My first attempt at sculpture involved a very simplistic torso with no arms, legs, or head. Emboldened by unexpected success, I next attempted a more complex sitting figure, which required a more suitable form than stucco to create the fiberglass rendering of the head.
I was out buying props for a photo shoot in a wig shop one day with Ona, one of my favorite models with whom I’ve regrettably lost contact, when I noticed the Styrofoam stands used to display the wigs. Aside from the fact that polyester resin dissolves Styrofoam, the wig stand appeared to be the ideal form for roughing out the head shape, and some were even outfitted with a plastic mask that formed a fairly realistic face. The above photo shows the Styrofoam form clamped to a faceplate on my wood lathe for support, covered by several layers of fiberglass in the process of curing. I used an intermediate layer of Saran wrap as a release agent, which also served to keep the resin from coming into destructive contact with the Styrofoam.
I used the plastic face from the wig stand as a mold to create a rough rendering of the face, spraying the inside first with Pam ® to ensure release. The Styrofoam, still visible inside the fiberglass outer covering for the back of the head on the right, can simply be pulled out of the casting once the resin cures. The two pieces are joined together upon attachment to the neck of the sitting female sculpture to create the completed head foundation that will support further detailed sculpting
Unfortunately, the resulting head was sized according to the shape of the wig stand, and not in keeping with the dimensions of the existing sculpture, which made the head look disproportionally small. You can see the initial saw cut along the neck, as I decided the best solution was to just remove the head and start over, as opposed to try and build up the volume in place.
It actually took about three months for me to make the decision to remove the head, and part of the reason was I had started in that timeframe another sculpture, which was more in keeping with the size of this first head. So I decided to just switch the head over to this new piece (see next photo) versus resizing it.
The reallocated head is shown clamped in place during attachment to the slightly smaller sculpture, after which the joint is reinforced with fiberglass cloth and then faired in with Bondo ®.
The result is a more appropriate match between head and body, with no need to perform a laborious resizing operation. Once again, the flexibility of the fiberglass process makes up for my decided lack of natural ability.
In preparation for the detail sculpting of facial features, I took a week-long sculpting course from the Atheneum in La Jolla, learning some of the finer points of head proportionality and structure, rendering a reasonable approximation of the model in clay. Unfortunately I missed the last day of the class, which was focused on the eyes, in that I had to lead a Navy robotics team in response to the September 11th terrorist incident at the World Trade Center, supporting the Center for Robotic Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR). It would be almost two years before I would find time to return to my sculpting hobby.