Michelangelo’s DavidAugust 2007
A few years ago I held one of John Brown’s Gnomon workshop DVD’s in my hands. I was amazed by the quality of his work and the technique he used to define basic shapes and work out details. Back then I was totally in environment modeling and not so into characters. As I started to focus my interest on the human figure, I thought it would be the ideal time to unpack the DVD again. No sooner said than done, I found myself down in our cellar with a bunch of clay. It wasn’t easy to collect the tools Mr. Brown use in his lessons. Sometimes I had to improvise.
The sculpting task was an amazing experience, although the result wasn’t that great. Somewhere down the road I noticed that I was using the wrong clay (wrong clay doesn’t exist, it was just not the one John Brown used in his tutorial). The clay I used was way too hard. It worked very well on small parts of the sculpture like the fingers, but it harden out too fast when I was working on large masses. So if you’re going to buy clay and if you don’t want to build total crazy stuff, make sure you buy the normal one (usually it goes somehow from soft over normal to hard).
It was difficult to transfer my basic anatomy knowledge into form. You think you know how things work until you sit in front of your model and everything looks wrong. I did some sketches before I began sculpting the truncus of Michelangelo’s David. I tried to sculpt from the inside to the outside. At first I defined the position of the two main parts, thorax and pelvis. Then I filled the space between with bowels to get the underlayment for the muscles which connect the two masses. After that I worked on the pectoral girdle, brachius, antebrachius and hands. At the end I did the legs.
The experience that you make during such a project is very enlightening. The oddest thing was that you have no CTRL-Z when something goes wrong. Maybe that sounds obvious but you can’t imagine how often I pressed this key combination in my head and nothing happened. It always takes a split second to realize that you don’t sit in front of a computer and you have to correct any mistake by your one. But you get used to this “limitation” and start working with much more precision. I noticed that when I was working on my computer again. You work faster without pressing CRTL-Z every five seconds.
At the end of the day you appreciate all the benefits that modeling software brings with it. Nevertheless I recommend trying traditional sculpting to everyone who would like to enhance his/her modeling skills.