These are all photos of  the écorché sculpture, I made, photographed in different stages of construction. The first thing I want to talk about is the armature. It was initially designed by two sculptors, Andreas Griener and Stacy Turpin. Both very talented artists.  Over the years, I have had the opportunity to refine it's construction. It's something very unique to my class and something I am very proud of. Also, I want to mention, the armature hands were designed by Jim Vikstrom. He's a talented sculptor from Sweden. Jim was my assistant for three years at the FAA  (Florence Academy of Art) and now teaches his own Écorché course in his own hometown. 

The thought behind designing the armature was so that the students could sculpt the skeleton without worries of the wire pushing through. It's very specific. Students will spend a week making this thing... the idea is that Écorché is a year long course. In other words, the student will be working on their sculpture for a whole year. If the armature is wrong in any way, it will only make problems for them in the future.  The armature must be exact because it is also the student's only real 'truth'. The center rod serves as a centerline for the sculpture. So I am constantly encouraging students always to 'draw' on their sculpture and establish and re-establish their center line when it's lost (along the front, sides, and back).

The overall sculpture is 75 centimeters long. One head length is 10 centimeters. Throughout the course, students in Écorché will develop an acute understanding of proportions as it relates to Richer's 7 1/2 high head figure.

I have iron smith construct the metal tubes of the frame for my class and I would go over to a hardware store of sorts to have the wood cut.  My assistant and I would construct each frame before class begins.

Students will bend their own wire and are shown how to construct the armature. In the end, the armature created looks kind of beautiful on its own, with a gesture that is clearly illustrated in a very linear fashion.


Students are encouraged to first construct the three major skeletal forms (skull, pelvis, and ribcage) into basic geometric shapes - emphasizing planes and proportions. The idea here is if you can draw an egg, you can draw a ribcage. If you can tumble that same egg in space, you should be able to draw a ribcage from any angle.


Students also mark off major anatomical features, on these particular forms, with a line... for example, bottom of the 5th rib and the bottom of the 8th. Bottom of the 5th rib marks the bottom of the pectoralis, the bottom of the deltoid, and the bottom of the clavicles. Bottom of the 8th sets up the widest point of the ribcage, etc, etc.


Close-up of the planes of the head.


Also, by having these three basic forms (skull, pelvis, and ribcage) constructed first, the students are able to hone how these shapes relate to the other before they begin digging out the details.


From there, skeletal features are sculpted... keep in mind that students are doing a number of drawings of these features in conjunction with the sculpture. I tell my students that the sculpture is second in importance to the drawings. I learned anatomy 2 dimensionally. You will only sculpt the flayed figure as good as you can draw.


Students are working from a number of free standing skeletons in the room as well as numerous free floating parts... i.e., a number of skulls, pelvis's, etc. Student's are encouraged to begin finding and purchasing their own. By the way, I have them begin with the skull because that head length will become their basic unit of measurement throughout.


Close-up of the armature.


2nd trimester... skeleton has already been blocked in and now muscles are added. I begin with the torso first and move out. Deepest muscles first then those that are most superficial. I don't get too deep.

I'm only concerned with those muscle that have a direct impact on the surface of the skin and create form. I'm not trying to be exhaustive with my anatomy students. My intent is to only  focus on  information that is useful to an artist. We are not medical students.

Students are encouraged to sculpt each individual muscle with in the proper order I set... always keeping in mind each  individual muscle's shape, it's origin, and insertion.


Here again, my sculpture. Notice how the teres major dives between the ribcage and the humerus as it grabs onto its point of insertion underneath the head of the humerus. Notice the flattened plane of the infraspinatus and the deep muscles of the neck (especially the levator scapulae) above.


More muscles. Check out the tube like form of the latissimus and the lateral form of the pectoralis as it creates the wall of the armpit. I was really trying to illustrate here how it's muscle fibers twist, one form lying on top of another as the pectoralis moves away from the sternum and eventually grabs onto the humerus.


Top view of my sculpture... check out the deltoid and the difference in fiber arrangement  between its clavicular and medial portion.


Just beginning to lay in the trapezius. One side (left side) of the sculpture is left for the bones. That way students can refine their boney shapes as they work on  the muscles. Studying the skeleton alone is not enough. All those bumps are there for a reason. Only by studying the muscles does one truly begin to appreciate the mechanics and the purpose of those individual bones.


Worm’s eye view of my sculpture. I have the students use an oil base clay. Again, they’re working on this thing for a whole year. Water base clay is too impractical for the purpose of this kind of study.


A more completed view of  my écorché sculpture... lower limbs are being finished and muscular shapes are refined.




Copyright 2011