Modelling a Beautiful Horse

Go ahead: model your first figure in clay.  Do a horse.

Some see the problem right off—the real problem—the support problem.   Others just grab a ball of clay and start squeezing and picking away, trying to remember what a horse looks like. And some of those get very far along before they notice that the ball of clay they´re holding in their hand is growing dangerously soft and that they are squeezing it out of shape.  The smart ones stopped modelling already when they saw that it was going to be impossible to put the horse down when they finished it because it wouldn´t stand on its skinny little legs. The dreamer keeps at it, however, the dreamer and the tough guy who doesn´t simply give up when times get hard. Those boys model all afternoon in pursuit of ideal horseness. They tell themselves they don´t care if the horse can´t stand up when it´s done.  Their job is to get it right.   And they do seem to be getting closer and closer.

But when the afternoon is gone and they have to set the horse down on the table, they realize that it IS a terrible pity that their little horse must die, and they watch it sink and flatten on the table and all their fine modelling, the ears and nostrils and delicate muscles, all disappear back into the original clay ball.

The mean fact of nature—of gravity—is that you need some support—a wire, a stick, something—even for a silly clay figure.  And this means planning ahead, which seems pretty grouchy news to a beginner looking for fun.  Right from the start you need a fairly clear plan in order to construct an armature for your model.    You must decide on such matters as the size of your horse and what his feet will be doing and which way he will look.

Second Mean Fact

Now let´s say you are the dreamer and you´ve learned your lesson.  From now on you are going to plan your figure like a good sculptor and set up an armature for your horse before starting.  You nail a T-shaped iron to a board and squeeze the clay around the iron, pretty satisfied at your progress in this art.
At this point the wise guy who refused to model the clay ball in his hand as you did because he foresaw the problem of support, shakes his head again and stops.  He sees another hitch.
But since you don´t—or don´t want to—you go on and model your horse until it´s done.  Best horse you ever did—and it stands on its own two feet (with the help of that iron).  Great triumph.

Where is the problem?

When your figure dries it will crack around the iron and fall apart.  And there´s no way to cook it in an oven while that iron is inside without its destruction. And no way to remove the iron.

“Is that possible?” groans the dreamer.  “All I wanted to do was model a horse!  I don´t care how it stands.  Such a simple demand, no?  Is sculpture so hard?”

Until you get it into your head that each of your wispy ideas must become an object, and that each object will mean a construction “problem”, sculpture will be very hard.  (It will stay hard after that too but you won´t spend time in lamentations.) You must invent a solution, a contraption, for each of your ideas. You will have to make use of all kinds of materials and produce the little gadget-model from anything you have around the workshop—and more often, what you do not have around the shop and must go after, thereby wasting time.

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5 Responses to Modelling a Beautiful Horse

  1. Pingback: Modeling » Modelling a Beautiful Horse

  2. Ion Danu says:

    That’s amazing! My only “sculpture” was one of 2 horseman (horses included, of course), the only one I’ve kept from my Art School years – it’s still somewhere in sibiu, at my parents house…

    And I solved the problem – in a Alexander the Great (or Columbus) manner – I did not modeled the horses’ feet. I started modeling at waist height and the small sculpture which resulted wasn’t bad at all… Of course, it was more “Horsemen crossing a river” thing but the horses could be recognised…

  3. erikatakacs says:

    Yep, that’s me. Dreamer’s first mistake…had a good laugh. But I think it was a good lesson. I mostly learn from my mistakes. I didn’t commit the second crime yet, but didn’t do very complicated work as yet either. Are you a sculptor yourself? That was a very enjoyable read, thank you! I’ll come back for more fun art facts. :)

  4. 100swallows says:

    Thanks for telling me you enjoyed the read, erikatakacs. The support problem remains for every statue, always. I remember a friend telling me he used to grab anything at hand when, too late, he saw his figure leaning dangerously. And he showed me a photo of a tall cowboy in clay braced up with Coke bottles, a candle, and a chocolate Santa Claus! Yes, I’m a sculptor but right now I’m not modelling anything important.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Horse block sculpture . I invented a solution

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