Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Figures... a practice of the human form and my process of achieving my latest sculpt

I've drawn and painted human bodies and faces from life countless times throughout my artistic background, but had never before done a sculpt of the human form.  So, when I lit upon the idea of sculpting a female figure as Mother Nature for the last PCAGOE monthly challenge, I knew it would certainly be a challenge. But, given my background of studying the human figure for drawing or painting, I was fairly confident that it was a challenge I could meet. The challenge theme for April was "the Seasons" (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter). My idea was to create Mother nature and decorate her form with the progression of the seasons; with the idea of a spring seed sprouting from her one hand, the vine continuing up her arm and onto her torso; leafing out in the full foliage of summer on her torso; eventually leading to vine down her other arm, turning to fall colors with two falling leaves which dangle from that hand. The thought to add winter to the bottom of her form, brought about the idea of a base where her torso blends into a tree trunk, with bare branches reaching outward.

This female figure concept initially began about a year ago, when I purchased a couple bottles of Vanilla Extract that happened to be hourglass shaped.  I instantly thought "female form" when looking at these bottles.  I thought perhaps I might do a miniature polymer dress form mannequin someday.  When I struck upon the idea of Mother nature for this challenge, I immediately thought of using one of those bottles.  So, this sculpture is a working bottle.  The next photo shows the sculpture with an example of what is at her core:

The following is a description of my working process to create the Mother Nature bottle sculpture:  The empty glass bottle was first fitted with 2 pieces of wire that were twisted together at both ends, leaving an opening in the center, through which the neck of the bottle was placed.  This created the armature for her arms.  The wire rests on the areas of the bottle which define the form's collar bones and scapula area on the back (next time I make one of these I will photograph this step), so it actually helped to define the collar bones of the form.  The wire was glued into place on to the bottle with super glue.  The tree trunk base has a core that is a cardboard spool which once held a skein of thread.  The head is supported with a screw that was driven through the metal cap of the bottle.  Her head fully unscrews from her body, as you can see in the first photo at the beginning of this post.

In the next handful of photos you can view a sampling of the progression of the sculpt.  In the first photo, you can see the rough sculpt of the body and arms, shown with one of the bottles, and my human anatomy for artist's book (which was my guide in getting the form right, since I didn't have access to a live model).  Take note too, of the screw protruding from the cap on the sculpted body, this is the armature for the head, ensuring that the bottle can be opened without having her head pop off the cap! 

The next photo is basically the next stage of the sculpt, adding more weight to her arms and the 1st sculpt of her head. 

At this next stage, a little more weight was added to her arms and her face is starting to take shape (more layers were eventually added to the face for better feature proportions).... you can see how rough her skin looks at this point (I don't have those nice silicone sculpting tools; I was working with my knife, my fingers, a pointed needle tool and a small round metal burnisher).  This was the stage when my husband saw her for the first time; his first comment was, "why did you make her so old and ugly?"... after he was banished from my studio ;)  I set out on the next step, baking her a second time.

After the second baking, she went through a sanding process to smooth out the bumps and ugliness so honestly pointed out my my dear hubby, and this was the result:

After this stage, she was coated with translucent liquid polymer and baked (two times) to give the skin a nice finish.  Finally, her torso was attached to the tree trunk base (which was sculpted with wire added to create the bare branches of the tree and baked separately).  Clay was sculpted over the join of the torso and tree trunk base to hide the seam and she was baked again.  The seed, vines and leaves were added, facial features were enhanced (eye lashes, eyebrows, color to her lips and highlights to the whites of her eyes) and she was baked to cure the final details.  I lost count, but I think she was baked a total of 8 or 9 times from beginning to end.  Her hair is made from angora fleece and was attached section by section to her head with super glue, which was a messy job; there has to be a better way to do this part, which I will be researching before my next human form. (Yes, a "next one" is already in planning stages and will be a "sister" to Mother Nature).  As a final touch some translucent gloss acrylic was added to her eyes and lips for shine. By this time, it was 11PM on the night of the midnight deadline for my guild's challenge, so I took a photo of her at night, at a bad angle and without adequate lighting... which resulted in a sinister look on her face (that photo is in my flickr if anyone didn't see it in the challenge entries).  Before I took daylight photos, I noticed that the vines on the front of her torso were off balance and threw the entire design off... so the next morning I set to work to fix that imbalance, happily forgetting to get daylight photos to include in my flickr and to add links to my challenge description.  That is why I held off in posting the daylight photos of her here and on my flickr until after the challenge voting ended. 
While I am fairly happy with how she turned out, her torso sculpt is the area with which I was most pleased, especially her back.. I was also especially pleased with the vine design on her back.  The front of the torso could use improvements, the same is true of her hands.  The area which I think begs for the most improvement is the face sculpt, it just did not turn out as well as I had hoped.. more study to do in that area for female body #2 which is coming soon...  Mother Nature is available in my etsy shop.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Two more days!

Time keeps slipping by too fast for me to get a grasp on everything!  There are only 2 more days left to vote for this month's guild challenge (as of this posting on 4/5/13).  So please head on over to the PCAGOE blog to vote!  Here are the awesome entries for this month:

I did enter a piece this month: the mother nature art doll bottle.  I will post more about her after the challenge, because.....

After she was finished (so I thought) I spent the last hour before the midnight deadline trying to get a photo of her posted to the flickr pool (a last minute entry, even though I began her at the end of February/beginning of March).  Once I finally got the photo posted; I was scrutinizing the photo, fretting over how bad it turned out, because of my inadequate lighting. I pretty much just turned on all the lights on the first floor of my house to photograph her, because I don't have a lighting set-up for indoor photographing.  The wrong lighting is just as bad on a sculpted figurine as it can be on us humans.  When will I learn to give myself enough time to finish a challenge at least the day before the deadline, so I can get daylight photos?!?  I've made this error too many times to count.  (mental note: since I can't seem to get most of my pieces finished before the night of the entry deadline I need to work on a better lighting set-up)  While scrutinizing this horrible photo, I realized that the balance of the design was completely off. (mental note 2: remember old school trick of holding item in mirror to get different perspective to notice flaws in design easier)  The next day my fingers were itching to fix the problems.  I forgot about getting a better daylight photo to post for linking to my challenge photo (as I've done in the past).  After I had fixed the design issues, I happily took my daylight photos and realized that I didn't have "before" daylight photos.  So, I didn't feel right about posting the new photos on my flickr because my fellow guild-mates did not get that extra time to work on their pieces.  I did post a photo of her back side to flickr because I didn't do any re-touching to that side; that photo can be seen in my flickr photostream under better (daylight) lighting conditions.  I will post more about her and my creative process with better photos after voting has closed on April 7th (midnight EST).  So please, do head over to the PCAGOE blog and vote for your 3 favorite entries, you might win a prize! (3 lucky voters are chosen for a prize every month)  And please check back next week for the new photos and the story of how my mother nature art doll bottle was created!