
close to the model very, very quickly.
And so you can see that each one of these have
a movement to them. You know I've
shifted the position of the head
relative to the neck and the shoulders
and that doesn't come until later in process. So when I work today with
our model Paul, I'm going to
start with him facing forward with his shoulders squared, his eyes
straight forward and then later in the process I'll be able to shift
where he's looking and get a better feel for his
personality in the piece, which is what, ultimately for me,
the portrait is about. It's not just creating something that looks like the model,
it's creating something that really feels like the personality of the model.
And that's what I was trying to do in these two pieces.
I tend, in teaching
situations, to work a little bit smaller than life size, only
because it allows me to move more quickly.
This same technique can be applied to life size,
over life size, smaller than what I have here
but this scale allows me to get,
you know, a reasonable amount of information and detail into the piece
while moving at a pretty good pace. So I'm going to
move these pieces, get the armature ready,
and then I'll talk to you about how I design and build the armature
and then we'll get started with measuring the model.
I put it together.
So this is the armature that I use to do a portrait.
It's just a piece of three quarter inch plywood
suspended on these two wooden feet. And the wooden feet are there
just to raise it off the ground because this phalange at the bottom
is bolted on and those bolts, if I didn't have the little feet,
would make the board tilt back and forth. The phalange
and the pipe can be any diameter.
This particular one is a half inch phalange. You can use three quarter inch, one inch,
it doesn't really matter. They're both steel. One
is galvanized, one isn't. None of that really matters you just want something
that's fairly strong. This one is a six inch
piece of pipe. Onto that I've used two
hose clamps to hold aluminum armature wire, which I've
just bent into kind of a rough, old fashioned
light bulb shape. Roughly the size of my fist.
You don't really need anything measured out for this, the only
requirement for the armature is that this upper part of the armature be
at least an inch smaller than the head that you want to create
over it. So here I can always squeeze that down even more to make it
smaller. And that's essentially
all it is. You can see from the side view that I've bent
this part forward and then
this part straight up. And that will give me the depth
of the neck so the neck will be coming through here, the chest will be coming
down here, the chin will be coming out here. If I don't have
that I run the risk of ending up hitting the pipe
when I go in to create the pit of the neck. So
that's why I've bent it forward here.
The next thing I'm going to want to do is get rid of this open
area in the middle. You can fill this completely with clay but
it will end up making your piece heavier and you'll
end up wasting a lot more clay. So what I like to do is fill the inside
with aluminum foil because you can crush it down, cover it
with more aluminum foil and if you ever run into it during the process,
if you've made a mistake and you've kind of got the aluminum foil too close to the surface, you can just
push it in and it'll stay where you put it. There are other people who use foam
and will fill that with foam. And that works just as well, the only
issue with that is if you do run into it you have to carve it out
and the little bits of foam can get into the clay.
So I have a big roll
of aluminum foil.
I'm going to begin just with a big piece
crushing it up and
packing it down.
And I'm just gonna continue
from the bottom up to fill that
And for this process I like to really pack it as
tightly as I can because
if I then begin to add clay over it and I haven't packed it
down the clay will just kind of fill that
empty space and that's what I'm trying to avoid, trying to get the
aluminum foil to fill the space for me.
Okay so there's one little gap right here I'm gonna fill up.
when I'm done with that I'm gonna
start covering the entire outside
of it with
a sheet of aluminum foil. And that way
if any of those little pieces of aluminum foil shift around
they're not gonna fall out. Maybe one more.
For a portrait this portion is
really not very precise. I'm still way
inside of the sculpture.
so that's it. That's kind of all prepped
and ready to go.
From this point, the next thing I'll do - I'm sort of looking
and evaluating if it's centered. I like to have
my pipe roughly centered on the board.
The head is facing one side of the board.
And then if the neck is coming out here.
I'd want it to face not the corner but one of the four sides.
You may also notice that I have a piece
of tape on the bottom here.
And that tape is there - I've got a line right there
which is just a random pen mark - and that
is where I'm gonna begin all my measurements. And all the measurements that I take
directly from the model are going to stay here on the bottom of the board.
And obviously if you're taking measurements from the
model you want to have them recorded
somewhere. And over the years I've taken to recording them directly on
the board that I'm working on because if I have multiple portraits
that I'm working on at the same time, there have been times when I've kept them on
various pieces of paper and I changed an entire portrait because
I was checking the measurements and I didn't realize that the measurements that I
was checking were from a different model. And so
I had to redo the entire portrait again. So if you keep
the measurements taped to the board, you can't
mistake one model for another. So that's why that's there.
I am going to be using a clay
made by Chavant called NSP medium.
You can use almost any clay, you can use water based
clay, which works really beautifully, you can use
various types of oil based clay. This is one type
of oil based clay. This NSP medium
is made by Chavant, which is one of the big companies that makes
oil based clay. NSP stands for
non sulphurated plasteline. It comes in
soft, medium, and hard. The
NSP is a little bit of a shorter kind of a
clay than other clays, by which I mean that
get a knife to open this -
that when you take off a piece,
and push it down and then pull
on it it doesn't spread out in a really
long ribbon. Do that again for you.
So it tends to break
if you try and spread it out in a long ribbon.
So this clay for me I really like using it for
portraits because it's a little bit stiffer,
little bit firmer, a little bit easier to get the information
that you're putting in to hold and not
blue or soften when you begin to change
the things around it. In other words if you're working on an eye
and you're then moving around to the eyebrow, if you accidentally touch the eye
this clay is stiff enough to hold that form and yet it's
also fluid enough also
to sketch with pretty
So the NSP I'm going to
heat and then apply over this entire
form. And once I have a base of clay that's about a
half inch thick, then I'm going to begin to take the
measurements from the model and put them into
this essentially oval of what will be
clay. And that will give me the entire structure of the head.
So I have the foil built up over the armature
and now I'm just going to begin adding
clay over the foil and the clay
especially when you use oil based clay, if you're using water based clay
it can just kinda start putting it on right away. When you're using
oil based clay you want to heat it up, especially for this part
because you're just adding quite a lot of clay in a short amount of time.
Later on in the process I will
not heat the clay
up at all or maybe I'll heat it up a little bit less.
Kind of really more refining
things. But at this stage
the clay, the faster this will go. Unfortunately
right now this clay is not as warm as it could be
so it'll take a little bit longer
to build up.
But what I'm really looking for right now is
a thick enough base of clay so that the
nails that I put into it will not move.
So if the clay is too thin, the nail will go
right through it into the foil and
it won't really hold
the position of the nail as I continue
When you have new clay, which is what I'm working with,
sometimes it helps to roll the clay
in your hand if you look at that clay
it's got all that kind of air
gaps and so
rolling the clay will
blend all that together.
Also if you're heating the clay and
in this case I have essentially a box with a heater
in it, generally the clay will be heated from the outside
in and so the outside will be a little bit warmer or
sometimes a lot warmer than the inside.
And so rolling the clay will help even that out and
take the different temperatures of the clay, you can see again,
when I begin with the clay it sort of
cracked and rolling that will
get the oil in the clay
distributed and make it easier to add.
This part goes a lot quicker with water based clay.
And water based clay and oil based clay are essentially
made from the same material. There's
clay body, which is a type of dirt
that is dug up and dried and then
crushed into a powder and
with water based clay you reintroduce water to it
and blend it and then
you begin to work with it. With oil based clay they
take the same clay and instead of adding water they add
obviously oil and sometimes they add
wax and lanolin.
Frequently they'll add some sort of color
like in the case of what I'm using now is a brown
clay. They'll also do green and those are just powdered
pigment that they'll add to the clay to change the color.
Now the difference between
water based clay and oil based clay
is pretty profound given that
material is essentially
the same with the only difference being the addition of water or oil.
When you add heat to water based clay
dries it and ultimately vitrifies it
which means essentially it turns it to
glass because the basis of
all clay is silica which is the
base of glass. So when you heat
clay in a kiln
you're essentially melting those little bits of silica and they
But when you heat up oil based clay, so in
essence when you heat water based clay it turns hard and when you heat
oil based clay it turns soft.
So you would never want to try and heat up water based
clay to make it more workable. To make water based clay more workable you
just add more water.
You can change the property of oil based clay
and make it softer by melting
it to either a liquid
in the case of the NSP that I'm using you can melt it
to a kind of very goopy liquid
and then while it's liquid you can add
vaseline to it. And when it hardens again
it'll harden as a softer blend of clay.
Other clays there's a
type of clay or a
product made by Chavant which is the same company
that makes the NSP that I'm using that's called
Le Beau Touche. And Le Beau Touche when you
heat it it never quite turns to a liquid.
I'm not really sure what the chemical
difference is between the clays are but the NSPs will turn to a liquid
and the Le Beau Touche won't. Le Beau Touche is much
longer than the NSP. I
was explaining earlier about how when you
pull on a piece of the NSP it will tend to break very
quickly whereas Le Beau Touche
will stretch more. I typically like to use
that when I'm doing quick sketches,
when I'm doing figures, things like that, where I want
more of a gestural ability to move the clay
You know of course all
oil based clays generally are just trying to replicate
some portion of what water based clay can do. Water based clay
is a beautiful material because it encompasses all
of the different types of working properties in
one material. Meaning that it will go from
incredibly long and fluid where you can move it around
quickly and very gesturally
to being incredibly
rigid and tough and to a point where you can almost sand
the surface of the clay by letting it dry out.
main downside to that is that it's one directional, meaning
when it's wet at the beginning of the process it's very fluid
and when it's dry toward the end of the process it's very hard.
But it's very, very difficult to make the dry clay
turn fluid again without ruining the work
that you've done. You know you can spray
the piece, you can add water to it but it's hard to get
the entire piece back to the kind of working
properties that it had at the beginning.
The oil based clay
will stay the same throughout the process. And there are
a lot of little tricks to get it to
change in different ways. Obviously for a firm clay
like what I'm using you can heat it to get it more fluid and get it almost
to the point where it feels like you're working with a
water based clay and then when it's at room temperature
it's much harder
and stiffer and will hold detail better.
With softer clays, they
begin at room temperature, being fairly
fluid and then if you want to stiffen them up
you can cool them down, either by putting them in a
refrigerator or some people will use
compressed air, air in a can that you would use to spray off a
keyboard. If you turn that upside down and
spray the clay, the refrigerant that's in the
can will spray onto the clay and
freeze it, making it very
stiff. But I'll
go into all those different working methods as we go along.
So the oil based clay
the big advantage of not needing to be taken care of.
You can leave it out, you don't ever have to cover it up,
you can put it aside for a month and come back
to it and it will work in the same
exact way as it did when you left it,
whereas water based clay will not do that. If you leave water based clay
you have to cover it and even when it's covered you have to
keep coming back to it and checking and adding water,
otherwise it'll dry and crack.
And as a professional sculptor, that's
particularly problematic if you have a lot of
projects and things going on it can be
hard to always be taking care of a bunch
of pieces that are in water based clay.
Also water based clay
is not really all that good for you because the
silica that it's made of causes a
disease called silicosis because
essentially when you breathe the little
bits of silica into your lungs it cuts
up your lungs and causes them to scar
and although I said
the oil based clay has that same stuff in it
the oil based clay will never turn to a powder
again. It's always the same
consistency so the powder in the clay
that in water based clay dries out and turns to dust that you can
breathe in, will never turn to dust. And so
you don't have the problem, the health problems associated with
water based clay.
With oil based clay. And so that was kinda the big
issue for me when I was younger and trying to figure out
what I wanted to use.
So it's a much cleaner environment
if you use oil based clay. The one thing that will happen
is you'll drop it on the floor and it ends up kind of like gum
working itself into the floor and you have to scrape it
up. Otherwise your floor will become
like the surface of the moon, craters
of clay everywhere and it'll never dry.
But people who use
water based clay their studios are always filled with dust.
So you can see I'm
just evenly coating
with clay. It's a little bit cold
and so it's requiring a lot more
blend it in.
But I'm pretty close to being
theoretically it doesn't really matter what the shape is right now.
Once I begin measuring all of the
of the clay will be
clearly shown by the
measurements and I'll be able to change it at that point. But in general
at this stage I want
the shape of my
essentially big oval to be
relatively symmetrical, relatively
even. You know I'm
roughly indicating here a
plane change for the top of the head to the forehead. I'll begin
somewhere around here to come out and create the
plane of the front of the face. That will all change
once I have the measurements. It'll become more
refined and clear.
But if I can do a little bit now
that's less work I'll have to do later on.
Now I'm kinda keeping in mind where
this wire is
I don't want the wire to either
protrude from the front, I wanna make sure I have enough depth
for the pit of the neck, at the same time I don't want it
popping out the back of the neck either. Whether you're
working on a figure or a portrait, the
ideal placement for the armature is as close to the middle
of the form as you can get
and the reason for that is that you're always gonna make a mistake.
I mean I make them all the time. And if
you miscalculate something, you want the armature
to be as close to the middle as you can have it
so that if, for example, I need to move
everything forward a little bit, the armature won't pop out the back
and if I need to move everything back a little bit it won't pop out the front.
If you've started with the armature very close
to the front or the back, any mistake that you make
will cause the armature to come
through and then, not that you can't deal with that, you know I may end up
running into the armature at some point of the process and then
through what you do to deal with that, how you get that
armature back inside the piece
where you want it to stay. The armature actually for the
portrait is really pretty
simple. You want it to be
strong so you can see it's not moving around
but you want it to have a certain amount of flexibility. So if I need to I can
take the entire armature and push it back.
Or push it forward and that's
particularly important for when I change
from how I
begin, which is very neutral position, to
posing the model
and changing the orientation.
So I'm getting
pretty close to the point where I'm gonna want to
stop playing with the clay
and begin to take the measurements for
the seven points that I'm going to
put into the clay to begin the portrait.
Just get rid of a few little areas
that I can see the armature through.
You know I know it's way, way, way under the volume right now.
It's way too
narrow front to back, it's probably
slightly short top to bottom.
But what I'm really looking for
where I'm going to place the front of
So here I'm just drawing a line
and I'm looking for where this
deepest point of the armature is versus
where that front of the ear is going to be here.
If I put the back of the ear or the bottom of the ear here, the back of the ear here,
that means the jaw will come down, forward
that way. And I wanna make sure I have enough depth there
if it's looking to me like I don't have the depth that I need
all I really need to do is move that line forward,
erase what I drew back here,
redraw the ear
a little bit further forward
and I can keep moving that forward or backward until I feel
like that armature is roughly centered in the form.
That will depend a lot of the model, their posture,
the angle that I've put
here which is, you know, fairly
severe. So I'm thinking I'll put this a little further
I'm going to
look at the mass overall, top to bottom,
and place a
horizontal line just a little bit lower than midway, you know,
if that's mass, you know, midway is somewhere in here. I'm gonna go a little bit lower
than midway. And that's where I'm going
to begin putting my measurements. So I'm
gonna leave it at this point and
begin to get ready to take the measurements.
our model Paul
sitting here and I'm gonna explain a little bit about where the
measurements that I'm gonna be taking are being taken from
on the model and a little bit about why I'm taking them from
these particular points. So I'll start out by pointing out
where these points are exactly, I'll give you
a couple of terms that I'm gonna be using and then I'll explain
why these points and not others. So the first point
that I want to talk about is called the antitragul notch.
And that is gonna be right here
on the ear.
So that this point
right here, this little structure is called the tragus.
And opposite that right here is the antitragus.
And the notch in between them at the very bottom is called the antitragul notch.
And it's hard, it's a little piece of cartilage.
And the reason, one reason, why you take it from that
point is that number one it's hard. So when you put your caliper
on it, which are what these are, these are
actually called dividers. Let me grab the calipers.
These are calipers. Calipers are
curved and dividers are straight.
When you put the end of a pair of dividers or calipers
on cartilage it's not gonna move as much as if you
were to choose like an earlobe or something that's gonna
move quite a bit when you put your calipers on it. The other reason is that notch
being at the very bottom is gonna be easy to find again and again.
If Paul had a tattoo
of a dot, you know, on the side of his face, on either side,
I would use that. The point being you want something
that you can find again and again and again without a problem so that
you are always measuring from the same place. So the
antitragul notch is gonna be an important one. And again it's right
Next I'm gonna be measuring from the
tip of the nose, which means from the profile,
the point on the nose where it comes out the furthest
right before it starts turning back in, which on him is right about
here. You can see the highlight on the nose right there.
Next on his brow, the same thing.
The point where it comes out the furthest, right before it
starts turning back.
And then on his chin, just rest
right here. Right there, the point where it comes
out the furthest is right there, fairly high on the chin.
And then finally, right here.
The point where his hair touches his forehead.
So essentially I'm going to have
the antitragul notch on both sides, so that's
two points. One point for the chin, that's three,
one point for the tip of the nose, that's four, one point for the
brow, that's five, and one point at the
hairline. That's six. Theoretically
you could measure a hundred points
and you'd have lots more information. The
thinking behind the points that I'm taking
are to try and balance the idea of
making me feel very, very comfortable that I know where I am
that I know where things need to be placed and
also allowing me to make the majority of
the decisions about how things are laid out. The more points that you put on
the more that you're guided
by them. And you want to be guided to a certain extent but ultimately
you don't want this to become a manual version of
a three dimensional scan of the model. So on one hand
if you use no points you can never really be sure that anything is in the right
place. And when I began sculpting that was a big problem for me.
I had enough natural ability to get
my sculpture to look similar to the model at the
very beginning. And then as my work advanced
within an individual sculpture, I began
to have the problem of thinking, you know what,
something's not quite right. And so
the next step was to figure out what's not quite right and not have
having any way to know anything with any
degree of certainty I would just start to change various things. I'd say well maybe the nose
is too long and so I would shorten it. And then I would say
you know now the mouth looks like its got too much space and so I would shorten the chin.
And then I'd say now the eyes look too low and so I would just
keep changing and changing and changing things
and ultimately the process worked out in an
arc in the following way: initially it kind of looked
pretty good and looked somewhat like the model and then
as I got it more and more refined the little
discrepancies between the model and the sculpture became more and more
important and I would tighten and tighten and tighten and change
and change and change and things looked a lot
stiffer at the end rather than more natural.
And what I was going for obviously was making them look more natural
and once I began to figure out how to use these measurements
I was able to get a certain degree of certainty about where things
should be and I would never really have to change them
If anything looked incorrect to me I would just check the measurements and if the
measurements were right it would be some other observation, it might be
the volume of something or the angle that I placed something at, so it's just a
way for me to check something off, to
not have to worry that the nose is too long or the chin was too low or
high or the brow was too far in or out. So
that's the function of the measurements. And I never want them to become an
impediment to me. So toward the end of the process I
might change a measurement slightly because I wanna create a certain
effect. But at the point I'm pretty confident at where things
should be and what's important about the structure of the head
to maintain the feeling that I'm looking for.
So I'll go into that more in depth as we go along but the
measurements are always going to be
a balance between giving you a sense of confidence that you know where you're going and
not turning the process into something so mechanical that it takes
your decision making out of it.
So the next thing I'm going to do is taking my
calipers and dividers, I'm going to show you how to take those
particular measurements. So now I'm
going to ask Brian to help me take these measurements. If
you don't have anybody to help you, you just have to take
a little bit more time to check that you're taking them accurately. I've done it
you know for 20 years by myself. Recently I've been
asking for help and it is definitely helpful to have
a second person especially if you don't wanna
poke your model too severely. So I'm gonna begin
with the large calipers. These
particular ones have a really big, nice
nut to make it loose and tight and that makes it easy to get the
measurement and then tighten it so it won't move.
So Brian if you could come over, I'm gonna
and try not to block anyone's view.
I'll loosen the calipers and then we're each
gonna put a caliper right on here.
And if you can tighten that nut without moving the measurement.
Perfect. Okay, so now
I'm gonna come back around and transfer the measurement that
I just took
onto my stand. I just need to
find a pen
Thank you. So I'm laying
one leg of the caliper on that mark that I talked about that
I had randomly put on my piece of tape and
And so you can see from this point to that point
is the width of the head and I'm going to mark
it before I add anything else AT
for antitragul notch.
To AT. And so
that one is done. Next I'm
gonna ask Brian to come to the
front of Paul. I'm gonna loosen
this and what I'd like you to do is put the tip
of the caliper right on the tip of his nose. I'll guide you up and down.
I just want you to make sure you're centered side to side. And I'm gonna hold the other
leg right on the antitragul notch.
Okay down a little bit, right there, a little up.
Are you right in the middle?
And write AT because
one leg of the caliper is on the AT, to
The second measurement. Now we're gonna do that same thing again.
I'm going to loosen the calipers and
we're gonna do his brow. So right
you just find the middle and I'll guide you up or down.
Right about -
right about there.
So that'll be AT
We're gonna do the next
And the next one is gonna be right where his hair meets his forehead.
Again you wanna be right in the middle
as perfectly in the middle as you can be.
Okay. Just hold it for a second.
And I'm gonna write down AT to
Next we're gonna do the chin.
Right - a little bit higher - right there.
It's easier the closer you hold it. Meaning if your
hand is just a little bit closer, there you go, you have more control.
Just relax with that hand because I'm gonna turn that.
Down a little bit.
Right in the middle.
Now for a lot of people,
myself included, this part of the
process is boring,
not what I imagined
sculpting to be. AT
But that's it. I've done all of the measurements.
I'm gonna tilt this up so you can see.
So for a few of the measurements I've had
to add little arrows so that you can - or not so that you can -
so that I can figure out which line means what
I've got all of the measurements
from the antitragul notch to the chin
to the nose
to the brow and to the hairline.
The next thing I'm going to do
is using dividers I'm going to measure
between those structures, so meaning between
the chin and the nose, between the nose and the brow, and the brow
and the hairline. And that will complete all the measurements
that I have to do. I'm gonna clean a little bit of clay off.
So I don't get it on Paul.
And I don't need anyone to help me
with these because I can see both
points at once. So I'm gonna come in
and very carefully
measure the nose,
transfer that measurement to my board.
done these before and forgotten to write them
down and then you just have to do them all over again.
Again now I'm gonna do nose to brow.
And then finally I'll do brow
Okay. now I've done
all of the measurements that are going to be
triangulated. Now triangulation is a process
by which you are going to combine three
measurements into one perfectly accurate measurement.
So in other words that I've talked about meaning
the antitragul notch on either side of the head, the chin, the nose,
the brow, and the hairline, are going to be
measured in three different ways which give you the height,
the width, and the depth all at once.
In addition to the triangulated measurements, and I'll explain a little bit more about how that
works as I do them, I'm gonna take a few
untriangulated measurements. And those are just for me to get a rough
idea of how big, how wide, or how deep something is.
But not in a really, really precise way. It's just
you know a way to give myself a rough idea.
Right now I'm going to do the outer corners of his mouth, so one side
of the mouth to the other. I'll do
probably the width of his nose and the width of his eyes.
And then I'll take a rough measurement from the nose to the very back
of the head. So I'm gonna start
with the width of his mouth.
Raise your head up a little bit.
Next I'm going to do the width of his
Okay. This is the width of the nose.
Wow look at that. The width of the nose is almost exactly
the same as the distance from the brow to the hairline.
this one you always wanna be very careful
I'm gonna do the outside corner his eyes.
I'm also gonna get
the measurement of one eye.
You can close
Now I'm gonna do a measurement from the tip of his nose
to the furthest point back of his head. And particularly
for anyone with hair that I'm sculpting
I don't triangulate this measurement because, you know, his hair
is gonna grow. If it's styled differently that measurement
will change. It just gives me a rough indication of how big overall
the sculpture needs to be. I should always loosen
a little bit. And
I want it to the outer edge of the hair, not to
Tighten that. And obviously this is gonna be by far
the largest measurement.
So now that I have all the measurements written down on my board
I need to transfer them from life size
to the scale that I'm gonna be working which is three quarter life size. And
to do that I'm going to use a tool called a proportional
divider, which looks like this. It's got
the good versions of these proportional dividers have little
teeth in this groove here and
there's a little trolley that rides up and down
which determines what the proportional scale is.
If I open these you'll see that
at this end the measurement is much bigger
and at this end smaller. The further over
I move that center point, the smaller this end becomes
and the larger that end becomes. Right now they're set for
three quarters. And in order to set these you just take
a ruler and measure one inch
on the large end and you keep adjusting the small end
until this opening here
is the measurement that you're looking for. So for three quarters you would set this to
one inch and this to three quarter inch and then anything
then anything that you measure with this side you just
flip over the dividers and you'll have the reduced measurements.
So now I'm gonna turn back to the sculpture
and take each measurement with the large end
and then flip them onto
another line that I will set up
to get the reduced measurement. I'm gonna have to go and get a
roll of tape.
one by one
I'll transfer the measurements from one side to the other.
And I will label them
as I go nose width.
Brow to hairline.
And what I find interesting about doing it this way, I've seen people
who use this approach who keep
a sheet of paper with one measurement
per line. That's
brow to hairline.
In addition to taking up more
room, it doesn't allow you to
look at the measurements all in relationship to one another.
And what I find interesting after doing
many, many, many portraits is these become almost like
Now when you
look at them they show you the relationships of the
different features in a very kind of graphic way.
So I've done sculptures of like very, very,
very attractive people and they're
measurements tend to line up really, really tightly with one another.
And then most eccentric looking people may have a
much wider spread between some of these measurements.
So that's mouth, width,
that should be this one.
Nose to brow. Now
nose to chin.
Sometimes it can be
a challenge to get all of the writing that you need
to get into a very tight
space. So whatever I need to do
to make it clean to
myself what these lines represent.
I'll try and do
because it's very frustrating when you
can't remember what something
was referring to and even more frustrating when you
change a whole lot of things on your sculpture based on not
understanding what you meant by a particular note.
AT to brow.
A few left.
So AT to brow. AT to chin.
AT to chin
AT to nose.
I was just tightening up
So the nuts on this,
on the two sides, one is for changing
the proportion and one is just to
tighten the tension.
And unfortunately sometimes I
forget which is which. And when I just wanna tighten it
sometimes I end up changing the measurement
and then I have to
recalibrate everything. So
if I were smart I would probably label
But I haven't yet.
I have one
and then I'm done with the transfer. So nose
to back of head.
my measurements transferred, I can put away
the proportional dividers
and I can begin
placing these measurements into the clay.
To do that I like to use
finish nails, which you can get in any hardware store.
You may need to get very close to see what I'm talking
about here. But a finish nail
will have a little bit of
an indentation in it. And that way when you're measuring,
when you put the tip of your caliper there, it won't slide around, it sort of tends
to grab right in that little hole. And that's
one of the reasons I like using them. Traditionally this was done with
wooden matches. You can use anything
that's relatively small and
straight. So the first thing that I always do is take
a pair of calipers and get my
antitragul notch to antitragul notch, which I'm just going to call
the AT to the AT.
And that gives me what the widest measurement needs
to be. And you can see I'm pretty good,
I'm, you know, about a half inch under on
either side. And that's really what I'm looking for. I wanna
have, you know, a good amount of room on either side.
So I'm gonna begin by placing the first nail
into where I want the antitragul notch to be.
And so I want it to be roughly in the center of
Generally slightly in front of
If you can come out a little bit so you can see the pipe and the wire
you can see that I've placed
this a little bit in front of
the pipe. Maybe I'll just go slightly back
around here. And now I'm going to come around
just drawing a line.
And on the other side
I'm gonna do that same thing.
Gotta find where's a nail.
And I'm gonna push the nail
in. Every now and then you'll run into
the armature and you can just shift the angle of the nail
to avoid the armature. Now I'm going to take
my calipers, which are set to the antitragul notch measurement
and I'm going to adjust
the nails until they exactly match
the measurement. A little bit small
Come out just a tiny bit.
Before I do anything else, I'm gonna take a bit
of warm clay
anchor those points.
Because as you push them in and pull them out
it's very easy for them to
So here I'm really kinda of squeezing pretty hard
to make sure they're embedded.
And then I'm gonna recheck and make sure that
all that moving around didn't change them. And they're still pretty good.
So my next
nail is going to be for the tip of the
nose. So optically I'm going to
try to find think
the middle is going to be.
And for now
I'm just going to keep it in line with
the antitragul notch.
I'm just gonna pop it in for a second and show
how that can be adjusted. So if when I have my model
back from a break I realize that the
nose is too high relative to the antitragul notch
because of how this armature is created, all I really need to do
is tilt the entire armature and now you can
below the line. So the tip of the
is a little bit below. If I
tilt that back now it's a little bit above. So
once these measurements are put in, there's sort of a self
correcting system. You know obviously if he tilts his head
all the way down, his nose will be below his ears. if he looks at the ceiling
his nose will be above his ears. And so that can all be
accomplished just by bending the armature. You try and put the nails in
relatively close to their final position initially
but the measurements will correct any errors on your part.
In other words, if he's sitting and his nose is directly in line with
his antitragul notch, that's fine. If he's sitting in a way where it's slightly
below eventually you can just tilt the entire
sculpture to accommodate that. In fact the first thing
that I do everytime my model gets back from break is check the
relationship between the antitragul notch and the
tip of the nose on the model and then check it on my sculpture
and then I adjust the sculpture from there
to accomodate how the model is sitting now. If he's sort of
sitting down a little bit, he's looking down. I don't necessarily ask the
model to readjust every single time. I can just take this whole thing
change it slightly to match what I'm seeing in the angle and then continue
with my work. So now I've put the nail
in roughly where I think the center is and now
I'm going to get the measurement of the AT
to the tip of the nose.
Find that, get it into the calipers, and then
leg of the caliper right on
the AT I will turn this so you can
see I'm not - I'm a little bit off center.
Just very, very slightly.
So this needs
to come back over - actually
I don't honesty know if I'm off center of if I'm just too far in.
Now that's touching. But the real
proof will be from this side, which I can see I'm gonna be
way, way off. So I'll hold
it on here and you can
see it's no where near on this side. What that means
is that I've put the nail too far
over in this direction. it's too close
on this side, although it's very, very accurate
on this side. So what needs to
happen is I need to enlarge the distance on this side by pushing it
in that direction. That's, unfortunately, going to shorten
the distance here, which I don't want to do. So at the same time that I move it
over in this direction, I'm also gonna move it out, which will lengthen
this side and hopefully keep this side
almost exactly the same. because I'm sticking
that nail pretty far out and it's not gonna be
very stable, I'm just gonna add a little bit more
clay right here before I move the nail
to help me keep everything stable.
So I've moved the nail. Now one thing I need to mention is that
once you've established points like these,
never move them. Otherwise everything
becomes a big problem. So every
nail that you set, you try then to leave it where it is
and not move it again.
So now that side matches
and this side is actually too long. So I went a little bit too far.
So I'm gonna move this nail back
in this direction, which will lengthen this side and shorten this
side and at the same time I'm gonna move it in.
Which will shorten it from this side
and hopefully not change it from the other side. So now that
side is right.
And that side is maybe a millimeter off.
So I'm gonna do the same thing again over
this direction and in just a
Perfect on that side.
Still could come just a tiny bit more
over and in.
Good from that
side and good from that side.
So now I have three
points in but none of these points are
Meaning for these points
I only really have two measurements.
One measurement is from
this side to this side and from this
point to this point. And likewise for this I have
from one side to the other and from this side to this
side. For the nose I have from one ear to the nose, the other
ear to the nose. But I don't have anything height wise. So
the next measurement that I put in will begin the process
of triangulation. And this measurement is
always where it gets a little bit tricky because there are so many - you just saw
where I did the nose I had to keep adjusting it back
and forth to get it to match the two side. Now I have to get it to match
three different sides. And so I'm going to
show you how I get that to work. I think I'm gonna
start with the nose to the chin. And
at this point it doesn't really matter which one you do next. You can do nose
to chin, nose to brown, brow to hairline - actually you can't do brow to hairline because
you don't have the brow yet. So nose to chin or nose to brow.
Either one. I'm gonna start with the measurement
from the nose to the brow. But all that will tell me
is the relative distance here.
From here to here. It won't tell me anything about the
depth. So I'm just using
I'm gonna hold my
armature in space, make sure
I have the measurement really good.
And you can see that the
kind of chin shelf that I put in here is too
You know optically I'm going to
try and put that nail right under
the previous nail. And then
now that's the right length. But I'm not going to spend too much
time on that
because I need to get the depth
and depending on how far in or out it comes, that is
going to change the height.
So AT to chin.
So if I turn this
like that, just be able to see that
the nail is sticking out way too far.
There we go. So you can clearly see the nail needed to come
back. So I'm going to push the nail in.
Maybe even just
a half a millimeter further.
Okay so that's just about percent
on that side. I have a different pair of
dividers that still have the measurement of
the nose to the
chin. You can see it's just a tiny bit
you know maybe half a millimeter too low
so I'm just gonna adjust that upward.
And now I'm going to rotate
180 degrees and do
from the antitragul notch and now you can see
it's not in the center.
It needs to come out. So I need to make that adjustment.
I'm not long enough here but I'm perfect here.
So I need to get longer, which means pushing it
over in this direction and coming
out just a little bit.
Now just about
A little bit off there.
But I'm going to add a little clay to
because I can feel as I'm
moving it that it wants to
some minor adjustments.
It's too short there
and a little too short there. So hopefully just pulling that
out. Make that
correct and make
And now I'm gonna check the length
which is pretty good.
So now I have the chin,
the nose, the antitragul notches.
all triangulated. Meaning they're correct
side to side, they're correct depth wise, and they're correct height wise.
Now I only have two
triangulated measurements left to take. I'm gonna start
from the nose and go to the brow.
So AT to the brow.
Actually with the small dividers I'm gonna do
nose to brow.
So I'll get a rough measurement
Just pop up
a nail in.
Adjust it, I'm just gonna check it,
get from the front to see how it aligns
and again I'm not super worried about get -
when I put it into the clay, getting it aligned because the measurements will tell me
if I'm off. So now I've put it
in, now I need to get the depth.
AT to brow and I'll use
a different pair of dividers. If you only have one pair of calipers or
dividers you can just keep changing them but since I do have
I'm going keep one set to the
AT to brow and the other side
to the nose to brow so I don't have to keep resetting them.
So that's perfect from that side.
Perfect from that side. And let's check
from here to here. Perfect so
only one point left to do. Same process.
I'm going to find the brow to the hairline.
Get a nail.
Line it up.
Pop that in
and I'm kind of - I'm getting stuck because I've hit
the armature in there. So I'm just gonna change the angle that I've put the nail in
at because I don't care really about the shaft of the nail.
Okay double check
that distance, a little bit low so I'll push it up.
And now I'm going to get the
AT to the hairline.
So you can see it's out too far.
Push it in a little bit further.
That's good. Now I'll
check from the other side.
And that's just a little bit
off so first thing I'm gonna do
is add a little bit of clay there
to stabilize it then move it over
and out just a hair.
Check it again, still
under. Out just a little bit.
Check the other side.
Perfect. And now, finally, I'm going to check
the length between them. And that's
The one additional measurement that I'm going to put in
which is going to be a, you know, less precise than
the ones I just did is the length from the tip of the nose
to the back of the head. it's gonna be a big measurement
but it'll give me an
indication of how much clay I need to pack onto this
before I can really get going. So here is that
measurement. Turn that to the profile so you can see it.
And from the tip of the nose you can see I have quite a bit.
Maybe I can do this in a way that's
better. Easier to see.
I've gotta add that much
clay to the back. So that's kind of helpful to know at
this stage, that I need that much more. So I'm just gonna lay
on some clay.
And once I've got that volume
added, now the clay is nice and warm and soft.
So as I add that
clay, I can just kinda keep checking.
Now when I'm at this stage in the process
I try to keep everything
relatively narrow, meaning from
the two profiles
I wanna see the entire width, but from the front
and the back
I want it to stay very narrow
until I'm really, really confident that everything is in the right
location and the right projection
and the right shape and at that point I'll add
the width and the volume. But the narrower I can
keep it now, the easier it'll be for me to
change the drawing of the profile as I
begin my work with the model. So again I'm gonna recheck.
I'm pretty close.
I'm just gonna add a tiny, tiny bit more going down here
and then I'll have the
model come back and
begin to lay in
So here I've got all of my measurements
taken. I know the nose will end here, the chin will end here,
the brow will end here, the hair will begin here and come up,
the head won't project much more than, you know, a tiny bit
further here. And then as I build
my profile, I'll come down the pit of his neck
and his shoulder. So here you can see
measurements in life size
that I've written down. Everything begins at that point, so one leg
of your caliper or divider will always go on that point
and then all of the other measurements
are labeled. So here is the
width of the eyes, one eye to another, the nose to the chin,
etc. Above I have all of the
measurements at three quarters scale. And as I was mentioning
just sort of that layout is really indicative
to me of not that I could look at this and
image what somebody would look like but it does tell me quite a bit about what the
model looks like when these measurements are all
very similar, for example AT to the
chin to the tip of the nose to the brow and to the hairline, you
get a sense that somebody gets a very kind of classic look, very
chiseled or model like because the nose, the
chin, the brow, all follow this arc where they're almost equidistant
from the antitragul notch.
Likewise, these smaller measurements
here, when those all line up and there's
the same distance between nose and the chin, the nose and the brow, the brow
and the hairline, you also get a very kind of classical
attractive model with those kinds of measurement.
When one measurement is raised further out on that
line it's telling you that that distance
is bigger. So somebody that has a very long nose might have
very similar distances with some of the measurements
one that come way out. Paul
actually has a fairly short forehead and so the forehead
measurement, meaning the measurement of the antitragul notch
to the brow - to the hairline - is usually the
biggest measurement. On Paul it's the second biggest and that tells me
that he doesn't have a very, you know, long distance between
his brow and his hairline. So I think it's interesting how
these sort of almost like
graphic layout of these measurements tell you something about the
model. And if you know how to read them which, you know, comes after
doing portraits, you begin to see the layout and if you look at the way
the portrait is laid out right now, if you look at the
nails, you can see some
interesting intervals. A very short distance of the hairline
to the brow, a fairly long distance from the brow to the
nose, and another fairly long distance from the nose to
the chin. That gives you the sense that he's fairly long in his lower
head and really compact on top.
Also see a certain amount of information about the projection from the front of his
ear to the chin. So I think it's an interesting aspect to the
process that, you know, something that abstract will show you something, you know
that representational. Okay so this
really concludes the really annoying
detailed set up
where it feels more like an engineering project than
a sculpture project. But one of the big benefits of doing this is you get
all of this stuff out of the way at the beginning. From this point on
I'm going to be relying very heavily on my eye
and my sense and using
these measurements that I've taken only if I run into a problem.
If I'm not sure if something is starting not to look quite right
then I can always go back and check and see if one of these measurements moved
if I mismeasured it in the initial
set up that will help me figure out if I run into any
problems. But from this point forward I'll be using these measurements but
really much more relying on my eye.