I would like to start this post by quoting from Albert Pountney's book, Modelling A Figure In Clay, (London:Tiranti, 1951). In the Introductory Note on page 5, he writes:
No two people teach alike or hold the same opinions on how to model a figure. Certain issues, purely practical, are highly controversial. The important thing is whether the result is a good piece of sculpture - therefore any method which produces a good figure is a right method.
I am in no way asserting that the method that I am using to model a figure is the only way to approach modeling a figure in clay. This is just the way I am doing it, and this is my daily journal of progress on my doll. If I end up producing a good figure, then this is a right method. I am figuring it out as I go along. I try to do a little bit of work on my doll every day. All those bits add up over time.
Now it is time to start modeling the oil-clay figure.
I will be modeling the figure in oil-clay over the wire armature.
I will be using traditional methods to model the oil-clay original. The original oil-clay will have all the surface forms modeled as close as possible to a finished sculpture. The oil-clay is reusable. I am using Prima Professional Grade Plastilina, Medium Grade #2, that is Sulfur-Free. I purchased my oil-clay from Dick Blick.
I will be using various wooden and metal sculpting tools that I have either purchased or made in my studio. My oil-clay will be warmed in a cardboard box that has an incandescent light bulb placed over it.
When warm, the oil-clay is very soft and responsive to my touch. When cool, the oil-clay is firm, and can take detailing. The traditional method of modeling a figure is to start out with large pieces of clay, added to rough out the overall form. The forms are worked from the inside to the outer surface. As the outer surface is approached, the pieces of clay that are added are smaller and smaller, until the final form is achieved. Details are added last.
By using a soft modeling material, such as oil-clay, I will need to mold the figure then cast it in carving wax in order to refine the doll for making the final slip-casting molds. The carving wax allows me to add ball and socket joints to the doll parts, test string the doll, and smooth all the doll parts to as fine a finish as I desire.
I could use a modeling material such as an air-dry clay (LaDoll, Premiere, or DAS), or a polymer clay (Fimo, Cernit) that hardens when baked. But those materials can only be used once, and they are very expensive.
I paid about $44.00 USD (including shipping) for eight pounds of oil-clay. That works out to about $5.50 USD per pound. Compare that to $12.00 per pound of LaDoll air-dry clay, at the local Michaels. Eight pounds of LaDoll would have cost me $96.00 USD. The LaDoll air-dry clay cannot be reused. The LaDoll can be used for a One-Of-A-Kind (OOAK) BJD.
The oil-clay can be reused for the rest of my life. The thing is, I do have to make molds of the oil-clay figure, and cast her in carving wax. Then I have to make the final molds of the carving wax doll parts. The nice thing is, the carving wax is reusable for the rest of my life. Also, I use hot-pour moulage to make the waste molds of the figure, and the hot-pour moulage is also reusable.
The polymer clay can only be used once, but since it can be hardened by baking, it can be used for an OOAK BJD, or used as patterns to make final molds. That eliminates the need for carving wax, but even though the polymer clay is less expensive than the air-dry clay, it cannot be reused. There is a trade-off for everything.
I chose the oil-clay and carving wax because I feel that they are the best value over the period of the rest of my life making sculpture. I like the idea of using sustainable modeling materials, both for the economy and the ecology.
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