Insider 3/24/2010 - Brian Dugas

If you want to become a sculptor, you need reference books. I highly recommend picking up Modeling the Figure in Clay by Bruno Luchessi, which really helped me learn how to sculpt. A lot of beginning sculptors have a tendency to get lost in how people are put together and overlook what they actually look like, so stay away from pure anatomy references and pick up books with photos of people. You don’t want to make a figure that looks like it’s been flayed unless that’s what you’re trying to make.

Tools are as unique and varied as the sculptors that use them. We all have our personal favorites, but generally there is one tool that we all use—an X-acto blade with the sharp edges sanded down, creating something similar to a small palette knife. I used a whetstone, very fine sandpaper and ultra-fine steel wool to create mine. I also use size 0 round and flat chisel clay shapers, a regular X-acto, a needle tool, a small wood-carving knife, and various burnishing tools to round out the lot.

I use standard 30 mm cast metal armatures. Made of soft metal, these armatures can be “squeezed out” with a pair of flat-nosed pliers to Skorne or Trollkin size. They are strong enough to support the figure I’m working on but can be easily cut for part separation. I even use them as the superstructure for weapons such as the Stormfall Archers’ bows.

When beginning a sculpt, I first attach the armature to a cork attached to a base. The base provides a good, hard surface to work against and helps keep the figure securely attached to the cork. I’m a little heavy-handed, and if I just push the armature into the cork it tends to bend and break off. Having the base on the cork also helps keep the figure within the circular footprint of the base.

Next time, we’ll talk about posing and bulking out a figure. Stay tuned!