My first time sculpting a hand was junior year of high School. I made a metal frame that I built up with clay. After getting the hand how I wanted it I asked the teacher if I could kiln it, well surprise surprise . . . no. Because there was metal in it she said it wasn’t possible to bisque it. Plus I’m pretty sure that with the knowledge I have now it wouldn’t have worked out being and solid and thick as it was. So I covered in in plaster instead and painted it up. My experience with this project and a few others in those years as inspired me to try and teach art in the future maybe and impart as much knowledge about as vast a number of techniques as I possibly can. because as much fun as learning on your own is, learning and making something properly and well is even better.
Well that hand has been sitting in my parent’s house for a few years now, scaring the neighbors (since my mom has it sitting half in a bowl of popuri). Now, three years later I decided to try again. I was thinking about going into animation with modeling so I told my sculpture professor I wanted to try the craft out. He hands me a big box of plasticine and a plaster cast of someone’s hand. “Alex,” he tells me, “you make a big ball like this, roll out some fingers and stick them on, smooth it out and add the details. use calipers to gauge the thickness.” Well . . . I never got any calipers but I did have a stick and some string. After some off and on toiling for a week or two out pops a nice brown plasticine hand like the one below. I make a mould of that and cast a few resin copies, which the one below is one of.
alright so it was a long time between hand one and hand 2 but there’s a big difference. I’m actually kinda shocked that I managed to improve that much without actually practicing any modeling between the 2 studies. I chalk it up to a few things.
1. a better understanding of anatomy in general. When I sculpted that first hand I drew people like the picture on the left, and I could tell that I was stretching a few things out but not even half as much as I actually saw I was. I thought the neck was just a little long, not giraffe levels. And that was one of my few drawings that looked person-like. When I made the second hand my people sketches had evolved to something more like the drawing on the right.
Now part of that improvement is practice but half of it is from my classes at college. For the first time in my life I’ve had formal drawing lessons. More than human figure class, what actually helped most was Basic Drawing I. Meaning still lives, boxes and tedious studies of sticks and laundry baskets. That class taught me how to sight measure with my pencil and thumb. THE MOST HELPFUL SKILL I’VE EVER LEARNED. I swear, thus I put it in caps. 4srs. When I actually got to human figure I really really really wish we did more with muscles. We did so much skeleton! And sure, skeleton is important for proportions but without a muscle study I saw on the internet my people would all have straight line arms unless they’re from DBZ. (if which case they’ll look like a poorly drawn Bane from Batman)
2. the ability to see something wrong. Seriously you don’t realize this until you gain it but you just can’t see things. They just look right. Just like how I didn’t realize my stained glass woman’s hands were . . . wrong.
Oh the horror. it was a bad year for hands. (oh yeah and, look, no muscles)
Alright well I just realized what angle is missing from the second hand collage. The side shot. The wrist on the first was was flat and not rounded and that carried over to the back of the hand being too flat. I just couldn’t see it. I think I saw something was wrong but couldn’t figure out what. That was one of the last things i fixed on my second hand. I think the professor thought I couldn’t see it because I didn’t fix it for so long until, surprise! I did!
3. Materials. Not so much, but plasticine: much easier to work with than clay. Not sculpy clay or something but the legit stuff that drys out and breaks and has to be put in a 1600 degree kiln to bisque. Yeah, that’s what I was working with. I didn’t risk the fingers falling off with the plasticine since it was such a flexible medium.
4. Practice. Speaks for itself. Drawing hands regularly helped me to understand how they work much better so that I remember more when sculpting it the second time.
5. I don’t know how legit it is but when I get frustrated with a boss battle I’ve lost 7 times I put down the controller and turn off the console and do something else for a month. (yeah I deal with it well). When I pick it back up easily peazy! I don’t understand this phenomena but it holds true for so many other things. Sometimes I need one of two warm up sketches but the next one’s always better. It bewilders me.
Curious about my older works, well I re-found them all on my old art blog!
I said it before but I’ll say it again, seeing your improvement is awesome. Even when you’re intimidated by Mucha or Da Vinci and think you’ll never get that good, you look back to what you were doing just a little while ago and you know as long as you keep working at it’s a total possibility. You just need patience and can’t give up~ <3