Lately it seems that every new character doodle I work on with paper and pencil ends up looking kind of the same. (Read: ugly and lame.) So I decided that this weekend I would do "sketches" in 3D, using clay, instead.
I have a pile of oil-based clay from the mid 1990s (when I took a cool Anatomy of the Head class), so yesterday I set to working on a little head about the size of a clementine. It was stickier than trying to make a sculpture out of Hubba Bubba.
Insta-field trip across the street to Jerry's to see what they have in other no-bake, oil-based modeling clay. I'm a noob on this topic, so I don't know what to expect, and I go in with an open mind. On the top shelf, they have stuff that looks similar to what I have, but in better colors. On the next shelf they have this stuff called Roma Plastilina, made by Sculpture House, which comes in 2 lb. bricks wrapped in onion skin paper.
If you are new to Roma Plastilina, I have included a picture so you can see what it looks like. It's discreet. It's so discreet that if you're new to the product (as I was), you may fail to notice that there are actually different kinds (they don't just stock 20 bricks of one kind, as I had originally assumed):
The number is in very small type—in French first—to the right of the crest.
I waffled between No. 2 and No. 3 (because the description on No. 2 seemed so universal), but ultimately decided on No. 3 because of my freakishly hot/sweaty hands. I returned to my office with my purchase, where I excitedly unwrapped it—and immediately decided I had made a terrible mistake. It was hard as a rock, and when I drove my putty knife into it to break off a smaller chunk, it fractured and left a large quantity of very un-clay-like crumbles.
How to Use Roma Plastilina No. 3
Start with smaller pieces. Normally I would cut clay with a wire, but I was legitimately concerned that it might sever my fingers before it cut through the brick, so I used a putty knife chisel-style to break off about an eighth of the material to warm up. I can easily understand why I would get a softer clay for a larger model—not just because you get different, larger textures, but also because it could take you all day to warm up the No. 3 and keep it pliable. If you're using an armature or form, which I don't need because of the shape of my project, now would be the time to get that prepared.
Next, warm the clay. Even if you plan to carve your work (subtractive) instead of model it (additive), it seems like warming and kneading your clay is a good plan. I would worry about it being overly brittle and crumbly without the conditioning it gets by being manipulated.
Based on some lite internet research, it looks like there are a couple of common methods for warming the plastilina, depending on how much you need at a time.
Roma Plastilina No. 3: One Noob's Opinion
Once I was able to knead and shape the warm No. 3, I was very happy with the firmness, and relieved I hadn't given into the allure of No. 2. It held up well to my hot hands, carved as readily as it stuck to itself and accepted tools easily. It burnishes to a nice, smooth surface and retains a great deal of detail, even as I continue to work with it. Perhaps best of all, once you leave it, it goes back to it's cold, stone-like state and won't lose shape or get nasty stuff stuck all over it if you drop it on the floor. As I said, I'm just a novice when it comes to modeling clay, but I give this stuff two thumbs up.
That said, any plastilinaphiles in the audience should leave a comment if I have goofed up details, misled fellow noobs, or overlooked any nifty shortcuts that you know about.
4/14/13 - 1.75 hrs
(plus an additional .75 down the ASMR-video rabbit hole)
Welcome to the accountability area of my life, where I will be posting process sketches and other important stuff I let myself avoid when I'm "busy."