Interview with Fantasy Sculptor Sandra Garrity

Q: What are the steps you take when sculpting a piece from start to finish?

A: First, of course, you have to either work up a design for the piece or get reference for it. I sometimes do work-up sketches before starting to sculpt. Other times, I get pictures of similar things and put them up around me for inspiration, then go right to the sculpting.
Second, comes the formation of the armature and base (unless the figure is to have a tab for use with a slotted base). This is the support for the figure and it is important to get the pose and proportions right so that adjustments won’t be necessary later.
Third, I start to build up the figure in layers, allowing it to cure before adding surface detail. This gives a firm foundation (or what is known as underpinning) to work on. Occasionally, if time is short, I work in thicker layers,doing the shape of the piece with the surface detail all at once. This is a bit tricky, since it requires a very light touch to keep from mashing the basic figure shape. Most of the time, I work the legs (one at a time) up to the hips first, trying to get as much detail as possible on the first pass. Then I put enough putty on the torso to use as underpinning. Next the fig goes into a coffee can with a reflector lamp (using a 25 watt light bulb) attached to the top. There is a square opening cut into the front of the can so figures may be inserted and removed easily. This “cooker”, as most of us call it, heats the piece enough to speed the curing process and allow the faster completion of the piece. Moistening your tools with spit (eewu! How disgusting!) or water helps keep the putty from sticking to them.
Fourth, any weapons and accessories are started while the figure is curing. Since most of the time these will also need to cure and then be filed and sanded to get sharp, smooth, shapes, the formation of these is sandwiched between working times on various parts of the figure.
Fifth, torso and arms down to the hands are worked on. Details are added to all parts of the figure save the hands, which I usually do after I do the head. The face is done first, then allowed to cure while I finish the weapons or accessories.
Sixth, I add the hair, ears, and the items that will be in the hands, if any. These are allowed to cure. Last, I try to make sure that any places that need a bit of cleanup are taken care of and that all copyright info required is put on the base.
At this point, if it is a figure that I am keeping a photo record of development on, the last photo is taken and it is packaged to ship. I also keep a time sheet and record of development on all of the figures to keep for reference. It’s useful to show creative development, track how much time went into the piece and any other info that might come in handy in the future.

Q: What tools do you use and recommend when sculpting a miniature?

A: The tools I use the most are: a #11 Exacto blade knife that has been dulled a bit, a needle inserted in a dowel, a double ended spoon-shaped tool, and a couple of dental probes. Most of the sculptors use the Exacto knife and dental tools. Each of us has our favorites and we often make tools if we need a special shaped tool to do something. I’d say, experiment with a number of things and use what you feel works best for you.

Q: What parts of a miniature do you feel are the most difficult to sculpt, and do you have any advice on how to overcome these difficulties?

A: Faces are the most difficult things for me, followed by hands. Watching someone that does something one finds difficult is helpful, but the real way to make things go easier is to practice. This is what all of us who do this for a living have had to do. Also, don’t get discouraged if things don’t go just right. That happens to all of us! Sometimes things just do not go right no matter how hard you try. I think of each piece that I do as practice for the next. My husband kids me that I’d never get a figure out the door if it weren’t for deadlines, because I’d be constantly “making it better”.

Q: Do you ever paint your own miniatures, and/or do you have any painting tips?

A: Seldom do I get the chance to paint my own miniatures. My clients keep me too busy sculpting them. Although I used to be primarily a painter (as in paintings), I can’t claim to be expert in the area of miniature painting. I just sort of “wing it” when I do get the chance to paint one, so I’m probably not the one anybody should be taking tips from.

Q: What do you like and dislike about sculpting?

A: I really like being able to sort of catch a moment in time in 3D.(When I can) I like to try to make the piece so that it looks like it could come to life and resume the movement that it had been doing before it was “frozen”. It is nice to hold the sculpt in your hand or walk around it and get to see all sides of it. There’s not much I can say that I dislike about sculpting except that I love color and the sculpting mediums that I need to use lack that color that paintings have.
Sculpting things that bring enjoyment to people has enriched my life tremendously. Although I have been a freelance artist for over 30 years, doing all sorts of different things, the sculpting of the miniatures has been the most rewarding. It has allowed me to meet wonderful people that I would not otherwise have met and share the joy of what I do with them.

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