Sculpture Posture: The Armature

Making the Armature Figure for the piece...

We start by bending the steel rods for the armature.

One challenge in the making of this statue, is designing it to be dismantled for moving, and for making molds at the foundry. It just can't be made as one piece. I know that the figure is going to take a lot more trial and error to complete than the bench. I also know that the bench will get ruined if I have to constantly work over it while I sling around hot wax, fire, and all the other sharp things I use to sculpt with. The armature for the figure needs to stand by itself, and be able to be slid onto/off the bench at any time. The wax figure needs to be sturdy, but very light weight because of this.

My solution is to weld a very simple and linear skeleton out of 3/8 steel rod, bend it into shape, and over-engineer the steel of the right leg to be 3/4 inch steel rod. I will add cardboard cut out silhouettes to the major mass points of the skeleton (rib cage, pelvis,center arm/leg), then fill the figure mass with expanding spray foam. I figure that welding the 3/4 inch steel rod right leg to the steel plate on the floor will support more than the entire weight of the wax and foam figure. The steel skeleton will be ridged enough to hold the sitting pose (especially with the foam reinforcing it) and be thin enough to cut or bend later (when I inevitably see I have made mistakes).

After bending all the rods they get welded together to make up the statue's stance.

I had to put a fire retardant welding blanket over the wax bench as I adjusted and bent the steel armature. This a very long time. It is difficult to imagine and visualize all the proper thicknesses, masses, and relationships of the figure sitting on the bench. It is even more difficult trying to account for the added layers of clothing the figure will wear. The most important part of the armature phase, for me, is making sure the emaciated, tiny looking frame, captures the gesture and feeling of physical gravity that the finished piece will have. If I don't get it before I begin to add wax, I know I will fight the armature throughout the entire process to get there.

Using makeshift materials to simulate the statue's mass on the bench is helpful when it comes to scale and accuracy.

Without fail, at this stage, everything ends up too close, and too cramped. Even using calipers, and measurements taken from a live model, things look maddeningly thin, small and wrong. You just have to have faith in the numbers, and move forward to the foam carving stage.