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Sitting Female

My second sculpting effort was intended to address a more complex and dynamic pose than the female torso, that of a sitting female with arms, legs, and a head. The arms were to be uplifted, with the hands entwined in the hair flowing down behind the head. I had originally envisioned it to be situated on top of the waterfall I was designing as part of my pool remodeling effort, but it grew during the course of development to be a bit too large for the space.

To eliminate the problem encountered on the first sculpture with a flat horizontal sand mold, I elected to basically sculpt a crude 3-D rendition of the intended pose out of sand, using some steel reinforcement (i.e., nails and hardware cloth) and a higher percentage of stucco mix added to the sand for rigidity. I’d build up slowly, usually about six inches in height at a time, and allow the mix to set up overnight before going higher. The result was a very durable yet disposable form that could be used as a true 3-D mold for the basic fiberglass body structure, minus the head and arms, which will be attached after the fact.

To facilitate a smooth surface for the release agent, I skin-coated the stucco with a thin layer of plaster, which also allowed for slightly more detailed shaping of the form to better approximate the desired final shape.

The form structure now approaches shoulder height, with the plaster skin added as the fresh stucco cures. The release agent (latex paint) is applied and allowed to dry, after which multiple layers of fiberglass are overlaid upon the form to create a monolithic body shell that becomes the foundation for detailed sculpting of the final piece. The disposable sand/stucco interior is chipped out from the inside and discarded, resulting in a very sturdy and lightweight hollow structure that is easy to manipulate.

The prefabricated face is next added, held in place at the correct angle and position by clamps until the body putty sets up, forming a temporary bond. The juncture between face and neck is faired out and reinforced inside and out with fiberglass mat and resin to ensure structural rigidity.

The back of the head is then mated to the face and neck assembly, reinforced, and sanded smooth.

At this point the sculpture is ready for detail work, adding ribs, muscles, shoulder blades, and so forth through addition of mat, cloth, and body filler as needed. The built-up mass is then machined as necessary with pneumatic and electric tools to match the features of the model. I usually work from photos when cutting and grinding to protect the model from exposure to fiberglass residue, which can itch terribly under normal circumstances, and even more so if one happens to be naked. I use a squirrel-cage blower to exhaust the airborne residue away from myself, and wear goggles and a respirator for personal protection. And clothes…

The partially completed sculpture is sprayed with automotive primer to assist in the detection of surface defects, and then sanded into final shape. This is an iterative process that continues as long as necessary, using power sanders at first, then hand sanding with progressively finer grit, switching to a wet-sanding process towards the very end for the ultimate in surface perfection.

The very athletic model for this particular pose was captain of her college swim team, and a full six feet in height, although beautifully proportioned. But since I prefabricated the head using a Styrofoam wig support as a form, it wound up being a bit too small in comparison, and looked out of place. Rather than try to build it up in bulk, I simply cut it off and moved it to a more petite rendering of Lisa as seen in my fourth sculpture, the Lounging Female that was to replace the Sitting Female on the waterfall.

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