How to Sculpt - Coral : Red Gorgornian Sea Fan - Polymer Clay/Modeling Clay | Stephanie Kilgast | Skillshare

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How to Sculpt - Coral : Red Gorgornian Sea Fan - Polymer Clay/Modeling Clay

teacher avatar Stephanie Kilgast, Contemporary artist.

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (32m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Materials

    • 3. Armature

    • 4. Modeling

    • 5. Painting

    • 6. Outro

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About This Class


How to Sculpt - Coral : Red Gorgornian Sea Fan - Polymer Clay/Modeling Clay


In this class, I am going to show you how to sculpt a red gorgonian coral.
This class is a bit on the time consuming side, so I would invite you to take your time with it.

I do hope you enjoy it! I'm sure you can apply the technique to different other corals with playing with shapes and colors.

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While this class doesn't need any prior knowledge, I would recommend watching these two basics class first:
- Polymer clay Basics:
- Art and Colors, How to Pick and Compose:





Meet Your Teacher

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Stephanie Kilgast

Contemporary artist.


Inspired by natural forms, Stéphanie Kilgast’s artwork is an ode to nature and its current biodiversity. Plants, mushrooms, insects and other animals encounter in a vibrant swirl of colors under her brush or sculpting tools.

Since 2017, in her series “Discarded Objects”, she grows colorful organic sculptures on human-made objects, celebrating the beauty of nature in a dialogue with humanity, questioning the lost balance between human activities and nature.
Her work has a cheerful post apocalyptic feel to it, a reassuring reminder that nature has the capacity to grow back, if we only let it.

She built her reputation and her sculpting skills around hyperrealistic miniature food sculptures. Her wo... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hello, my name is Stephanie Kilgast and I have been a professional sculpture for the last decade. In today's video, I'm going to show you how to sculpt a red Gorgon sea fan coral. I really love working on corals in my artwork as much as in my paintings and sculptures. Today I would like to show you how I do the texture on the specific coral. This class is absolutely fit for beginners. However, it's going to be a long process, so it's not something you can do in just one or two hours. You are going to need probably about two days, maybe more to finish it, but that's pretty usual for sculptures so don't be afraid to try anyway. I will also show you different textures to do. If you don't like the texture I'm showing you in terms of time. At the end of the video, I'm going to paint the red coral, so I'm going to go through the pigments I use, how I use them and how I blend the colors together to have a nice gradient. So this class really touches two different skills, modeling skills and painting skills. The class project is going to be pretty straight forward. I'm just going to ask you to make your own coral. You can go wild on it. You don't have to do exactly like I did. You can play around with colors, shapes and textures and patterns. I actually encourage you to do so just to find your own style and your own preferences. If you do take the time to make a project, please share it with the class. It always helps students. I hope you're going to take this class, but most importantly, that you're going to enjoy it. 2. Materials: For this class you are going to need, aluminum wire in size one point five millimeter or similar. Metallic wire in size zero point three millimeter. Polymer clay or any other modelings clay that you are used to work with. I am going to use super scalpey for this specific project, appointed silicone tool also known as clay shapers, gesso as a primer, acrylic paints, here are the specific colors I will be using but feel free to use your favorite colors. Brushes that are not too precious to paint this sculpture. Varnish to protect the paint once it's done. And an oven to bake the clay if using polymer clay. 3. Armature: The Red Gorgornian Sea Fan coral is among the more delicate corals out there. You want to assure strength and stability with an armature. While you could sculpt with clay only, by rolling out snakes of clay and putting them together, it would be a very fragile sculpture and it would very easily break. As a general rule, I would really encourage you to start any sculpture with an armature as its good practice if you're interested in working on larger projects or even just more delicate ones later on. The gist of this armature is to try and make a flat tree without the trunk. I have done this specific coral a countless number of times, so I have the shape in my head. However, you might feel more comfortable to draw it out first just so you have a bit of a reference. Feel free to look up corals online and I would even say, I encourage you to look up corals online, so you have visual references and pictures of the real thing. When you work from real life, you're more likely to find your own style than just following blindly what someone else has does. For the armature, I am using two different wires. For the core structure of the coral, I picked an aluminum wire that is one millimeter thick. The other wire is metallic and I'm going to use to wrap it around the first wire to make everything stick together. That one is 0.3 millimeter thick. I start with a piece of wire of about 20 centimeters that I fold in two in the middle. I do this twice and thus I have four branches to start with. I put those two pairs together and then using the thin wire, I wrap it around these four branches starting in the loop. The idea of wire wrapping is to keep the branches into place with the thin wire. Then you simply want to add more branches one by one. You cut wire at the desired length, bend it into shape, and then place it where you want it to be. Then you've wrap the thin wire around the new branch. At every junction, you are going to have three branches so to speak. Three wires that stick and the idea is to use the thin wire and to wrap it around those three branches, those three directions for stability, going back, and forth. Then it's simply a matter of adding branches one by one, assessing where it will look balanced and nice. If this is too difficult for you or you have a hard time finding what looks right, I also added a printable coral sheet to this class and you can simply follow the drawing to place the branches. The drawing can also be simply used as a visual reference to replicate the idea. But again, feel free to change the overall shape to your liking or following a picture of a real sea fan you found online. To further strengthen the sea fan, you also want to add small bridges between the branches. The goal is to have all branches connected to each other, making it a stronger web. You can add the bridges as small entities or bend another branch into a bridge. That really is up to you and up to your design. I do either way, so I don't have any preferences. Then simply continue making the armature until you're satisfied with the result. As always, taking your time is crucial for a better result. No need to rush it as the process of this is naturally long anyway, so you might as well take your time and do it right. 4. Modeling: Once your armature is done, it's time to add the clay. For this project I will be using the super sculpey polymer clay as I find it the most sticky on metal, which is quite helpful in the sculpture. Please note however, that it is not one of the strongest polymer clay. fimo and cernit are much more superior in terms of strength and flexibility. So if you don't have access to super sculpey or have another brand of clay at home, use whatever you have. Again, I am going to use super scalpey because it's much more sticky and I have it at home. Since we have a very sturdy armature and also we are going to paint and varnish the coral later, the clay is going to be strong enough for that. You want to add starting clay by rolling it out into snake first and then pushing the clay onto each branch. Cover only one side of the armature fully. So don't do both sides, don't wrap around the wire, you really just want to put it on one side. If you have a polymer clay that is not as sticky, you can start by rubbing the clay over the armature first before adding the clay. The clay rubbing will make the metal a bit more sticky because it will simply leave residue of clay on the metal and that will help the clay stick to it. Note that a warmer clay is also a lot more sticky, so if you can work in a warmer environment, then that will help as well. If you would like to use another modeling clay like air dry clay, for instance, so be it. More paper clay or epoxy clay, you can totally do that. But if you do, make it branch after branch. So start adding with clay on one branch, texture it, and then move to the next one and so on, so to avoid having dry clay before you even can start texturing everything. Once the armature is covered with polymer clay on one half, it's time to texture it. So the texturing I came up with is to push down small circles with the pointy silicone tool in order to create tiny domes like very small bumps. So you really just push down the clay in circles and you can see tiny cones emerging or staying into place. You also want the circles to touch, and so you can only see the domes on the ends. I am not going to lie, this texturing technique is very long. A coral length that will easily take you a full day, between the armature, adding the clay, texturing, and baking, and I'm not counting the painting part. It's not a fast project, but I personally find it the best result to replicate that bumpy coral texture, so this is why I'm showing it to you. However, I also understand that not everyone is as detail oriented as I am. So I'm also going to show you other texturing options on one single branch. If you want something quick or quicker, you could texture the coral with sandpaper or toothbrush to give it some dent without spending five hours on it. Though, this is probably the easiest texture that I can think of, that is still going to give you a reasonable good texture and good end results, but again, without spending a day just on the texture. But then maybe you just don't like that bumpy texture, you want to try different things. I also thought it could be fun to have more of a sponge texture by using a ball and a tool and simply pushing the tool into the branch making tiny holes, so to speak. I think it's really important to try out different textures on single branches or simply on clay, just to see what results you can do and what you like best and more importantly, what techniques you actually enjoy doing. You can always go back to reference pictures and see what you are drawn to and replicate that. So back to the bumpy texture off this class. So keep on texturing the one side of the coral, making sure you texture all sides of the clay, especially the inner sides of the branches, which are less visible but still important to the overall look of the sculpture. Once you are done with that, you can bake your coral for 20 minutes at the recommended temperature of the manufacturer. After baking and cooling off, it's time to do everything again on the other side. Starting by adding the clay and then texturing the coral. Make sure to also smooth down the clay on the inner side of the branches as you go so the transition looks good. Of course, depending on what texture you decided on one side, make the same texture on the other side. Once you have finished texturing, please check all the seams, all the inner sides of the branches to make sure everything is smooth and the transition are nice and well. When you are completely happy with it, you can bake again for one final time, following the instructions of the clay's manufacturer. 5. Painting: Time to paint the coral. First we are going to apply a coat of primer, a white gesso. I've personally find synthetic brushes with a bit of strength best as you do want to really push the bristles into every nook of the sculpture. Keep in mind that this is going to be very harsh on your brushes, so don't use your most expensive ones and dedicate one or two brushes specifically for the rough painting. First, cover one-half of the coral and once it's dry to the touch, you can turn the coral around and cover the second half with the primer. Now, depending on your primer, you will have to wait a bit before applying the first coats of paint. In my case, I need to wait at least 30 minutes. Now for the actual painting job, I decided to go for a fury bright red that is very close to reality. I already painted one side, which I let dry. The paint I decided to use have following pigments; brilliant yellow-PY154 but any light fast yellow will do and you can also use cadmium yellow, cadmium red lights-PR108, madder brown, also known as quinacridone burnt orange-PR206, quinacridone magenta, PR122, and primary blue-PB15:4, PW6. cadmium red is one of those very expensive pigments, but that are difficult to replace with anything else if color fastness is important. Another good red pigment would be pytol red-PR235. The blue is there to help mute and darken the reds. I encourage you to experiment with whatever blues you have at home to see what will cancel the red. This blue is actually probably not one that I would buy again, I think I would tend to use a cobalt turquoise-PB36 or cerebral and blue-PB37. I wanted a bit of a blood tinted red that's why I added the quinacridone magenta, another pigment that I cannot live without, as it offers the most beautiful pinks and purple shades when mixed with ultramarine blue. As for the yellow, this one is light fast and translucent, but you can also go with a more classic and a bit more opaque cadmium yellow. When painting the coral, I like to create gradients, but I mostly go with the flow and add dashes of colors in there. I decided to go with a more orange center and more magenta colored extremities. You can always add a bit of water if you think the acrylic paint is too thick, and be sure to really push the bristles of your brush in the crannies of the sculpture. You might need to experiment with different brushes to see what works best. Also, watering the paints down a bits to make it more liquid helps to reach all the cavities. I mixed the blue with the red hues to get a darker shade, almost black, and apply this to the inner branches and junctions to give it more materiality. Don't forget to paint the inner branches and take your time to fill in all the gaps until you can't see any white left. Again, watering down the paints and using another brush is probably going to be helpful with that. To keep the paints nice and workable for the next day, I use this small pallets, which is just a very small tile which I put into a plastic box and I spray some water on top of the paint. That way you can keep using the same paint for easily a few days up to a week if you are careful with water spraying and keeping the books nicely closed. Some brands will dry more quickly than others, so you'll have to adjust and see how often you need to add a bit of sprayed water. Set aside until it's dry to the touch. Now we are going to add some highlights. For that we are using the so-called derived brushing technique. For this technique, you need to use a dry brush that you will dip into paint. Here we are using titanium white and then brush it over your palate, a paper, awesome towel until most of the paint is gone. Now with a little paint that your brushes still holding, you are going to wipe the brush source over this sculpture, that way, everything that stands physically up is going to gather the little paint and the texture will be more visible. As I didn't like how the only white highlights looked on this particular red coral, I repeated the technique with some yellow and some red just to cover ever so slightly said highlights. Once you're coral is fully painted and finished, let it dry completely for a few extra days, and then you can apply a vanish to protect it. Make sure the varnish you are using is working on your polymer clay brand. Some vanishes will become sticky. A very well-known varnish that is used on polymer clay is polyrhythm. I personally like to use this varnish from cleopatre on my polymer clay sculptures because I find it works well. 6. Outro: Thank you so much for taking this class, I hope you loved it. For this class project, I'm going to ask you to make your own coral, so feel free to use the texture that you prefer and the colors you like best. You can of course, replicate exactly what I did. If you do so, please share your project with the class it always helps other students and I'll really love to see what you come up with. If you have any questions that also is a very helpful for me to help you. If you want to share the results of this class on social media, you can, but please explain in the caption that you took this class and tag me. Since you around, I have a bunch of other sculpting classes in my classroom, so feel free to look around and check them out. Thank you again for being with me today, and I really hope to see you in my next one. Bye.