Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Basic Bust Tutorial with STAEDTLER FIMO Air Basic

Here's a quick and dirty tutorial on how I made the bust of Mars.

Things you'll need:
Styrofoam block about an inch smaller than you want your finished piece
Plaster bandages. 1 or 2 rolls should do it.
1/2 inch dowel at least 2 ft long
5.5 x 5.5 x 7 inch block of wood for the base.
wood filler
cooking skewers
wood primer
black mat spray paint
silver acrylic paint

Black felt

1/2 inch wood drill
sandpaper rough, medium and fine grit
basic set of sculpting tools
craft knife
clay cutting wire or knife
paper towels
hot glue and gun
Spray adhesive
cling wrap
large flat soft paint brush

Start by filling any holes in your wood block. I dried my block out in the oven at 230 degrees for about 3 hours. It was in an outdoor wood pile before I found it and I needed it to be dry before I started finishing it. After the block filled with wood filler I sanded it with a rough sandpaper. I moved down to a medium and fine grit to finish the surface smoothly. I dusted the piece off and gave it a primer coat and let it dry. I roughly carved a head and shoulder bust shape from a hunk of Styrofoam using a craft knife. I paid attention to the recessed areas like the eyes and under the chin. I coated the foam bust with two layers of plaster bandage. I cut 2 inch lengths of the bandage and wet each one as I worked my way around the piece. I made sure to cover the whole piece except the area at the bottom where the dowel would be inserted. You can insert the dowel now but you might want to carve a point at the tip of the dowel to make it easier to insert it into the foam. Be careful not to come out the side of the neck. the armature had to cure so I set it aside for the evening.

I sprayed about three layers of black spray paint in a mat finish after the primer had dried. I found the center of the top side of the block and drilled a 1/2 inch hole three inches into the block. I applied some spray adhesive to one side of a piece of black felt and stuck it to the bottom of my block. It's much easier to trim the felt after you apply it to the block using a sharp craft knife. I sanded the bottom two inches of the dowel to make sure it fit snugly into the hole at the top of the block base. I wanted mine to be removable for shipping so I didn't glue mine in.

I opened one block of STAEDTLER FIMO Air Basic at a time. I cut the block into 1/4 inch thick slices and covered them with a damp paper towel.

U coated the entire plaster covered bust in a layer of clay using the clay slices. I used my finger tips to smooth out any seams and push the clay into the recesses of the piece. I covered the piece snugly in large strips of damp paper towel and then wrapped it in clingfilm before retiring for the evening.

The next evening I unwrapped the piece, being careful to keep the paper towel flat and neat on the work bench for future use. I added some rough detail like nose lump,  brow ridge, lips, cheek muscles and chin. I can start to see a face!!!

Next I added eye balls and lids and some nose wings. I pushed in the pupils of the eyes with the base of a paintbrush making sure they were both aimed in the same direction. I added this detail before applying the eyelids. I also thickened up the cheeks and brow a bit. I re-wrapped the piece in damp paper towel and clingfilm for the night.

After unwrapping the piece I added two wedges of clay to either side of the head. The top of each wedge level with the eye and the bottom level with the mouth. I placed them an eyes width away from the side of each eye. I added detail using a life model (thanks James) but there are heaps of online references if you need them.

I used the rake tool

  to even the levels out and smooth the look of the features. It makes everything look rough at first (a bit frightening) but really helps blend the seams and different levels of clay into something that looks softer and more natural. Always use this tool against the grain or not in the same direction as the seams. After most of the bulk is removed you can use some water and either a smooth sponge or your fingertips to smooth out the surface of the piece. I didn't have much time because of a tight deadline, so I stopped there and didn't add any more detail to the piece. You can go on to add wrinkles and skin texture now if you wish. I wrapped the piece as before and went to bed, but I didn't want to. I wanted to keep working.

The next night I added the helmet and cocks comb. I reinforced the comb/helmet connection by adding some skewers into the head through the comb.I covered the holes I left with more clay. I added some hair strands too. The final smooth down I used equal parts of vinegar and water. A friend shared that the vinegar changes the chemical Ph of the clay and allows it to dry with fewer cracks. Since I was working with such a tight deadline I had to try to rush the drying a bit and I was worried about cracking. This seemed to work! The under structure was a bit flexible and helped too.

I'm pretty pleased with this guy considering the very few hours I had to work on him. I have the air dry clay bug now! It's been too long since I've had the muddy slippery kind of clay in my fingers. It was delicious!

Here are some of the surface cracks that appeared after drying. It was simple enough to re-wet the crack area with vinegar and smooth in some fresh clay. I smoothed the areas out with more vinegar when I was done and let it dry again.

Hope you get to play too!
So much fun!!!

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