- Lesson details
In this demonstration, world-class sculptor and concept artist Jordu Schell will use water-based clay to create a monster head entirely from imagination. Jordu focuses this lesson on the importance of building form in your sculptures and using your hands as your main tool. Jordu will share his thoughts on sculpting from imagination throughout, as well as give advice on how to achieve a well-structured sculpture prior to adding details.
- 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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something kind of creepy.
But, more importantly, I’m going to cover
specifically creating form and the importance
of creating form in sculpture so that you don’t get bogged down with details and using tools.
I’m going to pretty much only use my hands in this lesson so that you can see how important
it is to establish the overall form and not start into detail too soon.
Let’s get started.
I’m not sure what’ll it’ll be but I’m going to find out.
I’m going to be using WED clay again. WED stands for Walter Elias Disney
because it was developed by the Disney Corporation to sculpt theme park attraction figures, so WED.
Ready? Let’s go.
As you can see, I’ve got a simple armature again. Actually, the same one I had last time
with a pipe and a phalange, and it’s coming out of a board. I’ve got some rags here taped up here
with a bunch of duct tape. I’m going to start sculpting with the WED clay right now.
As you can see, I start off once again by just throwing clay on the form.
Right now, I’m just establishing. I’m just going to establish a general head shape, for starters.
Okay, so you can see that I’m building up the cranium gradually as we go.
I’m already thinking about symmetry as I’m doing this so I want to get a symmetrical form.
You’ll see me going around adding little bits of clay here and there just to ensure
that my forms are relatively symmetrical.
One of the little tricks I’ve learned is that when you’re sculpting ahead is you want to be symmetrical,
it helps to have a mirror nearby.
You can rotate it and look at it in the mirror and see how your symmetry is looking.
I’m using more of my clay than I thought I would, which is probably a good thing.
I’ll have a nice, substantial looking character here.
And you’ll see that I keep rotating the piece.
I keep using my turntable so that I can look at the piece from all angles.
It’s very important, of course, as you're sculpting because you’re creating a three-dimensional product,
and you don’t want any angle to go neglected.
So you can see that a skull shape is forming just a bit. Hopefully you can see that
I’m going to whip out my trusty glasses here because I am getting old. Much better.
Because this is a water clay, I’m going to set these aside and let them dry out just a little bit
as I continue working on the piece here.
See how I’m able to get the character by using no tools other than my hands.
That’s something, again, I want to encourage you all to do as you sculpt.
Once you start using tools you start getting a little nitpicky.
It’d be like using a small, tiny little paintbrush to start painting a wall-sized mural,
and you want to focus on the big picture first.
The big picture here is your overall forms.
I want to make sure our eyes are put in symmetrically, as nicely as possible.
Just playing around with the lips just to see what would be the most effective expression.
See, we still haven’t used any tools, and we’re establishing the character completely just with our hands.
And this is, again, what I want to encourage you to do.
Tools are tools, not a crutch. They’re not going to make the sculpture better.
The only thing that will make the sculpture good is what you can do with your own hands.
Tools are just for refining the piece.
Let’s bring the nose down just a little bit.
You’ll notice something that I kind of do a lot in my sculpture is I make a form and then stick it on.
It seems to be something peculiar to how I work.
I don’t see a lot of other artists doing that, but that’s just how I’ve always done it.
You’re going to see how hair changes the feeling of the character so much.
And more than just hair, I’m going to give the sculpture a sense of movement just with the movement.
Doesn't that sound kind of funny?
I'm going to give the sculpture just a little bit of a sense of movement
by implying that the hair is blowing, moving, you know, in the wind.
Okay, and when I rough in hair I do it very loosely. There is no need to refine it to a crazy level.
You also want to, once again, look at the profile.
See how much more interesting the character becomes when you add a little bit of hair.
It’s not as generic. Now it seems like something more specific.
It is remarkable what hair can do for a piece.
This is something that I consider when sculpting some of the high-end masks that I make.
I think, well, how could hair affect this? Could hair add something tremendous to it?
If the answer is yes, then I’ll pay to have the hair work done.
It’s not cheap, but as you can see it’s really worth it.
As you can see, just roughing in hair makes a really big difference on a sculpture.
It just transforms it totally into something very different and I think more interesting.
Now I’m going to use a tool only to give the eyes some drama by carving in the pupil.
See how much more terrifying that becomes?
It looks like I made that one a little cockeyed. Let’s go back and try that one again.
See how spooky that is? Now, look how much a character would change if I put the eyelids there.
But, keeping them wide open keeps it really scary and shocking.
Now, I could go and detail this ad infinitum, smooth it down, detailing the ears of course.
Get all the fine little wrinkles, do all kinds of muscle structure and refine the hair
to make it look really classical and beautiful.
But, this is the part of sculpture that is most important to learn. This, right here.
This is the part that students I see have the most trouble with.
They want to rush into detail, and they want to rush into finishing before they’ve really gotten the character down.
Getting those overall forms, you know, you hear this from every single sculpture instructor—
you’re going to hear it from me as well—
because it’s the number one thing that I see is a problem in beginning work.
Not taking the time to establish that character first.
You might be thinking, what you mean taking time, Jordu? It took you an hour, hour and a half to do that.
Well, that’s probably because I’ve been doing it for 45 years.
But, as beginning sculptors, take as long as you need to take. If it takes you an hour, great.
As long as the form looks terrific and you can read it from across the room and it looks powerful and effective
with lots of shadow. If it takes you a week. If it takes you six months. If it takes you a year
to get form looking just right, do it because that is the essence of sculpture—form. Bold form.
You know, when I was starting out as a teenager making masks to sell, the forms on all my stuff were overdone.
Big, bulgy cheekbones; big, heavy brows; jutting jaws, and very stylized, distinct skull structure.
But, I was headed down the right road because at least my forms were bold and not flat.
Again, in beginning sculpture I see the tendency to sculpt things, and they’re very flat.
People often want to do—to create form they’ll pinch things with their fingers
to kind of create ridges and things like that. And that’s not really right.
You want to build sculpture up with lumps of clay like you saw me doing.
Large pieces of clay, not pinching things delicately and carving. Everything should be very bold and very full.
You want to really create a sense of volume, proud shapes, round shapes.
The most important thing I can impart to you, if you are a beginner or someone who just wants to sharpen
their skills or get better, is getting that form to look right is the struggle. The detail is very easy.
When you see something and you’re impressed by all the little forms and textures—or rather, all the little texture
and pockmarks and pores and fine little wrinkles, that’s nice, but it’s really not what sculpture is.
Sculpture is the big shape. Getting anatomy to look right. Getting your form to look right.
Making something that feels like a character that’s viable.
You don’t see tiny little pores and that sort of thing all over Michelangelo’s work or Bernini’s work
or Rodan’s work. Rodan’s work, for instance, you could see thumbprints in smears of clay.
It wasn’t detailed but it didn’t need to be because the character was already established.
Okay, so I hope you got something out of this lesson for today. Have fun and keep being creative.
I’m Jordu Schell. See you later.