Armature Wire

Sculpture Tutorial:
Building An Armature

Before You Begin:
An armature is the support structure for your sculpture. There are many ways to create a good armature and the following is just one. Before you begin on your armature it is a good idea to have a finished product in mind in terms of the finished sculpt and also how that sculpt is going to be molded. For this tutorial I am sculpting a little cave troll. I wanted him to have short legs and long arms like a knuckle walking creature. I know that I am going to mold this sculpt and cast plastic copy's, so I make some of those decisions even now with the armature. The arms are going to be removable so that I can mold the sculpt in 3 separate pieces (body, right arm, left arm) and assemble them later. The more planning you put into the armature- the less work you will have to suffer through later. Think of the armature as the bones of your creature and as you construct it you are defining your creature's anatomy. So let's get started.

Because of the small size of this sculpt, about 7 IN. at its highest point, I'm using bundling wire (found at any hardware store). I need my armature to be very strong and thin. If you use armature wire I recommend that you wrap it with thin wire to give your clay something to bite on to. As you can see in the picture to the right I took 3 lengths of the bundling wire and wound them tightly together with a power drill. This wound wire is very strong, it is much harder to bend without tools and that's the way I like it. If you need the wire to be stronger or weaker just wind more or less pieces together. A great product for binding separate pieces of wire together (or armature wire) is Fast Steel, a 2 part epoxy putty (I recommend that you use rubber gloves). You can see in the picture to the left that I used Fast Steel to bind the legs and arms to the spine. Since the arms of my troll will be removable, I used brass square stock piping (found at any metal supply shop) to join the arms with the shoulders. One size of brass pipe is smaller than the other so that it can snuggly fit into itself. Once we move on to the molding tutorial, you will clearly see why the arms needed to be molded separately and made to be removable here on the armature. When setting up the pose, I drilled 2 holes into a piece of wood and pushed the legs into them.

armature for sculptureAnatomy and Balance:
Your armature acts as the bones of your creature and as such it should be considered a part of the sculpture, not just something to hold your clay up. When setting up the pose for your creature- look at it from all angles- if your armature is leaning to one side then your sculpture will end up doing the same. If your armature looks like it's off balance, than the same will be true for your finished creature. Think about where the weight of your creature is and what your creature is doing. When you create your armature- ensure that it reflects the intent of your creature. My little troll here is getting ready to shift his weight to his front foot, as he lifts up his back foot, and swings his arm down- to crush some poor troll messing fool (I know, I'm a dork). While constructing your armature you should also be thinking about the anatomy of your creature. The curve of the spine, the slant and width of the shoulders and hips (if your creature has shoulders and hips) are all defined by your armature. It is very tricky to get a natural looking sculpture with a stiff and rigid armature. Some parts of your armature are easy to change and adjust while you are sculpting, such as how much bend there is in the arms and which direction the head is facing; however, changing things like the length of the torso and placement of the hips and shoulders are things that you must be sure of before you start sculpting for obvious reasons. Taking the extra time to ponder such things will only help you to create a successful armature and by extension a successful sculpture.
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