Well it’s been a bit quiet round here, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. The reason is that I’m sculpting. It’s a very absorbing thing that I can only do a bit at a time. I become so absorbed in a foot or a hand that I find it utterly draining.
I’m not being helped at present by the weather. It’s gone so cold again that anyone sensible leaves the house with their gloves on. I omitted to do this on a couple of occasions and almost at once the skin on my hands split in several places, which is so what you don’t want just before you rub Milliput into them.
Milliput, as long term readers are aware, is a wonderful two-part epoxy putty originally developed for use in the automotive and plumbing (plumber ho!) industries, which is also just the job for sculpting doll masters. The two sticks, once mixed, remain malleable for up to three hours after which they will go rock hard and stay that way for forty-five years or more, if the original models in the factory are anything to go by.
I sculpt with a scalpel and a cup of water. When first mixed, the piece is very soft, ideal for roughing out the initial shape. Tiny parts, such as doll fingers, can be easily squashed at this point and the roughly shaped Milliput is best left for an hour until it has firmed up, for the fine detail to be added. Things such as fingernails and the wrinkles where your fingers bend have to be left to last. If you leave them too long they can be carved but at that size can just as easily be chopped off. All of which leaves you a very narrow window of opportunity in smaller scale modelling.
This is not like the fine detail in panoramic modelling such as scenes for metal figure war gaming. In this type of modelling, whilst the detail is fine it can be suggested, for example hillsides can be impressed with pan scrubbers, randomly scratched up with a knife point and so on to suggest scrub and imagination will do the rest. Twelfth scale is quite unforgiving, you cannot flit your scalpel along the edge of a hand to suggest fingernails, if you did six or four fingernails in a random fashion, believe me everyone would notice.
This is partly to do with the amount of attention given by owners of one to the human body. Everyone knows what a hand or a knee should look like because not only are they in possession of a similar item, they think theirs is the best. This causes huge problems for the novice sculptor, working with their own body as a blueprint. I know I’m small and I know I have small feet because my husband has always been very disparaging of my toes and I take a small size in shoes, which is a bit of a clue, I feel. However when I first started putting undressed dolls on my table the comments started at once.
“What’s wrong with that doll’s feet?”
“Look at that doll with the tiny toes!”
“Oh that’s so funny, it’s like a foot fringe. Surely no one actually has toes like that!”
At this point I tucked my feet under my chair. Since than I have tried my best to give my dolls abnormally, or, possibly, normally, long toes but under pressure, which is the only way to sculpt when the Milliput is going over, I do revert to the default position of tiny toes.
Many parts of the human body can be observed in everyday life on others, though you do have to be careful about sitting on a bus staring at someone’s ear, for example. Don’t stare at children, unless you want their parents pointing you out to policemen and definitely don’t stare down a cleavage whether it belongs to a lightly clad lady or a builder with his trousers at half mast.
Shopping channels selling sandals are very helpful for feet and for entire bodies when they’re selling underwear, especially if you can watch the programme and then see the still shot on the Internet.
Determined sculptors need to build up a sculptor’s morgue; a file of photographs of body parts and especially of faces. I think it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as perfection, just variation, some of us have long toes and some, apparently, have foot fringes.
Talking of which there is something underhand afoot and I must get back to the sculpting. If you fancy having a go there’s a lot of information in the archives and a link to the Milliput website in the links, which incidentally, have been added to quite a lot recently.
JaneLaverick.com – sculpting.