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Making Life Size Figures

 
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Heidi Maiers
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Joined: 23 Feb 2005
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Location: Near Portland OR

PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 8:09 pm    Post subject: Making Life Size Figures Reply with quote

I pulled this discussion from another thread in the Unveiling section so we could continue this subject in the technical forum. To view the original post visit:
http://portrait-sculpture.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=285&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=15

I've inserted the missing photos meant to be included with his explanations.

Tamara's Questions to Stuart about life size figures:

"One day soon, I'd like to work much larger than my table top sculpture. I've never worked a sculpture larger than 20" and I don't know the best method for doing so. So I was wondering if you could explain your technique for working life size in water clay.

What type of plastic to cover? Several large trash bags? A tarp perhaps?

Was there an internal armature? Metal, wood and when to remove? External armature? Did you use large wooden paddles to form the general form? Any problem with mold? Did you fill the inside of the head with paper? And finally, how did you transport? I use soft pillow batting to support my delicate leather hard sculpture during transport.

O.k. I overdid the questions, but if you (or anyone else that can help) could shed some like on one or two of the questions, I'll know that much more and see how to proceed and minimize mistakes!"


Stuart's Reply

"I actually like doing bodies too, when it's my own project, as with the Keats and my African lady. Although it's important to get the anatomy reasonably correct to create the pose and feel you need............to give it presence in fact, if you look close you'll see the surface is quite loose and this allows me to deal with costume detail without getting too finnicky which i don't enjoy.
I like the modelling style to all tie up throughout the sculpt.

Tamara.........good bunch of questions there. Not too many either!
Buy a large thick piece of plastic, 6' square for the floor.
A revolving modelling stand is good and easy to build. See drawing below.



Armature: needs to be striong. If you've any doubts put another support in. I'll try and find a picture of a standing armature.
There are companies that make metal tubes and fittings that make terrific main supports. I'm afraid I don't know the US firms. In the UK, KeeKlamp is the company.

Then for your main body and legs framework, you can use electric conduit. (metal piping for electric cables) available anywhere.
For arms I usually use sculptors aluminium wire 1/4" for wrapping and 3/8" for the main arms. Good idea is to make a head armature that can be removed and worked on the modelling stand. Just to slot on and off, because you musn't loose the tension in the neck.

To pack it out and reduce consumption of clay, use chicken wire with newspaper or similar in side. This can be soaked and therefore keeps the sculpt moist if using water-based clay.

Don't try to move it anywhere else. Mold it on site. This can be done with plaster and scrim. You can buy this hemp 'cloth' from places that supply companies that specialise in decorative plaster moldings for interiors of houses. The mold should be made in pieces so that it can be dismantled easily and put together again for casting. Clay walls can be used for seperating the sections. It is also possible to buy a 'splash brush' which is a loose horse hair brush specially made for the job. Splash on coat of creamy plaster on first. When that is almost going off, splash on a second coat and then cover with your 'scrimcloth'. Then splash more plaster over this, build it up a bit and strengthen the edges with 'ropes' of scrimcloth soaked in plaster. Sections can be strengthened with pieces of wood or light weight metal. Mould the head seperate, so that you will always be able to cast a bust seperately if you need.





This is a good simple cheap system of moulding for any large scale sculpture. "

Stuart
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Stuart



Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Posts: 834

PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2008 9:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

2 piece waste mould would do in most cases but perhaps a complex pose or seated figure might require a bit more and a piece mould gives you options for further casts in different materials should you be so fortunate as to be asked.

Silicone rubber is a great material, as many will have found out, for moulding smaller sculptures. I always use it for anything up to a bust or small figure.
There is information on this already on this site.

http://portrait-sculpture.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=205

It is also great for the big stuff.
If the sculpture is being commissioned for bronze, then silicone rubber is generally used.
However, when you get up to a life-size figure or larger I would start thinking about letting the foundry also do the moulding and so build a cost into your invoice to your client accordingly.
Unfortunately, they usually use polyester resin and fibre-glass for the casing or mother-mould and so your studio will suffer. (dust and fumes)
What are the options there.............hire an industrial space, make the body outside or in an old outbuilding?
Other peoples experiences would be good here.

Pricing has also been discussed elsewhere on the site and is worth a read.
A simple way to get to a price for a commissioned bronze is to first ask the foundry for a quote Including the moulding of your piece and casting of the wax. Also get the cost of transportation of the finished sculpture.
Multiply this by 3 and add some on for contingencies (things going wrong) and you'll be getting close.
Stuart
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Tamara



Joined: 20 Oct 2005
Posts: 954
Location: Northern California

PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2008 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow Stuart! Thanks for putting all that into your answer. I just returned from my trip and have sat down to absorb it all. Thanks so much for your time in doing that.

To see, with pictures, how you do your lifesize armature and revolving base, is very helpful. Covering the wood base with plastic to keep all the water off the wood as seen in your photo is good too. Don't want soggy wood with mold. Smile When a life size sculpt comes my way, I'll make a base per your diagram. Thanks.

Having the head mold separate for future busts is a good tip too.

Is your plaster mold that you show going to be a waste mold? Seems like it has a lot of undercut areas that won't demold unless it's chipped off... Perhaps you pour plaster in the plaster mold (with release agent) and then have that to send to foundry? (question statement Smile )

For a smaller sculpture- say around 30 inches and one that has small ankles showing and attached to base, how do you prevent cracking at the ankles? When the armature that is stuck in the back it pulls upwards on the sculpt when drying/shrinking, thus the weakest and narrowest point separates (ankles) to allow for the shrinking. Taking the external armature out of the back would then cause it to fall over because it's not strong enough. Guess in a case like that I'd need to do an internal armature of sorts, even thought the ankles might only be about 3/4 inch thick maybe. Then keep her wet as possible, turn her over horizontally into a soft pillow foam and fill the plug in the back with clay and then off to molding. (Internal armature at that size wouldn't work for making a fired sculpture). Does this technique sound correct?

Pricing is so tricky to know what to charge but I like your calculation for a commission. For gallery sales, I've heard to double the foundry cost plus a portion of molding costs and that's the sculptors cut. Then the gallery adds there 30 to 50 percent.

Thanks again,

~Tamara
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Stuart



Joined: 29 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2008 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That was a picture of a friend moulding. I seem to remember that it was a Tussauds mould..............very likely intended to produce more than one figure.
A 2 piece waste mould is equally valid if you only want one out of it. There are so many ways of thinking about moulding. originally i was taught to dry out the mould thoroughly, 'shellac' it several times to seal it, then apply heavy duty wax to the surface and let that dry too. You can get a really clean cast that way............but then, I've used the wet route too. Sometimes there's no time to hang about waiting for things to dry. Soak the damp mould surface with diluted soap and then a coat of vaseline. This works too.

I don't mould these days and so don't know what tricks have been invented in recent years.
I've got a young capable fellow that needs the work and does an excellent job for me.
I hope those with experience on the forum will come forth and add to this topic.

Cracking at the ankles............if you mean the clay during the sculpting process? Leave them to the end. Just have a mass of clay at the bottom in the general shape and keep it all damp........fine cotton cloths and plastic bags.
As you suggest, once the figure is leather hard, you can usually lay it on soft pillows/foam and make a waste or piece mould.
Even a one-piece silicone mould is possible in many cases, but I''ll go into that later.

I like a free standing armature for a small figure. If you can get access to a small welder. then you'll probably enjoy that so much and start making steel sculptures!
Stuart

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Tamara



Joined: 20 Oct 2005
Posts: 954
Location: Northern California

PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2008 11:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for explaining all that.

Your suggestion to leave off doing the feet till last sounds really good. They would end up getting messed up anyway from all the water being sprayed and running down that way. Also, leaving a mass of clay at the ankles will give strength at the bottom (especially when there is no internal armature) and then sculpt them last. Probably no sound way at all to sculpt with water clay and have ankles holding the weight of the body without an internal armature.

What is the "free standing armature" for that smaller figure? That's exactly what I would like to know how to do in water clay.... Have a sculpt about that size in water clay and not have it break at the ankles as I'm sculpting it. So far I've just been having sculptures sitting on something, but I want to get away from that.... for a time.. Smile

~Tamara
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Stuart



Joined: 29 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is how I used to approach this type of small figure (for moulding ultimately)

For the main part,a welded steel structure with a substantial base for the supporting leg that can be screwed to your wooden base. (from underneath, so's you don't have anything getting in the way of your feet)

The supporting leg in this case was straight enough for one straight piece of metal all the way to the hip. The head & arms can be made of flexible aluminium wire. You need to have studied and photographed your model from all angles and draw in the intended armature on your pictures. This is something that can't be rushed. The contrasting angles of the hips and shoulders being essential to the feel of the sculpture. (The contrapostal) Wrap the whole thing with wire. I never attempted anything this scale for firing. others may have suggestions here?
Stuart

Picture: the black lines are welded, the green parts are flexible.

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Tamara



Joined: 20 Oct 2005
Posts: 954
Location: Northern California

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2008 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's very helpful. So the welded rod needs to have threads so as to screw it from the bottom. O.k. Seeing how you have a metal support going up through the body and then the flexible aluminum wire for the arms is understandable. Thanks.

On this forum it's been mentioned to make the hands and head removeable with a sleeve that the wire can pull in and out of. This sleeve can be made of Magic Sculpt or the like.

Do you put a layer of plastic on the base to keep the water off the wood? Or just wipe the water off of the sealed wood?

Eduard Lanteri uses the double pronged external armature stuck in the back and no internal armature. (This method allows for firing in a kiln) He then removes the armature and plugs the whole in the back. The sculpt has to be pretty stiff to do that. When I tried it, my sculpt held perfectly for about 30 seconds and then took a dive forwards, breaking at the ankles! Shocked Actually, the ankles were weak anyway because as she was shrinking, the clay base, with which her feet were attached, was heavy enough to pull downwards and the metal armature was stationary in the back area- thus somewhere had to give - the ankles began to crack.

I mainly want to do these figure types for bronze so I'll use the internal armature, use WED clay which dries out slowly, and then make a mold before cracks occur.

Your picture helps me see the way to do an internal armature for clay. Thanks so much!

~Tamara
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