Sunday, March 30, 2008

I don't know what Mickey Mouse looks like but I can point him out in a bar OR: Sculpting philosophy from neither a sculptor nor a philosophizer

My latest hobby project is making multiple little spaceships out of plastic resin. For the first step I needed to track down good references. For the next step I am making the prototype out of Sculpey clay. Sculpey is probably used most by little kids in kindergarten, whose skill and mastery of the medium far exceeds my own. When I'm not burning the clay in the oven or accidentally cutting off important pieces, I'm usually spending hours carving the clay into the wrong shape and having to start over. Some people call this process sculpting, I guess when I do it it's best described as clay molesting.

I've used this clay prototype method a couple of times before but that doesn't mean it's the best way to go about a project like this. In fact, even after doing this resin casting stuff a tryptzillion times I don't have any set procedure and I kind of make up everything as I go along depending on what the project demands. So as I share with you my thoughts on sculpting, keep in mind that not only am I not a professional, but I don't even know what I'm doing half the time.

A couple of things occurred to me once I became a somewhat competent Sculpey molester. I've learned it helps to be able to draw what you want to make first, and also that drawing is hard. Good reference materials make for good prototypes. The problem is I suck at drawing. Yet I've still been able to knock out reasonably decent versions of whatever I wanted out of clay. How is this possible? More importantly, is there any other subject that could possibly be more mind numbingly boring than this crap to blog about?

I have discovered that sculpting is easier than drawing. I am going to explain this in the most complicated and verbose way I know how. It has to do with how our brains recognize objects. I don't think we record every last little detail when we see something, all that gets remembered is a kind of shorthand representation of an object's main features. This is why all dogs pretty much look the same and they're impossible to tell apart.

Have you ever tried to draw Mickey Mouse from memory? I have. It's not pretty. Here's an example to illustrate what I mean about why with my current brain, drawing is hard. I know he has two big round ears, but after that it's the wild wild west. Does he really have sharp little teeth? I couldn't remember. What's that bulbous growth on the right side of his head? A third ear? After seeing this how could anyone believe that I know what Mickey Mouse looks like? And yet, I've been able to recognize the guy every time I see him in the cartoons. AND THAT IS WHY DRAWING IS HARD AND SCULPTING IS EASY


Anonymous said...


I find both hard, otherwise I'd have an army of self-made robots and other creations. I'm also lazy, so that's probably a big part of it too.

Rob said...

Why don't you try sculpting Mickey Mouse instead?

Weasel said...

Or (re)start with something easy.

Try sculpting a Purple Titan.

(I mean, you've got a model to go by.....DON'T YOU?)

Evil King Macrocranios said...

I'm rereading this post now and I realize that I never actually made the point I wanted to make. What I was getting at was that drawing is a two dimensional medium and sculpting is three, and therein lies the difference.

Everything imaginable that somebody wants to sculpt or draw is made up of visual cues or parts. So the reason sculpting is easier is because you have that extra third dimension to cram extra detail into, where a drawer only has two dimensions to cram as many visual cues as possible. Or at least that's my theory.


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