Saturday, February 26, 2011

Design and the Armature

"Creation"- Mark A. Dennis
All your armature decisions will be dictated by the design of your final sculpture. I know that some of you are scoffing right now because you want to be creative and let the ideas flow as you work your piece into creation. Right there with ya! However, you cannot sacrifice the internal mechanics of science while creating that wonderful piece of art.The best sculptures need to be supported so they last. This is the job of your armature.
Here are a few ideas you must address while choosing the type of armature to support your sculpture.
"Belledonna" Life sized portrait - Mark A. Dennis
                SIZE  How big is your final figure going to be. As the figure get larger the armature must become more rigid to avoid cracking or the armature must become segmented (ball joints) to isolate the stress on each component of the piece.
                MATERIALS What brand or brands of clay are you using. You must become intimate with the properties of the clay, clay mix, epoxy, wax, casting resin, (insert material here) that your finished sculpt is made of. The only way to do this is to test your material yourself! Experiment with different clays; which surface finish do you like, how thick can it get before it cracks, what happens to it at different temperatures, how much bend is there in the final product, etc... You need to know this before you can decide how rigid, and how thick the armature and padding of the torso need to be. Ask other artists, they have done a lot of the experimenting for you but do not rely on their word alone, test this for yourself!
"Under the African Sky" - Mark A. Dennis

                 POSE   What is the figure or figures doing? Is this a simple figure standing on both feet or a series of figures holding each other off the ground? The armature will need to be adjusted to each use based on action, balance, positioning, torque, force, weight, and all those other physics therms which we learned just to pass the darn test.
"Midsummer Night" 18" figure with small fairies-Mark A. Dennis
                SHIPPING  The least considered but just as important feature to think about. If you sell this, which I assume is your goal, how are you getting it to Denmark from Detroit? Smaller sizes are easier to ship and cost less. Larger pieces are big, bulky, expensive, get damaged more easily, and need to break into little parts to ship.

Hope this primer gets you thinking about what goes inside a bit more. Next time we will start with a nice simple armature. Have a great day!


  1. Very good pointers, Mark. Darn, I guess I should have studied physics! I have a lot to learn! Thanks for the armature tutorials. I'm sure I'll gain valuable info to use in the future.

  2. Oh wow I don't know if I'm happy or sad after looking at you're blog.Happy to view such fantastic work and sad at how crap mine is!!!!!!!!!!!!