Sculpture Techniques - Textures and Form with Don Lanning

Character Designer and Master Sculptor Don Lanning takes you on a crash course in mastering forms and textures in Chavant clay.

Jul 10, 2012

Everything and the Kitchen Sink

Sometimes when you hear the phrase, “everything and the kitchen sink,” it’s connected to something in a negative way.  That could NOT be further from the truth here.  When I say that in Sculpture Techniques – Textures & Forms,  you’ll learn “everything and the kitchen sink,” I mean you’re truly one of the luckiest people around.  This week’s video is a virtual treasure trove of amazing techniques, lessons, and hints.  In just over three hours, you’ll learn techniques for blocking out and sculpting skin texture, an eye, wounds, stitches, veins, teeth (both human and monster), cracks, burns, blisters, an ear, and even a short foray into H.R. Giger territory.  Phew…  I mean if that isn’t the absolute definition of “everything and the kitchen sink” I just don’t know what is.


Don Lanning is a genius.  Let me just get that out there right up front.  He manipulates clay so easily and smoothly, it’s intoxicating.  He seems to be able to literally sculpt anything, and well, like I mentioned earlier, he practically does in this video.  But where Don really shines is in his teaching technique.  He is so calm and easy going, it never feels like he’s telling you what to do, it just feels like you’re having a nice conversation with a friend.  Don’s teaching style is the perfect balance of telling and showing.  He makes you honestly understand each and every thing he’s trying to put across, and that’s a skill that shouldn’t be underestimated.  He gives specific examples, whether it’s talking about using Michelangelo’s David as the basis for all his eyes, or creating a fake language that he drew all over a character in Blade II.  Everything he says has a reason and it helps illustrate his points much better.


So let’s break down a few of the things we learn about in the video.  The largest and most noticeable items would probably be the eye, the teeth, and the ear.  As mentioned, he takes you through Michelangelo’s technique for creating an eye, along with a few different variations.  It’s really a remarkable thing to see.  The teeth, which at first start out human, eventually change into something monstrous.  The cool thing about that is that you essentially learn how to do both.  And the ear is something that you honestly feel like you could go sculpt right after he’s done showing you.  His methods for teaching how to block out larger forms are really top tier.


Some of the other techniques in the video, possibly a bit more enjoyable to the gorehounds in the group, would be the wounds, the stitches, the cracks, and even the burns, complete with blistering skin.  These are something that truly need to be seen to be believed.  You wouldn’t think that clay could make you a little grossed out, but when he start creating chunks of fat inside the wound, and blistering craters within the burns, you’ll be amazed to see where your own imagination takes you.


Now, while the larger forms may be the most recognizable, and the gore can be the most stomach churning, Don himself says that the most important and powerful thing to take away from this video is what he calls, The Power of X.  It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like.  It’s a technique of drawing multiple X’s to create texture.  This texture can be weathered skin, dinosaur skin, monster skin, you name it.  As you watch him draw X after X, it’s shocking to see how quickly they add up and eventually you don’t even see the X’s any more.  You only see texture.  It’s a wildly useful technique that I guarantee everyone can use in their own practice.

All in all, I could write about this video forever, because quite honestly it’s one of my personal favorites.  But as usual, it’s better seen than described.  So watch it, discover new techniques, and let this “kitchen sink” help you become a better artist.

-Jeff Dixon