In 2002 we ran away from Illinois where we were born and raised, and started a new life in SW Florida. This blog is about me (an eccentric old artist), ROM (my Real Old Man), Isabella (our neurotic Standard Poodle) and Emmy (our crazy snake killing Jack Russell Terrier). Oh- and the neighborhood old people. Life is good in Florida!


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I Bet You Can Do This- Tutorial Tuesday

You might think you have to have a kiln, an art degree and natural talent to create a sculpture. You don't. Air dry clay and polymer clay that you can cure in your kitchen oven has made it possible for anyone to sculpt. And with the plethora of internet tutorials you can learn to sculpt without ever leaving your house. Natural talent? Let me tell you a little secret- talent is a very small part of sculpting. With the right products, a good eye for seeing details, practice, imagination and good instructions to follow, you would be amazed what you can accomplish. 

Fifteen years ago I would have laughed and said you were out of your mind if you said I could do a sculpture.  I had never taken an art class in my life.  The only clay I had ever used was Play Doh and modeling clay when I was a little kid. But the internet opened up a whole new world for me. I learned to sculpt from websites and art groups that shared tips and information on using air dry and polymer clays. Do a Google search on "sculpting with air dry clay tutorials" or "sculpting with polymer clay tutorials" to find all the info you need online. 

Of course as with anything, it takes practice- the more you sculpt the better you will get. After a lot of practice, a lot of mistakes (which I learned from) and even more practice, within a few years my sculptures were accepted into juried exhibitions and I started selling my work. 

You might not be an obsessive person like I am, or have limited time due to a busy schedule and have no desire to ever sell your work, but you can create something unique just for yourself. It's so much fun to look around your house and imagine the things you can do with every day items with a little clay.  My Old Bathing Beauty started out as an antacid bottle.  I stuck a wire in the middle of the bottle cap for her neck and a wad of aluminum foil for her head. I drilled holes through the upper part of the bottle, then ran a wire through the holes to became her arms. 

But let's start with something simpler for your first sculpt. First thing you need is an armature- the clay has to go on something to give it stability, form and strength. The idea for my current project came to me as I was working in my rock garden. I had an old rusty white wire obelisk trellis that I had always loved.  It suddenly occurred to me that it would make a wonderful Great White Heron - a variation we have here in SW Florida of the Great Blue Herons. And I spotted an old tomato plant support that would make a whimsical Pelican. I have no idea why I can't get tall photos to post upright. You'll have to tilt your head to these -

I decided to do the Great White Heron first. After washing the dirt off the obelisk, I brought it inside to work on. First thing I did was find a photo to use as a model. Working from a model makes sculpting so much easier. Even if you are going to sculpt a whimsical version of something and not going for realism, you still need a model to guide you. For this sculpt, the body of the heron is going to be the bare obelisk and I'm only sculpting the neck, head and wings. 
Supplies needed are:
An armature (my obelisk)
14 gauge wire
Wire cutters, needle nose pliers
Masking tape
Aves Apoxie Sculpt (can be ordered online)
DAS air dry clay (can be purchased at Michael's craft store)

The first thing I had to figure out was how long to make the neck and head to look in proportion to the body (obelisk). Since this not going to be a realistic sculpt but a whimsical heron, I didn't have to worry about being exact, just a general idea. I cut two pieces of wire (if your uncertain how much wire, always cut too much rather than too little. You can always cut some off as you go along). I used 14 gauge galvanized wire from Lowes. 

I twisted the two strands of wire together and wound it around the top of obelisk to attach it. I then shaped the wire into a neck and head. 

Next I wrapped the wire tightly with masking tape. 

After completely wrapping the wire with masking tape, I worked on bending and shaping the neck and head to how I envisioned it would look when finished. I kept changing my mind and changed the curve in the neck and tilt of the head several times. 
Finally I had it the way I wanted it and was ready for the next step, which I will share with you next Tuesday...


  1. Can't! Wait!

    And thanks so much for sharing this with us.

  2. Thanks, Dottie! I hope I can inspire someone to give it a try.

  3. This is fascinating! Can't wait to see the finished product!

  4. This is fascinating! Can't wait to see the finished product!


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