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Sketching a Spelunker in 3D with Clay

by | Oct 31, 2020 | 1 comment

Sketching a Spelunker. It is satisfying to sculpting a character from scratch to explore how it will look. It is a process of discovery for me. I start working without 2d sketches, just putting mass to clay to see what comes out. Then, I get to see the character take life as I try “oh… what if…?”

The feeling of messy hands filled with clay and water pushing and pulling on a work of art to “reveal” what is there but  cannot yet be seen, that is the discovery I love of this process. It is comparable to getting a visit from someone you thought of recently and did not know was on his/her way to visit you–or even someone you never met and did not know you wanted to meet! Silly, right? Well, that is art. Silly time for artists.

The Process: Stand and Skeleton

The first step was preparing the base and wire skeleton to hold the clay. We artists like to change the purpose of things on a regular basis, so water pipes from a hardware store  created the “stand” part.

That stand was made to size. This pose is a kneeling position, so it had to be close to the ground. I planned not to use a mount of clay for ground, so I made the stand even smaller than usual. This was a sketch, not a permanent sculpture. It was not going to be molded, so a base for the “ground” was not required.

NOTE: Please, use a desktop or laptop computer to see this and other projects in this portfolio. Thank you.

Building Mass

I started creating this kind of “swamp thing” creature that was shapeless and morphed into the end product. It was messy! I ended-up with clay all over, particularly when I was in the “creative zone.”

Blocking Characteristics of Clothing

In this step, things start to make sense for the “passer by” who is not into sculpture. The parts of the sculpture start to take form. In this particular step, I concentrated on making it clear that the figure was wearing tight pants, a jacket with sleeves folded back, a helmet and boots. No gloves! If you have discriminating eyes, you can see that the left hand is not done correctly. It would have been a broken bone there! Oops! Oh, well. Sketching!

In all honesty, I ran out of wire there and had to compensate by positioning the clay in a way that it would stay in place and not fall off. But, perfection was not the goal in this “let’s see what is there” stage.

Adding Folds to Clothing

I really enjoy putting folds in clothing. There is something relaxing about determining where folds would be (not using a model, imagination rules!) and then experimenting.

Those figure drawing classes at Pratt Institute were the best part of my education there. Figure drawing remains part of my practice. When I find a group of artists meeting for figure drawing anywhere near where I live, I join in a flash. It is the best practice and exercise for visual artists. Thanks to those drawing sessions, the folds are memorized in my visual library!

Facial Details and Safety Glasses

This step was a bit slow, and is where details start taking shape. I started with the face. The rest you can see.

Helmet and Boot Details

In this step, I had fun making a spelunker’s helmet with an older-style lamp that had gas or oil for the flame.

In my time as a novice spelunker, I never understood the nostalga some of the older guys had for those lamps. Then, I used one on one of my last expeditions and fell in love with them. Somehow, they make the environment more enjoyable when one is in a cavern. And if there is a standing body of water…Oh. That is an amazing sight.

Finished Look

Here is the end result of the sketching session. I need to get back to this process (for fun, not just work) and make some other crazy ones soon.

1 Comment

  1. Karl

    Hi Gerardo! Me pareció fantástica la frecuencia de imagenes enseñando cómo hiciste la escultura. Y la escultura como tal me parece bien diseñada, y en especial las arrugas de la ropa del espeleólogo.Es algo que siempre quise hacer pero nunca lo aprendí. Mucho éxito en todos tus proyectos personales y profesionales!


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