6 Sculptors: 6 Questions

Posted on 19. Jul, 2012 by in News, Press Releases, Random, Timbuktoonblog

There's a maquette in a lump of clay waiting to be discovered! Inspired by the CTNx panel discussion "6 Sculptors: 6 Questions."

Six of the top maquette sculptors in animation shared their thoughts, experience, processes, and opinions in the CTNx panel discussion called “6 Sculptors: 6 Questions.”

Since I’m primarily a character designer and 2D animator and have done a total of 1 complete character sculpt to date, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to get out of this workshop session, but boy was I in for a surprise.

It was a fresh reminder of how many art principles cross over between disciplines.

Things like volume, weight, line of action, and even secondary action (or at least how to convey it in a still or sculpt), can all be found in both disciplines.

The panel consisted of the following talented artists:
Damon Bard, Feature Film Sculptor (IMDB)
Andrea Blasich, Feature Film Sculptor (IMDB)
Michael Defeo, Feature Film Sculptor (IMDB)
Jim McPherso,n 3D Designer (IMDB)
Kent Melton, Feature Film Sculptor (IMDB)
Raffaello Vecchione, Feature Film Sculptor (IMDB)

Click here for artist bios and more information: 6 Sculptors: 6 Questions
Click here to watch the session on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/42251591

I really liked the format of this session. It was loose and conversational but framed around 6 key questions…so, 6 sculptors discussed 6 questions.

Another thing I really liked was the diversity of the artists. They all had different backgrounds, ages/levels of experience, entry to industry stories, approaches, methods, tips, and opinions.

The 6 questions covered by the artists were as follows:

  1. What was your main influence in becoming a sculptor?
  2. When did you realize you were a sculptor?
  3. Are there any tips or tricks you would like to share?
  4. What is your thought process as you translate 2D to 3D?
  5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
  6. What are your thoughts on the difference between traditional and digital sculpture (clay vs. computer)?

I didn’t want to recap the artists’ responses to all 6 questions (but I highly recommend watching the video to hear their opinions, methods, experience, and personalities come through in their answers) but wanted to highlight some general thoughts and concepts that I personally found helpful, affirming, challenging, and inspiring.

Following are some key phrases or thoughts to that regard. None are exact quotes, but summary statements of the key thoughts and comments collected into a few categories for the sake of organization. Enjoy!


  • Treat each sculpture as a living breathing being. What are the characters thoughts/intentions etc?
  • Stay in touch w/ the human element. A believable figure with appeal is more important than accuracy.
  • Sculpt characters, not drawings.
  • Appeal, story, and emotion are key.


  • Stay loose, trust yourself, and don’t fight with the clay.
  • Have patience with the process and trust yourself. If you did it once, you can do it again.
  • Don’t be afraid to change something or completely start over. No bandaids. Don’t fix. Start over when you need to.
  • The more you do this, the less redos you’ll have as your skills develop.
  • When you redo, you get to the same progression in 1/4 of the time because you’ve already thought it out.
  • Just like with drawing, stay very loose and don’t commit until you know it’s right.
  • Having reference and multiple character drawings is critical.
  • Always think about form, form, form!
  • Push designs as far as you can, then pull back if you need to.


  • You need good armature. The skeleton and joints have to be accurate. The line of action and solid structure are in the armature.
  • There is no frame of reference unless the armature is solid. You should get a sense of the personality and attitude from the armature alone.
  • Muscles change, structure doesn’t. You can break the rules for effect, but you have to start with accurate structure.
  • Balance measuring and structural accuracy with your instinct. The most important thing is what makes the pose work well.


  • Trust the talent you’ve been given. There’s a reason you are compelled to do this sort of work. You are good at it!
  • Believe in your skills. Wrestle with it. Commit to it and do not give up.
  • Be yourself. You are not another artist. you are you. that is a gift.
  • Don’t be discouraged by how good another artist is. ¬†Do what you do and enjoy the process of becoming a better artist.
  • If you don’t see happening in films what you think should happen, you need to take action. You need to fill that void.
  • Toward the end of his career, Michaelangelo said, “I am still learning.”


  • Give it away. Share your knowledge. It frees you up to move on to more learning. Don’t worry about competition. Give it away.

There were so many more great comments and principles discussed. I could write a post for each question (and wish I had the time) but this is a good snapshot of the session.

I have some armature wire and a box full of super sculpey sitting on my desk as we speak. It’s been starring at me for a couple of weeks. There’s a maquette waiting to be discovered in that lump of clay and I think I’m going to find it.

Thanks to these artists for sharing their insight and thanks to CTNx for organizing the workshop!

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