Making an armature is a very important step during figure creation. I use a variety of materials for armatures, but the most common material is craft wire and tinfoil filler.
The wire forms a skeletal support for the figure, while the tinfoil fills in space to avoid using too much clay and it provides a surface for clay to attach.
Once the armature is constructed, I can pose it to get the desired action pose if required.
In this stage the model is very crude, it actually reminds me of the stick figures I drew when i was a kid. Slowly the sculpture takes shape, but not before I am satisfied with the pose. I use green stuff or procreate to attach a sculpt firmly to its base and I sculpt when the figure is firmly attached. The following photos are from a sculpture of Cthulu I made as commission, I use it as my first example.
I added the wings using the same method I described above, using the wire and tinfoil filler. I will not detail all the stages in Cthulu on this post, since i want to show other armatures. But here is the finished sculpt:
Cthulu took about twenty – five hours to complete over several days. The base was decorated with water effects by using resin and I added a mini ship made from craft wood and green stuff to convey the size of this ancient being.
My African elephant armature used the same technique. I also added Air soft epoxy dough as filler. This clay air dries and produces a nice surface for a final layer of sculpting medium. Both Cthulu and the elephant were sculpted using these epoxy two part clays, they were not sculpted with polymer clay.
This wire and tinfoil methos does work well with polymer oven bake clay, I find that the frame work heats beneath the clay, thus cooking the model inside out.
This technique worked for another commission project I worked on recently, perhaps the most challenging piece I have worked on so far. A friend commissioned me to make a clay mech. I was worried about the commission at first, but took to the challenge. So I created the armature for the mech using all the same techniques.
The armature looked nothing like a mech, more like a strange alien. Slowly but surely the mech began to take shape though. After thirty hours of work, spread over a week, the sculpture was finally ready for painting.
My clients were happy and so was I. My readers will probably note this technique when they browse other posts. You will see it in my bird art, and fantasy themes.
For miniatures I use a slightly different method, as tinfoil adds an unwanted layer to an armature that is already tiny, that will be the subject for another post.
To conclude, I thought this subject would be of interest to my readers since it is an important part of my work. For my clients this also shows the first step in a series of phases that transforms a stick figure into something else entirely.