Something new… sculpting with clay

Portrait sculpture in clay by Helen Davison Bradley

This is a long overdue post dating back to Easter, when a few of us in the studio bought some clay, organised some models, and got sculpting. This was my first serious attempt, and with that in mind, I don’t think the results are too bad.

In week one we concentrated on sculpting the figure. I know I was basically winging it, so I can’t really describe my methodology in any great detail. We loosely used sight-size to measure and compare the emerging sculpture to the model, and just went from there. Next time I think I’d like to learn more about using callipers to get some basic proportions in place first, whilst continuing to use the more difficult (in my opinion) observational techniques employed here. Apart from the head and shoulders however, which I simply couldn’t articulate adequately, the rest of the figure actually wasn’t too far away in the end. In fact, I think a lot of the difficulties I had came from the pose itself, which in nature was quite awkward and obscured some crucial angles – hence not being able to work out exactly what was going on with the neck and head joining to the shoulders and trunk. I guess I still don’t know my anatomy to an extent that I can work out such problems as these.

The second week was portrait sculpture, which I enjoyed far more. This time we did use some rudimentary calliper measurements to bulk out the main volume, and reference the tip of the nose to each ear and the tip of the chin (for example). This sped up getting a basic form in place to then refine by eye. I think my overall understanding of the structure of the head is better, and helped a great deal. A lot of what I did was ultimately quite instinctive, which again makes it difficult for me to explain in depth how I got from start to finish. The main lesson I took from both the figure and portrait sculptures, however, doesn’t really differ from that of drawing or painting. It is to get things in the ballpark without worrying too much about everything being in exactly the right place at the first time of trying. At this point you can then look, compare and refine. Just get stuck in.