Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nymph (Head)

Going to work on an open mouth today. This is our finished piece. She is one of my theatre students.

Lets look at the mechanics of the skull in relation to the open mouth.
Here we have three mini skulls I made this morning before sculpting the head of our nymph.
The left one is a closed mouth and then a few stages of the open mouth.
I use a mixture of translucent clay and white clay to get a more enamel-like look to the teeth.
 The closed moth has the teeth in the plane of the front of the face. the upper teeth hang over the lower teeth slightly. Keep in mind that the jaws hold 32 teeth of different sizes. (16 on top, 16 below).
 As the mouth opens, the jaw arches back away from the plane of the face. The space between the upper teeth and lower teeth gets larger in the front of the mouth than it does in the back of the mouth.
In a fully open mouth you can see the arc of the jaw as it hinges and opens.

 This is the skull for our nymph. She has a slightly open mouth. The teeth can be sculpted in now and cured or added after the face is done, whichever works best for you.
 The frontal view.  The outside edge of the teeth align with the center of the eye. This can be different with each person but I like to use this as my standard.
 The face is sculpted using the same steps we used before. If you need it, I can post another step by step for the face at some point- just drop a line.
The shape of the mouth will vary depending on the feeling behind it. You can close the mouth and have just a smile, or open the mouth for a laugh which shows some teeth, or a smile with a laugh which shows all the teeth.
Notice how the corners of the mouth pull back under the cheek and the skin between the jaws sinks in slightly where the jaw no longer supports it.
The lips both stretch and thin over the teeth as the smile widens.
 Smiles are not always symmetrical. (You may have noticed I sculpted a tongue into the mouth before adding the face on the skull. It is easier before the face is sculpted).
When the smile broadens, the checks push up and force the lower lids of the eyes upward which tends to thicken them and make them run more horizontal rather than arching as they normally do. Creases may also appear at the corners of the eyes.

 Don't be so hard on yourself! As I worked I decided that I did not like the amount of tooth exposure in the upper jaw- or lack there of. It made her look like an old woman who's teeth were worn away.
I altered this by adding a set of teeth over the existing teeth. I also decided that you should see this step so you know that no one gets it right the first time every time.
 New teeth, better view.
The finished face. I have also decided to raise the eyebrows a bit to make a more playful look to her features.
 She is a nymph so she gets the obligatory pointy ears.
 That is it for today. Hope something in here helps you on your own journey!
Have a great day!


  1. YES!!!! I so wanted a lesson on an open really are awsome...and you can read minds too...LOL
    blessings, carla

  2. This is fantastic! I never thought of making teeth in the skull beforehand! But I never make that realistic skull anyway... Laughing faces are so hard to make to look like a happy laugh, not grimace.

  3. This is brilliant and so well timed,I've been working on smiles with teeth this week and for the first time curing the teeth first. I love the way you show what can be done if its not right first time !

  4. I love love love this! Mark, thank you for explaining what the skull is doing now it all makes sense to me why my faces look like cartoons LOL. especially my laughing ones lol Thank you for sharing your knowledge and skill with us.
    I would like to add I have always watched people I think I have been drawn to faces and hands all my life ,Since I have started to use your skull lesson ,I have to tell you I am started to see their faces with ex-ray vision lol This is what makes you a extraordinarily teacher,You do not feed us for the day, but give us knowledge to feed ourselves for a life time.Thank you Mark :)

  5. Mark this is outstanding!!
    I have a question, i hope it's not too stupid, how do you put the teeth in and not squish the skull?
    Because i was just practicing and it seems impossible.

  6. Wow, I was just working on a face with teeth last week! I'm gonna try it your way now:)

  7. WOW Mark!! Thankyou for explaining this. Very useful information. I have been following you daily...cant sculpt along side because i am doing a sculpt for a friend which i need to finish within a week. But had it not been for it i would have jumped in for sure!! Thankyou again for providing such wealth of information!!

  8. First sculpt the skull then bevel the area where the teeth will sit. Sit the skull down and have a drink, I recommend a wee glass of blueberry schnapps, and let the clay cool down. Roll a small tube of tooth clay out and adhere it to the bevel on the jaws. Then sculpt your teeth. Stop every now and then and let the skull cool down- and have another drink. By the time you are done, the teeth will look just puuurfect!!!

  9. You're really awesome!!! Thank you very much for sharing all these!!