Does patina really affect the impact of your fine art bronze?

“What patina do you think will look best on this piece?” 

It’s one of the most common questions we encounter from our clientele at the foundry as we’re rounding out the metal finishing work on a project. Often the sculptor’s focus is on form, line and texture, and this tends to hold true even when the finished piece is intended to be a fine art bronze. While we are happy to share our opinion on patina and finish selection, that decision should ultimately come from the artist and should ideally be included as part of the conceptualization of the project.

There are a wide array of different patinas, and some may pair better with your work than others. For instance, some sculpts with a traditional subject matter or classical style will generally lend themselves to the more traditional hot patinas. Conversely, more contemporary sculptures may benefit from polychrome finishes, be they multilayered patinas, dyes, waxes or pigments. Expanding your knowledge about the potential finish options can give you a greatly diversified palette to choose from. A more versed understanding of both the foundry process and patina application can enable you to sculpt with a specific patina in mind for each element or section of your completed composition. A real asset for those looking to diversify and intensify their work in this way is Patrick Kipper’s Patinas for Silicon Bronze. This book is laden with patina options, as well as a foundationary background on patination that can prove vital to your decision making at virtually any point in the creative process.

dvhnrMonochrome bronze is essentially a blank canvas, and can be paired with various finishes to complete your artistic statement. We recommend photographing your final sculpt and experimenting with the varied tonal qualities that can be expressed through the manipulation of different patina schemes, either by painting printouts of your work or using a powerful editing tool like Adobe’s Photoshop, if you have it at your disposal.

Take the time to explore the options that are available to you with your foundry. Their experience can help your finished sculpture make a much stronger impact on the pedestal, whether at the gallery or in a collector’s home. Though patination is the final step in the bronzing process, it shouldn’t be your final thought. By experimenting with transparency, shading, polishing, and application techniques you can help bring more emotion to the piece. Apt planning for how your completed cast will look can amplify both it’s impact and resonance with your audience, helping your vision to stand out and reach people on a deeper level.

      For all of your favorite artist clays, from Chavant to J-Mac, Van Aken to Monster Clay, don’t forget to visit our sculpting supplies storefront,
  Image is of Da Vinci’s Horse and Rider. To find out more about this piece, check out
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How to take professional looking photos of your sculpture on a budget: part III

The last step toward capturing professional looking photos of your sculpture on a budget is lighting.  In photography, light is everything.  It’s why you see photographers pacing up and down the coast line, camera in hand, patiently waiting for the sun to meet the horizon, or why photographers wake up at the crack of dawn to get that perfect landscape shot.

Without getting into the physics of it all, light has different qualities at different times of the day.  Since you’ll be shooting inside, this doesn’t so much concern you, but it’s something you should be cognizant of just the same–especially if the place where you’re shooting has lots of natural light.

Ideally, in a studio setting, you don’t want any natural light.  That’s why you see professional studio photographers in rooms without windows.  But you’re not a studio photographer, and so more than likely you’ll be taking these photos in your home, which, I’m willing to wager, has more than a few windows.

So, first thing’s first: find a room with the least amount of natural light that still affords you enough room to maneuver. Next, prepare to break out your pocketbook again.

For the purpose of taking professional looking photos, your household lamps just aren’t going to do it.  Chances are either the temperature of the light is going to be off, or they’re just not going to provide enough light.  What you’ll need is a pseudo-professional lighting setup.  I say pseudo because the real deal would cost you thousands of dollars. What you’re sacrificing in portability, however, (the pros want to be able to break down their kit in minutes) you’re gaining in price.

While there are numerous lighting kits out there, we’ve had great success with the one we found on Amazon.  It’s kind of flimsy, sure, but the quality of the light is top notch and it’s proven more than adequate for producing professional looking photos.

Lighting Setup

Lighting Setup

After you’ve made your purchase it’s pretty straightforward from there.  Plenty of tutorials exist for the positioning of your lights, but trust me, as someone who’s watched them all, it’s just plain common sense.

For a simple, well lit photo, you want to position your lights on either side of the subject at anywhere from a 30-45 angle, facing back at the subject.  In other words, the lights should be out in front of the subject a bit; not just on either side.

For more dramatic shots, try lighting the subject from a downward or upward angle.  Do note that this will create harsher shadows, but for some shots this is ok.

Lastly, don’t forget to experiment.  We’ve gotten some of our best photos by just saying, “I wonder what’ll happen if we do it this way.”

For all of your favorite artist clays, from Chavant to J-Mac, Van Aken to Monster Clay, don’t forget to visit our sculpting supplies storefront,

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How to take professional looking photos of your sculpture on a budget: part II

3. Take more creative shots. Remember when I said “more on that later”?  Well here we are.  Now that you have a better camera capable of producing higher quality images with more creative control, and a sharp, fast lens that can create shallow depth of field, it’s time to put them to use.

One of the hallmarks of professional looking photography is shallow depth of field.  See the image below for reference.

Sculpture Shallow Depth of Field

Shallow Depth of Field

Image Credit: Ari Takes Pictures

Notice how the subject (in this case, the elephant) stands in contrast to the blurred background.  That blurred background is called “bokeh” and it’s the result of shallow depth of field.  This is an effect that iPhones and point and shoots simply cannot produce (not effectively, at least) and is used to great effect to draw the viewer’s eye to the subject, rendering all else into an inconsequential blur.

To produce this effect position the subject (your sculpture) as far as reasonably possible from the background you’re shooting against.

Next, set your camera to Aperture Priority (consult your manual as every manufacturer is different) and open the aperture as wide as it will go.  Doing so will produce the “blurriest” bokeh (i.e. background blur).  Do note, however, that many lenses are slightly soft wide open, meaning that if you want a super sharp subject with a reasonably blurred background, you may want to stop down the aperture (make it smaller).  It’s a bit of a balance, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

4. Obey the rule of thirds…mostly.  Nothing screams amateur like a subject placed in the center of the frame.  It’s boring, hackneyed, and doesn’t take into account our natural predilection for all things phi.

Don’t do it.

Instead, imagine your viewfinder is broken down into a grid of nine equally sized boxes (most newer cameras actually have this feature built in).  Place your subject either in the left column or right, taking special note of the power points (the four points in the center of the frame).  An example of their use can be seen in the photo below.

Rule of Thirds Power Points

Rule of Thirds: Power Points

Image Credit: At Home With My Kiddos

Notice how the child’s face and torso align almost perfectly with the leftmost power points. This is where your viewer will naturally focus first.  What’s more, English readers overwhelmingly view left power points before right, as that’s the direction they read.  When framing your compositions, keep this in mind.

The rule of thirds isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it’s one you should try to follow as often as possible.  Center framing, more often than not, is just plain boring.  There will be times, however, when a subject simply looks better in the center of the frame, and that’s when you’ll just have to use your gut.

For all of your favorite artist clays, from Chavant to J-Mac, Van Aken to Monster Clay, don’t forget to visit our sculpting supplies storefront,

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How to take professional looking photos of your sculpture on a budget: part I

Ever wonder how some of those professional sculptors get such brilliant shots of their work?  It’s crazy, right?  Their images are sharp, colorful, well lit, and seem to fill the frame perfectly.  But how are they doing it?

Here’s part one of our three part write up on how to take professional looking photos of your sculpture on a budget:


1.  Invest in a better camera.  Yes, it will cost a little money up front, but it will pay dividends in the future.  Your iPhone and even your little point and shoot camera probably take reasonably sharp photos, but because of limitations in their design they’re simply not built to capture the types of images you need to really set your work apart. More on this later.  For now, look at investing in an inexpensive DSLR like Canon’s T2i or Nikon’s D3100 — both can be found on Amazon for less than $500.

Nikon D3100

Nikon D3100

Canon T2i

Canon T2i







These cameras, in addition to taking higher resolution photos than typical point and shoots, allow for more control over the creative process.  There’s a learning curve, so don’t be intimidated, but we’re talking weeks, not months, and some of you will probably be taking brilliant photos right out of the box.

2.  Get a better lens.  Unfortunately, kit lenses (the ones that normally come bundled with the camera) are usually good at many things and great at none.  One area they all tend to struggle in, however, is speed.

Quick camera lesson:

To understand the importance of speed you must first understand the concept of aperture.  In laymen’s terms the aperture is the hole (formed by a bladed iris) through which light travels to reach the sensor.  The wider the aperture, the more light hits the sensor.  Consequently, the smaller the aperture, the less light hits the sensor.

Slow lenses, like kits lenses, are thus ill suited for indoor photography (where you’ll likely be taking photos of your sculpture), as they struggle to capture light from indoor situations.  What you need, therefore, is a fast lens, and for that there’s really no better bang for your buck than Canon’s $100 50mm 1.8 II.


Nikon also makes a $100 50mm 1.8 lens, though by all accounts the Canon lens produces more pleasing bokeh.  

Canon 50mm 1.8 II

Canon 50mm 1.8 II

With Canon’s 50mm 1.8 II you get a fast lens, with decent glass, at a great price.  And best of all, you’ll be able to produce professional looking photos with pleasing bokeh.  We’ll get into how in the second part of our write up, coming soon.

Don’t forget to visit our sculpting supply store for all of your favorite artist clays, including Chavant, J-Mac, Van Aken, and Monster Clay.

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How to properly sculpt expression

Expression can make or break a sculpt.  If on your figure’s face you’ve modeled a wonderfully goofy smile, yet his back is hunched, his shoulders are slouched, and his hands are hanging loosely by his sides, you’ve compromised the emotional cohesion of the piece. The body language tells the audience the figure is pensive, forlorn, or maybe even heartbroken.  His facial expression, however, paints a very different and possibly confusing story.

Take a sneak peak at John Brown’s Sculpting Expression and Fantasty Characters DVD tutorial and see how John approaches the concept of proper expression in context.

For the full length DVD, visit  Also available are all of your favorite artist clays from Chavant, J-Mac, Van Aken, and Monster Clay.

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“Octopus Table” Bronze Sculpture by Isaac Krauss

Bronze Sculpture Octopus Table

“Octopus Table” by Isaac Krauss

As a bronze fine art foundry we see our fair share of bronze sculpture, obviously, and while the vast majority of what we produce is brilliant work, it typically falls into a single category: figurative nudes.  To reiterate, the work is brilliant; often we cast for some of the leading names in contemporary sculpture.

But like a tour guide (or so we imagine) in the Louvre, even the finest work exhibiting flawless composition and patina’d to perfection, can lose its luster.  It’s not that we no longer recognize the artist’s mastery or no longer have an appreciation for the work, it’s just that we see it every day.

So it’s nice, every once in a while, when we happen upon a work of art that’s fresh, original, and exists outside the norm (i.e. not a figurative nude).  Isaac Krauss’ “Octopus Table” perfectly exemplifies that spirit.  Not just an octopus with a colorful patina, the “Octopus Table,” weighing in at a solid 500 lbs, is both masterfully sculpted and creatively composed, serving at once as a work of art and a fully functional table.

It only took a single photo (which, mind you, is a medium that never really fully conveys the gravitas of a three dimensional work of art) to have us saying “wow,” and for people  who see exceptional work on a daily basis, that’s saying something.  So we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight Mr. Krauss’ work, and, if your sensibilities align with our own, maybe send you on over to his site to get a better look at what the table is all about:

Full disclosure: Though the artist does live in LA, we did not consult, collaborate, or otherwise participate in the production of this project in any way.  We’re merely admirers, seeking to share a work of art that drew our eye. Enjoy!

For the best tools, supplies, and artist clays, including Monster Clay, Chavant, J-Mac, and Van Aken, don’t forget to visit our store,

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How to smooth your clay for a clean finish

When finishing their sculpts, novice sculptors often struggle with the final touch: the smoothing of the clay.  In the case of figurative sculpture, this could mean the difference between a clean finish and something that looks, well, unfinished.

Here are a few quick tips to getting a super smooth finish that’ll really set your piece apart.

Quick tip: If you start off with a super smooth clay that cuts and shapes easily to begin with, like Monster Clay or Van Aken’s Klean Klay Alternative, the whole process of smoothing your clay will be that much easier.

1.  It starts with your hands

Your fingers to be specific.  It sounds like common sense but many novice sculptors wait until the very end to start smoothing their surfaces, and that just makes things harder.  Don’t procrastinate.  Work on those surfaces with your fingers throughout the sculpt until you’ve gotten them as smooth as you possibly can.  It’ll make the smoothing go quicker later.

2. Using a rake 

Certain clays have a propensity for cracks and holes.  These can be near impossible to smooth out with your hands, especially if you’re working on something small.  The solution?  A rake.  Rakes allow you to work out those imperfections so you can come back and smooth them over.  It sounds scary at first, raking over your hard work, but in the end the sculpt will be better for it.  Just make sure to rake lightly and not too deep; you don’t want to ruin your composition.

3.  The alcohol torch

Sometimes a rake just doesn’t do the trick.  Enter the alcohol torch.  With its needlepoint flame you can heat and smooth just about any surface, including those hard to reach facial features on a small bust.  For minor tweaks, hit the surface for one to two seconds.  To really start moving some clay around, hit it for four to five.  It takes a little getting used to, but this tool will eventually prove invaluable in your arsenal.

4.  The final touch

Alcohol can be found at any local drug store and does a great job of smoothing out clay surfaces.  Start by painting on the alcohol with a larger brush; this will allow you to cover more area.  Then, when your sculpt is pretty well covered, get in those nooks and crannies with a smaller brush.  Your clay should now have a smooth, natural texture.

And that’s it!  Simple, right?

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