Monday, August 30, 2010

Modelling Wax

How do I model with wax? What do I do when I pick up a doll part to work on?

Parts are built up rough on the armature with warm wax and a knife, spread like butter or cream cheese. In this very rough state, the parts have many slack surfaces.

Small coils of wax, or snakes of wax are shown behind this practice face.

When I refine a rough form, I hold it in my left hand, and hold my modelling tool (usually a paring knife) in my right hand. I'll also have a snake, or coil of wax about 2-3 inches long in my left hand, where the fingers meet the palm. That snake of wax is warmed by my hand. I use my right hand to pinch off small pieces of wax, which I press directly onto the form where they are needed. Then I carve and shave the wax with my knife.

I am constantly moving the form around, so it catches the light, looking at the profiles and the surfaces, so I can spot slack areas that need filling out. Slack areas make the piece dead. They don't have the curve of life filling them out. I also rely on touch to know where to add or subtract wax.

For defining a form, I usually outline it with a thin snake of wax, then fill in, and scrape/carve until it is smooth and looks good in the light. I take off very small amounts when I scrape or carve the wax with the knife - usually paper-thin or thinner.

If the wax gets too warm in my hands, I set it aside and work on another piece, or I put the warm piece in the refrigerator for awhile to cool down.

Thus, I work additively and subtractively at more or less the same time. I usually add more than I subtract. Each part is slowly refined, using this method of modelling.

Sometimes I make a major change that requires that I cut the cereal box cardboard armature. I use an X-Acto razor knife to slice through the cardboard I need to remove, usually making the slice under the surface of the wax, next to the cardboard, with the razor knife held at an angle. Then I remove the cardboard with a pair of hemostats, and fill in the thin void left by the cardboard with some wax. Excess wax is carved off with my modelling tool.

As I model the parts, I'm always checking both sides of the piece for symmetry, especially if it is a part that is supposed to be symetrical. Adding the same amount of wax to both sides is one way to keep the form symetrical.

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