Sculpting A Female Figure Sculpture in Clay post 2- Setting the Pose

This is post 2 documenting a work in progress. (Read Post 1: Figure Armature)

This is the first session back with the model and the new armature. It had been about 2 months since we made the maquette, so everything was fresh and exciting. THIS PART IS THE BEST EVER.

Step One: Posing the Armature
Once we had remembered the pose and got the model comfortable (haha...)  I set to work on the most critical first step: Establishing the pose in the wire, before adding any clay at all. None!!

Step Two: Construction Blocks
Okay, now I can add some clay. However, I dont just lump it on willy nilly dreamily assuring myself it will all work out in the end.... I focus instead on the all-important Construction Of The Gesture.

Basically, I use simplified shapes to represent the skeleton, and adjust those shapes until they have the right flow and movement.  Sounds easy, right?!

I usually use a box and egg to represent the main skeletal masses of the pelvis and ribcage. This allows me to orient these critical masses in space, and establishes the movement of the gesture right from the beginning.

This is the most important step to creating life in your figure.

Often I see students leaping ahead to the excitement of shaping all those exciting curves and fleshy forms... but this will only result in frustration as the foundations of the pose were never established.

Here's why geometric is better:

Geometric forms (box and egg) allow me to find individual planes/directions for each unit, and angle them correctly from each other to find tension, the pull of gravity, etc.

Come again?  Basically each shape has a front, 2 sides and a back. Yes? Yes.

Now I can isolate each shape and twist or tilt them to match what I see on the skeleton of the model. For a twist, the straight-on front of the box (hips) would be offset from the straight-on front of the egg (ribs). I can just grab the two forms and twist them away from each other.

More important stuff!!

It is also highly recommended to establish the harmony between top and bottom of the figure by running a vertical plumbline from the pit of the neck to the ankle. Balancing this correctly ensures your sculpture does not feel like an invisible hand is tipping it over to one side.

Wait, so there's a person standing there all this time?


During this stage of establishing the gesture of the pose it is also really important to work creatively with your model. Because its exhausting to hold your body in one position (go ahead... try it..) you have to communicate when it is important for her to really really be in a midstep position (push that hip out!!) or when she can relax her weight over both feet.

I call this pushing the pose to its fullest expression. 

This is part of the joy of working with models- you can develop the piece with their input and energy,  and they give you different elements to work with each session. It is a true journey.

I do my best to cherish my models so they come back!! Good models are worth their weight in gold.

Want to learn how to sculpt? Check out Melanie's upcoming sculpting classes in Victoria BC here