Sculpting an African American Portrait

African American Girl Sculpture ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy

I sculpted "Girl in Gold" using CT3 Paper clay. I don't often use paperclay for portrait work due to the nature of the fibers, however I was short on time for a deadline so I made do with this clay. The one major benefit of paperclay is that it is strong, will attach to itself well and can extend your working time. As I had several pieces to work on at the same time this was a bonus. I do find that the paper drags quite a bit with tools so that is something to keep in mind with your own working style.


I began by choosing to work life-size and using a wood board and post for an armature, I balled up some newspaper to bulk up the interior of the head and shoulders. Then I proceeded to add the ceramic paper clay and build up my forms. When working on portraits I always save the hair and clothing until the end - it is too tempting to place hair and clothes early and rely on those decorations to carry the piece.  Here is a link to a quick Instagram video snippet of sculpting the ear:

African American sculpture ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy

Once the piece reached a leather hard stage, I cut off the top of the head to hollow out. I also chose to scallop the shoulders and torso. Then I replaced the top of the head, added vent holes and then sculpted the head wrap and the hint of clothing. The benefit of the paper clay meant that the leather hard clay was rather forgiving allowing a good join between the fresh and the older clay.

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