The Art of Portrait Sculpture

Learn Portrait Sculpture as Davis Fandino sculpts Stan Winston, from clay to finished bronze bust.

May 25, 2012

We live in a three-dimensional world.  This is where we exist, so obviously, as people, we usually take extra enjoyment when things have three dimensions, like us.  There’s a reason why there’s been such an upsurge of 3D films recently.  Even in many drawings and paintings, where there are only two dimensions, we try our hardest to create the illusion of that third.  We like to see things from all angles.  We like volume.  Well, volume is a sculptor's playground.  And this is why the art of Portrait Sculpture is such a fantastic viewing experience.

For those with a serious interest in sculpture to those who might not have ever even thought about sculpture as an option before, the newest in our series of training videos is fascinating for everyone.  It’s an intoxicating experience to slowly watch a brick of non-descript gray clay slowly transform into the visage of a recognizable, beloved human being.  If you’re on this site, you already know why we all hold Stan Winston on a very high pedestal.  Watching Davis Fandino slowly breathe life into this portrayal of him brings even more joy.

To put it bluntly, Davis Fandino is a genius at his craft.  Watching him work looks so effortless, and yet, you can witness skill with each and every movement of his hands.  He mentions in the lesson that he was taught from another master sculptor, Jordu Schell, to “sculpt with urgency.”  This doesn’t mean to sculpt recklessly, mind you, but rather with more of a fearlessness.  He explains that it’s not just efficient, but makes for better sculpting, and less timid sculptures.  It’s fun to watch him practice this skill and not just preach it.

Portrait sculpting may seem a bit foreboding at first, but it’s pivotal, especially if you want to work in making monsters, beasts, or aliens.  As mentioned in the video, if you can sculpt a portrait, you can sculpt anything else.  It doesn’t work the other way around.  It all begins with this essential craft.  The reason is that for portrait sculpture you need a realization of human anatomy and how to mimic it perfectly.  Once you have human anatomy down, that’s when you can intelligently learn how to manipulate it to create any form of disturbing creature your mind can come up with.  All you have to do is look at the Terminator, and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Davis will take you through each and every step with detail.  You’ll learn how to choose and build the correct armature.  You’ll learn how to correctly heat (and later cool) your clay.  You’ll be brought through all the steps from sculpting primary forms with fingers, to using tools for secondary forms, to using sponges and specialty tools to create the surface detail for the final piece.  What you’ll also learn are some additional key points that might not be as obvious, like how to subtly pose your portrait so it doesn’t come across stiff, or how cheeks help “nail” the expression of your subject.  My personal favorite bit of insight is when Davis talks about how a portrait shouldn’t only be what someone looks like, but also should capture a sense of the psychological impact of that person.  These are the more nuanced lessons that only a master of his craft can teach you.

As a bonus, once the sculpture is completed, Davis also guides you through the molding process by using a block mold to duplicate a resin cast.  This is an additional part of the process that is equally as fascinating, especially for those scientists out there who enjoy watching chemicals at work.

All in all, it’s a fascinating video with something for everyone.  Trust me, seeing our patron, Stan Winston, slowly emerging from a block of clay is definitely a worthy viewing experience.  Plus, you get to learn the entire process along the way.

-Jeff Dixon