Sculpting a bust with Andy Bergholtz

A couple of years ago I discovered the sculpture of Andy Bergholtz and I’ve been a fan ever since. So I spoke to him about alowing me to post one of his tutorials on how he sculpts and he was more than happy to oblige, so here goes what I think is an incredible artists process from start to finish with incredibley well explained tips and techniques.

You can find out more about Andy at his website or through his deviantart account

The rest of the article is written by Andy himself:

The subject for this demo is a 1/3 scael bust of Ian McShane as Al Swearengen from HBO’s “Deadwood”. This demo will include a detailed description of the entire process, from the creatione of the armature to the final finishing in wax.

The first step in creating a sculpture that calls for a likeness is to gather a great deal of reference. In this case I found what I needed with the combination of internet research and pulling images from DVDs of the show. I created about 4 pages of image montages in photoshop, combining all the best images I’d gathered into an easily viewable reference file. When creating a likeness it’s crucial to include a front view, ¾ view (left & right ) and profile views among your reference. After posting the reference in clear view of my work area it’s to get to work.

To begin, I made a simple armature by adding a ball of aluminium foil to the top of a short wooden dowel. I applied some super glue to the top of the dowel first to keep the foil from spinning around loosely as I worked. Next I added a layer of Super Sculpey to the foil ball (image1) to which I then applied a cross-hatch texture (image2). The texture is important to help the next layer of clay adhere to the layer underneath. I baked this first layer of Sculpey before moving on.

With the first layer of Sculpey cured I roughed out a very basic human head using Sculpey Firm (image3), I then proceeded to bake the piece a 2nd time. Now it’s time to begin adding clay to this generic ‘human armature’, fleshing out the facial structure while keeping the strict eye on the photo reference I created earlier. I add portions of clay for the cheekbones, brow, jaw line, nose, etc. During this stage it’s very helpful to check your progress by looking at the sculpture in a mirror as this aids in pointing out any asymmetry in the form. Holding the portrait upside down is similarly useful for catching flaws in symmetry along the way.

It doesn’t take long for the likeness to begin taking shape as features are added very roughly to the piece (image 4). When I was finally happy with the general look of the portrait I smoothed the surface a bit with a burnishing tool (image 5). After using the burnisher I used my fingertips to smooth the larger areas (image 6) and it was time to move to the ears. I added small kidney shaped lumps of clay to the side of the head and ‘drew’ in the basic shapes for each ear with the burnishing tool (image 7). I then refined the ears with a small wire loop tool, carving the deep crevasses and shapes that make up the ear’s anatomy. When I was satisfied with the look of the full portrait I brushed the surface lightly with Turpenois to smooth any rough areas before baking (image 8). After making a few minor last-minute tweaks the face is ready to be baked (image 9).

After the face had been baked and cooled I decided to add the neck and shoulders. I approach the neck exactly as I did with the rest of the piece, finishing it off by brushing with Turponoid and baking the entire piece one last time (image 10). Since I planned to finish this piece in wax I opted not to add fine details such as wrinkles and pores during this stage. I also decided to sculpt the portrait bald since I prefer to add that later with a material called Castilene.

With the Sculpey portrait finished and cured it was time to transfer the sculpture to wax. To do this I made a quick ‘waste mould’ using prosthetic alginate. Once the alginate was cured and the original sculpture removed, I poured molten wax into the empty mould and let it cool until it was solid (image 11). After a few hours the wax is cooled enough to remove safely from the mould. The casting was full of minor defects such as air bubbles, so I made the necessary repairs with a wax pen and sanding pads until the casting resembled the original Sculpey version (image 12).

The next step was to refine the wax sculpture using fine loop tools to tighten up the forms and make the details more crisp, as well as buffing the surface with sanding pads until it was nice and smooth. Once the forms are tight and the basic details are complete (image 13) it’s time for the final stage of surface detail. I cover the entire skin surface with very fine textures like wrinkles wrinkles and pores using thin wire loop tools I made from guitar strings. I use a variety of textures flow in the appropriate direction with the skin folds etc. When the wax portrait was complete I decided to add the hair and moustache with Castilene, as well as the jacket lapels to finish off the composition of the bust (image 14). After the hair and moustache were in place I noticed some flaws in the likeness, so I removed the rough Castilene parts and revised the flawed areas. At this point I chose to make a silicone mould of the bust so that I could sculpt the hair onto a resin copy.

Working on top of a resin casting can be advantageous because it allows one to work freely without risking damage to the sculpture underneath. With a fresh resin copy of the finished portrait I began to block in the hair & moustache with Castilene. Once I was happy with the forms I stared refining the surface details. Beginning with the moustache I heated a metal spatula tool and began applying curves and strands into the surface (image 15). I used the same technique to refine the rest of the hair, making sure to keep the flow of the hair natural and clean. Once the detail was finished I brushed the Castilene very sparsely with lighter fluid to smooth any minor imperfections, and the piece is complete!

2 Responses to “Sculpting a bust with Andy Bergholtz”
  1. Ryan says:

    Awesome tutorial! Great clean work.I’m a bit confused as to why he made the wax casting though. Why not go straight from Sculpey to resin? Any ideas?

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