- Lesson details
In this lesson, world-renowned sculptor and concept artist Jordu Schell demonstrates his process of sculpting a human head entirely from imagination. In his clear-cut, approachable teaching style, Jordu will share with you every step of his process from applying the first layers of clay to the armature, to blocking in major forms, to adding finer details to achieve a greater sense of character in your sculpture. Jordu offers expert advise that both beginners and advanced sculptors will find useful, from what materials to use to his thought process behind finding a character.
- 1 1/2″ Thick Plywood Board
- Duct Tape
- Lazy Susan or Modeling Stand
- Laguna Clay’s WED Clay EM-217
- Wire Clay Slicer
- Modeling Palette/Kidney Rake
- Serrated Round Loop Tool
- Large Double Serrated Wire End Modeling Tool
- Small Double Serrated Wire End Modeling Tool
- Small Single Ended Loop Tool
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Now, this is considered one of the more difficult things to master, and I’m here to help you
get better faster. The bottom line is large forms are what counts. Detail doesn’t mean
anything until your form is exactly right. We’re going to go through some of the tools
I use, the kind of clay, the kind of armature, and ultimately finishing and creating a relatively
realistic human head.
The main focus of this lesson is going to be on creating the big and broad shapes of
the human head, also, creating a sense of character in your sculpture. Although we’re
not going to take it to a complete and total finish with fine detail, you’re going to
be able to see what is a fully finished human head character. All the forms are there. It
looks convincing. It looks like someone you might know. Hopefully, it will help you guys
to improve faster at sculpting the human head. So, let’s get started.
is very simple. This is just about an inch and a half of wood, and I have attached a flange
to it with screws, and then a pipe sticking out of it. Then I took newspaper and I wrapped
it around the very top of the pipe, and then used duct tape to secure it. It’s a very
simple, kind of dirty armature, but it works just fine for what we want to do. I’ve also
got a lazy Susan here so I can look at the sculpture from all angles as I work, which
I think is very, very important. You want to be able to see your sculpture from all
angles and be able to rotate it very, very easily.
We’re going to start off by using water clay. We’re going to start off by taking
slabs of it and slapping it on there.
The kind of clay that I’m using is called WED Clay,
and it stands for Walter Elias Disney
because it was developed by the Disney Company
to sculpt theme park attraction figures.
I’m going to just—I use a little wire slicing
tool to cut the clay off in even little slabs.
I’m going to lay it on there...
in even amounts.
So, my feeling with sculpture is to just kind of attack. I’m not one of those people that
spends a lot of time just putting on little balls of clay. I like to just go into it,
and then just kind of make the form happen with my hands.
What we’re after here, of course, is the basic human head form, but first I’m just
laying in some clay just to get bulk, just to get mass going.
At some point, of course, you’re going to have to figure out where your front and where your back is.
So, let's just say that this is the front, and this is where the back is, so facing this way.
One of the hardest things about sculpture for a lot of beginners is to remember to keep
building volume. Volume is something you’re going to hear me say again and again.
Because I see a lot of sculptors kind of—beginning sculptors—not being concerned with every
angle of the sculpture. They don’t rotate it enough, and they just kind of concentrate
on this plane, and it tends to make the sculpture look flat. What you want to do is concentrate
on creating a feeling of volume. A “feelium”. That’s a new word: feeling volume, feelium.
What do you think about that? Okay.
Okay, so a lot of people often ask me if I sculpt a skull first to kind of get
the general feeling of a human head. I don’t really do that, but I do something sort of like that.
I establish all the most bold features in a kind of skull-like way. You’ll be able
to see that as I go. One of the first and most important things to establish is how
far out the face is going to come. So I start off by building out the jaw a little bit.
Okay, so if you look at the profile, you can already see the very vague,
most basic beginnings of a skull shape.
Okay, just the most basic, primitive beginnings of that form.
Now I'm going to basically be able to finish this sculpture with just my bare hands. What I
mean by that is you will be able to recognize immediately what it is just from what I do
with my hands. I won’t need to use any tools other than, of course, this tool to get the
clay off the block. That’s an important distinction to make because the point of sculpture
is the major and secondary forms or the primary and secondary forms. Once you start getting
into detail and using tools and getting into the minutia of the sculpture, it better already
have excellent form. You should concentrate on those big shapes first, the big picture.
You should be able to see what it is from across the room because once you start using
tools you’re getting into detail, and you’re getting into refinement.
To me, the most important part of the sculpture is the foundational aspects of it, which are
the big shapes, not all the fine little details and going in with a tool to make sure the
eyelid is clean and all that junk. What you want to concentrate on is the big picture.
Okay? All right.
Of course, you should know certain little mnemonic devices about the human head. You
know, the eyes come roughly halfway down the head. The eyes are one eye apart; you know,
one, two, three. The mouth comes to the center of each eye. The top of the ear is at the
eyebrow, and the bottom of the ear is at the nose as you look head-on at a person.
I don't know if I’m quite at the right angle, but you get the idea.
See how it’s not quite a skull, but it’s skull-like, you know? We’re getting the
very beginnings of a general skull feeling here.
Now here is another kind of subtle pneumonic
device, or something to remember: The zygomatic process, which is the bone that runs along
the side of the head here that’s basically the continuation of the cheekbone all the
way to the ear. First of all, the forehead is so much rounder than people think. People
always sculpt it very flat. Actually, if you look at my head, see how round that is? It’s
almost like a sphere. I know what you’re thinking: Jordu, you’re a sphere in general;
you’re fat. That’s a cruel thing to say, and it hurts my feelings, but I’m going
to continue with the lesson. Look at that. Look how round that is. That’s something
that’s very, very important to remember when you’re sculpting. This is an extremely
round shape, and the curve ends—bam, right
there at the zygomatic process.
Once you get the basics of the human head down, and once you really understand the general
shapes that get you there, it becomes so much fun to sculpt a human head. I do this completely
out of my imagination because I like to make faces up. I don’t want to slavishly copy
a model or a photograph or do a celebrity. I mean I’ve done that, and that is fun.
It presents its own challenges to get a likeness just right. But I really, really do enjoy
just coming up with faces out of my imagination based on all the millions of faces I’ve seen.
We’ve all seen probably millions of faces in our lifetime.
Okay, so you can really start to see the beginnings of the face coming in there.
Now, this isn’t necessarily—you know, we’re starting, like I said, very skeletally.
This is only kind of a hint of what we’re going to end up with, but it’s just the
very, very beginning of the head here.
Big shapes, big clay. Got it? Okay.
I know I have a bad habit of putting my hand here, which blocks your view completely of the sculpture.
That’s so I can keep just a few secrets for myself…
because I don’t really want to teach you how to do this. You know why? You’ll become a threat.
And if you become a threat, I’ll lose my job.
I’m just kidding. It’s just a bad habit. So I’m going to try to be conscientious about doing that.
I know I do it a lot. I don’t know why. See? Automatically I go there. I don’t know.
You’re going to catch me doing that a lot.
Feel free to yell at your television, and I will be able to hear you through time and space.
Those are the kind of cameras we’re using here at the New Masters Academy. They’re time and space cameras.
So if you yell at something that’s already previously recorded—or at your computer screen rather—
I will actually be able to hear you in the past. Keep that in mind, kids. Very high tech stuff.
Again, I just want to stress rotating the sculpture constantly is going to help you a lot.
Let’s get a little more weight here on the side of the face to start reducing the skeletal aspect of it.
There is more than you think.
Now, I kind of start creating anatomical landmarks.
I’m just sort of hinting at the beginning of the trapezius muscles here,
which are these muscles on the sides of the neck.
Okay, once again you’ll see that I’m using very large amounts of clay to get what I want.
Now, the skull tends to kind of flatten out right in here, so we’re going to take off some clay right there.
There is a bit of a flat area right back there.
The skull also tends to swell out just a little bit towards the back, so let’s get a little extra clay in here.
Add a little more to the forehead. It feels like it slopes back a little too much right now.
Let’s build the mouth out just a little more.
Just a little more meat under the lip here.
Let’s get a little weight under the chin.
That is because I’m starting to get the idea for a character in my head that I would
like to sculpt now that I’ve got the basics down. This is kind of the searching part of
the sculpture. This is going to be the part of the sculpture where you start actually
feeling frustrated traditionally. You’ve got your basics down, and yet you kind of
feel a little aimless, and you’re struggling to try different things out just to see where
you end up. So this is that period, so bear with me.
More importantly, bear with yourself during this period. Because while it may be frustrating,
one interesting thing I’ve realized is that when you think that something is wrong, when
you know that something is not right in your sculpture, and it just isn’t capturing the
feeling or it doesn’t seem effective, or something anatomically seems off or something
is missing. You see it and you realize it, and you’re wondering what it is and you’re
pissed off that you can’t figure out what it is. That’s actually a great moment.
It's not a great moment when you can just sculpt it and it looks perfect, or you think it looks
perfect, and you are done with it. That means you’re not learning anything. You’re learning
when you actually feel frustrated, when you feel like there is something not right. That’s
when you’re actually at your best, because you want to push to a different level.
Let’s lower the mouth area a little bit.
Something I’m going to do that is something I actually do fairly often is I’m
going to cut away a section, and I’m going to cut a little bit off of the face,
and I’m going to take that section and sink it back, so that what I get is sort of a weaker looking chin.
There is kind of like a weird V here in the forehead. Obviously, it’s pretty subtle in women.
Watching your symmetry is important. A good trick when you’re trying
to get something symmetrical is to look at your sculpture in the mirror. That can be
very, very helpful. It feels like it just isn’t symmetrical, but you don’t quite
know what’s wrong with it.
You’ll notice as I’m getting down to it, I’m using smaller and smaller amounts
of clay. That is as I start to establish what I call the secondary forms. These are the
forms that are really going to bring it to life.
feel like I’ve nailed the character at all yet, you can already feel a human being in
there. Obviously, that’s what it is. You can see that from across the room, like I
said. At this stage I would say it’s permissible to start using tools.
Here are some of the tools that I like to use. The first one we’re going to use is
a kidney rake. A kidney rake basically has, it’s a flexible aluminum shape in the shape
of a kidney, and it’s got fine little teeth along here. What this allows me to do is to
start kind of controlling the clay nice and quickly.
It will also help me to see asymmetry quickly and easily.
See what this does? It just really helps to start getting all that form under control.
It does it really quickly too.
Let’s add some age to him by giving him more of a kind of waddle here.
Let’s really give that nose some character. Let’s exaggerate
at least one of these shapes, one feature of his face to be specific and very, very individual.
The next tool that I use to start refining is a fairly large loop rake. If you look closely
you can see that there are fine little teeth in there. And this great, once again,
for getting more specific with form.
If you see a major divot or dent in your sculpture, fill it in.
Again, by rotating the sculpture often you can really see all the little things that
just don’t seem quite right and remedy them.
Narrowing the head just a little bit. Slapping it around.
I’m feeling like even though I like the profile of the nose, head-on it’s looking
a little bit extreme. So, it’s time to go to what I call I wire wrap rake. Now, a wire
wrap rake has one thick piece of wire coming out the stem here, and it has fine wire wrapped
around it. On the other side you see it coming out of the ferule in a different shape.
Both sides are equally effective for different things.
Let’s start getting that nose into some kind of more specific shape.
This tool is going to help with a lot of different things.
This tool is really going to help us to dial in the character.
so we’ll just some sense of their placement.
Let’s take away this lower lip.
I like that much more already, so let’s re-add the lower lip but in a more subtle way.
Just a really, really tiny little thing like that so what
we get is a somewhat more aged character, but I think someone with more character, which is the point.
Now I’m going to use just a simple loop tool.
It’s got a simple loop at one end and a sort of squared-off shape at the other.
We’ll start getting the eyes drawn in here.
Putting in the lids here.
Okay, this eye looks better than that one. Let’s figure out why.
You can also use this tool to start defining and refining other areas.
Now there can be a tendency when creating these kind of features to be a little heavy-handed,
and I have that problem myself. I would say, though, that it is better to be heavy-handed and then learn how
to pull back then to try to be subtle and just not pull out a character.
I’d rather see somebody do something a little too extreme at first and then be able to kind of whittle it
back into a believable look than the other way around.
Let’s try and get a little more here. I just want to see a little more of this waddle sticking out here.
Now, you’ll notice something else I’m doing.
I’ll kind of carve in the line where the anatomy needs to go and then carve into it
so that I can create the separations of anatomical form there.
We want every aspect of the sculpture at this point to feel like it fits the character’s face.
So, he’s obviously an older guy.
He's obviously kind of frail, so we want to keep those attributes in every aspect of the sculpture.
Even at this stage you can see where all that anatomy that I started with at the very beginning
is still kind of there. Now, ears. Ears are very slightly angled backwards. They’re
not as up and down as people think. Look at mine. See how it kind tends to turn just a
bit. It’s not up and down, so we want to give that a bit of a turn.
Actually, let’s take it off first. Let’s create a bit of a trench here. We’re going to start by putting
a little crescent in back, which is going to be the back of the ear. Let’s do this for both ears.
Small little crescent shape there.
Now we can add the main kind of weird
little peanut shape we’re going to establish for the ears.
As we grow older, our noses and our ears continue to grow, so I think it’s good to make the
ears a little larger and the nose a little larger on these kinds of figures.
Now, last but not least, I like using a very fine tool. You can see that it’s got a very
fine loop at one end and a fine little wooden sharpened end at the other.
It’s good for getting into very small little spots.
Thenyou can use this loop tool again. What I do—here’s
something that’s helpful that I do all the time. I carve in the anatomy of the ear,
just almost like a drawing of it.
I’m going to start with that. Then I just go in and carve it away.
You can add some fun little form in like this. It really helps to sell believability.
You can kind of mush the ear around to kind of get a more interesting look to
it if you want. You know, make it look a little more, a little unusual or something if you want.
and then just take the loop rake and just drag it over the whole thing.
Not rake, just the standard loop tool. Blend off the end a little bit.
You just kind of dig into there a little bit.
Drag over again.
Start getting some nice wrinkle stuff going on like that.
Sometimes I’ll use the corner of the square side to create some more deep folds and then go back over
with the loopy side, the round side, and blend them down softly. You get just a hint of some form in there.
You can also kind of dig away like this.
Just create some real subtle little shapes.
When I carve wrinkles you’ll notice I don’t just do a smooth line. I tend to kind of wiggle the tool as I do it.
Watch closely. Just minutely in kind of a random way.
You’ll also notice that the wrinkles are closer together at the point of origin,
and then they widen out as they move across the head.
We even use this larger tool to blend down these wrinkles.
So they’re still there, but they’re really softened.
There is a subtler feeling going on there.
Now, looking at it from behind, it looks like my ears are a little asymmetrical,
so I’m trying to figure that out.
That’s a little better there.
You’ll notice I jump around a lot. It’s not just because I’m undisciplined.
You don’t need to necessarily do that. And it’s true you don’t need to stay in one place either.
You can move all around however you want to do it.
Little by little I’m seeing areas where I can bring out more character, little things I can do to get more
of a sense of specificity and individuality to the sculpture. I think that’s important.
I’m adding these little balls of clay that will kind of hint at some sort of texture to the skin.
Just adding a little tooth back there just to maybe give him just a little more character.
It’s amazing how much that changed the character by lifting the lip just a little bit.
Then, for a final little element to give it even more character,
let’s give our guy a little bit of a mustache here.
Probably make him look a little classier.
Okay, little bit of a mustache. Of course, it probably wouldn’t hurt to give him some brows here.
Adding just a few kind of stray brows helps to give just a little more believability,
and it really makes it feels like there is age because eyebrows, like mine, go crazy when you get older.
Didn’t see that coming.
Now, obviously, we could take this much further. We could take it all the way down to fine pores and texture,
but for this particular video I want to show you the foundations of head sculpture, and that is hopefully
what I’ve shown you. I know that there is a long learning curve there. You’re not going to be able to do this if you
haven’t ever sculpted before right away, but I think the key is to be patient for yourself.
Be happy when you notice that things aren’t right because that means you are learning.
Pay attention to overall form then secondary form then, if you wish, detail.
I would rather see though of number of rough sculptures that all felt anatomically accurate
than an incredibly detailed sculpture where the form isn’t right. I really suggest doing a number of rough
sculptures rather than trying to refine one and make one that looks totally real. Work on making a number
of sculptures. Keep moving forward if you’re a beginner. And do your very best. Do your very best.
Pay attention to the people around you. Look at ears. Look at noses. Look at eyes. Look at eyebrows.
Hairstyles, chins, necks, everything. I mean, obviously don’t be weird about it in the supermarket,
but make sure that you observe and that you learn from your observations. That’s how I learned.
I never went to art school. I never took an art class. I really just learned by observing, looking at other artist’s
work, comparing mine to it. As you keep working and keep working and you keep doing and you keep doing it,
you’ll eventually get better and better, and you will see a marked improvement.
So, that’s our lesson for today. I hope you got a lot out of it. We went over the basics of overall form
and primary form, secondary form, and some fine detailing.
I hope that you enjoyed the lesson. We’ll be back again soon, and I hope to see you then.
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15m 14s2. Overview of armature and building up the skull
16m 15s3. Blocking in primary forms and neck muscles
13m 51s4. Finding the character; aging forms of the face
13m 43s5. Using sculpting tools to further define forms
17m 14s6. Adjusting the lips, adding the eyes, detailing the chin and neck
16m 50s7. Adding and detailing the ears
26m 3s8. Finishing the ears, adding eyebrows and a mustache, and final thoughts