Sculpting a Wolf Head Display Mask, Part 1

wolf mask patternNote: The video on this page is part of a long series because it took a long time to make the sculpture and turn it into a mask. If you’d like a much faster start, check out my wolf mask pattern. Just print it, cut out the pieces and tape them together. Then you can use the techniques shown in the video series to embellish the mask and add detail, without needing to start from scratch.

And now, back to the original post:


I tried out the human skull-shaped mask form I made, but adding the features of a wolf’s head. It will eventually become a display mask for my wall.

I thought there could be problems with the human bones inside the wolf’s head, but it is actually helping. For one thing, it’s making sure that the face doesn’t flatten out, which is a real issue for me when I use photos for reference models.

I also made several sketches, and I’m using them instead of photos while I build the basic underlying forms and proportions, so I don’t get confused by color changes and details like fur.

I’ve noticed that most of the sculpting videos I see on YouTube don’t really have a lot of explanations about why the artist is doing what they’re doing – often it’s a speeded-up view of the sculptor moving clay around. I can’t actually go that fast myself, since I really do have to think things through, but maybe you would prefer fewer explanations. So – what do you think? Would you like me to whip through it a little faster, and explain things a little bit less?

And another question for you – I stopped doing videos last year after I dropped my camera on the floor (cameras don’t seem to like that) and I started again recently because my very nice step-mother and father gave me a new one. (Thanks, Pete and Dianne!). I’m having a lot of fun doing them, but which type of post do you actually prefer – non-moving tutorials, with still photos and text like a normal blog post, or these video posts? Let me know what you think.

Next question – how many of you have signed up on Pinterest? Do you like it? Have you actually figured it out?

Since I’m asking all these questions – are these videos taking too long to load on your computer?

OK, I’m off to finish that wolf. Next time I’ll try to fix the lighting a little better, and maybe not cut off the top of my head. Getting the cat to be quiet seems like an impossible task, so I won’t even try. πŸ˜‰

Update: If you’d like to see all the other videos in this series, you can find them here:

And for those of you who don’t have time to watch the whole series, I made a much shorter version showing the highlights. You can find the short version of How to Make a Paper Mache Mask here.

50 thoughts on “Sculpting a Wolf Head Display Mask, Part 1”

  1. Sorry, I forgot to load the pic. . .
    Now I’m thinking about age and what it does to the brain.
    AND
    Happy Birthday to you Jonni!.
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/lobomasks001.JPG[/img]

    Reply
    • He’s looking good, Sharon. Speaking of uneven eyes (always my problem) I just bought a cheap divider that I’m hoping will help me get things more symmetrical. I kept seeing David Lemon use one for his clay sculptures, and decided it was time I tried it. Wish me luck. But they do say that the second eye is always the hardest part of a sculpture, so I’m sure we’re not the only ones who sometimes have a problem with it.

      Reply
  2. Hi Jonni,
    I know you a busy with a ton of emails and normally I wouldn’t add to your load. But, just a quick question.

    I just pried El Lobo off his form. I’m concerned because some residue of the sculpey I modeled with is stuck on him. I don’t know if that will bleed through eventually (I think you made a comment somewhere regarding the ingredients in clay that tends to do that), and I don’t want my sculpture wrecked. I was thinking about using rubbing alcohol to try to get it all off.

    Any suggestions for me?

    Thank you
    Sharon

    Reply
    • Hi Sharon. I’m always glad to hear from you – you know that. About that Super Sculpey – if it’s just a trace, it shouldn’t hurt anything. I left some unbaked sculpey inside my colt, and the oil seeped out through the paint after about a year. It took a very long time. But there was a lot of sculpey in there, which is weird now that I think about it. That stuff is expensive. I think that if you just have a little bit stuck in a few cracks it won’t matter.

      I don’t know if the rubbing alcohol will work or not. It shouldn’t hurt anything, even if it doesn’t clean off the sculpey, so you could try it. By the way – will we get to see El Lobo? I’d like to see how he turned out.

      Reply
      • He’s still drying out but I took a pic of the inside of the mask to give you an idea of what I meant by sculpey residue.
        When he’s done, certainly I’ll post a pic altho I never got his deformed eyes right. Their not proportional, one eye is bigger than the other, nor are they spaced or leveled equally. Oh well. He might have unwolfy ears too. But I’ll try to work some mojo on him, and that will be good nuff. For now. He’s past the point of becoming another of my chimera’s.

        Thanks for looking at my concern with the sculpey.

        Regards always,
        Sharon

        Reply
        • If you make up some of the paper mache clay, or use some PaperClay, you could make all the adjustments you need after the shell is hard. I can’t wait to see him when he’s done –

          Reply
  3. yea li have used jonniclay in quite a few of my projects i like it a lot it works well i just have a little trouble getting it smooth

    Reply
  4. i have never used anything other than crumpled paper before, so i dont know what to do for the armeture. im thinking strips of plywood on the corners and cardboard for the walls or something. or something. maybe chicken wire… i dont know. and yes, i am using paper and paste for the main parts of the castle. for details and probably a main part of the mask i was going to use JonniClay. is that the same thing as super sculpy? i like it a lot.

    Reply
    • Super Sculpey is a polymer clay that you can bake. I like it too. But the “jonniclay” is just the paper mache clay that you can find by clicking the link at the top of this page. It’s a home-made spreadable goo that replaces the need for paper strips and paste. You can mold it, but the layers should be quite thin so they dry all the way through. It doesn’t cost nearly as much as Super Sculpey.

      Reply
  5. Jonni,
    I have to say i think i prefer the picture posts, though a mixture of both would be fine too.
    I had a question about your mask, though. What kind of clay are you using to make the fine details and whatnot? and did you just use that clay or is it a paper mache base and then the clay? sorry my computer wont load the video tonight.
    I plan on (finally!) finishing my mask i started last summer sometime in the near future (by the end of february i hope..?) i cant wait! it is a demon skull with ram horns. And then i am going to make a 4 foot barbie castle for my sister.. if you have any suggestions on how to stabalize those please let me know!
    Thank you so much for all your time and help!
    ~Leah

    Reply
    • Hi Leah. For the wolf I’m using an oil-based modeling clay that I ordered from http://www.sculptclayandtools.com. It’s really nice clay, but I’m thinking that I might go back to using Super Sculpey, just because I seem to like it better.

      There is a mask form under the wolf and there’s aluminum foil inside the muzzle, because it cuts down on the amount of clay I need to add to the sculpture. The mask form itself was made out of plaster cloth over a plastic human skull. Using a wolf skull would have been a lot better, but I didn’t have one. And just a plain old ball of crumpled paper would work, too, since it’s only used to save on clay.

      I sure hope you’ll show us your demon skull when it’s done. I’ve been thinking about making a masks with ram’s horns myself – more on the lines of a shaman than a demon, though. I can’t wait to see how yours turns out.

      I’m not quite sure what you mean about “stabilizing” your mask and castle. Are you making them with paper mache strips and paste? What sort of armature are you using?

      Reply
  6. Hi Jonni, I love your videos, very informative, and so much easier to see someone doing something, not just talk ( or type) about how to do it.
    I do not like the speeded up vidoes, they explain nothing, you just have to guess as to how or why the artist did something.
    Maybe if you want to have a competition, perhaps people sent in pics, of masks or whatever you choose, but the winner is picked totally random, so as to to not put you in the postion of having to judge someones work, but it might get lots of pics of what people are doing.
    Chris

    Reply
  7. Hi Jonni, I have been wanting to drop a note to say thank you for all of your generous help – I just started making paper mache a while ago and have used your formula and suggestions. As to your method of instructions – I am not sure of all of the different things they have out there –that being said – I don’t know the difference between Tweeter and Tweety bird and can’t figure out why I should have to know – in other words – you are such a good teacher – I can follow your instructions just beautifully – whatever you want to do will be perfect – I’m sure. I do so enjoy your posts, your pics and the videos. Thanks again….

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  8. Oh, I forgot to ask you. You said on your pantalone mask you were using Super Sculpey. But on this mask it looks like you are using regular clay, are you? If you are using regular clay, is there a reason other than you know you’re going to be using a whoe lot of it?

    Reply
    • Good point, Teresa. I won’t be using this sculpture as a positive mold, but I could if I wanted to. I prefer the Super Sculpey for positive molds, but I’ll be making this one into a negative mold using silicone. That means I have to add all the fur and other details right in the clay, instead of adding the tiny details like fur after the paper mache is done, like I do when I make masks like the Pantalone mask. Super Sculpey is softer, too, so it’s easier to pull it out of the dried paper mache. But, since this one is not going to be used for a positive mold, it should work just fine. (Silicone molds are expensive, and there would be no reason to make one if you only want to create one mask. I’m hoping the wolf will come out good enough that I would want to make more than one, maybe even to sell. We’ll see about that when it’s done…)

      Reply
  9. I like your videos and I like long videos with lots of explainations. I’m a beginner in paper mache. I’ve only made 2 things from paper mache so far and I am learning so much from your videos it’s great!! You are teaching me how to bring to life some of the images I have running around in my head. Thank you.

    I just did a web search for Pinterest. Hmmmm. Looks like Twitter with pictures. If it is really popular I can see Twitter doing something similar and calling it “TwitterPics”. πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Or maybe Pinterest is already owned by Twitter – who knows? I’m still playing with it. It might be something we could use as a community to help increase each other’s web visitor counts or something. People say it’s getting huge and really helping people who sell things online. I just haven’t figured it out yet.

      Reply
  10. Hallo Jonni!

    Your videos are great. I am a 62 year old woman from Sweden and not so good at English. This information is perfect for me. And I like your nice cat, too.
    I will continue to follow you, thank you very much.

    Reply
  11. Ha! I wish! I thought that was actually going to be an icon pic not a pic added to my post (darn technology!). I will post a pic of the zombie head I am making using your paper clay recipe as soon as it’s finished though. Hope it looks half as good as that pic. πŸ™‚ Thanks again.

    Rich

    Reply
  12. Oops! Sorry for all the pic attachments. Don’t know how that happened or why they’re so big. You can delete the comment if you want, I just wanted you to know how appreciative I am.

    Rich

    Reply
  13. Jonni,

    Count me in as another who enjoys watching your videos and your un-sped up explanations. A combination of written posts and videos would be great!

    I just purchased the e-book version of your “Animal Sculptures” book and it’s terrific! Great step-by-step explanations, and clear pictures to clarify what your saying. I haven’t been doing paper mache anywhere near as long as you (just four years) but I keep refining my technique as I learn more. So far your techniques and recipes are by far the best! Thanks!

    Rich

    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/zombiecop.jpg[/img]

    Reply
    • Thanks, Rich. Now – can you tell us a bit about your image? (Not a self-portrait, I hope… πŸ™‚ ). If this is an example of your work, I think you’re a few steps ahead of me in many ways.

      Reply
  14. Dear Jonni,
    I too, love your videos, tutorials, and books, because of the wonderful detailed explanantion you provide. As far as a preference between vidoe posts versus still pic tutorials, that often depends on the project. I’ve found I enjoy both immensely and hope you will continue to do some of each.
    I have DSL internet, an older computer and your videos always load quickly.
    It is always an added treat to see one of your animal companions show up in a video. It was not only your skill as an artist and willingness to share your knowledge and art passion with so many others that drew me to follow your blog, but also your love of animals. Animals, art, and nature are truly some of life’s greatest gifts.
    Thank you, Jonni, for sharing your talent, knowledge, and passion with so many of us.
    Mandy

    Reply
    • Thanks Mandy. It sounds like you and I are kindred spirits. One of these days I’ll introduce my dog, too – his only contribution to my videos, so far, has been the clicking of his toenails as he walks across the floor.

      Reply
  15. I have so much trouble trying to crumple the aluminum foil. I am trying to make the piglet and having trouble getting the foil to look right.

    Reply
    • Hi Maxine. Is it possible that you’re using too much foil? If you use a smaller piece of foil, it might be easier to form it into the right shape. It doesn’t have to be rock hard, it just has to be sturdy enough so it won’t distort when you apply the clay.

      Good luck with it – and I hope you’ll post a photo of your piggy when it’s done.

      Reply
  16. Dear Jonni,

    I love the videos. They are slow to play, so I find if I get one set up and then do something else for a while, it plays much better then, as enough has loaded ahead to keep it going rather than pausing. I really like the details you provide. As a beginner in paper mache it is very helpful for me to actually see you doing things, much better than still pictures and written explanations. However, I also like your books. I have purchased your first one and will soon be adding your second to my library. Thanks for helping learn so much about paper mache. ps – I think your cat adds a real flair as well! Barbara

    Reply
  17. Hi Jonnie, I love your videos! They are so informative and I can see how you smooth things or apply them. I have cable internet, so your videos have no problem loading in a very short time – I’m sure people who don’t have such fast internet have a harder time with the download speeds, but I have no problem. As for the contest – I would prefer to apply through comments or something, as I don’t like going on Facebook except to try to keep up with my Grandchildren. Even then, I get lost easily – darn senior moments! Ha Ha
    I have been working on a fruit bowl and a pear (I want to make a couple apples and pears for it) The pear isn’t finished yet, but thought I would send a picture along for you to see. I am still learning, so these are not perfect, yet I kind of like the amateur feel of them. Thanks again for all you do for us out here! Your friend, Terry
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Fruitbowlpear3smaller.jpg[/img]
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Fruitbowlpear2smaller.jpg[/img]

    Reply
    • Hi Terry. Thanks for showing your pear – it looks like you’ve got a great start. (And I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t like Facebook all that much. I honestly can’t figure it out. Blogs make so much more sense to me…)

      Reply
  18. I truly enjoy your videos and your still-pic-tutorials. I hope you continue the videos in spite of the trouble you have to endure. The video loads immediately for me,
    I noted that you probably could have explained about the difference in the human and canine skull while you added clay to the wolf but I still like it and it is very informative. I am afraid if you think to much about the videoing, you will become discouraged and stop. If you focus on the sculpture and judsst talk while working, we will see more. We can always ask questions.
    You mighr consider a mask making contest.
    Have not tried Pinterest.
    Keep up the good work and I appreciate your willingness to share and your enthusiasm for your craft.

    Reply
    • Thanks, JoeCar. The part about making the videos that is hardest for me is knowing how much of it to cut out. I can keep yammering on for a long time, and think everything I say is important. But that makes a 20 minute video, when a 7 minute video would be much more fun to watch. I’ll keep doing it, and I hope they’ll keep getting better.

      I’m not sure a mask-making contest will work for me, because it implies a judgement about other people’s artwork, and that everyone who doesn’t win is a loser. It doesn’t feel quite right to me. I think something that requires a little bit of effort, like clicking the Facebook share button, maybe, and then randomly choosing from a long list would be easier for me, and less stressful. I’ll keep thinking about it.

      Reply
  19. I forgot another questions I wanted to ask. I think it would be fun to do a contest. I could give away one of my books as a prize. But how should I do a contest? Jessie has them on her site, and usually picks an email address out of a hat. People comment or do a Facebook friend thing or something, and that puts them in the contest. Do you have any other ideas about how we could make it fun?

    Reply

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