Where it all begins! Where the sculptor literally plays the role of monster maker!!! I prefer to approach the process of sculpting with as clear of an idea of what the final piece will look like as possible. I have begun by sketching out most of the masks I have created. I prefer to have a rough idea of what the monster will look like, in terms of bone structure and shape. With that being said, I always leave room for creative freedom as I develop a sculpt. If it looks good and helps the overall design, go for it!
I would also recommend gathering reference material to help the process: pictures of animals, anatomy books, comics, existing masks, and anything that you can use to help put things in perspective. This is especially important for beginners.
The following list of supplies is what I currently use to create a sculpture. It is possible to sculpt a piece without all of the following tools (my first sculpt was done with a tooth pick and Exacto-knife) but these are the tools I prefer to have around when I get down to it.Clay
The foundation of the whole process! I prefer a good water based clay for three reasons: #1 It's cheap. #2 It's easy to get out of the mold. #3 It's re-usable. Clay is heavy and can be expensive to ship. Because of this, I purchase mine locally from Great Lakes Clay Company. I use the Michigan White Ware. It's a great smooth clay without heavy grog (the small pieces of sand used to hold a fired piece of pottery together). If you have access to Laguna Clay Company WED Clay I would recommend using that if possible, as it will retain moisture longer.
The biggest disadvantage to using water based clay is that it does dry out. This shouldn't be a problem if you sculpt quickly and keep your sculpture moist and covered with plastic while not working on it.
The amount of clay needed is relative of course to the size of the sculpture you plan to create. An average full-head and neck mask can be completed with 30-40 lbs. of clay. I prefer to have atleast 50 lbs. on hand before starting a sculpture just in case!Armature
An armature is necessary to sculpt onto to ensure you sculpt your mask large enough to fit a human head. In addition, it aids in knowing where the eyes and mouth would line up in relation to your sculpt. These areas are critical if you hope to allow anyone to actually wear your mask. I have used the Monster Makers Deluxe Full Head Armature for a good majority of my sculptures. I prefer it enough that I have purchased two. I prefer a light weight foam armature as it cuts down on the overall weight as compared to a plaster armature, which comes in handy when it's time to move your sculpture, or make the mold.Turntable
A turntable is used under the armature. This allows for quick and easy swiveling of the sculpture. It is important to constantly be moving your sculpture and to work it from all directions. This helps keep the proportions of the sculpt in place and keeps the sculptor from spending too much time on one area. The general rule of thumb is to treat the sculpt as a whole, not separate areas.
I like to keep a variety of tools on hand, although depending on the particular sculpture, I may not use them all. These tools should be available at any good art supply house. I've broken my tools down into the following categories:
A. Loops/Ribbons - Generally, loop tools are used to remove clay quickly and in large chuncks. I keep several shapes and sizes around. It's a good idea to also have a few small ribbons around for detail work.
B. Knives - Used for cutting clay into slabs or shapes.
C. Wooden Modeling Tools - Come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Used for roughing out general forms in clay.
D. Clean-Up Tools - Great for detail and clean-up work! Come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Used for creating specific details in clay. Usually have two working ends.
E. Rubber-Tip Shaping Tools - Also great for detail and clean-up work! Come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Used for creating specific details in clay.
F. Ribs - Perfect for smoothing out bumps and uneven parts of a sculpture. Most ribs can be found made from wood or rubber. I also prefer to have a metal rib with a rake edge, which is a great tool for smoothing down a sculpture very quickly.
G. Rakes - Essential for smoothing out bumps and uneven parts of a sculpture. Most rakes are large metal loops with a rake pattern on one side. I prefer using a circular rake for creating a smooth overall skull form after I have used a metal rib.Eye Forms
Any hard plastic or sealed wooden sphere can be used as an eye form. Using an eye form will ensure that your final mask has a perfectly round and flawless eye. It's next to impossible to sculpt a perfect sphere, and there's no need to try when you use an eye form.
Water - is what is used to smooth down (and moisturize) water-based clay. Using a water bottle is a great way to unsure that you're not over saturating the sculpture.
Sponges - I use two types of sponges: small circular synthetic sponges, and small synthetic stipple sponges. The first is used for general and some detail smoothing. The later is used in smoothing out rake marks, and to create a perfectly smooth skull. Stipple sponges are often found in make-up supply houses as they are used to apply beard stubble make-up.
Brushes - I prefer flat headed brushes, and I keep a variety of sizes in the studio. Used to smooth out detailed areas of a sculpture, a brush is absolutely essential to giving the sculpture a finished professional look!Texture Stamps
Texture stamps are used for applying a final round of detail to the sculpture. The stamps themselves are soft and flexible, usually made from latex or silicone. Stamps can easily be made by pouring a small amount of latex over an interesting surface texture. I purchased my first set of stamps from the Monster Makers which makes good inexpensive texture stamp sets.