Amazing Sculpture You Can Do

Amazing Sculpture You Can Do

by E. J. Gold


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780895562586
Publisher: Gateways Books & Tapes
Publication date: 03/01/2009
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

E. J. Gold is a teacher and the author of more than four dozen books, including American Book of the Dead, Darkside Dreamwalker, and More Color, Less Soul. He lives in Nevada City, California.

Read an Excerpt

Amazing Sculpture You Can Do

By E. J. Gold

Gateways Books and Tapes

Copyright © 2009 E.J. Gold
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-89556-405-4


Welcome to my beginning sculpture class. I will share with you the results of over 60 years of sculpture experience and many secrets learned at Otis Art Institute under the tutelage of master sculptors Renzo Fenci, Russell Cangialosi and Bob Glover, to whom I dedicate this book.

Not all sculpture is done with clay. You can sculpt out of a variety of materials. But for our learning purposes, clay is best.

For basic sculpture classes, we will be using Roma Plastilina grey-green #2. #6 is strictly for industrial design. It is very hard and stiff. #1 is too soft, and will not hold a good shape.

Roma Plastilina comes from Sculpture House. It's merely river clay probably from a tertiary channel. It comes in 2lb. blocks. It is not water based so it doesn't ever dry out as does ceramic clay. It will outlast you. It is made with mineral oil. The kind you use in the kitchen to clean butcher blocks, etc. It is wrapped in waxed paper. This is a 2lb. block of Roma Plastilina. This is how it comes to you. Be sure to unwrap it before use.

When I say sculpting clay, I only ever mean one kind of clay, Roma Plastilina #2 grey- green. When I say sculpture tool, I only mean one kind, The Tool, the 403A from Sculpture House.

Sculpture has nothing to do with the instruments or tools. Your best tool/instrument is inside your brain case. It's where you get inspiration, ideas and observation. Observation is the best tool. It will tell you if your sculpture is going well.

Sculpture is the backbone of drawing. Drawing is the backbone of painting. Fundamentals really count in art, and a good foundational beginning is in the realm of working "in-the- round" with 3-D forms.

Sculpture differs from drawing and painting in that you can't depend on line to help you. Sculpture is three dimensional. It has a front, back, side and bottom. It has heighth, width, depth and mass.

A three dimensional form must be viewed as a mass or as a cluster of interpenetrating masses.

The block of clay comes to you as a single mass. A six sided polygon with surfaces, angles and interior mass.

If you make sculpture by establishing and following an outline you will immediately proceed into error. Most beginning sculptors concentrate on surface. The surface is the last thing we deal with. In the casting process you lose most of the surface, so don't obsess over the surface of your sculpture, concentrate on establishing the basic masses and on simplifying the form. We will examine both those ideas in depth as we go.

One type of homemade armature is made of black iron. The other type of homemade armature is made of galvanized iron. They are almost exactly alike. The black iron is cheaper. Use of PVC or ABS plastic piping is definitely not a good idea for a variety of reasons, but if you insist, go ahead and try them and you'll soon find out why.

These items laid out here are your basic sculpture "allies" or tools. Roma Plastilina, The Tool which comes small to large with many new size options — 401A through 405A, cutting wire, armature and base, below all of which is on the rotating sculpture stand.

The homemade pipe armature is composed of four parts — an 8"x1/2" double threaded pipe, a flange, a tee or x, and a wooden base.

For the homemade armature and base, make an x from corner to corner on the base. The center of the x will be the center of your base.

Use a marker to show where to drill the holes in the armature base.

Line the center flange hole with the x on the center of your base. Then mark where the screw holes are.

Screw the flange into the base with #8 3/4" wood screws.

When you've screwed in the flange, your base and flange should look like this.

You can use a 1/4" drill for the purpose, with a 1/8" bit to pre-drill the hole about a half-inch into the formica-topped base. Then fit a phillips-head screwdriver into the drill and drive in the 4 #8 x 3/4" long countersunk wood screws until they are snugly fit, but not overdriven.

The base is fiberboard with arborite on the top. Don't use regular wood because it doesn't clean up well.

Your finished homemade pipe armature should look like the one on the stand.

On you can see my online demonstration of how to put an armature together. These three plumbing items are all you need to make an armature. The parts of your armature consist of a flange, a tee or an x and an 8" x 1/2" pipe threaded both ends. They go together like this.

This will be your armature and base which goes onto your sclupture stand which you won't have or need in the beginning. I don't want you to have a closet full of tools you don't need. Wait for the sculpture stand until you are sure that you are serious about sculpture.

The armature is to sculpture what time is to the universe. Time is so that everything doesn't happen all at once. The armature is the backbone, the skeleton of your sclupture no matter what shape your sclupture is. There are many kinds of armatures or skeletons that you can use depending on the kind of sculpture you want.

You can use wood dowels for shoulders if you like. Of course you can use a longer pipe for taller pieces, and add wood or more pipe and fittings to make any size or shape you might want.

Students working to assemble their armatures.

You can add pipe to change the form, but don't forget that in the case of undercuts or complex forms and masses, it must be chopped, cut or sawn off in order to make the mold, so you might want to consider a professional style wire armature if it's going to get cut apart. Pipe must be cut with a hacksaw.

Now you're ready to start sculpting a beginning head-form, but you might first want to know about professional commercial wire-built armatures.

Commercial aluminum-wire armatures are available through Sculpture House, and in the case of human or animal figures which must be cut up for the mold-making, are the only sensible way to go. In the case of complex figures, your wire armature will not survive, but replacements are available and relatively cheap.

Putting the commercial armature together is as simple as A-B-C.

They are easy to assemble, and instructions come with the ones from Sculpture House — you'll find that unless you want a totally off-the-menu custom armature, Sculpture House ready-mades actually cost less than making them yourself, except for the simple head armatures. Thick aluminum wire and thinner wrapping wire plus hardware are all available from Sculpture House a-la-carte if you prefer to make your own custom-designed armature.

Screw the bust assembly onto its base if you are using the commercial Sculpture House head armature. Merely stick the wire head and neck assembly into the hole in the wooden attachment that carries the base screw. Instructions for assembly are in the box if you get lost, or watch my video demo on

Famous world-class sculptor Claude Needham is holding up two different sizes of commercial armatures, 15" and 18", which are available from Sculpture House. They come unassembled with a base, but are very easy to put together in just a few moments.

The commercial wire head armature comes flat. You must turn one of the loops to make it round, like this. Then it is ready for loading.

The smaller variety of commercial head armature might be easier to begin with. It will use less clay, and be used easily on a table or workbench until you decide on and work with a sculpture stand.

There are also figure armatures for about $35.00 to $100.00 depending on complexity, size, quality and strength, variability and ease of replacement following the "foundry chop". This one is the 24" armature on my Hercules stand.

My little Hercules stand, is the stand of choice and costs about $250. It has little adjustments so that it will stay completely balanced and you can raise and lower the height as you wish. You can work down onto your sculpture from above or you can work up to your sculpture from below depending upon how you want to work. However, this homemade student stand which cost $90.00 to build will do quite well for small work.

This Little Hercules sculpture stand will turn smoothly and comfortably, and you need it to turn because you're going to be constantly turning your sculptural form. You're not going to stop turning it, because you're always working "in the round" like theater-in-the-round. If you're going to start working on big pieces, you're going to want a sculpture stand. And you want to have a concrete floor and to avoid tracking clay all over the house you want to have a pair of shoes just for the sculpture area, and the get out of those studio-only shoes before you walk around the house. You want a special pair of shoes just for your sculpture area

This is a wire cutter; you use this to cut large clay blocks. It's called a wire cutter because it's made of a piece of wire that is strung between two dowels. We use it to cut clay. The kind I like costs around $9.00 from Sculpture House in New Jersey.

Here is a homemade guitar "E" string or a piano-wire cutter to cut the clay brick into smaller more manageable chunks. Never use The Tool, meaning your wood tool, to chop big pieces of clay.

Clay is what you call mud, the kind you step in in crossing a stream. They reduce it with heat, take out the water and replace the water with mineral oil to make Roma Plastilina, the professional sculptor's choice for modeling sculpture. Building a sculpture out of clay is correctly called "modeling". It has nothing to do with someone posing on a model stand.

Begin by slicing off 3/8" slabs from the larger block of Roma Plastilina with your double- handled wire tool.

Soft clay will load best onto your armature. Hard clay won't stick to either the metal armature or to the larger body of clay. Your job now is to make the big hard brick of Plastilina into small soft blobs of useable clay.

Cutting the slab into smaller pieces might require help from a friend, neighbor or fellow artist. You'll soon find that sharing a studio has many advantages, including sharing the model fees, shipping costs and helping each other with heavy objects.

This is about the right thickness of a slab cut. Note that it's best to cut the brick on the short side, not lengthwise.

You're starting to get into body contact with the clay, to actually get into one-to-one relationship with the medium to have a tactile relationship with the clay and a tactile relationship with the armature. That is very important because actually sculpture is a tactile art. You can't get any more hands-on than sculpture except, perhaps, in turned or built pottery or in the form of finger painting. It's as close as you can get to the actual stuff. It's very important that you establish a tactile relationship with the clay. This realization is very important.

If your clay falls on the floor, it is easy to pick up if you do it right away. You just have to know that you dropped it, which requires some attention, and you have to pick it up which requires a minimal of non-laziness or the ability to look into the future and imagine what will surely be the messy and annoying result after it has been on the floor and someone has rubbed it in thoroughly and unremovably.

Break off smaller pieces from the cut slabs. Soften smaller pieces. Enjoy loading the armature with your hands while you can. Later you will use only your tool to apply the Plastilina to the loaded armature.

The Roma Plastilina must be well-kneaded to the consistency of recently-chewed chewing gum. You will feel heat from it when it is ready to use.

Start with little blobs, about the size of a garbanzo bean or large garden pea.

Clay gets used over and over again. You can add mineral oil or add new clay to old clay to make old clay soft. The Plastilina will easily outlast several dozen generations of sculptors.

You must refresh your Roma Plastilina slightly every time it comes back from the foundry, because it will come back full of mold-release, similar to your baby or mineral oil, which must be worked in by kneading. It may have dried out somewhat if the foundry has had it in a hot, dry environment for several months or a year if they've gotten backed- up on their pours, which does happen when a worker gets sick or injured.

Part of the lump I originally got from Renzo Fenci has over many years been thoroughly worked into each piece of clay I use today. That clay goes back to the Renaissance sculptors in his 450 year lineage. I give my professional students here at The Blueline Academy a lump of my decades-old Plastilina and you mix this into your clay and then someday you can pass this on when you have students of your own, thus preserving the lineage.

You will need many hundreds of little lumps of Plastilina the size of garbanzo beans or large garden peas — flattened garden peas — somewhat flat, not tightly compressed, just a bit on the flattish side — 1/6" to 1/8" thick by about 1/2", which in metrics would be 3 or 4 mm by 1 cm wide. We have covered most of what you need to start.

These little bits are very valuable. They easily squish into tiny blobs that are warm and soft.

Resist putting the clay bits onto the sculpture with your finger unless you are specifically loading the armature.

The only time you are premitted to use your thumbs directly on the clay is when you load the armature, which is long before the detailing takes place. If you have to ask at what point that is, it's time to start using The Tool.

When you're working with oil paint, you're constantly working with poisons. The poison is in the turpentine and the Damar Varnish. The third element in the mix is linseed oil, which is when not in combination with Damar Varnish and/or turpentine, actually digestible. It's also called flaxseed oil. Another oil that's used commonly in painting and sculpture is mineral oil. Mineral oil is also known as baby oil. And it is also digestible except it shouldn't be given to small children because they can inhale it. If you swallow it, you're fine, it'll go right through the system, but if you inhale it, it goes into the lungs, even the slightest bit, and it's cumulative, and it never leaves the lungs. So you don't want to actually take it internally; there are better laxatives than mineral oil, but it is still used for that purpose. Topcare Extra Heavy Mineral Oil Lubricant Laxative — tasteless, colorless, odorless is useful if your plastilina gets too dry. But don't add too much, and don't actually take any art supply internally!!!

Kneading small pieces is the tried and true way of softening the clay and making the small additive lumps you will use to build with. It develops good hand strength and gets you into direct immediate intimate contact with the clay.

As you are working with these little tiny clay pellets, remember that each pellet is a universe and you are warming that universe, you are putting soul, life into that little tiny pellet. You are warming that piece, giving it life. Like Dr. Frankenstein, you are actually giving your life force to the clay, which is a great sacrifice. You are giving some part of your life to that clay.

Think of the clay as your own body which is coming to life and forming a little pile here ready to work. So you really have nothing but yourself with which to make the world. Take responsibility for what you are making, a three-dimensional Vision in the Void.

Closeup of the wire head armature at the very beginning of the loading proceudre. Note the tiny size of the warmed-up clay balls being applied.

Why do we not just cram the block of clay onto the armature? Because it would turn constantly and crack open and just plain fall off during the mold-making process, or long before. The clay must be "loaded" slowly and carefully onto the armature a little pellet at a time.

This is a little tiny armature — I loaded these clay pellets on it, which took me about an hour to load up correctly. What I'm going to be showing you about clay modeling is Italian style sculpture, which I learned from Renzo Fenci, Russell Cangialosi and Bob Glover, three of the foremost sculptors of the 20th century.

Use fingers, thumbs, palm while you can. Once the armature is loaded, you may not use the hand to move or press or smear the clay!

Loading the head armature a little at a time is the best way to avoid splitting and cracking disasters later on. This is the only time we will use our fingers to put clay on the armature. Once the basic form and masses have been established, we will use "The Tool" exclusively. Don't cheat this later on — you'll be sorry you did!


Excerpted from Amazing Sculpture You Can Do by E. J. Gold. Copyright © 2009 E.J. Gold. Excerpted by permission of Gateways Books and Tapes.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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