Make a Poseable Armature for an Animal Sculpture

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Create a poseable armature for an animal sculpture:

Several people have mentioned that they’d like to make to make patterns for sculptures that show animals in twisted or dynamic postures.

(If you’re looking for a video that shows you how I make most of my patterns, using a sketch or photo, click here. That’s also how I teach you you to do it in my book Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay.)

I the technique shown in the video above to make my Basset Hound, but I did alter the method a little – and I had to do it twice. That’s just how the creative process works sometimes. He still came out really nice. You can see the entire video series here.

Why I started using patterns inside my sculptures:

Sculptures of two Lion Cubs Playing
Playful Lion Cubs Sculpture

Soon after I started this blog, back in 2008, I created a group of large cats – a snow leopard, four lion cubs, a bobcat, and two ‘angel cats,’ for a charity art show.

I needed to make them fast, and that’s why I created the paper mache clay recipe.

But I didn’t use a pattern.

To make the cats, I bent wire in the shapes of the bodies, heads and legs, and then filled in the shapes with crumpled paper and masking tape. It did work, but it wasn’t easy. Soon after that I started using patterns inside almost all of my sculptures.

But the one benefit of the cat’s armature was that the legs and spine could be posed more easily in a dynamic posture. Cardboard doesn’t like to twist.

To see how I would do these cats today (or any animal sculpture that has a pose with a twisted spine), watch the video above. And click here if you’d like to check out that post about making a poseable hand armature that I mentioned in the video. You can also use it for paws.

If you try this idea for your next sculpture, I hope you’ll show it off in the comments below. And let me know what you think of this idea!

20 thoughts on “Make a Poseable Armature for an Animal Sculpture”

  1. the one benefit of the cat’s armature was that the legs and spine could be posed more easily in a dynamic posture.
    Such a nice video it is.Will definitely try to make some sculpture.

  2. Hi Jonni. I’m going to make a dragon sculpture as big as a can. Or, I’m going to try. No legs, only the body.

    What you would recommend?

    I’m going to use a round cardboard box about 25″high x 16″ as a base but it will be part of the body, and to make the figure from there. This is the only idea a have in this moment.

    Please I hope to hear from you. I will send you the picture. Thank you.

  3. Do you think you could get the same effect by using only tin foil wrapped around armature wire? Then you could get the stance that you want without cutting the cardboard and such. Just a thought. I will give it a try with my next sculpture and let you know if it does work. Nice tutorial and I cant wait to see the finished cougar. You seem to have a lot of cougar knowledge, is it first hand knowledge or just from research?

    • It’s possible, but you might run into the same problem I had with the neck. Crumpled foil is really strong, but if you cut the foil behind the knee, etc., like I did the cardboard, it would probably work.

      And no, I haven’t spent any personal time with a cougar (thankfully!) But I did read up on them when I was working on my coloring book about endangered animals.

      • I started on an armature of a carousel horse that I am actually going to do in Pal Tiya. This is total tin foil with no wire, if I was doing it in paper mache, I would definitely use the wire. In all, the legs, head and tail is totally poseable. I think the trick is to do the tin foil fairly loose, then do the posing, then firm up the foil. I did not get too detailed, thought i would do that with the Pal Tiya. So, in all, here is another method to get awkward poses. It might have helped that it is rather small too. Perhaps if doing a large sculpture, you would need the added stability of the cardboard.

  4. You are really an artist!
    Love to see the step by step creative process.
    Art there any pre-made commercial paper clays you can recommend?

    • Hi John. I have to admit that I haven’t used many commercial versions lately, but I think the Creative Paperclay is nice. I just haven’t used it for years, so I’m probably the wrong person to ask. Maybe one of our readers will chime in with a suggestion for you.

  5. Genius!

    I can’t wait to get started. Thank you so much. One can’t put a price on that type of process. Love it. (I knew I began clearing off my work table last night for a reason.)

    • I hope you’ll let us know if you think it works as well as you’d, once you give it a try. (And I’m jealous of that clean work table. My studio is a mess. I’ve been flinging cardboard on the floor, and the cat refuses to clean up after me.)

      • I can’t believe it is the 24th. I am beginning the foil part today, but first I must run off to the dentist to get a couple of teeth fixed. (Can’t believe those penguins took 20 days to get finished!) Looked at the video, again. I can’t thank you enough. It really is like magic watching you pose that cougar into the dog shape I want to do!

    • Monica, did you try to show us some bunnies? If you did, the image didn’t come through. The program requires a small file size. Could you give it another try?


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