Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Planar Head with Dan Thompson

by Michela Mansuino
Third-year Student

It's 6:45 a.m. Wednesday and I'm radiantly happy as I climb out of bed realizing that Dan Thompson is probably, at this very minute, already driving down from New York to teach his now notoriously famous class at Studio Incamminati - THE PLANAR HEAD IN CLAY

I don't know how he does it, driving down to Philly, a three-hour trip, teaching for seven hours at Studio Incamminati, and then driving all the way back to New York - 13 hours of non stop energy... I find myself saying a prayer under my breath that he is okay as I drink my coffee and get ready to be the monitor for the class. 

We begin with a homemade armature and around 30 lbs. of Chavant Professional Plastelline.


For future heads, I make a detailed study of the Home Depot parts and other materials needed to make the armature.

We start by going to our armature and begin massing in clay, the “light bulb” shape, thinking about the carrying angle of the head and how the pole of the armature will be offset by it.
The size of the ball and egg shape is calculated to be a bit bigger than the skull we are working from, which is life size, so as to have room to make the planes a little exaggerated. We exaggerate them in order to learn from them.
                                                                   Our skull


Dan Thompson lectures on the mother planes of the head, following drawings by John H. Vanderpoel, in his book "The Human Figure."


From these Vanderpoel drawings, Dan instructs us where to make our first cuts on the mass of clay we have shaped on our armatures.

These diagrams are a decoded version of the planar head, step by step. This is where we start.



Dan models the mother planes in this manner:


Once we have accomplished this on our sculptures, Dan moves on to demonstrate the carving out of the tilt line - he uses a "dough cutter"  to make the cuts. He recalls where he found the thing, having thought it had looked like an amputation tool from the Civil War. If you see a painting of a nude in the background, that's Kathleen Moore's black and white form study from another class, hanging on the wall. We surround ourselves with our best work so that we may learn from each other.

Intermittently, between carving the planes of the planar head in clay, we draw and paint from the model. We have done two other exercises to further re-enforce our structural understanding  of the planar head.  These are:
1. Drawing the head two ways, side by side, one intuitively and the other structurally.

2). Painting the head two ways, side by side, one intuitively and the other structurally.


After a what seems to be five minutes, the day is over and I look forward to next Wednesday.  I'm worried Dan has a long trip home still. It's all going to be alright, so look for my blog on Dan Thompson next month for the continuation of the planar head in clay.  We will be carving and attaching the staple of the jaw that is the cheekbone, and the ear.

Yours Truly, Michela





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