Ten tips for beginning sculptors-2: from design to stone
Readers of my blog may know it already: I have a thorough dislike of measuring. By measuring I mean taking a distance with a ruler or a tape measure, then remember that and reproduce it on the block of stone.
I get easily confused doing that, have to stay very alert and still I sometimes forget the number by the time I get back to my block of stone. There must be another way. Here's a few tips to easily transfer measurements from the model to the stone, without any numbers. If you are interested in enlarging your design, then you will have to wait, because later will appear a follow-up article about that.
- Use a contour template. Take a piece of cardboard (I just love the cardboard used by plasterers for protection of floors, you can buy this in large sizes in a hardware store, preferably white), and trace the outlines of your model on that. It is easiest if you can put your design on a large flat piece of plywood and trace it exactly perpendicular with the help of a carpenter's square. Cut out the template, place it on your block of stone and trace that on both sides of your stone. After you've tightly carved away everything outside of those lines , you'll end up with a flat, 'jig-sawed-like’ statue. Look up here for an example of this method, and here a video in which is shown how it's done. Make a template of the front view as well, and try to transfer that as well as possible to your stone too, and cut that out as well. Now you have all four sides of your sculpture determined, and by carving that in the round, you'll already come very close to the final shape.
- Put your model tightly next to your stone. The closer the model is next to your workpiece, the easier it is to compare and see the differences. Sometimes I see sculptors copying a statue with their backs towards the original. Apparently it works just fine for them, but I could never work like that.
- First find the main volumes, and dont worry about cavities. For a novice sculptor a complicated piece of work can be quite confusing, with all of these protruding parts and holes and pits. Whenever you can't see the forest for the trees, it can be useful to simply close the gaps with a piece of clay. Then you'll see at once what the overall shape of the sculpture is, and it'll be much easier to focus on the general work of precarving. You'll make less mistakes because you are not distracted by too much information. Once you get more experience later on, you'll be able to make that translation in your head.
- Use a stick for measuring. Put a stick against your model, and put a dash on it at every major size. When next you hold that stick against your stone, you'll be able to transfer all those sizes in one go, without numbers.
- Use a compass. With a (straight)compass, measurements can also easily be taken from deeper inside your model, without having to remember any numbers.
- Use a caliper. With the help of a caliper, widths- and thicknesses can be measured and thus checked whether you're nearing the right sizes.
- Use a box. Build two half boxes of plywood, with only a bottom, 1 side wall and the rear wall. Place both your model and your block of stone inside such a box, and make sure they can not shift. That way, three dimensions can be measured from those flat surfaces: the height, the width and the depth.
- Draw a grid onto your model and draw the same grid on your stone. This is actually a method for enlarging, but it can also be for one-to-one. I think this is actually quite cumbersome, but it is explained well in this book: Het complete beeldhouwboek→
- Use a pointing machine. A pointing machine is a tool to very carefully take all kinds of measuring points from your model over to your block of stone. It is also quite an expensive piece of equipment, and especially meant for very complicated sculpture. Read here a report on how to use it.
- Use your model itself for the dimensions! If you place the model and the stone tightly against each each other, the width will always be the same size. Once you have your compass at the right width setting, you can transfer all width sizes with the same compass setting. How does that work? Suppose: your block is 30 cms wide, and your model 29 cms wide. If you put them both side by side, half a centimeter apart, and you take the size of your block width with the compass, then you can easily mark all widths by placing your compass upon your model and put a dash near the other hand on your block. See for this method again the video in this blog post. For the other sides, you can easily put your model and sculpture next to each other in a different position.
Bonus- the eleventh tip: Keep drawing a lot while working! Occasionally you'll carve the drawn lines away again, or they'll fade, but if you continue to draw on your block of stone, with a pencil or a crayon or a marker, this will give you much guidance to know what should remain and what should go.
Please note: I've been so busy with making things that I teach no courses or other instructions . So it's no use calling or emailing me about that.