How to make a sculpture

A perfect large-scale sculpture requires not only the sculptor's deep culture, artistic vision, aesthetic judgment and professional foundation (art, aesthetics, sketching, clay sculpture, etc.), but also creativity and hard work. For human sculptures it is necessary to understand the "kinematics of human structure". Sculpture production is difficult, especially for large combined sculptures, and attention must be paid to the center of gravity. An unstable center of gravity will cause collapse; for animal sculptures, you need to understand the "kinematics of animal structure".
There are generally five steps to making large sculptures.
Step 1: Conceive the draft (line drawing) or design blueprint, which determines the style, theme and meaning of the sculpture.
Step 2: Clay Sculpture: First make a small, in-the-round clay sculpture. During the production process it is necessary to pay attention to maintaining the mud at an adequate level of dryness and humidity. Especially in summer the water evaporates easily. Spray water on the clay sculpture frequently. No matter how delicate, meticulous or drastic the clay sculpture, a perfect sculpture has visual balance, movement, space, texture and balance, achieving a natural beauty that expresses life and gives vitality, which is the sculptor's inner emotional expression. Once you've completed creating your clay sculpture, turn your clay sculpture sketch into a plaster or fiberglass sketch.
Step 3: Large-scale clay modeling: Proportionally enlarge the small plaster draft to the required size
A) Make a bracket and widen it to the desired height based on the proportion of the plaster cast. It is like the skeleton of the sculpture that supports the entire sculpture. The sculptor uses the "stirrup" to replace the "support structure" of the sculpture, just like the human skeleton, which performs the same support and connection function. Materials such as wood, sticks, nails, plywood, iron pipes, iron wires, etc. are used to make the brackets.
B) The sculpture material can be fine black clay or fine loess. After adding black earth or loess to the bracket at the same time, the sculptor begins to shape the large clay sculpture until the clay sculpture is exactly the same as the small plaster sketch, and then the large plaster shape is copied. That is to say, a perfect sculpture requires two clay drafts and two plaster drafts!
Step 4: Taking stone carving as an example, the carving method uses a 1:1 removal method, and the stone or stones are carved one by one until they are completely similar to the original plaster model.
Phase 5: Laying and installation.
The same is true for bronze sculptures: from design drawings, to clay models, to plaster molds, up to the casting of brass or bronze sculptures. Casting involves pouring molten metallic liquid or other liquid that can become solid after cooling through the mold. Historically, our ancestors used bronze for casting. It first appeared in 5,000 BC. and was gradually replaced by iron tools during the Han Dynasty. China's Bronze Age spans a historical period of three thousand years. The bronze sculpture "Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow" of the Eastern Han Dynasty belongs to this category, followed by the Greeks and Romans, which fully demonstrates the achievements of the ancient ancestors in sculpture.
Therefore, a large-scale sculpture is very expensive and not affordable for the average person. From design drawing to work release, it is a big project and each step of the engineering process requires different methods and techniques!

Chen Chong

September 2023

Some sculptures created by Chen Chong:

Urban Sculptures in Shanghai
Big Golden Buddha Maitreya, Shangfang Mountain (Suzhou)
Large bas-relief, Shangfang Mountain (Suzhou)
Sketches in clay and plaster