The Most Important Step
The armature is in many ways the most important step in the whole process of creating a life scale sculpture. Get this step right and you can overcome any obstacles that may come up later. Get it wrong and you will likely find yourself starting over from the beginning at some point.
The armature serves two purposes: to control the effects of gravity on the hundreds of pounds of clay, and to plot out, in three dimensions, the correct proportions of the figure.
To calculate the correct proportion I use a system of measurement taught to me by sculptor Walter Erlebacher. It is based on classical Greek sculpture proportions as well as Walter’s experience dissecting cadavers and observing the live form. Because the system takes months to learn and years to master I will just outline my basic steps here.
I began with a drawing on paper in which I calculate all the large masses of the figure. I have adjusted the head-to-body ratios for a child’s proportions which are different than an adult’s. This drawing serves as a template for the armature wire. I’m using 3/8ths inch aluminum wire for the main structure.
To support the wire armature I am building a wood structure. Normally I would use steel pipe, but because of the relatively small size and vertical pose of this piece, I can use wood, provided it is very stable and sealed from the moisture of the clay.
Are you getting bored with all the practical business of sculpting? Well, to a large degree sculpture is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.
Perhaps then, this is a good time to tell you about my inspiration: do you remember looking up at the sky when you were a kid? Did you ever spin around and around to make yourself dizzy until you fell down? This pieces about that moment. An instant of freedom and abandon in the joy of being part of the world. It is only for a moment. Perhaps the next will not be so joyful. So why make a sculpture about a moment? Because the nature of human experience is linear, which is to say it is a series of moments all strung together. Our experience of conscious thought relies on memories and an ability to link together moments. All of the pieces in my Time and Space series are about the human experience of memories and consciousness and the ability to contemplate the future.