Friday, December 11, 2009

Sculpting a Mermaid Bracelet Master - Sculpting the Face

Here is where the fun begins. My design is complex, with a lot going on in a 7 x 2-1/4 inch area. On the left side of my design, is a full length mermaid reclining on her right arm. Her left arm is out stretched and holding a hand mirror. Behind her tail, in the middle of the design, sits a treasure chest, filled with jewels and jewelry. On the right side of the bracelet, is the mermaid's octopus girlfriend. The mermaid and the octopus are both trying on jewelry from the treasure chest. I have incorporated a baby dolphin, who has gotten in on the fun and has a pearl necklace draped over his head. My design also, includes a large school of tiny fish, that are so curious about their reflection in the hand mirror, that they are blocking the mermaids attempt to see herself. I want the mermaid's face to convey a combination of annoyance and amusement. This might be a hard expression to pull off.

I always start with the hardest part first, the face and torso. My design calls for a 3/4 inch long, full face, 1/2 head view. Matching the approximate size to the layout, I roll an egg shaped ball of clay, approximately 3/4 inch in diameter, and cut off the 1/2 back of the head. This is placed firmly on the glass, smooshing out any air pockets. The reason for sculpting on glass is I can see what is going on underneath my sculpt, like air pockets.

Next, I add clay for the neck, and upper torso. Again placing the clay over the layout and smooshing it firmly to the glass. I start with a lot more clay than I need, so I can carve the figure. Starting with less clay, means I will have to build up clay parts here and there, to add depth and dimension. I find it easier to carve away the clay to the desired depth and dimension. Either way works. It's just my personal working style.

Sculpting a human face and torso is my biggest challenge. If the proportions are not right, the mind will perceive that something is wrong. I might not be able to place my finger on exactly what is wrong, but I can tell that there is something strange looking about the figure. Our minds judge beauty as balance of proportion. If one eye is higher than the other, or one arm is longer than the other, the figure is out of balance, and looks wrong, even ugly. Getting this balance right, is the hardest part. This is where my digital camera is my best sculpting tool.

After hours of sculpting tiny details, my eyes start to get tired. I see all the little details, but loose focus of the larger picture. That's where my camera comes in. I set my camera to the Macro mode setting, and take close-up pictures from every angle. I then down load these pictures into a file folder on my computer, and take a break. Now, I come back and look at the pictures. I zoom in and look at the details my eyes have missed, but the camera has picked up. Zooming out and standing back away from the monitor, I look for balance of proportion. The camera gives me an unbiased critique. I keep these pictures, so as I refine my sculpture, I can pull them up, side by side, and compare the changes I have made.

Here is a picture of the mermaid's head. She has no hair yet, and is very bald. The shape of her head is not perfect, but, her long hair will cover all but her face. I will add the hair after the first "half-bake", so the hair does not interfere with sanding and polishing of the face and torso. She has tiny bits of fuzz, stuck here and there. But they will be gone, with the first sanding.

Amusement shows mostly in the eyes and mouth. The mouth and eyes need to both be "smiling". The lower lip needs just a tiny fix on the left hand side. And the right eye, lower lid, needs smoothing, but, in general, I am happy with her face.
Mermaid face

Next - Sculpting a Treasure Chest

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