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Arena ModeratorDdallas said 4 years ago 4/19/2011 4:47:15 PM EDT

This tutorial was created to show a very basic way to create a figurine out of clay. None of the techniques are difficult, everything is very simple and anyone should be able to do it.

How to go from idea to finished product:

First you need to figure out what you want to make. Here I picked Chicken Little for the BIRDS! multimedia contest. We will follow how I created this piece in this tutorial. You'll want to sketch out what you want it to look like. Next search the internet, or where ever, for source images. Different angles are good for seeing all sides of your subject, it makes it easier to turn and shape it. Also for knowing what colors to paint it when you're done.

Next gather up the tools you'll need to make the piece. Here are some basics: Foil, Ruler, Rolling Pin, Wire, Wire cutter, Toothpick, Wooden tools, and your Clay of course. (not pictured is paint) I didn't use all of these in this piece, only a few, but I showed the stuff I keep in my box.

Now on to the fun stuff!

Remember there are many different ways to achieve the same result, this is my way. Once you get going and playing you will find your own ways too.

[Edited by User on 4/19/2011 6:44:17 PM]

Big D little d, what begins with D...
Arena ModeratorDdallas said 4 years ago 4/19/2011 5:06:18 PM EDT

Main Bulk Pieces / Armature

When you are making a piece that will be more than 1/4 inch thick you're going to want to bulk it out. Why? Baking reasons and not wasting your precious clay reasons!

On occassion I will make a wire armature to create a skeleton shape then bulk it out with foil. This time I just used Foil since there isn't anything complex about this figurine.

Take some foil and create your main shapes that you'll need. Make sure you shape it in the shape of what you're making. Here I have the head, the body, and the base. Everything else will be built off of those 3 main pieces.

Now that you have your base shapes and bulking done we are going to start adding clay.

Clay straight from the box is generally pretty stiff. You're going to want to kneed it to make it soft and workable. Once you do that pull off a small chunk and smoosh it onto your foil and spread it out, not too thick, not too thin. Grab another chunk and repeat until your foil is covered. Once it's covered to your liking, use your thumbs and smooth the seams together making one nice solid piece.

I started with the base first

Now the base is covered and smoothed together. At this point you could leave it as a rock if you'd like. My plan was a tuft of grass though. Here I'm going to show how to add a texture like grass. This could also be used for fur or anything else that needs thick texture.

Take a small ball of clay and roll it out long and thin. The longer you make it the quicker you'll be able to work. Keep it quite thin though.

Using a toothpick, I cut 1/4inch pieces without removing them from the toothpick. Once you make one cut move to the next one so they stick together at the bottom. Stick with 3-4 pieces otherwise it may become difficult to work with. Now with your clump of grass blades press it into the top of the base. If needed, lift the blades of grass up with the toothpick to get them all standing.

Repeat over and over and over (times a million) until your base is nice and full of grass. Have patience, it will take a while but the results are worth it in my opinion.

Set your finished base to the side until you need it again.

[Edited by User on 4/19/2011 5:09:55 PM]

Big D little d, what begins with D...
Arena ModeratorDdallas said 4 years ago 4/19/2011 5:33:52 PM EDT

Head and Body
Now it's time to add the clay to the head and the body. Do it the same way as you did the base.

To attach your head to your body, cut a piece of wire. The length will depend on the size of the piece. You will want it to be long enough to easily keep the two pieces together without them falling off. Take one end of the wire and shove it into the bottom of the head. It may be difficult because you're putting it into foil, if it is use a tool to help you grip it. Then press the head onto the body.

Now we want to make the head and body appear to be one piece. To do this you're going to pull some clay from the body up onto the head. I use a curved, flat, wooden tool, if it's large enough you can just use your fingers. Pull up around the whole thing then smooth the seams with your fingers

(if you need to attach other parts like arms and legs directly to a body you can do it the same way)

Big D little d, what begins with D...
Arena ModeratorDdallas said 4 years ago 4/19/2011 5:45:43 PM EDT

Adding Clothes
I've found the easiest way to make clothes is to add parts to the body to make it appear to be clothes.

Too add ChickenLittle's sleeves make two small balls the same size. Then flatten opposite ends

Now press the sleeves onto the body where you want them. Smooth the seams to the body the same way you did the body to the head.

To make it seem like a shirt is on top of a body:
Roll out a long thin strip of clay and wrap it around where you want the collar of the shirt to be. Now using your fingers or the tool smooth down the bottom half of the strip. Leave the top part sticking out so it looks to be above the body.

Repeat to add the bottom of the shirt.

Adding the shorts is the same as adding sleeves to the shirt, just with larger pieces. Roll out two larger balls and flatten down. Press onto the bottom and smooth together with the body.

Big D little d, what begins with D...
Arena ModeratorDdallas said 4 years ago 4/19/2011 5:58:02 PM EDT

Arms and Beak
The next thing I want to do is add his beak and his arms. I don't want to add the legs yet because they will attach the character to the base. Before I do that I want to add details to the upper half otherwise with all the moving around it would probably break apart.

For his beak I shape a small piece of clay to the general shape of his character. I then smooth the seams.

The beak needs to be open so, with a tool, draw in where you want the opening to be and scoop out the middle.

Now I'm ready to attach the arms. First I need to make the sleeves hollow. For this I use the end of a pen and circle it around inside making an indent.

Ready for the Arms:
Roll out two tubes the same length for the arms. Bend the arms to give the shape you want. Insert short pieces of wire into the ends. Then insert the arms into the sleeves of the shirt.

Big D little d, what begins with D...
Arena ModeratorDdallas said 4 years ago 4/19/2011 6:17:04 PM EDT

We are now ready to add feather details to the upper body. For the small fine feathers of his face and arms I will use a toothpick. Just carve in small lines to give a little texture. These parts would have too small of feathers to really add them individually. This kind of texture you can use for fur/feathers etc. to small objects.

I start with the arms because they will be handled less than the head at this point. Just make short strokes into the clay with a toothpick or other small sharp object (needle for example)

Now do the same to the face, paying attention to the direction of the small feathers. I will add it just to the face area because the rest of the head has larger fluffier feathers. Be sure to leave smooth eye areas.

At this point be careful how you handle the piece so you dont smooth down the details with your fingers/hand on accident.

Now add the comb to the top of the head because feathers will be around it. Rolling out tubes and flattening them and shaping them. Attach to the top of head with a small wire.

Time for another time consuming detail part. Adding larger feathers to the back of the head. For this I rolled small balls and flattened them with my fingers and layed them down on the head. Start at the bottom so they layer correctly. Keep going until the whole head is covered. Start smaller and get larger, then go smaller again toward the face. Near the face I just use small balls again then smoothed the front row to the face.

Now add the details to the larger feathers. Use the toothpick again and make fine lines in the feathers to match the fine feathers of the face. Be careful not to smoosh the feathers. If some get flattened, just lift up the ends with the toothpick.

Big D little d, what begins with D...
Arena ModeratorDdallas said 4 years ago 4/19/2011 6:38:56 PM EDT

Legs and Attaching to Base

We are ready to attach the main piece to the base. This will include adding the legs.

For legs you'll use nearly the same process as th arms. Roll out same size tubes. This time you'll bend where you want a foot to be and insert a long wire through the leg so it can go into the body and into the base. The longer it is the more stable it will be.

I insert the wire with leg into the pants holes first so I have the right distance, then I insert into the base.

Final Touches
Add in all the final details you want now. Add the tail that you made the same way as the comb. Insert a wire then insert into the body.

Make sure you finish the feet now too, adding other toes.

The last part I want to add are the glasses.

Now that everything is together and all the details you want have been added, look over the whole thing to make sure nothing was damaged during any processes. Smooth parts out, add more detail etc. now before you bake it.

Bake your figurine following the time and temperature instructions on the box of clay.

Once your piece is completely cooled you can paint it.

I generally add a white basecoat so the colors take less coats to be right. Add your colors. Make sure each coat is able to dry inbetween. Use acrylic paint colors. Each coat (depending on how thick you put it on) should only take a few minutes to dry.

I like to use cheap plastic bristle child brushes (like they use for painting suncatchers) to do very coarse areas. These tend to be more stable and don't damage as easy as hair bristle brushes. Doing the grass and big feathers I'll use the plastic bristle and 'jab' at the area to get intbetween all the spaces. Use very fine, small hair bristle brushes for the small areas you need to reach.

Once paint it dry it takes well to colored pencils. I like to use those for very fine detail work, like the stripes on the shirt, or darker color detail in the feathers.

After you're finished painting, you might want to glaze your piece. I didn't glaze this one because I didn't want any shine at all. If you choose to glaze, I suggest using a sealer like ModgePodge first - some colors like to run when in contact with glaze - ModgePodge will seal the colors in without running.

Big D little d, what begins with D...
Bright Idea
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