This is the list of supplies and resources for my book Fast Faces: Unleash Your Creativity with a Friendly Lump of Clay.
I also included links to some of my favorite videos and books about sculpting and creativity.
Many of the links on the list below are for the amazon.com store because that’s where I do most of my online shopping. (I live in a small town, miles away from a real store that sells art or sculpting supplies). Amazon will send me a small commission if you buy through these links, but I never recommend anything that I don’t use myself.
- If you would like a printable version of this list so you can take it to your local art supply store, click here for the PDF version.
Tools and Materials
WED Clay: The least expensive place to buy WED Clay online is on amazon.com, because the shipping costs are lower than any other supplier I could find. All of the Fast Faces in my book were made with WED Clay, because I love the stuff.
This clay is made by the Laguna Clay Company, so your local pottery store may have some in stock, or they might be willing to order some for you. If not, ask them for a nice smooth clay for sculpting. Gray clay is the easiest color to use because the shadows show up nicely, and that makes it easier to see the shapes. However, the red clay is fine, too. Clay is usually quite inexpensive, so try several.
Sculpting Tools: I order my sculpting tools online, too. For clay sculpting I prefer the small wax carving tools made with stainless steel.
I bought a twelve-piece set back in 2012, and I use just a few of them. After you try all of them out, you’ll get used to the marks they make in your clay and you’ll find your favorites, too.
Some people prefer to use wooden tools, or tools with silicone tips. If you’d like to experiment with several different types, you can find combination sets that have several different types of tools in a handy case.
You’ll want a kitchen knife in your tool case, too, for cutting the back of your clay so it fits flat on your board. You can also use it for shaping the clay.
The Sculpting Stand: Take a trip to your local lumber store and see if they have some off-cuts that you can use. Or look around in your garage or shop. The specific dimensions that are shown in the book aren’t important, so just find some wood that will be large enough to hold your faces.
I use my sculpting stand when I make masks, too.
Zip-Top Plastic Bags, Paper Towels and Plastic Garbage Bags: You probably already have those in your kitchen. WED Clay will wipe up easily off a table, but it might be difficult to get it off your carpet. I recommend using a large plastic bag under your work area to avoid a mess.
Mold-Making Supplies and Videos
If you fall in love with your Fast Faces and want to save them so they’ll last, you can make a mold and cast them in plaster. As I mention in the book, this is fairly expensive, and the other methods I listed for saving and sharing your work are a lot easier, too. But if you want to try it, I use Smooth-On’s Rebound 25 for my molds. The trial kit has enough material for three or four fist-sized molds. You’ll also need the thickener, called Thi-Vex, for your second and third coats. You only need a few drops of the thickener.
- I made this video to show you how to use the silicone to make a mold of your Fast Faces, and cast them in concrete (for outside) or plaster of Paris (for inside). The process is easy.
I like using a medical grade or fast-setting plaster cloth. I order mine from Brick in the Yard. https://www.brickintheyard.com/products/pb8u1
Mixing plaster of Paris: You can find plaster of Paris at your local DIY store. The Brick in the Yard YouTube channel has a good video that shows how to mix Hydrocal plaster, which is harder than regular plaster but mixes the same way.
If you’re wondering what I used to paint my plaster cast of Oscar: I like using Burnt Umber acrylic paint (craft paint from Walmart works fine) mixed with Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid.
If you want to use a glaze you need to seal the plaster first with a primer, or use the glaze over the face after you’ve painted it with acrylic paints. The glaze is brushed on and then immediately wiped off with a paper towel, so the color remains in the deeper areas and brings out the details.
Books, Articles and Videos Mentioned in Fast Faces
The Cheerful Ogre – this is the second Fast Face I ever made. I still hadn’t figured out what to call them yet. It takes practice to learn how to see the features on the random shadows and dips and bumps on a lump of clay. That’s why I missed so many of the almost-complete faces on this lump, as I showed you in the book. (I still like him, though. 😉 )
9 Ways to Become More Creative in the Next 10 Minutes, by Larry Kim, a fast, fun read.
Chef Dan Barber: This video on YouTube will give you a preview of the video I watched on Netflix:
An interesting interview of Dan Barber by Ira Glass is well worth watching, too: https://youtu.be/w0nak0fsQlM
And, of course if you’re interested in Dan’s life history and recipes, check out his book The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food. (I garden when I’m not sculpting, so his book is on my wishlist, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.)
Master Penman Jake Weidmann: I didn’t have room to mention Jake’s video, but if you have ever been told that you shouldn’t be such a perfectionist when you’re creating art, you might want to watch it. Being a perfectionist is a problem only if it prevents you from finishing anything, or if it stops you from even getting started.
If you use perfectionism the way Jake does, it will help you become a master of your craft. Well worth watching.
Jake’s video also proves that talent does not make art easy.
Dr. Temple Grandin: Her book Animals Make us Human is well worth the read if you have any interest in the way animals and humans think.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: (Please don’t ask me to pronounce his name!) I read his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience years ago. It’s a little dense and may even be a little out of date, but it’s still a good read.
Martin E. P. Seligman: Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. He’s the fellow who thinks we need more than happiness alone to live a well-balanced life.
Your Inner Critic:
In Fast Faces I gave you a very simple meditation technique for silencing your inner critic. Even though it’s simple, it really does work. For another take on this issue, watch this TED talk by artist Danielle Krysa.
She has a book about this issue, too, but I haven’t read it yet.
Here’s another trick I’ve used in the past to push myself past that voice that tells me I can’t do something. I imagined my inner critic as a very small elf-like creature who sat on one shoulder and whispered into my ear. Whenever I felt doubts and insecurity trying to stop me from doing something, or if I noticed the inertia that those doubts create, I imagined myself knocking my little elf-like critic off my shoulder. He would spring right back, like one of those air-filled toys (there’s one called a Socker Bopper). You hit the thing, It falls down, and then it pops right back up again. For some reason I found this hilarious, and started to look forward to the little guy showing up. He never shows up any more – I guess he got tired of the abuse. I haven’t heard from him in years.
For the real people who criticize your work, that’s a tougher problem. I like to remind myself that nobody has a right to offer criticism (or even well-meant suggestions) about my art without my permission. Likewise, I don’t have a right to offer criticism or suggestions unless I’ve receive permission. I forget sometimes, like most people do, but I’m working on it.
Books and Videos for Sculpting Real People in Clay:
If you enjoy making your Fast Faces, you might want to make some portraits that look like real people, too. The very best training I’ve ever found is a DVD by Adam Reeder. I used his method to make my Witch of the West mask.
I have watched a lot of videos that show how to sculpt a face, and some of them cost more than Adam’s video, but I think his is the best. He uses a method that you’ll see nowhere else.
It’s very much like my method of using a cardboard pattern of an animal’s silhouette inside my paper mache sculptures, in fact. By starting with the outline, you have a solid beginning that makes the rest of the sculpture easier. And portrait sculpting is an exacting task, so any trick that makes it easier is a good thing!
I also like his video because he’s a great teacher and he obviously enjoys what he’s doing.
You’ll find a similar technique idea in an out-of-print book by Catherine Barjansky called Sculpting Made Easy: The Barjansky Method of Figure and Portrait Sculpture by Outline. Books about sculpting faces tend to make the process look really complicated. This one gives you a method that doesn’t require all the calipers and constant measuring to get a likeness.
If you like a more traditional approach, Portrait Sculpting by Philippe Faraut is good (and expensive). Modeling the Head in Clay by Bruno Lucchesi is a classic and well worth studying. The newest book, which uses oil-based Monster Clay instead of ceramic clay, is Beginner’s Guide to Sculpting Characters in Clay. I’ve read the other two, but not this latest one.
For Drawing Characters and Portraits:
You can find many videos about drawing faces on YouTube. Just remember that the artists in the videos show you how they draw a specific face. Many beginners get caught up in the ‘right way’ to draw certain features instead of looking at real people and drawing what they see. In fact, the very best way to learn how to draw faces (or anything else) is to draw as often as possible, using real models. After you’ve trained your eye to see what’s actually in front of you (that’s a lot harder than it sounds) you will then be able to make better use of books that teaches classic methods of drawing a realistic portrait.
I gave my daughter a copy of Portraits from Life in 29 Steps, and she said it’s good. She’s also a professional painter, so this might not be a good choice for beginners.
Drawing and Painting Beautiful Faces has stylized faces (not portraits, and not really characters, either.) The author has a very definite style, but almost too much style, because all of the faces tend to look alike. However, the drawings are very pretty, and she shows how to use a variety of pens and pencils to create her faces.
Making Faces: Drawing Expressions For Comics And Cartoons is a lot of fun. Nothing realistic, but it’s a good start for cartoonists.
If you’re interested in learning how to create characters and illustrations for children’s books, sign up for classes at Society for Visual Storytelling (SVSPro).
Be sure to come back to UltimatePaperMache.com and say ‘hi’ on the Daily Sculptor’s Page. We’d love to meet you!