Old Man

Learning To Sculpt

So way back in the autumn of 2019 I once again thought I’d attempt to stop playing computer games all evening and turn my hand to something more tangible and creative as a means of relaxation. I’ve always been impressed by people that can turn lifeless lumps of clay or stone into evocative representations of their thoughts and dreams, so bought a few supplies and delved into the world of polymer-clay scultpure. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos while those winged their way to me, so was of course an expert before I even started. This is what I made when it all arrived…

Day 1. Behold. Impressive, right? Join my Patreon and you too could make this.

Once I learned that it seems that certain fundamentals are maybe important after all, I delved back into the internet and found a bunch of sculpture-related channels and guides, whence I learned that proportions matter, our brains expect faces to have certain features, and just seeing someone create something isn’t the same as knowing how to do it myself.

With some basic anatomical references to hand, I started fresh and tried to lay down some fundamental blocking of a (hopefully) humanoid head.

I spent a few days here distracted by trying to be very smart. As an owner of a 3D printer, I thought that perhaps printing a bunch of realistic skulls and using those as a core base would be a good idea. I spent more time fiddling with resin and then worrying about the toxic effects of baking that in the kitchen oven to cure the clay, than if I’d just practiced the basics of blocking out a skull shape. Therein lies a lesson to future me: don’t try to learn too many things simultaneously. On the plus side, I now have a collection of tiny little resin skulls.

This isn’t actually from the Old Man head. I didn’t think to take progress shots as I went, because that would be vain and presumptive. So here’s a random other head I made months later instead.

Here’s where things started to get interesting, and I thought maybe there’s something to this whole process. I apologise for the lack of intermediate photographs, but at the time I was just muddling along to see how things worked out, so didn’t expect this piece to last any longer than any of the others that got turned back into roughly-spherical lumps of clay.

This represents a few hours of pushing and prodding clay, learning the various tools, learning how the clay moves, and learning how to use reference pictures without just copying from them. The proportions are a bit whack, but I think it’s definitely some sort of humanoid, although perhaps with a terrible shrinking-jaw/inflamed-brow disease or something.

As the artist, I felt confident just declaring him to be a non-contemporary human-analog of some type, and move on. “Inspired by Hoggle” perhaps.

Here I’ve worked on the basic shapes and proportions quite a lot. I’ve filled out the jawline quite a bit, reduced the impressive browline quite a bit, and given the chap a rather nice pair of ears. Now, don’t get me started on ears. Do you realise how strange and complex a shape the visible parts of a persons ears are? It’s ridiculous. I also rounded the top of his glorious head a bit more, so there’s more Picard and less Quark about him. (Those are classical technical artistic terms, you can learn about those at clay school)

It’s at this point I declared “enough is enough” and baked him in the oven for a bit so I wouldn’t smoosh his face why trying to add hair…

Hair we are again, mostly the same as before, but now with… hair. This was made easier by the fact I was now working with a solid head and not a squishy clay head-shaped ball, but I didn’t really know how to start with sculpting hair.

I switched to a firmer grey Super Sculpey Firm clay for this bit, because the beige stuff doesn’t hold fine details so easily.

The End

Once I finished the hair and baked it all in, I slapped a bit of black primer on it, and then rubbed some bronze-effect stuff on it. The end result was far better than I ever thought it would be.

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