Sunday, 18 December 2011

Art of femme...

It has been quite a time since I talked about sculpting in any kind of detail but decided that I had something I'd like to talk about. So, today's topic is sculpting women. This will be more about the broad nature of doing so rather than an instructional piece.

I've been a pro sculptor for just over twelve years now and have specialised in sculpting women for most of that time. It's generally what I bring to the table and, during my freelance years it was by far the lion's share of what I was asked to sculpt, mainly because there really aren't that many sculptors out there who can convincingly sculpt women and those guys tend to be very busy people. The best out there, in my opinion would be Kev White and Juan Diaz. Both incredibly adept at rendering the female form. I consider myself to be pretty good too but those two I feel are the masters within our industry.

So, what's the best advice I can give in approaching a female sculpt? Well, first up I have to draw a bit of a line in the sand. I'm talking about sculpting women in 28mm and thereabouts and it'll be far from reality. In the real world, femininity is a complicated affair without a whole lot of rules. Like most in life, what works works and what doesn't probably does for someone else. But, in 28mm it's much easier to have harder rules. I have a rule that I put above all others for female minis and, in my opinion, it's where many sculptors fall down and miss the mark...

... femininity is in the hips!

There's a tendency amongst many sculptors to approach sculpting a woman in the same way as a man but to keep the figure skinnier and give it boobs. Frankly, you should be able to sculpt a flat chested female figure and still have it look female or you aren't getting it right and the breasts wont make it right. This often compounds by the sculptor making the breasts larger in an attempt to make the figure more feminine and it just gets comical or grotesque. No, the breasts aren't the point (err... so to speak), it's hips and bums where you'll make a female figure. I often surprise other sculptors when I tell them that I start my sculpture with the bum (male or female). I always sculpt torso first and the bum is the first putty to go on.

At an armature level, keep the hips wide and don't be scared to put a little meat on the thighs upon bulking out.

Keep a smooth but deep curve at the small of the back, it accentuates the bum and gives an elegant quality to the profile of the figure.

Flat belly? Not so fast. Just as you deepen the curve of the back you should let there be a gentle curve to the belly.

So then, I said not to use the breasts as a way to make the figure feminine but obviously they need to be sculpted right as well. The biggest mistake made other than oversizing in an attempt to make the figure more female would be in their positioning on the torso. They're lower than expected. I see many figures where the breasts emanate from the collar bone. Make sure there is a significant gap between the collar bone and the top of the breast.

And so to faces. Almost a topic in itself but I will do the quick version here. As with body shapes there is an idealisation that is generally required at this scale. It's very easy to sculpt an accurate version of a beautiful real woman and have it look rather masculine at 28mm. The nuances tend to get lost and the femininity with it.

Pointy chin! Keep the chin narrow. Woman can have quite wide jaws and still be very feminine but at this scale it's tough to make it work.

Narrow mouth and keep it low on the face. A wide mouth is very difficult to pull off on a female mini so keep it narrow. I tend towards a full but quite narrow lower lip and not so much sculpting the upper lip as tilting the gap of the mouth upwards around 45 degrees and shaping the edge.

Keep the eyes nicely defined and probably avoid lower eyelids (not a hard rule but usually better without).

When it comes to nasolabial folds on a female face I either avoid or try to keep them subtle.

Above all when you are sculpting women everything seems to be elegant curves that run into one another whether it be the body or the face.

Remember, you can often get away with anatomical murder when sculpting a bloke but it's easy to get a female figure wrong (I'm not going to pretend that I've never got it wrong).

Haven't sculpted my traditional birthday mini this year... hmm... wonder what it should be?


  1. Very interesting insight into the sculpturing process. I'll never look at a female miniature's hips in the same way again!


  2. Great stuff as ever, Steve. This seems like a very well-thought-out approach. Clearly from your own work and that of the others you cite it seems to be very successful.

  3. Ah, a subject I spend a lot of time considering! When I first started sculpting I deliberately started with a female figure, having looked at so many poor female figures and thought 'Is it really that hard?'. And the answer is no, if you follow what you've written above!

    You do realise you've given the game away now, Steve? ;)

  4. By the Gods. I hope they've got you and JB working on resurrecting Amazons.

  5. Andrew, you know I'd like to add you to the Kev and Juan list. Your recent work is freakin' incredible.

    And Zhu... that'd be nice...

  6. The same quotes could be use for men playing women in role playing games, very good topic.

  7. shes a cutie - i want one of those in 30mm .....

  8. Thank you Steve
    Always nice to read words from the master.

  9. I was going to suggest adding Andrew to that list also. I've just had a look today at his list of sculpts so far(on his blog) and his latest sculpts are as Steve puts it Freaking incredible. BTW mini sculpture forums back upand running if ya hadn't heard yet.

  10. Hi, can you please tell me how you get that smooth look? I am just learning but my miniatures have imprints and indentions where I hold the mini and whenever I press with a tool it pushes somewhere else. It just looks horrible. How can I get that smooth texture? Thanks.