Today’s guest post is by Steve Sack, who shows us how he built “Born to be Wild,” his latest sculpture. Thank you, Steve! What a great post – and a great sculpture, too. Even though Steve says this “isn’t a tutorial,” I know his description of the materials and methods he uses will inspire all of us to try something new.
Â© Steve Sack
Hello all. I was asked to share some pics of a recent sculpt, and describe my methods. This piece is called “Born to be Wild”. It measures 36″x33″x13″. It was a fun one to build, in spite of a few problems along the way. What follows isn’t really a tutorial, but does explain some approaches and materials I’ve found successful. I’ve only made 11 paper mache sculptures thus far so I’m not presenting myself as an expert.Â It’s always fun to see how others make art, so hopefully you may find something here that you may find interesting.
1—Rigid Foam—-I used rigid foam for the armatures in the last few sculptures I’ve made…I find it works well for my purposes because I like as much control as possible in my work.Â I don’t like the white pebbly styrofoam…I use the pink Owens Corning rigid foam panel insulation(the Pink Panther stuff at Home Depot)…it cuts easily with boxcutters, saws, small knives, files, or coping saws. It can be sanded smooth, and parts can be glued together to make larger shapes.. It takes Jonniclay well. My only complaint is all the little foam bits that seem to get everywhere.
2—Apoxy Sculpt— …this stuff is amazing…when mixed (comes in 2-part formula) it makes a smooth putty that can be shaped, stretched, sculpted. Takes over three hours to set….overnight to harden completely. It gets hard as a rock…I think it was originally made for taxidermists to model antlers and such…and is used by special effects artists. I use it all around the house for repairs and assorted non-art projects…its the best, easiest-to-use epoxy I’ve ever found. It is a bit expensive but you can get a lot of use out of very small amounts… I’ve yet to finish one container after using it on 4 sculptures .It can be used for your sculpture’s details, or as an adhesive for extremely solid bonds. I can’t recommend this stuff enough. Their website shows it’s many uses: http://www.avesstudio.com/
3—Creative Paperclay—…I use this for details only. it is a joy to model..even easier to shape than pottery clay. Dries pretty hard. IÂ don’t use very much but you really only need it for details that are too hard to get with Jonniclay. I keep the Creative Paperclay additions pretty shallow (for longer details like cattle tails and horns I use the Apoxy). Here’s how I use it: I take a small handful of clay, then add about 10% of its size in Elmers glue, kneading it together till its totally mixed (that step is messy so latex gloves recommended till its mixed together). You can see a dollop of the clay in my snapshot, with a bit of glue in the center before mixing. Then shape the Creative Paperclay into what you want to add to your sculpt….before joining them dip your finger in some Elmers glue and smear into the area on your paper mache sculpt where the Creative Paperclay will go. Then press together and blend. Once dry the pieces will be totally bonded, and can be sanded or painted.
Also I use wood dowels and wire for armatures. I build my armatures as I go along rather than an entire armature skeleton from the start, because I tend to make lots of changes as I go along.
I always start with a sketch…nothing too detailed.This one called for some reference photos, front and side views of a motor scooter. Because the concept was somewhat complicated I decided to build the scooter and each character separately, otherwise painting would be a nightmare.
I began withÂ a simple base made of wood from an old painting frame. Secured dowels with metal braces and covered those with some Apoxy. I then made some wheels out of rigid foam, gluing together and sanding. I mached and painted them because the fenders would make painting later difficult. From there I “eyeballed” the proportions using the width of a wheel as a measure (as in, the wheels are two wheel-lengths apart…the handlebars are three and a half wheel lengths from the base, etc.) Because my style is cartoony I don’t get hung up on total accuracy
Building upward I shape rigid foam to the shapes of the motorbike’s fenders and chassis. Flat areas are cardboard reinforced with woodglue-soaked Kraft paper strips. You can see the carved bike seat awaiting it’s Jonniclay layer. The trim details are Apoxy.
I roughly shape some of the character’sbody parts, to get a sense of proportion.
I wood glued some 1 1/2 rigid foam pieces together. After drying it was easy to carve the basic shape down with a coping saw, then form a smooth head shape with a file. A mouth then was easy to carve out.
Pieces coming together…for larger ones I drill holes to stick in a glue-covered wood dowel. Some parts are kept in place with a nail stuck into the rigid foam…easily removed once the mache has dried.
I don’t get too fussy with carving…just guesstimate rough proportions, carve a bit with coping saw or hacksaw, then do the bulk of the shaping with files.
I realize my character is too stout and needs a longer waist. I slice her in half with a hacksaw, slip in a piece of rigid foam, file it smooth, and tape the pieces together before covering with Jonniclay. After drying for a few hours in front of a heating fan she’s ready to work on again.
I frequently place the characters on the bike to check their poses in relation to the bike, and see how they fit together.
Her hair…I was dreading this, not sure how to handle it. I carve some rough “flowing” shapes…smoothed with my file…and positioned on her head with nails. After covering them with Jonniclay I let it dry, then added Creative Paperclay details, remembering to mix in my Elmers and rub glue over the mache first. On the hair tips I used Apoxy Sculpt putty, because I needed them to be reliably solid and not snap off if bumped. Some of the Apoxy detailing I even extended farther up the hair to act as a sort of external armature. There’s already a dowel helping hold the hair in place, but I like to add extra strength wherever I can
Not for the squeamish……here I add an after-the-fact armature…drilling a hole with a long drill bit from her base up into her head.Then I slide in a glue-covered wooden dowel. Her hair had turned out heavier than I expected so I wanted to give it a little more support.
Detailing a face with Creative Paperclay. You can see that really very little is needed, just a little ridge here or there. This stuff is great for detailing facial features. Also for clothes… just a small ridge is all that’s needed to make a convincing sleeve or hem.
Painting is a favorite part for me.You can see I started her tattoos here—they would have beenÂ be virtually impossible to paint on if I had not built her separately from the rest of the sculpture.
IÂ make the base last, simply because I find them boring. I usually just use rigid foam reinforced with wood glue-soaked Kraft paper but here I also added a Masonite board to the bottom to assist in stability and add some weight to this somewhat top-heavy sculpture.
Major changes. I cut off his head and reposition it to sort of look back at her, so that the characters seem to be interacting a bit more.
And then, after being so close to finished, I decided that her mouth is too big and eyes are too high. Major surgery required….
I carve off her upper face, reposition, and fill it in with Jonniclay. Now her mouth isn’t so big, and she actually has some forehead. While I’m at it I make her cap a little bigger. It’s never too late to make corrections.
Once everything is properly dry its just a matter of repainting…adding final details like rear-view mirrors, slapping on a coat of varnish and placing stick-on felt furniture cushions on the bottom of the base.
I hope you found something of interest here. Your comments are welcome on anything except how incredibly messy my work area is. I’m just glad to be done, because I’m already itchy to start my next paper mache sculpt!