I've taken two sculpting classes, although the travel can be expensive and time consuming, I like the fact that you leave with a finished, or at least partially finished project. I've also taken a few on-line classes, usually they consist of a PDF with photos that you can download, and a chat-room is available to ask questions. I like having the written instructions and photos, but I must admit, there are a few I have just printed out, put to the side, with good intentions....of doing them later, and they never got started.
A few months ago I received an e-mail with information about a site called Artful Gatherings. They host an annual art retreat that allows you to take classes without the travel, and without the travel expenses. For a one time charge of $5 you are given access to the site where you can register for classes. This year's retreat started on July 16th and runs through August 28th. During this time you have 24/7 access to your workshop classroom. There were 18 workshops to choose from. I chose just one class, offered by Christy Meyers... aka "CC's Whimsies". She and her husband, "the elf", put together 8 videos, for a total of 2 1/2 hours of viewing time. These videos take you through all the steps to create Christy's "Pumpkin Fairy". They include sculpting, sanding, painting and finishing.
The supply list was lengthy and some items were difficult to find, but there is a open forum that allows you to ask questions of both the teacher and students. Many provided solutions for the hard to find items. There are 82 members in Christy's classroom, so I'm assuming 82 students. There is also a very active Comment Wall, where students share information on their progress, tips, problems/solutions. You can add your own photos of work-in-progress, as well as completed sculpts. Some participants just chat...and that's great too.
Christy's project is a paper clay pumpkin fairy, I've had one other paper clay class with Ankie Daanen. Every artist has their own unique techniques, and I find it interesting to try different methods.
One thing I learned from Ankie's class, I really prefer La Doll/Premier paper clay. La Doll is very light, Premier is a heavier, stronger paper clay, I usually blend a 1 to 3 mixture, it provides a great consistency to work with and holds fine detail. Because it's so smooth it requires a lot less sanding. I like to work details in the face with a paint brush...it gives you more control than using just your fingers. This project called for Creative Paper Clay which has a different consistency, and is no longer being carried by Michaels....I went back to my LaDoll/Premier mix.
I added just a few tools to her list, a couple paint brushes, a rubber dental tool, scalpel blade and a clay blade. I already had the Jack Johnson sculpting tool, which she recommended, so I used that quite a bit as well.
Christy's husband demo'ed the sanding portion of the video, using 100 to 250 grit sand paper and an Exacto knife to define lines. I tried the paper but had a very difficult time controlling it...so I switched to some flexible sand paper that has a thin foam backing and a sanding sponge, it really works great and its much easy to get around the curves of the face. When using this flexible sanding paper you need to use a finer grit, it seems to have a better bite than paper....try 400, 600, 1200...it's fast and gives your piece a super fine finish, take a look at the photos.
So as of this evening I've got all my pieces sculpted....tomorrow I'll start painting.