My First Sculpting Class Experience

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Sculpting an Amateur Terracotta Face 9A shy person never learns.

This quote stuck with me since middle school. I find this especially true as a science teacher. If my students don’t ask questions, how will I know where they got lost?

If they ask questions, I can clarify the concept and teach them what they don’t understand.

And I like to practice what I preach. I love asking questions. Perhaps too many questions.

In an attempt to improve my sculpting skills, I took a sculpting class last summer.

My First Sculpting Class

The sculpting instructor was extremely talented, with a very impressive resume. And boy, did he know his sculpting. He could name every single muscle, tendon and bone in the face, tell you the history of each name and so much more.

Together we walked through the basics of sculpting a face.

I started with terracotta as a learning tool because it’s cheap, and the sculpture would be big enough to really analyze small details. Once I had my clay, tools, and station set up, he said, “Sculpt me a Face!”

The goal: To see where I stand and determine how to proceed.

And so I did.

Two painstaking hours later, I had what appeared to be a human head. In just 15 minutes, he turned my alien-like creature into a human face explaining what he was fixing along the way.

Terracotta Practice Face Sculpture 1 Terracotta Practice Face Sculpture 2 Terracotta Practice Face Sculpture 3

He really knew his stuff.

This may not be a perfect face, but it’s the most realistic I’ve ever done.

My homework was to sculpt another face using the steps he demonstrated in class.

Sculpting an Amateur Terracotta Face 1 Sculpting an Amateur Terracotta Face 2 Sculpting an Amateur Terracotta Face 5 Sculpting an Amateur Terracotta Face 3  Sculpting an Amateur Terracotta Face 6 Sculpting an Amateur Terracotta Face 7

I forgot to take a finished photo before the ‘nose job.’

Once again he corrected my sculpture, explaining what was wrong. This is where I started to get worried.

Yes, he knew his stuff, but I felt that the instructor did too much fixing and less teaching. I didn’t feel that I was learning.

Here is the nose job he gave my sculpture, followed by so many swift moves I had a hard time keeping up.

Sculpting an Amateur Terracotta Face 8 Sculpting an Amateur Terracotta Face 9 Sculpting an Amateur Terracotta Face 10

Sculpting an Amateur Terracotta Face 12 Sculpting an Amateur Terracotta Face 11

My goal wasn’t to walk out with a face- my goal was to learn HOW to sculpt a face.

For the third class I switched to polymer clay in an attempt to replicate the terracotta techniques in miniature. My polymer clay face wasn’t the greatest, but I felt it had much more detail compared to some of my past clay sculptures.

Polymer Clay Practice Face for Class 1 Polymer Clay Practice Face for Class 2  Polymer Clay Practice Face for Class 4 Polymer Clay Practice Face for Class 5 Polymer Clay Practice Face for Class 6 Polymer Clay Practice Face for Class 7

Once again, he took my piece and began working it. He started giving her expressions and weird features with some quick explanations.

Polymer Clay Practice Face for Class 8 Polymer Clay Practice Face for Class 9

Suffice it to say I didn’t go back to class.

If at first you don’t succeed…

And so my search for learning continued until a few months ago, when I discovered the Professional Doll Makers Guild.

This is a community of polymer clay artists that are motivated to helping each other. And more importantly, they mentor newbies like myself who have trouble with sculpting realism.

The free option includes a Facebook community of some amazingly talented artists. I drool at the photos they post; at the amazing details and creative sculptures.

They also have a mentorship program for beginners like myself. For a very modest fee, they will assign you a mentor to help critique your work. The mentor critiques your work CONSTRUCTIVELY to help you improve.

I am currently working on my first doll with the amazing Cherie Fretto as my mentor, and will share a progress update soon as I complete the face.

Where do you turn when you need advice and critiques? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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