I just finished a three day portrait sculpture class with Philippe Faraut. As I dig deeper into c. 17th-19th French furniture I've realized it will be necessary to produce my own bronzes along with the marquetry and case pieces. This class was my first step towards achieving that goal.
Here we were learning about the adult male skull and face. This took the entire first day. It was my first time sculpting and working with clay so it was a very demanding day.
We started the third day with an age progression exercise. We started with a baby and took it through to an old man. After that Philippe taught me about hair and beards. Incredibly difficult to model well.
The second half of the second day we started our portraits of the models. The first half of the day we learned about different ethnic groups but the exercises went by so fast I didn't have time to take photos.
The second half of day three we worked with the models again trying to add details to the face. We also added musculature to the neck and a bit of the shoulders and chest.
I think this will be an excellent base to build from. In this class we worked with water based clay. Philippe recommended oil based clay or silicone wax for my work. Wax is an excellent material as you can use the lost wax method of casting. However I think I will get better results by building up the volumes instead of using a reductive process so I will most likely stick with oil based clay.
Oil based clay is more conducive to the long modeling process involved with French furniture. The clay must almost always be modeled directly on the case piece to ensure a good fit. The shrinkage of the bronze must also be taken into account. That can range from anywhere between 1.4% to 5%. You have to contact your local foundry to find out specifics. As the bronze cools it contracts and if this isn't taken into account your final bronze will not fit the case piece. It can still be mounted (a complex process that deserves its own post) but it won't look good.
Prototypes were sometimes modeled entirely in wax. The role of the sculptor in this style of furniture cannot be overstated. Often the drawings and plans for the entire piece were made by the sculptor.
I've got a lot of work to do.