An Introduction to Artist Armatures

For beginning sculptors, the concept of the armature is a novel one. Armatures make up the foundational sub frame beneath the sculpting medium of an additive sculpture. They serve to help support the weight of the sculpting medium that is being used, and contain critical proportional information about the work.

Armature creation begins with a character drawing to establish scale and to function as a blueprint for the armature and later the sculpt itself. The character drawing can aid in determining where the natural pivot points should be as well as in establishing anatomically correct positioning and proportions throughout the armature design.

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Armature creation begins with a character drawing to establish scale and to function as a blueprint for the armature and later the sculpt itself.

The armature itself roughly consists of the skeletal structure of the figure. The complexity and completeness of the skeletal structure can vary as suits the needs of the artist, so long as it aptly supports the weight of the clay being used and is able to retain it’s shape. One of the more common techniques in armature creation is to wrap aluminum armature wire of varying thickness around one another to form the anatomical outline of the desired figure. Once the desired shape is accomplished, the armature can be mounted directly to the wood base it will be sculpted on as well as to a back iron that will allow for more dynamic positioning.

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The armature can be mounted directly to the wood base it will be sculpted on as well as to a back iron that will allow for more dynamic positioning.

Ideally, armatures should be made of sturdy materials and can be securely mounted to prevent them from moving or shifting undesirably. Like the foundation of a house, the armature needs to be able to take a fair bit of abuse while retaining the flexibility and mobility necessary to adjust the posture and positioning of the sculpt throughout the creative process.

Many sculptors prefer to build their own armatures from scratch, and for those looking to get started on this approach there is a great instructional DVD on the subject hosted by sculptor and character/creature designer John Brown. For those interested in a ready made alternative, both Sculpture House and TruForm Armatures offer a selection of figurative, bust and equine armatures to suit many of your sculpting needs. You can pick up these, along with the rest of our offering of premium artist clays, waxes and tools at afasupplies.com.

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