All You Need to Know about Sculpting

Tuesday was National Relaxation Day. This national day is a reminder to take time out of your busy schedule to relax and recuperate. Everyone needs a little R&R to stay fresh! While hobbies such as watching TV or reading a book are common ways to unwind, consider taking things up a notch with an activity that makes good use of your hands—sculpting. Even if you haven’t been blessed with loads of artistic talent, sculpting is definitely a skill that can be improved upon with practice.

Sketch Your Idea

If you don’t want your masterpiece to look like it was created by a baby, some preparation is needed. Before you even consider busting out the clay, sketch your design on a piece of paper. This will give you a visual representation of the artwork you hope to achieve. We recommend drawing your idea from multiple angles to give you a good idea of how your sculpture will look in 3D form.

Build Your Base

This is where you will build your armature. While an armature might sound pretty intense (like a cavalry or firing squad) it’s actually just a fancy way of referring to your “support structure.” Wire is a common material that’s used for this step, but you can also wield toothpicks or sticks, or even PVC pipes for larger sculptures. Think of your armature as the skeleton of your creation. You want to make sure you have a solid base so your sculpture doesn’t crack or fall apart.

Build Forms Strategically

While your skeleton serves as your initial base, you’ll want to fill your sculpture so it isn’t completely hollow inside. Think of this as the muscles of your creation. Various materials can be used here as well such as masking tape, newspapers, or tin foil. If you’re feeling ambitious, coils of clay laid down in a spiral shape are effective to ensure that your sculpture will end up sturdy.

Choose Your Clay

The type of clay you choose will largely impact your sculpting process. Options include oil-based modeling clay, polymer-based modeling clay, and pottery or “firing” clay. Each type of clay has its pros and cons so choose the right fit for you and your level of expertise. Choose wisely or suffer the consequences…just kidding! Experimenting with different types of clay as a beginner is a great way to find out what you like and what you don’t like.

Sculpt Away

Start big and then drill down. No matter what you’re creating, start by forming the large sections of your sculpture. If you’re sculpting a person, for example, this would be the major sections of the body. Next, move on to forming smaller sections of your creation. Now that you’ve molded your sculpture into its core, start sculpting away at the finer details. At this stage, you can use your hands, dedicated sculpting tools, or household items like a toothbrush, a comb, sewing needles, knives, toothpicks, etc.

Baking Time

Baking your sculpture transforms your clay from soft to hard. The method you use, the length of time, and the object you use for baking is dependent on the clay you utilized. You will want to be careful in following instructions so you don’t over-bake your sculpture. The last thing you’d want is for your masterpiece to crack or explode after all of the hours you’ve put in crafting it!

Add the Finishing Touches

Based on what you’d like the finished product to look like, you can leave the sculpture in its natural color or paint it. If you would like to add color to the mix, the right paint depends on the sculpting material you’ve chosen. More often than not, acrylic paint will be your go-to. You can also add gloss to make different sections stand out, too. From here, you can add any other materials you would like such as fabric, hair, etc.

Draw Inspiration from the Greats

Coming up with ideas for your sculptures may not be easy unless you have a vivid imagination. Luckily, we can look to the titans of the craft for inspiration. While there are many well-respected sculptors, two at the top of the food chain include Constantin Brâncuşi and Auguste Rodin. Constantin Brâncuşi was born in a small farming village in Romania. As an artist, Brâncuşi focused on sculptures that conveyed the true essence of his subjects and drew inspiration from myths and folklore. Some of his most famous works include The KissSleeping Muse I, and Endless Column. He is often regarded as the most important sculptor of the 20th century and he pioneered the technique of direct carving.

Another giant, Auguste Rodin, was born in Paris, France. After a difficult childhood, Rodin perfected his craft and is known for the realism of his art. Some of his most famous works include The ThinkerThe Kiss, and The Age of Bronze. Rodin is considered a pioneer of modern sculpture.

Even if you don’t have ambitions to become the next Brâncuşi or Rodin, sculpting is a great way to relieve some stress. National Relaxation Day is a start but be sure to make it a habit. On top of it being a way to relax, sculpting provides you with a tangible reward for your efforts. Here’s a video to check out that shows you how to sculpt with clay. Use those hands to create art. Sculpt away!

If you’re dealing with a hand condition that causes pain or makes it difficult to use your hands, don’t hesitate to contact us. Your hand health is our priority—and it should be yours as well! We’ll work with you to find a personalized treatment plan so you can get back to doing the things you love most, like becoming a world-renowned sculptor. To stay up-to-date on everything happening at HSST, make sure to follow us on Facebook! Our hands heal yours!