Thursday, September 26, 2013

How to sculpt your maquettes to scale

How do you build a maquette exactly to the size you want? Here are seven quick tips.

1. First, do a scale drawing of your subject (dinosaur, monster, mech, or building) from at least a side view, but ideally a top and front view, too. 
2. Make a photocopy of the drawing. 
3. Fold it where the feet touch the ground, and position it right behind your armature.
4. Using a red marker, draw where you want the aluminum wire armature to go inside the form.
5. As you build the wire armature, shine a sharp light from far away to cast a shadow on your drawing. The shadow will be like an x-ray of your eventual maquette. You will be able to see exactly where the armature will fit inside the form. 

6. As you build the maquette, make sure it matches the size and pose that you planned in your drawing.

7. You can use a caliper to check actual measurements of the 3D form against the 2D drawing. Here's a cheap caliper that you can get for about 6 bucks.

You can see this tip in action, along with lots of other practical behind-the-scenes insights, in my new instructional art documentary (watch the trailer on YouTube) about the making of the Australian dinosaur stamps. 
More at:

9 comments:

Greg Newbold said...

Great tips James. I really like the Chinese ring necked pheasant coloration on the model as well!

SoarsLikeAnEagle said...

I have an unrelated question. As both you James, and Greg, are in the field of everyday professionals perhaps either or both would know the answer. I am working on works of art in water color, ink, and digital using photos from public domain as a reference. In the case of digital, using the photo as the starting point. If they are in the public domain from an expired copy write, such as a 1920's published photo, is there any permissions required to use them in this regard?

James Gurney said...

No permissions required if it's the public domain. You can do what you like with it.

SoarsLikeAnEagle said...

Thanks, it gets confusing with all of the legal wording when you try to read up on it.

krystal said...

This is wonderful! Thank you! I'd appreciate more of posts like this one pretty please :)

Russell Dickerson said...

Your method is definitely easier than my, "bend some wire and hope for the best" method. Mine usually end up fine, but not until I've I've worked with it for too long. Great tips, thanks!

Janet Oliver said...

Your timing is perfect, James! I'm making horse, cow, pig, goat, dog, and chicken maquettes! I think I will have to download your DVD.

Al Davis said...

I use my drawings, skeletons, etc, resize and print them to fit into my opaque projector, then project the image onto cardboard at the size I require. I cut the image out and use that for my sculpt template by holding it in back of the sculpt. Makes for a durable reference point and can actually be held against the sculpt repeatedly as needed and/or measured. It has worked quite well for me.

James Gurney said...

Al, that's a really helpful tip. I forgot to mention that technique. I've tried that profile cutout, and it really helps. I'm so glad you brought it up.