Equine Sculpture by Mel Miller

Sculpting Steps

The third part of the process is to pose the horse. Remember that legs always move from the top down. If, for example, a hind leg is to be moved forward, the hip joint deep inside the haunches first must flex, which allows the rest of the leg to raise off of the ground, and then move forward. While this stage is definitely quite fun, you'll also have to put to use all of your knowledge of how bones move (which way, how far, etc.). If the wires aren't properly placed, then your horse will have funky movement! Try to get your wire placement as close as possible now, but don't worry about being perfect. You will notice areas that need fixing once the clay goes on, and it is an easy (though annoying) matter to remove some clay and re-bend the wires.

The posed armature. Notice how in this pose the back is arched, and the hips are tucked at what will be the lumbar-sacral joint (around the area where the hip crosses the back). Attention to detail even at this stage will help you in creating a sculpture that appears alive and not static.


Two more views. The horse is also bent around through his entire body to the left. This is subtle through the trunk where the horse is less flexible, and can be much more pronounced through the neck.

The final, and certainly longest process is to start sculpting! Begin by massing up clay on the more bulky areas. Do not worry about careful shaping at this point; just apply the clay. At this stage, you should also add little blobs at the leg joints, and the hooves. Again, these should not be too carefully worked; merely sketched in.

When you have sufficient clay on the horse, you can begin shaping out the major areas, like the barrel, shoulders and hips. Continue refining (and refining, and refining...) until you get a finished piece you are happy with.

The clay you choose is important, and highly personal. I highly recommend requesting a sample package from Chavant, and working with a variety of clays to find what you like. Chavant only sells bulk quantities, but you can buy their (excellent) products in smaller quantities through their distributors, such as Sculpture House.

The clay will stay soft, and is never suitable for painting. You will need to cast your horse to get a final working copy. When you purchase clay, you will encounter two types: sulfur based, and non-sulfur based. Sulfur based clays interfere with mold making materials unless the sculpture is carefully sealed. It's best to avoid this situation altogether, and work only with non-sulfur based clays.

The major areas are blocked in.

The joints are roughed in.