Two posts in one day — that doesn’t happen around here very often! A couple of posts ago I shared with you that I was starting a new sculpture and promised to invite you along. It’s been a while since I documented step-by-step the creation of a new piece, high time to do that again. The techniques that I use have evolved over the last few years, and this particular piece, a rearing horse, will require me to think about the armature a bit differently. All the more reason to keep the camera handy as I work. Poor little camera, all smeary with clay!
Before we dive into playing with wire, clay and wax I’ll share with you the inspiration for this piece. You’ll find it in a blog posting by endurance rider and equine photographer Merri Melde, I’m using the photo with her permission. Look for the photo at the very bottom of her January 22 post. It’s the photo with two horses playing; a grey rearing, a bay rocking back on his heels a bit, head flung up. One of the sculptures I started as a workshop demo will adapt nicely to the posture of the bay, but I need to start from scratch to create a rearing horse.
O.k., I’ll wait here for just a minute while you zip over to The Equestrian Vagabond to look at the photo. Remember, it’s the one at the bottom of the January 22 post.
Ah, you’re back! Isn’t that a great blog?
I started with my basic armature, (see the image at the top of this page). Next I needed to get the inner core of the piece to angle up. My solution this time was to simply bend the wires. I’m sure there’s a more clever and elegant way to accomplish this with a variety of plumbing parts or such. I didn’t have any handy, so I opted to try the most direct approach.
This is the phase of work I call faith-based sculpting. No matter how weird it looks now, I have faith in the armature system and reference measurements to get this critical skeletal core set up right. I will be able to make some adjustments along the way, but life in the studio is so much sweeter if I get the darned thing pretty much right the first time.
Here, I’ve marked the joints in the horse’s legs with a Sharpie marker, and then bent the wires at these points as precisely as possible. One of the most irritating things that can happen as you’re happily sculpting along is to run into a wire or other piece of hardware. I’m a bit worried about running into that T-joint while shaping the horse’s back. We’ll see how it goes.
The other place that I *do not* want to run into wires on the surface is the head. Learned that lesson the hard way. I’ve chosen not to run a wire down the full length of the head. Instead I created a small loop in the upper portion of the skull area, and then “welded” a roughly skull shaped piece of dark brown microcrystalline wax to that loop of wire.
After the joints were marked and bent, and the wax welded to the head, I began to smoosh on (yes, that’s a technical term) non-hardening clay. In this piece I’m using Chavant’s Le Beau Touché HM. Over the years many of my students have developed a love/hate relationship with this clay, and I admit I am frustrated by it at times too. Frustration often leads to innovation, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
In this photo you can tell that I’ve added more clay to form a rough profile of the horse. I like to keep those leg wires exposed for quite a long time so that I can refer to them as landmarks and reposition them easily. You know of course that if you click on on any of these photos you’ll get an enlargement. I wish I had taken a photo from the front for you. Had I, all you would see is a narrow slab of clay. I start with the axial plane first, then build out. In this photo you can see that a coil of clay has been laid in to indicate the angle of the pelvis and the scapula.
Ahhhh… more clay! Now he has the beginning of a rib cage and some of the muscling on top of the pelvis has been roughed in. More clay was added to the head to set it’s width and place the eye orbits. That’s as far as I got the first night working on him. He still looks exactly like this because I have had meetings each night this week. I hope to share a further update with you next week. Come on back!