In this online clay sculpture lesson I show how to plan and make a pair of angel sisters in clay. This lesson is free and instantly available right here, right now. Just scroll down. The secrets are unlocked, the path is mapped for you - enjoy! Time to get to work. Remember, you can apply the techniques to any project you decide to take on which uses ceramic clays.
Whether you use Potclays 1150 (my choice in the sculpture shown below of the two angels) or another of my
. So just because my sculpture lesson is a pair of angels, doesn't mean you have to sculpt angels too. See the
for some great concepts. The world is your oyster. You might like fish or sculptures of the sun.
There is NO Magic to Sculpting - Just Hard Work
The most important thing is to realise you are attempting something very hard and there is no magic to it apart from hard work, determination and being very very careful and systematic.
Realising that Rome was not build in a day is a cliché, but is truly the key. Most people who say they are 'no good at art' are really saying they have no ability to slow themselves down and be careful and systematic.
No one, not even Michaelangelo, is born with a gift to wave their arms around and hey presto, a masterpiece is born every second. He was trained and worked dedicatedly from childhood to acquire the skills to carve marble.
My route is slow, careful, systematic, singularly lacking in waving arms around to produce instant masterpieces! My work takes a lot of time, dedication and work. That's all.
If you've had a chance to glance at the other sculpting pages on this site, you will have seen a sculpting tips page looking at different types of sculpting clay (oil-based, polymer and ceramic etc) and how to handle them. The Sculpting Tutorials look at tools and their uses. There is also a basic Sculpture Technique page.
This Sculpture Lesson presumes you have at least looked at these pages and expands on some of the content therein.
This is a Sculpture Lesson for ceramic clay.
The techniques for polymer and plasteline are different in many details.
First and foremost the ceramic clay dries and has to be managed.
Secondly, you will notice there are no armatures in the piece shown in this sculpture lesson - its just a pure lump of fresh clay.
Get comfortable. Always use a banding wheel sculpture turntable so the piece is at a level in front of your face (no stooping please). Actually, you ideally need 2 different turntables, one higher, one lower - see info box below for more on this point.
Get your references right in front of your eyeline too. These will always subconsciously influence your sculpt. Make sure they are good.
Get your damp plaster bat (see sculpting tips) and get your clay on there.
A good tip is to anchor the piece to stop it moving around by drilling a small hole through the bat and place a nail up through the bat and the sculpture. Not very high tech - but it works fine.
But first a quick tip about 'posture'
Correct Your Working Position When You Sculpt
When working with clay on small to medium sized pieces it is important you have correct posture. Many people, even experienced artists, get this wrong. Working for hours at a time you will need to be seated comfortably.
You will need two turntables, one higher and one lower, and interchange them depending on whether you are working on the upper or lower parts of the sculpture.
Your eyes need to be more or less level with the area of the sculpt you are working on so there is neither stooping nor reaching up. Your work will benefit from improved posture as it allows for patient, comfortable build up so that the important thing - YOUR PASSION - can flow freely.
LIGHTING for sculpture is important too!
Check out the rich variety of - just about anything you want is there. Watch the postage on heavier materials though. For more on this subject, go to the navigation bar on the left side and click on "Sculpting supplies"
2. Shape Up!
See the design in your minds eye. However, don't stop at that unless your name's Michaelangelo. You will need to measure.
I measure, then draw up scale guide (like a pin-man on paper) so I can constantly refer with my dividers.
On the angel figurine I knew that the top of the lump of clay was precisely where the waist of the angels would be. How did I know? I measured.
3. Get A Hook
No I don't mean a tool with a hook. I mean a metaphorical hook. You need a 'hook' to help your eye see what your mind is already seeing. This is an important part of this sculpture lesson. Read and understand.
Normally for me its getting the face and head on at the right place and in the right pose (I do the face off sculpt before I do anything else (so its ready when I need it) see below.
4. Start Shaping The Big Picture
With the angel sculpt the 'hook' was different. The design revolved around a heart shape - so this was my hook. The heart had to go on so I could design the sculpt around it.
I started to get a feeling for the shape of the dresses around each side of the heart. At this point the sculpture lesson is all about feeling your way around the sculpture - making little choices.
It may not look much to you, but for me I could see the lovely flowing robes! Imagination, is a good thing, trust me.
Some refer to it as 'positive visualization'. I am good at it.
My section on
'The War Of Art'
begins to give clues as to how I got good at this skill (it is a learned behaviour).
Everyday I use the techniques of positive visualisation. I teach my children the same methods - one is a professional ballerina for one of the world's top Ballet Companies and was head girl at the Royal Ballet School, London.
The other won a scholarship to go to University in New York and is now a buyer for a top fashion company on London. Our family never achieved like this before. Both my father and grandfather were middle ranking civil servants who never fulfilled their potential. They were grey men. Their default thinking mode was negative - not nice to be around. My rebellion is to think positively and fulfil my artistic potential.
I cannot stress how much you must allow yourself to visualise in a positive manner - both in clay sculpture and in life.
So endeth the sermon, brethren! LOL! Continue reading the stage by stage sculpture lesson below.
Pause for a question.
Question: It seems to be a big leap to go from step 4 to step 5?
The method I find most efficient is to work 'off-sculpt' with items that need accurate scaling and modeling. I then add these sections to the piece and continue on. I include upper female torso, faces, hands and feet in this category. This is not obligatory for you, but for me, having to do commercial work fast to pressing deadlines, it is a must. Go here for more info about working with items off sculpt page:
5. Now You Can Lick Into Shape
Using your imagination you can now 'see' the design, so go all round the piece removing bits that shouldn't be there and adding the bits that should. One of the bits that should be there are two female upper-body torsos.
I had prepared these off sculpt (so I knew they were the right scale - no messing around, I DON'T HAVE TIME). Measure twice and make once as a carpenter friend once told me.
6. Prepare Faces Off Sculpt
I always put my (almost) completed face on right at the start of the sculpt because, for me, once the face is on and the head is positioned correctly, the sculpt comes alive, no matter how rough or unfinished the rest of the piece is. Its normally my 'hook' (see para 3). The rest of the sculpt is then just doing justice to my lovely person or persons sitting there.
In this angel sculpt my hook was the heart, so the faces went on a bit later.
Other sculpture lessons advise to build your sculpt evenly all over. Well, everybody is different – whatever works for you. I never put the hands on until last because they would dry out before the rest of the sculpt.
7. DO NOT Fiddle With Detail (Yet)
The photos on this sculpture lesson page can be deceptive. There looks to be more detailing than there actually is. Apart from the faces and the accurate torso everything is roughed up - no detail. Here's a blow up of a detail.
8. Start Shooshing
Now its time to get arty. Indulge yourself, enjoy and start shooshing up your sculpt.
This sculpture lesson officially instructs you to let yourself go an try some stuff. You may surprise yourself. I always do! I'm a great artisan, but not a great artist.
My shooshing on this sculpt involved putting a sweeping train on the back of this figurine. I wasn't sure what I was going to do here, I just busked it and was pleased and surprised.
Pause for a question.
Question: So when do I hollow out the sculpt ready for firing?
But Beware. Whilst your enjoying yourself, your piece might be drying out too much - even though you have read and understood the clay management section. This sculpture lesson gives some additional detail on how to stop your ceramic clay from drying out.
Don't put the hands on yet (do them off sculpt as per instructions above) because they might dry out.
How to deal with?
Really good point this. Yes its quite easy for 1150 to dry out beyond the point of no return especially when working on small items. This is part of 'clay management' - but I need to emphasize this point more here.
The big difference with ceramic clay over plasteline & polymer is it is very prone to drying out. I was used to keeping plasteline in my hands for hours at a time as it enhances its workability. Try that with 1150 and you will literally have dust within 3 minutes. Also, on a piece that you are working on, small areas like hands are very prone to over drying. You have to watch this because once 1150 has dried over a certain limit, it loses all its beautiful properties of strength and elasticity. You can re-wet it but it won’t be the same as before. It is best to manage the sculpt so that your 1150 remains in optimum condition and never reaches that ‘dried out’ point.