Monday, July 05, 2010

Evolution of a Face

As I posted on my fan page on Facebook, I had to cut the face off of my rider and redo it.  I thought you might enjoy seeing how a face evolves - at least, the way I do it.

My rider started out with just a piece of clay shaped vaguely like a head, with eyes, nose and mouth just roughed in to give me a place to start.  I left her like that while I worked on her body and clothes, the horse and saddle.  Now I'm back to working on the rider's face.

The face I first put on any figurative sculpture will look odd because I make the bone structure very prominent, particularly the cheekbones.  It's also my habit to start with more clay than I need and carve down to where the portrait is.  Above you can see I've started refining the features on the left side of the rider's face.

Here you can see the roughed in features and the basic shape of the head from the side.  It isn't too big yet, but it's heading that way.

At this point (a week later than the previous pics), I've added and subtracted and pushed and pulled the clay trying to get the features placed where I want them.  Some of it's coming together, but the cheekbones are, as usual for me early in a figurative piece, too prominent and too high.  As you can see, the head is now too big, although I haven't enlarged the helmet enough yet for it to look like a real helmet fitted properly to her head.  It's mostly a brim on the skull I'd made before at this point.  The nose is too long too.  This is a petite lady with nice cheekbones, but hers aren't this extreme.  This is just the way I do it as I try to find my way to the portrait. 

This is a couple of days later, more refined and looking more human, but the head is still too big.  I just  haven't noticed it's too big because I'm focusing on it too much.  The lumpy clay in front of the rider is the beginning of the flying mane on the horse.

Side view from the same day.  I like the ear but it's a little big for her.  I'm not happy with her nose, it just isn't right yet.  The head is still too big, and this is the day I realized that fact.  To say I was unhappy is a bit of an understatement.  *sigh*

After I realized the head was too big, I spent some of that time away from it trying to figure out what to do about it.  I finally realized I was going to have to cut off the entire face.   Argh.

Yes, it WAS painful to cut off her face!  And then I had to cut off both sides of her head (two nice ears!  WAAH!) and trim the back of it too!  But it certainly improved the piece.  After several hours of work, I was pretty well pleased with how she looks.  I used minerettes (tiny tools - see picture below) and a small, firm cone-shaped rubber clay shaper to do most of the work.  The tools near the top of the picture (below) are normal-sized tools.  There's a pop can to the left of the minerettes to give you an idea of their size.  The metal one has a squared off loop at one end and a pear-shaped loop at the other.  The two wooden ones are about half-again the thickness of round toothpicks.  The top wooden one has a curved blade shape carved in each end.  One of them has gotten rough from use (plastilene can grind down even metal tools over time).  The bottom tool has wire tips that end in flattened spoon shapes.  The wire isn't much bigger than straight pin wire.  I got these in Loveland, Colorado - I haven't seen them in catalogs, but if you search for them, you might find them.  I don't often need them, but sometimes they are exactly the right thing to use.

And so I made a new face on my rider.  Here's where she is today:

She still needs some work, but she looks a lot more like my customer now!  You may notice she has an open-mouthed smile now.  In every photo I have of my customer, she has an open-lipped smile which is very pretty but darned hard to sculpt.  I tried giving her a closed-mouth smile so it would sculpt more easily but gave up on it.  The horse is flying and she should look like she's having fun, so an open smile it is!

I don't have the right lighting in the studio to show the detail of her eyes, but they look better than they do in these photos.  I'm going to re-measure to make sure I have them at the right height.  From the side they look fine but from the front, they look too high-set.  Argh . . .

The mare has ears, a forelock and complete mane now, and I've started detailing it.  That's a lot more fun than fighting with tiny details in the face, but boy, fighting with those details is worth it.

Hope you've enjoyed watching "the evolution of a face"!  I'll post new pics as she continues to evolve.

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