- Lesson details
Experience the entire workflow of Hollywood creature designer Jordu Schell as he makes a monster maquette from imagination. In this lesson, you’ll learn all the materials and supplies needed to build an armature, basic clay application techniques, the importance of choosing a pose, and tips for sculpting hands, head, and tail. Jordu emphasizes the need to integrate each part of your maquette into the whole. For instance, a tail cannot simply be patched onto your maquette– it needs to match the balance of the creature’s pose, have it’s own underlying anatomy, and have structural assimilation into the creature’s back.
- Round Wooden Base
- 3/8″, 1/8″ and 1/16″ Aluminum Armature Wire
- Sharpie Marker
- Electric Drill
- Paper Towels
- Loctite Epoxy One Minute Instant Mix
- Oatley Epoxy Putty
- Lazy Susan
- Chavant NSP Medium Clay
- Small Wood Sculpting Tools
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a monster maquette from imagination.
You’ll learn all the materials and supplies needed to build an armature out of wire, basic
clay applications techniques, the importance of choosing a pose, and tips for sculpting
the head, hands, and tail.
I think it’s very important to integrate every part that you add.
You even want things like the tail to feel muscular with anatomy and weight to it.
One of the great things about sculpting the head separately is that this gives you the
opportunity to kind of play with the pose of the head.
So I have a wooden base that I got from Michael’s craft store.
This one has been used a bit, but it’ll certainly do the job.
For right now, let’s start with just making the armature.
I have three different sizes of armature wire here.
I have 3/8 inch, 1/8 inch and 1/16 inch armature wire.
Each have their uses.
Primarily, though, for this I’ll probably be using the 3/8 inch and the 1/16 inch.
The first thing that I want to do is—it comes in a big spool like this.
I’m going to spool some out here.
Quite a bit.
I’m going to show you how to make a humanoid armature very, very quickly and easily.
I’m going to take this loop of armature wire.
Also, you want some handy wire cutters and needlenose grips there.
I create one long loop like this.
I’m going to cut it even right here.
Now I’m going to grip the piece of wire about a third of the way up, maybe a little,
about a third of the way.
I’m going to grip it real tight.
I’m going to twist it right in the center.
You can make it a little easier for yourself by bending it here and using it as a handle
You want to twist it nice and tight like that.
Then you’re going to cut it at the other end, at the loop and BAM, basic humanoid armature.
Very simple and easy.
Very, very, very simple and easy.
Let’s smash him down a little bit, flatten him out.
Now, the first thing we want to do is make some width for the shoulders.
We got some width for the shoulders now.
We’re going to make a little room for the width in the hips.
Now, depending on the kind of character I want to make, maybe I’ll make the hips really,
really narrow and small.
I’m going to do something a little unusual here.
I think I’m going to cut the legs very, very short and leave the upper arms longer.
It’ll be a character with some interesting proportions, as you can see.
I’m going to cut the arms about here.
I know you’re thinking, wow, that’s a lot of waste, Jordu, but so what.
You’re a sculptor.
You make millions of dollars every day just sitting there sculpting.
So, what are you worried about?
Waste a little armature wire here, throw away some gold doubloons there, trash an expensive
hotel room, throw the Hope Diamond into the see—ooh.
Why did everyone get so mad about that?
Okay, it’s a movie.
She didn’t really throw a diamond in the ocean.
Let’s move all this detritus aside, and we’ve got an armature with some interesting
But, I think it’s going to be cool.
I sure hope so because if I blew it, you guys are going to get to see it on this video,
and I’ll be recorded for all time and posterity.
What I want to do next is wrap the 1/6 inch armature around the limbs.
Look at that.
You’re wondering why I’m doing this?
The reason I’m wrapping this wire around here is to help the clay to grab onto the
Otherwise, it might slide around on the armature.
This will help it to grab on.
And again, around here.
And there you have it.
There is the basic armature.
Now, one thing I do like to do sometimes to strengthen it is to put some pro-poxy in the
middle of the armature, but this one seems pretty sturdy.
However, we are going to use the pro-poxy, which is basically a puddy, a poxy puddy that
sets up in 15-20 minutes.
It says 20 minutes.
To attach some other shapes and forms.
But first, before I do that, I’m going to pose my figure.
Now, posing the figure is something that I think is extremely important and is often
overlooked a lot in the creation of maquettes.
This is a sculpture unto itself.
This is more than just a means to an end to sell a project.
You should think of it as a little jewel sculpture.
Therefore, I think you should take your time in deciding upon the pose and the attitude
because it’s going to make a huge difference in the impact of your final piece.
So, when I’m posing stuff, I’d like to think of either a very dynamic pose or something
that is at rest but still feels very alive, like it has kinetic energy to it.
The first thing I’m going to do is bend these so that we’ve got these sort of little
trilateral legs like a little goat.
Then I’m going to bend it here in the arms, make sure everything is as symmetrical as
I can get it.
I’m going to bend the forearms just a little bent inward.
You can just see a very slight inward bend there.
You’ll also notice that I try to keep all the points very, very straight.
You don’t want to bend it so you’ve got this kind of spaghetti-arm bend.
When you’re bending an arm, you don’t want to go like this.
It should look like this.
Everything should be as straight as possible.
Now that I’ve got my character bend in the right anatomical spots, let’s get into the
We can rotate the shoulders maybe a little bit.
So, it’s a fairly simple pose, but once we get the clay on we can really start establishing
the dynamism of it.
When you think about it, you want the armature to be its own little sculpture, but it’s
the clay that going to ultimately give it true life.
The good news is you can sort of start to see a little bit of character right in the
Alright, so once I’ve got my armature pose figure out, and I like to put it on the wood
and see where it sits, and then I’m going to mark where the feet land.
You can see the marks there.
Before I get going, now that I think about it, as I’m working, a lot of this process
It’s not cut and dry.
Things are going to occur to me along the way that I want to pass on to you.
I think I might want to make the legs a little bit stronger because it’s probably going
to supporting quite a bit of clay.
I’m going to take another length of this very kind of armature wire, the very kind
I used, which is the 3/8 inch, and I think I’m going to start by straightening these
See, you have to go back and do stuff if you don’t plan.
You’ve got to plan.
But, this is an on-the-fly type of demonstration.
It’s not for a specific thing.
It’s just out of my imagination.
Things happen, kids.
That looks awkward and stupid, but it won’t in the long run.
Not another length of wire that I can put into place here.
I think what I am going to have to do, though, is remove the 1/16 inch armature wire that
I put on because I’m going to use that ultimately to wrap the new layer of wire onto it.
Oh wow, it’s all falling apart.
I didn’t know the wire was so cheap.
Alright, put that crap aside.
Put the new crap on there like this.
I think what I’m going to do is I’m going to wrap it with wire first.
I’m probably going to use some pro-poxy to lock it off at the hips for good.
That binds it together.
Now, even though this is a bit of a drag to have to go back and do this and fix it and
blah, blah, blah, it’s going to really be worth it in the long run because we’ll have
a much stronger armature.
That, my friends, is priceless.
If you’ve ever had a sculpture that keeps falling over, you know the pain.
Alright, so I’m going to cut this here.
More detritus for the garbage bin.
And now I’ve got to re-pose this.
This will make for some thicker legs, but it’ll be worth it.
Good thing we didn’t drill the holes already.
We might need to re-do that.
Take your time with posing.
It really does make a difference.
Okay, I’m fairly happy with the pose now.
My original marks are a little bit off, so I’m going to redraw them.
Now we’re going to drill in.
Oops, put a little hole in the table, I did.
I’ll do this differently now.
Let’s get this all the way through.
It’s one of those take-no-prisoners drills.
Now that we’ve done that.
I’m going to take a paper towel.
We’re going to lay it down.
We’re going to mix up some very quick setting, one-minute epoxy.
We’re going to goober it in there.
We’re going to take this piece of cardboard, squeeze out some of
There we go.
Plenty of epoxy for everyone.
We want to mix it quick because this is one-minute crap that goes off immediately.
Put plenty of epoxy down in there.
Plenty of it.
Oh Lord, that set up so fast.
What do you know?
It really is one-minute epoxy.
Well, I guess I’ve never used this brand before because that is the fastest setting
crap I have ever seen in my life.
What this means, of course, is that I’m going to have to re-drill the holes.
How about that?
Isn’t it fun to watch a professional screw up?
Don’t you just really—you kind of get off on it.
You do, you like it.
Jordu screwed up.
You’ve got to see this video, man.
It’s all over YouTube.
He just pooped his pants.
I did, just did.
That is some fast-setting crap.
Luckily it’s kind of rubbery.
Or maybe not-so-luckily.
That might be a bad thing.
I’m curious how hard it’ll get over time, if it’s really going to stay rubber like that.
It seems awful.
You know what?
Let’s do it this way.
Take the paper towel again.
Put it in there.
This time we’re going to use pro-poxy.
First I’d better make sure these even fit.
See, these don’t even fit, Jordu.
You’re not a professional.
You don’t know what you’re doing.
I am going to need a bigger drill bit.
Okay, so I’m going to make the holes on my base a little bigger.
Now I’m going to put my character in the holes there.
What I can do is use epoxy putty to lock it in for good.
Like I said, this is plumber’s epoxy putty.
It’s very simple to use.
You basically just take off a bit—it’s usually good to have a blade or something
to cut it, but you can also just pinch it off.
You’ll want to mix it up very thoroughly.
There is black and white in here.
Sometimes it’s gray and black.
This is white and black.
You can mix it up until it’s completely uniform gray.
If there are any swirls or streaks, it’s not mixed enough.
It doesn’t take long.
There you go.
You’ve got quite a bit of working time.
You shove it there, in there like that.
You can poke it down in there with a tool or some armature wire.
Make sure it’s really sunk in.
And then once you do that, you don’t want to touch it for at least another half-hour.
Give it plenty of time to set up.
Once it does, it’ll be locked in there very rigidly, and you’ll be able to start sculpting
in clay, which we’re going to do as soon as this sets up.
See you in a bit.
I just had sushi with some lovely people, and it was amazing.
But now, we’re back, and you can see that our sculpture is firmly rooted on there with
the Magic Sculpt—not the Magic Sculpt, the epoxy putty.
Magic Sculpt is another kind of epoxy putty, but it sets much slower.
This sets in about half an hour.
The sculpture is on there for good.
We’ve got a little lazy Susan here, and we’re actually ready to start the fun part,
which is sculpting our character.
But for right now, let’s start getting the design going.
So, I’m using Chavant NSP Medium, which is nonsulfur plasticine.
It’s very, very soft once you heat it up a little bit in a conventional oven.
You want to heat it up on a fairly low setting like warm, but you can immediately start getting
the clay on there.
It’s nice and soft as you can see.
I usually start with large masses first.
Of course, the largest mass is usually the torso, so I’m going to establish kind of
a rib cage shape first.
Get my trusty light over me.
I really like having a strong light source when I work.
It really, really helps me to see what I’m doing a lot better.
I’m a real fan of a strong single light source like this.
Now, something you can do while you’re roughing in the torso, you can actually just move the
arms out of the way temporarily.
We already know what our pose is so it’s not going to be too difficult to put them
back where they were.
I’m really glad I reinforced the legs with another band of armature wire, because it’s
probably going to be pretty top heavy.
I’m going to make the top of it quite thick.
I have one kind of coming in front of the other like this to make it look more like he’s
I want to make some nice big shoulders.
One thing you’ll notice about me as I add mass is I’ll kind of make the shape
first, the general shape I want with my hands.
I might make them a little more right.
I make the general shape I want with my hands, and then apply it.
You’ll notice I have just a slight ambidexterity.
I kind of try to do it with both my hands for symmetry’s sake.
Okay, so obviously knowing anatomy is a big part of sculpting something convincing.
But in order to do fantasy art, which to me is the most exciting kind of art because it’s
not just mechanical reproduction, but something of the artist is in there, some imagination,
you have to also know how anatomy works and why it works the way it does in order to extrapolate
and create fantastic anatomies that could never exist.
It’s just a really big part of doing this stuff I think at all well, is having a good
sense of how to fuse certain anatomies of different animals and imagine bone structure
because, you know, you’re going to have to make stuff up.
Now, while it’s important to know anatomy, I don’t think you need to be slave-ish about
I don’t feel like it’s necessary to know every insertion and every name and every—that’s
just my personal feeling.
What’s important is to know mass and how muscles read under skin.
Very rarely is muscle as defined as it appears to be in most fantasy sculpture.
Real muscle, and I’m always going for realism in my work, is kind of subtle.
It’s quite subtle, the definition.
You know, I’ve already hated that song that goes “Wild, wild west; the wild,
wild, wild west.” I don’t like that song.
Just thought you should know that.
I don’t know who sings it.
I think it’s from the 80s.
Never liked it.
I thought you should know about that.
It’s important when sculpting to be able to discern good music from stuff like
“Wild, wild west.” It’s bad music.
For anyone out there that is a fan of that group who feels perhaps offended, or their
little snowflake feelings are hurt by the fact that I insulted that band and that song,
perhaps even the era it was created in, I apologize.
I just don’t like it, and you shouldn’t either.
And if you do like it, something is probably wrong with you.
Now, it could be that members of the band broken up probably not long after that awful
song because they all decided, hey man, this isn’t the artistic direction we’re supposed
to go in, bro.
What’s this Wild Wild West ****, stuff.
They might be watching this now and they might be interested in sculpture now.
You never know what’s going to happen in real life.
Wild, wild west.
I don’t know why I’m thinking about that song.
I really wish I wasn’t, but I am.
It shows you how unfair life is, how cruel and random it is.
Who sang that thing?
It was terrible.
There is probably someone out there whose favorite song is “Wild, Wild West” they
get real excited.
They remember girlfriends they had in college and it’s just really amazing to them.
For them I feel really bad because probably neither them nor their girlfriend
had particularly good taste.
The Escape Club.
Are the authors of that song.
Yeah, you don’t hear much about the Escape Club anymore, do you?
I’ve got a great idea for a song, guys.
Check it out.
Wild, wild west.
Yeah, let’s record it, dude!
Wild, wild west.
[singing noises] Wild, wild west.
Why am I thinking of that?
It’s just awful.
The Escape Club.
I bet they wish they can escape their past.
Too late now, y’all.
You put down the “Wild, Wild West.”
You put that out there in the world, and now it’s there forever.
I’m going to keep these out of the way for now as I continue to rough-in the body.
Not just any Escape Club, the Escape Club.
They know where their bread is buttered.
Wild, wild west.
I think I might change the pose.
The arms are kind of in front of the body a little more.
You can see how I’ll sometimes move the sculpture around as I’m working it,
just to ensure that I can get all the angles that I need.
Again, notice how I’m laying on muscular shapes by creating
the form first with my fingers.
I want a ball shape here.
I want to create that and press it into place and then blend it in.
This isn’t the right way to sculpt.
It’s not the wrong way.
It’s just a way.
There are as many techniques as there are artists who have created them.
You know, this is just how I like to do it.
It doesn’t mean it’s right.
It doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
It’s just one of the many ways I suppose that it can be done.
Sometimes it takes a lot of massaging to get the muscles in the right positions
for me, you know.
Just bear with me.
I’m going to cut this arm a little shorter.
Always better to have it just a little too long and have to cut it back than it be too short.
Here’s how to make a hand real quick.
I’m going to make a pretty oversized hand for this character.
First thing I’m going to do is squeeze out the thumb area like that.
I kind of just make a mitten, basically.
Then I’m going to take a tool. I’m going to go one, two, three and cut three areas into it.
I’m going to take each one and kind of roll it around a little to get rid of the flat sidedness of it.
You end up with little pudgy little fat hand there. Like mine.
Then you’re going to take each finger and kind of stretch it out a little bit by just sort of rolling it and pinching it.
Then you’re going to pinch the knuckles into it.
I’m going to roll all the fingers out first.
Put some quick phalange action in there.
I’m going to change the angle of the thumb so that it goes down at almost a 90-degree angle, not quite.
I’m going to pinch the knuckles in each finger, just by pushing my fingers together. Watch this.
If you need to you can add a little bit.
It sometimes happens where I need to add a little to the thumb. Just a little bit. Bend the thumb.
Okay, so you've got a little hand.
We can now pose it.
This is sort of the beginning, not necessarily, you know, finished, but that’s the beginning.
Okay, I’m pinching now a little more kind of a claw look into it, and I want the hands to be really big and crazy.
I’m going to bend this a little bit.
So, because I’m building the top of the body so much, I feel like the lower legs in general need some beefing up too,
just to sort of match, even though they’re still supposed to be very small compared to the rest of the anatomy.
I want them to be a little thicker feeling.
I’m going to turn it a little bit, just get a little more action out of it.
So, I think this hand might be a little big,
so I’m just going to reduce its mass a little bit by taking away some of the clay.
Make that palm a little smaller.
Need to cut that back just a little bit.
Now, Chavant NSP medium, non-sulfur plasticine, is a pretty hardy clay.
It can hold its shape in short spans without any armature.
For instance, if I wanted to throw a tail on to this character, I wouldn’t necessarily have to armature
it if it wasn’t super long. Do you know what I mean?
If I had a tail like this, real stout and thick, which I think I’m going to do.
Real stout and thick.
If I want a really long tail, which might be really cool, then I probably should armature it,
and I’m going to use the 1/8 inch armature wire, which I haven’t used yet,
but I am going to make a length of it.
I’m going to double it up to a point to about here and just twist it.
And then I can use the thin wire to wrap around the tiny little end and even have it trail off a bit.
I’ve got some real thin wire to do the very tip of the tail with.
Standing back from it a little bit, I just think this deltoid is a little small.
Let’s get that beefed up just a little bit.
You’ll notice that I smear the clay in the direction that the muscle moves.
Probably make this deltoid a little fatter.
I have been informed that I need to move my hat to the back.
Now, I want you to know that I’m not normally into this kind of hipster look, but evidently
it’s blocking light so I’m going to look cool for a while.
Okay, so let me add the collarbone in here real quick.
Just a touch of the old collarbone there.
Give that some structure.
I have this tail armature that I made, but how to get it in there and get it really secure?
Here is what I do.
I want it to go in there.
What I’m going to do is I’m going to heat the armature wire with this little torch.
You want to get it hot enough to burn a small child’s face.
Not that I would ever do such a thing!
Now I’m going to smush it into the clay like this.
You can use a tool or, better still…ooh, that’s hot.
Really push it in there.
Take some fresh, warm clay.
Let’s build up some thickness on it.
Now we can pose the tail.
I think it’s very important to integrate every part that you add, so make sure that
it looks as if whatever you add on has some kind of—you know, make sure that it is really
integrated into the body.
Let’s roll out a really nice long piece here.
You even want things like the tail to feel muscular like there is some kind of anatomy in there.
It can’t just be a sausage that’s sticking out.
It’s got to have anatomy and weight to it.
I’ll add a little more muscular structure on the sides, at the base of the tail, especially.
Now, once you’ve got the clay on like this, it actually becomes a little easier
to pose should you want to adjust it.
Okay, we’ve come pretty far on the creature, but what is the one thing all good
monsters need to have?
You guessed it.
So, now it’s time to move on to the head.
Now, I have a method of doing the head where I sculpt it separately, similar to what I
do with tail, except I did sculpt the tail on the figure, but to get the kind of detail
and form that I want in the head, sometimes it’s important or necessary to do it as
a separate piece and then, once again, melting the clay with the torch
and putting the head into it.
Heating up the armature wire, melting it through the clay, and then positioning the head.
We’re going to actually put the creature aside right now, and I’m going to show you
how to make a quick armature for a head.
Actually, we’ve got some leftover wire right here, so why don’t we take this wire here.
Is this going to be long enough?
Yeah, I guess so.
I loop it like so.
And then we’re going to get our trust pro-poxy again.
I’m going to clean my hands off just a little bit so I don’t get clay in the epoxy putty.
My hands are filthy with clay.
I clean them off with isopropyl alcohol.
Take a little pinch like this.
Close that crap back up.
Mix it up good.
Again, making sure that it is uniform.
Okay, that looks uniform.
Let’s see, which end do I want to do?
I guess I’ll put it on this end here because I have a little handle now.
Squeeze it on real good.
What I do, I kind of pinch into it and make a bunch of irregular little shapes and pits
and pinched areas.
Once this hardens up, it’ll be rock hard, and the clay will really grab onto that.
Let’s put this aside for now.
Actually, put it in the oven where it will get, it’ll harden up a little faster.
The epoxy is rock hard, and I can start to sculpt on it.
I’m going to clean my hands off, and we’ll get right to that.
Okay, so here is my armature.
I want to keep the head fairly small. I don’t want it to be too big.
The first step, of course, is to just squeeze some clay onto it.
Really make sure that there is some grab there so that the head doesn’t move around.
You can roll it around on the table to get your forms smoothed out a little bit.
Get the head shape smoothed out a bit.
Sculpting in a bit of jawline here
Put in some eye sockets.
I know it starts off really, really silly and cartoony, but this is how I start almost everything I do,
which is probably why it comes out silly and cartoony.
You’ll notice that I rotate the sculpture constantly just like I did with the full body because I want to see every
angle of the sculpture. I can’t impress upon you enough how important it is to remember that you’re dealing with a
three-dimensional medium. Real 3-D, not digital.
You want to constantly look at every angle of what you’re doing.
I’m going to use my little wooden tool here.
My tool here is going to help me to scoop out some of the clay in the mouth.
Actually, let me do something different.
To put delicate pieces in, I’ll put it on the tool and put it
where I want it, wiggle the tool loose,
and then it’s in there.
Okay, so we have kind of a rathe-like monster head here.
Still very basic, but it’s a good start.
Let’s put the head on and integrate it into the body.
We’re going to bring our monster back, front and center.
I think, actually, I’m just going to cut the wire off completely.
Now, one of the great things about sculpting the head separately, is this gives you now the opportunity to kind
of play with the pose of the head. Look at the full body here, and look at all the possibilities.
I kind of think it looks good looking off to one side or something instead of head-on.
Let’s turn it a little bit to this side here and just tilt it slightly.
Once again, I’m going to use the torch, but this time I’m going to melt just the clay.
Really melt it down quite a bit, and squish the head into the body.
There should easily be enough clay there to grab it.
Just kind of blend the melted clay up against it.
And we’re going to take some warm clay, and we can start integrating the head.
I’m going to take the ears off for a bit so I can get behind them.
So, I’m going to start establishing a little bit of anatomy.
Dude, that’s metal! Anyway.
That’s a crazy looking monster.
You’re going to love it. [Italian voice] You’re going to love it.
Now, it does seem it should have some big horns or something, but I feel like horns might be a little corny.
But, let’s see what happens if we add some horns there.
Yeah, it looks neat, but it looks corny. It looks a little hackneyed.
We’ve seen that before many, many times, so for now we’ll leave them off.
Maybe real little ones. That looks kind of cool, actually. I like that.
It goes against what’s expected. You expect these big elaborate horns.
You just have these little nubs there. That’s kind of neat. That works.
You kind of go with the super corny look, and it works better than the modern busy crazy look.
Free to try
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
29m 21s2. Building an Armature and the Importance of the Pose
53m 34s3. Sculpting the Major Forms
27m 37s4. Tips for Sculpting a Hand, Thickening the Legs (to Match the Shoulders)
21m 47s5. Making Decisions about the Head and Tail
23m 44s6. Fixing Asymmetries, Sculpting & Placing the Tail, Preparing to Sculpt the Head
44m 32s7. Sculpting & Placing the Head, Deciding on Horns