Memorial Sculpting for Grief Recovery 5...Building the armature

Armature building on armature map sketch to scale ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy

I have taken the photos that the client has provided to me and altered them a bit in Photoshop for my needs. First, I start by creating a drawing of the proportions of the boy straight on and also a side view. I can use this simple outline drawing to gauge how to best make my armature. For this piece, I decided that I didn't want an external support as it could impeded working on certain areas. There may be some detailing on the back of the shirt and he will be holding a large bowl so having an iron support coming out of his back or side could make detailing of those areas difficult. 

So I opted to make the internal support very sturdy by using 1/2" plumbing pipe as the main support inside the weight bearing leg and used additional T-pipe with a connector to take the weight in the torso. I then made the spine and arm armatures from aluminum wire and will wrap all this with smaller gauge wire to give the clay something to adhere to.

Armature ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy

Here you see the armature set up on the prepared board. In the background I have taped up my armature/proportion sketches, the original clay maquette and my trusty studio skeleton, Stan. The other pipes you see laying on the board are for building the second smaller boy armature. I put some orange electrical tape on the elbow and knee joints for reference. The hands are a bit odd looking as I have not yet cut off the extra finger length on the armature. The gold/brass square tubing is for removal of this area. I should be able to remove the arm at the shoulder and at the wrist as well as the head, if I want to work these areas off-sculpt. You can see the wire-wrapping. I should have held off on this part as I ended up putting some foam on the piece to reduce the volume - this will be very heavy and take a lot of clay so any time you can lighten it a bit by bulking in foam the better.

Armature ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy

A close up showing the armature. Some of the wires are twisted for strength and clay grip - other areas are wrapped with thin wire to give the clay something to hold onto - otherwise it would slide or peal off.


When the first armature of the older boy is complete I started work on the second armature for the younger brother. This time I chose to use a back iron to support the sculpture. I have not yet attached either of the armatures to the base board at this time. It will be important to block in both figures to get a sense of the spacing needed between the boys for the pose. If I attached the armatures to to board at this stage I may have to move them later once the clay is on the armatures. I'll wait until the bulk of the clay is on both figures before I screw the plumbing flanges in place.

At 24" this sculpt is close to 1/2 life size and the weight of the clay can really add up. To mitigate some of the weight I have taken some pieces of insulation foam and carved them into simple shapes and glued and wired them onto the armature to bulk it out more, take up space and reduce the amount of heavy clay added.

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