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About Plasticine
About Plasticine
Making Plasticine Pictures
Making Simple Trees
Working with Plasticine
Project One
Project Two
Project Three
Christmas Crafts 1
Christmas Crafts 2
  Working With Plasticine

Warm Up! When beginning a plasticine project, it's a good idea to take a few minutes to squish and knead a small piece of clay in your hands. It will get you in the mood, warm up your hands and soften the clay.

Modeling clay is available in many colours, but you can make even more by mixing colours together. For example: a small amount of red and yellow plasticine kneaded together will gradually become orange.

Adding white will make colours lighter. Brown, red, white and yellow can be combined in different amounts to make a variety of skin tones. Colour that are partially mixed have a marbled look that can be used for interesting effects as well.

When I am working on a book I keep an extra board with samples of the colours I have mixed, with notes to help me remember how I made them.

Picture Building

The formal name for this type of artwork is " Relief: a way of carving or moulding in which the design stands out from the general surface." Carvings on ancient temples and faces on the coins in your pocket are examples of relief sculpture. Plasticine pictures are made by building up layers of clay. I use three basic techniques to make a plasticine relief picture.

1. Spreading

After planning my picture first with pencil and paper, I choose a piece of illustration board to work on. Illustration board is a heavy cardboard available at art supply stores, but heavy paper plates, cardboard, plastic lids and even CD jewel cases will work. Just make sure the material you work on is strong enough to support the heavy clay without bending too much.

I start by spreading out a background using my thumbs and fingers and adding small pieces until the area is covered. Spreading a background provides a sticky surface to add small details to. The background is the farthest thing away in your picture. For example, an outdoor scene might have a blue sky background. You might choose a black background for an outer space picture; a scene inside an igloo could have a white background.

Your background can also combine colours, such as yellow for a sandy a beach with blue for the ocean. By smearing a blob of pink or orange across a blue sky you can create a sunset. Smearing several kinds of blues, greens and purples together can give an under water effect.

2. Modeling

You can make all sorts of shapes in your fingers and stick them onto the background to build up layers that form a picture.

A round pancake shape can be pressed on to make a yellow sun, someone's rosy red cheeks, or several can be piled up to form a puffy white cloud.

By rolling clay with a flat hand on a hard surface you can make a long snake- like shape. Those long strings of clay can be used to create hair, tree branches, smoke rising from a chimney or stripes on a tiger.

Many simple shapes can add up to make a very detailed picture.

3. Adding Texture

Once your picture has a background and some details you can add texture to make it even more interesting. I use some tools for this.

With a sharp pencil you can "draw" lines in the clay to add a smile to a face, or whiskers to a snout. You can poke little dots to make eyes, nostrils or nail holes in a fence.

A plastic knife or thin ruler edge can cut straight lines to make the edges of buildings or machines.

A small comb or fork can be used to scratch a grassy or furry texture.

A tooth brush pressed into the surface gives a fuzzy look. Just make sure it is a toothbrush no one wants anymore! I use my imagination to think up the textures I want, and look around the house for tools to help me.
One of the best things about modeling clay is that if something doesn't work at first, you can easily pick it off, squish it up and try again. There is only one rule I know of for working with plasticine: don't let it get in the carpet!

By combining spreading, modeling and adding texture you can create just about any picture imaginable. Have fun!

  Working with Plasticine    
© copyright Barbara Reid | photography by Ian Crysler | website by Hoffworks