As some of you may know I taught a beginners sculpting class a few months ago. I thought I would post some of the material that wrote for the textbook that I used for the course here.
Here is the first part that talks about some basic fundamentals that are handy to keep in mind when sculpting. (You may notice that the text refers to the reader directly, this is because I wrote it to address the students)
Level 1 –The Basics
Key Things to Consider When Sculpting
Before we start, I’d like to cover a few basic ideas that we all need to be aware of. Sculpting is an art and it takes years of practice to learn how to do. The one important thing to remember is that skill increases with practice and time. It is important for you to remember this when you look at not only your own work but each other’s work. Do not judge yourself by the quality of a sculpt or conversion that you have just done, ask yourself these important questions; is this piece better than my last? What did I do that worked out well or was easy? What did I do that didn’t work out? And the #1 question; what can I do to improve? The goal is not to sculpt a Bernini off the bat; the goal is to always strive to make each sculpt a little better than the last. Don’t stick to what I teach you, there are many different ways to sculpt something, there is no final word. Don’t be afraid to redo something you screw up or experiment with a new technique.
Most importantly don’t give up, one of the most important attributes sculpting requires is patience. I have had figures where I have re-sculpted the face over 5 times before getting it right. Sculpting requires an immense investment in time and you must be able to take that investment and flush it down the toilet if it goes wrong. You must learn to self examine your work with an impartial eye. This can be very difficult when you pour so much creativity into a piece, the personal interest you place in a sculpture is enormous and you must be able to see past that to accurately judge if a figure you do is good or needs improvement.
You must also train your eye to see in 3D. Examine the people and things in the world around you every day. Train yourself to look at the contours of each object you see, this can be something as simple as the texture of an orange or the pattern in the bark of a tree. Study people. Look at the folds in their skin, the shape of their bodies and the folds in their clothes. When you train you eye to see in this way you will subconsciously train your mind to recognize these different patterns and textures, which will in turn help you sculpt them when you are working.
Check your ego at the door. You must try to be humble. If you believe you know everything and are the greatest talent since Michelangelo you simply will not learn anything. The best way to learn is from other sculptors and they will avoid you if you have an attitude like this and certainly will not share their techniques with you. If you believe you are the best you will be blind to errors in your work and as such will never be able to improve. Eventually if you do seek a career in sculpting you will end up facing an art director who doesn’t approve of a piece you do and your ego will probably cost you the job. Your talent can only take you so far.