I love #HowDoYouSculpey! What a great way to learn and share projects and tips and tricks within the Sculpey community. I’m a figurative artist and I use Living Doll and Super Sculpey to create my figures and my portraits. In this blog post, I want to share my creative process, especially when I am working on portraits.
First things first . . . I practice mapping. When I am trying to capture someone’s likeness I size and print out photos of the subject. I try to get as close to the actual size I am planning to sculpt. After I’ve created a foil armature that resembles the shape of the subject’s head, I cover with a thin layer of clay. Then I start mapping. This involves a little math – I measuring the photo and then mark those measurements on the clay covered head.
Everyone is different, but everyone is also pretty much the same as far as the basic placement of eyes, nose, mouth and ears. That’s what I start with. In the illustration, the blue lines show the placement of the eyes in the centre of the head; how the nostrils line up with the tearducts of the eyes; how the corners of the mouth line up with the centre of the eye; how the base of the nose is half way between the eyes and the chin; and how the connection points of the ears line up between the eyes and the nose. I score my head with these important lines and markers. With the basic mapping done, I can then start sculpting and tweaking the features to capture the little nuances of the subject’s face.
In trying to capture the subject’s likeness I also look at symmetry. For most of us, the left side of your face is a little different than the right side of your face. Almost everyone has little differences and even though you can probably identify all of the irregularities on yourself, most people don’t notice this when they look at you unless it’s very pronounced. However, there are some lucky people who are perfectly symmetrical. Subconsciously this makes them very appealing to the eye. If you Google “celebrities with symmetrical faces” you’ll get people like George Clooney, Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie to name a few. You can also use your computer to create mirror images of your face to see how you would look with perfectly matched left or right sides – warning – you may not even recognize yourself.
But just as much as I want to create symmetry, I also look for those little differences as recognizable characteristics of a person’s face. In the photo above you can see the subjects jawline is wider on the left than on the right. If I matched both sides of his face he wouldn’t be as recognizable. If I wanted to create more of a caricature of the subject then I would even exaggerate those little differences. But I prefer a more realistic approach.
Below are some photos of some of my portrait commissions and the stories behind them. This piece was a retirement gift for a log-time activist. Capturing her likeness was important, but I also wanted to capture movement and the passion and commitment to her job. I used Super Sculpey for this piece and Liquid Sculpey to create her quirky glasses.
This photo montage shows the progress of creating this portrait inspired by his image of Cpt. Clement Gosselin who appeared on the cover of Reader’s Digest commemorating D-Day. It was important for me to capture his stoic and defiant personality. I used Living Doll Light for this portrait. I especially like using this product and colour when I am working on an older character. I find the lighter shade of this clay a better canvas for adding tones and the papery effect of aged skin. I find it also reflects shadows and undercuts better.
In the next couple of photos I’ve used Living Doll Baby. The subtle pink tones in the Baby shade is soft and pulls out the more pinky-peachy tones of the subject. I find it gives me a softer skin tone that works well for most female or younger characters.
My most recent commission was a vignette called “The Doll Maker.” This complex piece included building the set and many of the accessories in the composition. I sculpted the subject in Living Doll Light, but some of the accessories were done in Premo, Sculpey III and Liquid Sculpey.
Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous holiday season. Stay safe and keep creating!