Monday, July 25, 2016

Keep it Simple, Sculptor! (part 2)

If you missed the first part of this article, you can read it here:

Keep it Simple Sculptor (part 1)

I know I said to keep it simple, but once you decide to get into sculpting with paper clay, you might want to consider more options . 


These are great tools for shaping clay.  I use them for sculpting hair, fur or grass.  They come in a variety of sizes so you can buy the size that corresponds best to the scale you are using.  I mostly work in the 1:12 to 1:10 scale sizes and use shapers sized at "0".  If you are working in a larger scale, 1:9 to 1:6, you might want to go to the next larger size, which is "2".


While any PVA glue (white glue, like Elmers) will work with Creative Paperclay (CP), I find that Aleene's Quick Dry Tacky glue works well, because it holds parts together really fast so you can get on with your work.

Another great glue to use, if you want to combine your CP with plastic or metal objects is Liquid Fusion.  This is a urethane glue (like Gorilla Glue) but it doesn't foam up.  It dries clear so you can use it as a nontoxic resin substitute if you want to create a water surface.



I originally expressed myself as an artist by painting in watercolors, but I have to say I don't really enjoy painting my sculptures.  I know, some people really love this part, and I have to say I'm envious, but I just can't get into it.  I enjoy the sculpting part much more, so when a piece is to the point that it's ready for painting, I'm usually thinking about the next piece.  So here are my tips for speeding up, or even avoiding, the painting process.

If you like the metallic look, you can use Pearl Ex mica powders.  (This is another company that is good to artists by offering bulk sales at a discount.)  This stuff is versatile and you can use it in at least three different ways for various effects:

1.  You can use the powder like acrylic paint by mixing it in a clear medium.  Mod Podge seems to work fine for this.

2.  You can also rub it onto to your dry sculpture with your finger or a nylon shaper.  Once you have the colors you like, you can seal it with Spectrafix, which is a non-aerosol and nontoxic fixative.  

3.  Best of all, you can just mix the powder in with your clay while your sculpting.  This is nice, because your finished piece will already have the base colors mixed in.  If you use it this way, the colors are more muted and less metallic looking.  Also, it gets all over your hands, but will wash off with soap and water.

If you want to try mica powders, but don't want to shell out the big bucks, you can buy an eye shadow kit with tons of colors for a fraction of the cost.  I use this one by Shany.  You don't get a lot of color in each pan, but the colors are intense and go a long way.  If you decide to go the eye shadow route, keep in mind that most eye shadows also contain talc, so if you like to sand your finished sculptures, you should wear a particle mask since you do not want to breath in talc particles.

If you want to add color, but don't want the metallic look, you can use the same three techniques with soft pastels (the dry, chalky kind, not the oily kind).


If you work on multiple pieces at the same time, you can avoid getting a dehydrator because you almost always have a piece dry enough to work on.  If you're in a hurry or have little patience when it comes to waiting around for things to dry, you can invest about $40 in a basic food dehydrator.  This works great for drying out CP in record time.  Most dehydrators come with multiple trays. You can cut out the grid on some of the trays to add more depth.


To seal my works, I only use Mod Podge or Spectrafix, both of which are nontoxic.  Mod Podge comes in a variety of finishes and can be applied with your fingers. 

Spectrafix comes in a pump spray bottle.  Some people complain about the spray droplets being too large and messing up their finish.  You can avoid this for the most part by holding the bottle far enough away so the big drops don't hit your piece.  It always works better to do a couple of really light coats instead of one heavy coat.

Things I wish someone had told me when starting with clay.

  • If you are working on a piece, or part of a piece, and you get part of it perfect, but another part looks wonky--LET IT DRY!   You can always go back and rework the wonky part, but I can almost guarantee that if you keep working it to get the entire piece just right, you'll end up messing up the perfect part.

realistic fantasy figurine mixed media sculpture
  • Work on several projects at a time.  While one is drying, you can work on part of another.  Sometimes, working this way, what you accomplish on one piece will give you fresh ideas for one of the others.  Also, if you mess up part of one piece, it may fit perfectly into one of the others.  I once was working on a leg for a figure that did not turn out well, so I turned it into a tree branch for part of a tree on another piece where it fit in perfectly.

  • With paper clay, it is much easier to add to a sculpture than it is to take away.  A good approach is to build up the clay to approximate the shape you want and let it dry.  Then, go back to finalize the shape and finish you want.  It is okay to repeat this process multiple times until you get your desired effect.  For instance, if you are making a leg for a figure, you would first make an armature; then add clay to approximate the general shape (think of bones) and let it dry; then fill in the overall shape of the leg and let it dry; then add the muscles and smooth the surface and let it dry again!
In my next article, we will make a landscape sculpture and cover some techniques that work well with paper clay.

link to kevin whitham saatchi art online

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