What, Me Sculpt?

December 10th, 2009 | Posted in General

I’m working on a very different project right now, designing political characters to be used as the basis of some 3D animation for a documentary film. This is WAY outside my comfort zone. You might think that since I draw caricatures of the same actors over and over in a MAD parody that it wouldn’t be that hard for me to draw a “turn around” of a caricature of someone. Not so. It’s a totally different animal to design a caricature that when rotated on an axis remains consistent in it’s proportions and exaggerations.

The first character I was told to work on was former U.S. president Ronald Reagan. I got so frustrated trying to get it to work that I eventually decided to approach it from an entirely different angle… doing a sculpture of the caricature to use as the basis of my design.

I’m not much of a sculptor, but I didn’t need a finished, polished result. All I needed was a basic construct of the face in caricature that I could use as a model for my character design. So, I went out and bought my first box of Super Sculpy and this is the result:

Reagan 1

Reagan 2

Reagan 3

Reagan 4

Reagan 5

Again… very rough basic construct. Not surprisingly, all I could think about as I was working on this was the great Spitting Image puppet that was seen on that show and also the Genesis video “Land of Confusion”. I went out of my way NOT to look that up on the internet and only work from photos of Reagan, but looking after the fact I can see the influence from memory.

Here are some of the roughs of the heads only of the animated character I am working up:


The documentary won’t be out for a long time, but it should be fun to work on. I’m doing 11 characters in all.


  1. SEILER says:

    This is cool Tom . . . looking good!

  2. Lar says:

    Wow Tom!!

    That’s very exciting to see you work in 3d. I’m surprised you found it difficult to draw the turn around, but I know the animators are going to really appreciate your level of skill now. Will you be forwarding the sculpts to the studio for them to use as well?

    Later 🙂

    • Tom says:

      I don’t know why I had such a problem with the turn-arounds… it wasn’t the drawing it was just the EXACTNESS of it. I’d find after doing the front drawing that any attempt to shoehorn the profile drawing into lining up properly destroyed the likeness, and vice-versa. The original drawing looked fine but the subsequent “different angle”drawings were forced and unsuccessful.

      The good news is that so far Reagan is the only one I’ve had to resort to the sculpture for… but I do have more sculpy in case I have issues with another character. Also, it was kinda fun!

  3. Beth Cravens says:

    Tom, that’s awesome! You are a man of many talents.

  4. victor says:

    This was a fascinating look into the creative process; thank you for sharing it! And I think your drawings of Reagan capture something of his personality that the Spitting Image puppet never managed to (being as it was a grotesquely and hideously deformed gargoyle, more than it was a straight caricature).

  5. Mugshotz says:

    Whatever means nescessary, huh? I completely admire those who can create character design from their head. I often have a tough time getting correct angle as well. This is a nice process that I may utilize if I get stuck sometime on a drawing an angle.

    I have a 18″ Spider-man action figure with I think 50-100+ bendable joints that help me create a proper body pose, but doesn’t help much with the face.

  6. julio cesar naranjo says:

    Hi Tom its really amazing what you do with the Us president its like a new stage of your great talent, it can be really great if you do some characters for sale. Take care and Mery Christmas to you and your family.

  7. Steve Hearn says:

    Tom that is very awesome! I love the 3d sculpty caricatures we have been seeing recently at the ISCA conventions and you have made a fantastic start with Reagan! You have a great portfolio that you can refer back too should you wish to select another caricature to work up into a sculpture! Can’t wait to see how this progresses! Just make sure your fingers don;t get too cold when your shovelling the snow off your drive! 😉

  8. sculptco says:

    Very nice in 3D too.
    Would love to see more of your caricatures/figures in sculpey !

  9. Corbett says:

    I LOVE seeing artists nailing a new skill.
    I really look forward to the end result – the start is already a success in my eyes.

    I believe a well rounded artist can do anything – why so many art schools (that I’ve seen) insist on limiting their curriculum to produce ‘artists’ who can, say only work in Photoshop, is beyond me.


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