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Creating Your Own Original Sculpture

By Kathleen Moody

How would you like to try your hand at building your own original sculpture? There's more than one way to do a horse so here's a method that is easy, fun and one that you can try with just a few materials.

To create a model the size of a Paddock Pals Breyer - will need:
1. A box of Super Sculpey oven bake clay (regular is too soft) - found in most craft, hobby or art stores
2. 18 gauge copper or brass wire
3. 28 gauge copper or brass wire
4. Wire cutters- Needle nose pliers that also cut are preferable
5. A foot of string, yarn or thread
6. Miscellaneous odds and ends for tools

If you have a Paddock Pals model to use as a guide this will help. If not, a similar sized drawing or photograph (a straight side view of a horse) will do.

Use the string to measure the distance from the horse's muzzle (mouth) all the way along its head and neck, then body, down one hind leg and out through the hoof (Fig. 1). Add a few more inches and you have the length of your first piece of wire. Take the larger gauge wire and cut three pieces this size. Lay them together side by side and visually divide them in your mind into three equal sections, but don't cut them (Fig. 2)! The middle section you will braid together. (This is a little tricky - if you are lucky enough to have a workshop vise to hold one end of the wires for you, use it. Otherwise hold one end and braid the center only.) Make your braided section slightly (1/2") shorter than the body length of the Paddock Pals model. When you are finished, spread the end wires out flat and check to see that all the wires are tight and secure.

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Fig. 1 Fig. 2

 

Look at your Paddock Pals model (Fig. 3) from the chest on...how wide is it? If you could envision your braided wires as having 4 legs, a head and a tail, how would they line up on the model? Bend your wires like the model using the braided section as the body. Make sure there is some width between the legs front and back so the sculpture will not be flat. Bend all four legs so they are standing square. Measure the wire ends against the model and cut off the excess. The wire model should stand up straight. Now wrap the larger wire with the smaller wire (Fig. 4). The finer wire will give the clay something to grab on to when it is pressed onto the frame. This wire frame is called an armature, the underneath support system for your horse.

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Fig. 3 Fig.4

 

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Fig. 5

Take a small piece of the Sculpey and knead it in your hands till it is a soft, pliable ball. Press it onto the wire armature (Fig. 5). Fill the frame with clay using the Breyer Paddock Pals model or your photo on drawing to help you know how much to put on. Check the model to know where major points should be - where are the knees? The fetlocks? The hip bones? How are the hindquarters shaped? How thick is the body? How thin is the neck? All you need is visible on the Breyer model.Generally it is easier to start at the head and work your way down. Get the clay on the armature first, then go back and shape it. Pushing and pulling, taking off or adding more on till your horse looks like the Paddock Pals model. When you feel your horse is close enough to your reference, go on to the details. Notice all the different directions the flat and round surfaces go on the Breyer model (Fig. 6). For example, eyes are not just stuck on the side of the head, but angle in. Compare your horse's head to the Paddock Pals model.

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Fig. 6 Fig. 7

 

Up until now you've been using your fingers to model the shape of the horse. When you do details, your fingers will be too big, you will need smaller tools to shape cheeks, nostrils, eyes and ears (Fig. 7). Anything can be used as a tool for clay; toothpicks, pencils, small spoons, nut cracker picks, etc. - even a flattened piece of wire (soft wire like copper, brass or aluminum) with the end rounded will work well. Try ay of these things on some spare clay to see what type of impression they'll make.

Pull the tool through the clay to create lines, holes or deep gouges - wide or narrow "roads" or deep or shallow "trenches" (Fig. 8). Each tool will do something different in the clay. You can vary the impressions even more by varying the pressure you put on the tool. Drag straight or turn the tool as you go to change the patterns. Try short choppy strokes or long flowing ones. Decide which strokes can be useful in doing your horse.

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Fig. 8 Fig. 9

 

Now try pushing the clay around with your tools. For example, you can create eyes by dragging your flattened wire tool around the outline of an eye (Fig. 9). By pushing just under the top line you can indent and separate the eye itself from the top eye lid, and you can do it again on the bottom lid. Push the same tool into where the nostril should be and draw it around inside the nostril to create its shape (Fig. 10). Push the clay down along the nose bone to shape the face. Use the side of your small spoon to press muscle up (Fig. 11). You're really creating a trench but by pushing the sides of the trench away, you cause the budge of the muscle to form. Experiment! Look for new tools out of anything that will make a pleasing indentation - dental tools and picks and spoons are favorites with miniature model builders and are wonderful for fine details in clay.

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Fig. 10 Fig. 11

 

Again, press and push clay on to add bulk - take it off to refine - draw tools across the clay surface to define - control impressions with varying pressure. Remember, the horse is symmetrical - both sides are the same. Make sure they are both even and balanced. Stop every once in a while to look over the whole horse and see how it all fits together.

On the next model you make, you can try a horse in a moving position. All the muscling changes with a new position, but with practice, you can learn to create a horse in any pose. Collect reference photos to help you as you sculpt.

It may take a while to get the clay to obey your will, but if you continue to practice and experiment you will gain control over it. Don't be happy to just allow the clay to go where it wants to go. It takes time to teach your fingers and hands to create wheat you see in your mind. Be patient, sculpting is a skill that must be mastered. Like learning to play the piano or ride a horse, it takes lots of practice but it is a skill that will bring you great pleasure and satisfaction as you learn and improve. Happy Sculpting!

 

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