My first project at Heatherley’s with sculptor Tony Mott

My first three-week project at Heatherley School of Fine Art was surprisingly was focused on sculpture rather than painting!

Small wax head sculpture

The approach of our tutor Tony Mott was to make us think about and understand the structure of the bones and muscles underneath the head to better apprehend and recreate its shape and volume. To that end we practised drawing the skeleton first to which we then added an extra layer: the face itself!

Three step skull and face drawing excercise, charcoal on paper

Then followed a similar exercise where we drew the muscle structure first then added the face.

Three steps of anatomical drawing of a man’s head, charcoal and drawing on paper

After a wax scultping introduction and various drawing exercises, we began the main part of the project: sculpting a life size head out of clay!
The sitter was slowly rotating as he posed to allow us to see all sides and angles of his face, indispensible for a 3D rendering such as this.

Clay head sculpture in progress

Would you believe it, I used nearly 5 kilos of clay to build this whole head! Once I finished sculpting, I had to slice the forehead and hollow the head out of the excess clay inside.
After putting the pieces back together and smoothing the ridges out, my head was ready to be fired in the kiln! See below the end result after the firing process.

My clay head sculpture after firing

Now I could paint it over with a specific coating in order to cover the orangy shade characteristic of clay (with immitation bronze for instance).

This sculpting project was great fun and shed light on the importance of getting the underlying anatomical structure right before going ahead with representing the facial features. This proved an invaluable lesson for my subsequent painting projects.

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