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Sculpting a Small Clay Horse Head Without an Armature

For detailed information about drawing out the horse before sculpting, see the Horse Head Charts & Drawing Tips. For more information on working with clay, tools, and materials, see "Clay Baiscs".

This sculpture will start out with a very simple armature made of crushed-up newspaper. It will not need any type of support like the larger sculptures, so you will not need the pvc pipes. You may want to use extra newspaper under the sculpture to protect the surface you are working on.

building a small clay horse sculpture

newspaper armature for a horse sculpture

Using masking tape, make the general shape of the sculpture. Remember to keep it thinner than the finished sculpture will be - you will be applying a 1/4 to 1/2 inch layer of clay over the top.
building a clay horse sculpture with no armature

making a horse head sculpture with newspaper

Start adding clay to the newspaper, starting at the bottom and working your way up to the head. Use slip to add clay to prevent air bubbles (right).
sculpting a horse in clay

sculpting a horse without an armature

Once you have the general shape and all of the newspaper is covered in clay, begin shaping the sculpture. You can twist the clay to turn the head and add a bit more character to the finished work. Add the main muscle structures, but do not focus too much in one area. You want to repeatedly work each section, so that the entire sculpture stays at about the some level of being complete.
As the work progresses, you will find small things that need to be changed, and when you do you will not have put too much wasted time into small details.

making a clay horse sculpture

how to make a clay horse sculpture with no armature

At this point, I haven't started with tools yet, it's faster and easier to do the initial sculpting with your hands. Notice in the picture to the above right that the muscle and skeletal structures are mostly finished everywhere except for the face. At this point I'll mostly finish the neck area, because the face will take some time, and the neck is going to dry quite a bit.
You can always use slip or a spray bottle with water to moisten it, and you never want the clay to reach leather-hard while you are still working on the sculpture. If you're having problems with the clay drying too much, mist the clay with water and/or cover the area you're not working on with a plastic bag to keep the moisture in.

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Copyright 2012, Artist Jen Pratt, Equus Studio - horse art & clay art by horse artist Jen Pratt
Contact: Jen Pratt | 417-763-0428 | jen (at) jenpratt (dot) com

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