Sketching in clay is traditionally known as clay modeling. However, today we now have the model horse industry so this method is more commonly referred as clay sketching.
1. What is Sketching in Clay?
It is the practice of capturing movement in clay while studying from a living model. It is practiced at a quickened pace to avoid over analysis and intensified concentration of the mind. The intention is to relax the mind and hands while focusing solely on capturing a desirable movement and in turn producing a pleasing composition from life. This is achieved by applying small pieces of clay over a simple armature usually made of one piece of wire.
2. How to prepare
You will need a simple method of armature building so you can build it quickly while out in the barn. Some artists will prepare their armatures ahead of time to give themselves more time working the clay rather then the armature. We suggest trying both methods. Building the armature on site will allow you to capture movement differently then if you pre-build the armature. After some practice this becomes personal preference. A materials list and instructions for building a portable sculptor's stand are available to help you prepare for any life sketching you'd like to do.
Sign up for our upcoming Equine Modeling for Sculpture course held at the Woodside Equestrian Center.
3. On site
Choose a location that gives you close visibility of your preferred subject. If you are attempting a portrait of a specific horse set up outside of his stall where you can observe him easily. If interacting with your subject is both safe and you have permission from the owner, running your hands gently down the area you are sculpting or asking the horse to move his head softly to create your preferred pose is helpful. While doing this you will want to note how the muscles move and distort. What they feel or look like in this motion and how the horse's expressions change as he changes his body position. If you do not have access or or are not allowed to interact with your subject focus on a pose or movement that is common to your subject. By doing this you will have the opportunity to observe him/her in that pose often during your sketching practice.
4. How to sketch a moving animal
This is the trickiest and most valuable part of your sketching practice! Horse's rarely stay still, unless of course you catch them in a deep sleep. This challenge will develop your visual memory and your ability to capture moments that often escape the casual viewer. To practice memorizing the motions you see, begin with a simple pose. If your subject is eating begin with a grazing pose but take note of the small head motion, tail flicks and leg position changes as he/she is grazing. Choose what to capture and imprint it on your mind by closing your eyes and re-visualizing that pose.
5. Mindful sketching
While visualizing your subject's pose with your eyes closed, go through the motions in your mind of capturing that movement. Breath deeply and relax. Visualize how you move your hands and fingers over the clay, what the clay feels like and what your completed sculpture may look like. Open your eyes and let that thought just sink in. Don't particularly focus on it, just begin sculpting. This is a good practice to implement in the moment when your model may be in a pose that is too far from your desired one. So while waiting to see your model return to the pose you can implement this mental exercise to continue mentally working on the pose you wish to capture.