How to sculpt a character maquette with world renowned creature designer Jordu Schell.

Sculpture techniques with master sculptor & creature designer Jordu Schell. Learn special effects character creation maquette sculpting.

Aug 7, 2012


You may notice that many of the videos on this site deal with the techniques of sculpture.  There are many reasons for this.  One of them is that by taking art off the page and into the third dimension we’re provided with yet another evolution of expression.  Obviously the craft has been around for ages, and will be around for ages more as simply an art form.  But also, here at the Stan Winston School of the Character Arts, we see more practical uses as well.  A maquette is used for countless purposes in character creation, monster making, and FX work, all things quite near and dear to our hearts.  Since creating a maquette is something that’s both artistic and practical, I’d say it’s quite a good skill to learn.  It’s how it all begins.  And what better way is there to guide us through all the techniques of creating a maquette, than by watching it done by Jordu Schell, one of the absolute masters of the craft.


In addition, the maquette he’s creating is none other than a representation of Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, so that just adds to the awesomeness.  Oh, and did I mention this is just the beginning of a larger Travis Bickle saga?  Oh boy, this journey is going to be a treat.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s start at the beginning, with the maquette, and with Jordu Schell himself.


When simply looking at the artwork, it’s usually pretty easy to compare one artist from the next.  Most artists have their own style, techniques, and amount of originality in their work that sets them apart.  That definitely defines Jordu Schell, who most deftly guides his way through this Travis Bickle maquette with ease. 


But I’m not just talking about the work he’s doing, I’m also talking about the man himself.  When being taught lessons from a master, we’re guaranteed to learn skills and substance that we’ll remember forever, but with Jordu, what you’re also guaranteed is his own style of teaching, his personality, his humor, and his overall likeability.


While Jordu teaches, he of course explains what you’re seeing, as well as his techniques, as far as constructing the maquette.  But what you also get are anecdotes, stories, and advice.  Sometimes the advice has to do with what you’re seeing on screen; sometimes it doesn’t.  And usually it’s the times where it doesn’t that it’s the most sage and important.


At one point, Jordu talks about the differences between practical sculpture and digital creation.  He doesn’t hide his opinions about how sometimes there doesn’t seem to be as much of a focus on individuality in digital work as there is in actual sculpture.  Sometimes there’s a uniformity the creations that seems stagnant.  He in no way is negative about it, or its creators, but it’s simply more of an insight about how if there isn’t an individuality to your artwork, what’s the point of it? 


No one stands out by simply mimicking exactly what artists did that came before you.  You’ll only stand out if you create something original that is wholly your own.  It’s this kind of opinion and philosophy that, whether you agree or not, is what makes a good teacher.  Additional nuggets of his teachings and philosophies include:  being patient with yourself, as well as being patient with the learning of your medium; how sculpture is less about the finer details and more about the overall picture; and how to differentiate between working on your own art and doing work-for-hire.  He essentially helps you become a better and more well-rounded artist, inside and out.  A teacher’s job is to make you contemplate things from all angles, and Jordu constantly makes you do that.


All in all, each and every attribute of sculpting a maquette is here, from larger things like roughing out the initial forms to the minutia of sculpting tiny hands and facial expressions.  This is the part of the lesson that you expect.  But what you’re also gifted with are numerous thought-provoking gems that a wonderful instructor such as Jordu Schell provides.  Enjoy this one, it’s a goodie.  And did I mention it’s an homage to Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver?  C’mon, that’s just too cool.

-Jeff Dixon

Check out the lesson HERE