How to Model the Head in Clay

by Ocean Malandra Google
Create a head out of chaos with clay.

Create a head out of chaos with clay.

Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Modeling the head in clay allows artists to render three-dimensional portraits of their subjects and is the first step in making a mold for bronze or other metal sculptures. Although getting the details of the head and face just right is something that requires both technique and experience, the medium of clay allows for experimentation and practice, making it very suitable for beginners. Whether done in class with the supervision of a teacher, at home by amateur hobbyists or in a studio by a professional artist, modeling a head in clay is a process that requires a bit of preparation, as the head needs to be supported.

Items you will need

  • Foot-long wooden pole
  • Flat wooden board
  • Nails
  • Metal wire
  • Clay
  • Hammer
  • Spatula

Build the Armiture

Step 1

Nail the wooden pole into the center of the board, so that it stands up straight. A foot-long piece of broom handle works perfectly for the wooden pole. The wooden pole needs to be strong enough to hold up the clay head.

Step 2

Bend two ovals of metal wire. Wire used for sculptural support can be purchased at most art supply stores, but in a pinch pieces of coat hangers will also do. Make the ovals about the size that you want the head to be.

Step 3

Fit the two ovals together, crossing them at the top and bottom to create a three-dimensional oval shape, the shape and size of your model head.

Step 4

Nail the base of the wire oval to the top of the wooden pole by hammering a nail on each of the four corners created by the crossed-oval wires.

Modeling the Clay

Step 1

Add large pieces of clay to different parts of the armature support. Use one large piece for the back of the head, one for the top, one for the front and one for the neck.

Step 2

Use the spatula to add details to the clay head. Carve holes for the mouth, eyes, ears and nose.

Step 3

Add pieces of clay to each feature to form them. Each eye, the nose and the mouth should be formed from separate pieces of clay and added to the places that you have carved for them.

Step 4

Roll the clay into long pieces and add to the head to form the hair. Wrap the pieces of clay from the front of the head to the base of the neck, lining them up against each other as you go.

Step 5

With the spatula, add finer details such as eyebrows and contours.

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Photo Credits

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