Have you ever wanted to ask your favorite author or artist a bunch of questions about their work? Well, we opened up our IMPACT social media sites to hear what kinds of questions our fans had about Fantasy Creatures in Clay author Emily Coleman and below are her replies!
When and why did you first start sculpting?
My first real experience with sculpture was during my senior year of high school when I took a traditional sculpting class. We worked with ceramics, terra cotta and a few other mediums that drove me nuts. I swore off sculpture forever until I discovered polymer clay several years later. I was recently out of college, and I was trying to figure out what direction I wanted to go with my art. I always liked drawing, but never knew where to go from there. Sculpture showed me the way! I loved the fact that I could work with a piece on multiple angles as well as the idea of making tangible objects that can be viewed three-dimensionally.
Why do you sculpt fantasy creatures?
I have loved dragons and creatures of fantasy for as long as I can remember. I have been making art of them for almost as long. I love the idea of bringing to life creatures that have only been seen before inside my mind. It’s a very magical experience. I love animals and enjoy sculpting them as well. After all, they help my creatures look even more believable and lifelike. But creating my own creatures is where my true passion lies.
Do you consider yourself more of an artist or an author?
I am definitely an artist before I am an author. Without my art, there wouldn’t be much for me to write about! My first book has taught me a lot about writing though and it’s definitely something I want to continue doing throughout my artistic career.
Was it hard to write a book?
There were difficult aspects of it, for sure. Figuring out a coherent flow of information as well as finding the right words to explain my processes were definitely two of the hardest things I encountered. My husband did all of the photography for my book and sometimes it was hard to get him to understand what exactly I wanted to show. By the end, he got pretty good at seeing my work through my eyes. I figured if I could make him understand what I was doing, I was well on my way. And of course, just seeing the book through to the end was a huge task. It took a lot of dedication and working nights and weekends.
What’s your favorite part of the sculpting process?
The initial block out is definitely my favorite part. This is when all of the movement is determined, the proportions are established, and the character begins to appear. Everything else after that is just building upon what you have already created. I really do love every part of the sculpting process, but getting that initial “sketch” down is a favorite of mine.
What/who inspires you?
I’ve grown up with the idea to allow everything to inspire and I do live by that. However, I am especially inspired by nature and animals. I love beaches, deep woods, mountain trails and the tropics. I’ve loved animals my whole life and am especially drawn to birds, especially those of the tropics. They are some of the most unique creatures on this planet. I am also continuously inspired by my friends’ and colleagues’ creations and their dedication to their work.
What’s the publishing process like?
Self publishing was a lot of work. There were so many things I had to learn about that I had no experience with like page layout, cover design and working with printers. I had a number of people help me with the original manuscript, checking for understandability of the book. I had both artists and non-artists reading over the book and giving their input. My goal was to make the book readable and approachable for someone that has never even touched clay before. It was really fantastic to have IMPACT come in and redesign everything. They also reorganized the information coherently and made a lot of textual edits. They worked with me the whole time too, always checking for my opinion before moving forward. Even though we had to remove information due to space constraints, I am very happy with the final product and am confident people will learn just as well from the newer incarnation of the book.
Did you like writing a book or creating your sculptures more?
My artwork will always come first! But I have to say, I’ve never experienced a feeling like the satisfaction I got from finishing my book.
What’s your favorite sculpture you’ve ever worked on?
It’s hard for me to pick just one. My Tree Dragon series really represents me as an artist, and they are featured all throughout Fantasy Creatures in Clay. They combine my love of nature and my love of creatures. They also represent awareness for the many environmental issues that are important to me such as deforestation and habitat loss. I am hoping to expand on this series and these ideas in the future.
What’s one thing fans should look forward to if they buy Fantasy Creatures in Clay?
Readers will be able to get started in sculpting right away, even if they have no experience with clay. All it takes is some basic materials and a little artistry!
Why did you want to write Fantasy Creatures in Clay?
Getting started in sculpture, for me, was very difficult. There were very few resources for beginning sculptors at the time as this was long before the days of free YouTube tutorials! I wanted to put together a comprehensive guide that helps readers bypass the difficulty in figuring out the basics so they can get right to creating.
Can you give us a little tidbit of something we would not otherwise know that went into the making of Fantasy Creatures in Clay?
The original incarnation of the book (Creature Sculpt) was an entire year in the making. That was a year of intensive work, with several sections being scrapped or reduced along the way. Countless hours were put into asset production, photography, writing, editing, page layout, reshoots… you name it!
What’s the best advice you could give beginning sculptors?
Sculpt every day, even if it’s for a short time. Practice is the only way you will grow as an artist. Also, use lots of reference and observe as much as you can. Soak up everything from the world around you and put it into your work.
In Fantasy Creatures in Clay, you mention that you apply a lot of real world Animal-likenesses into your fictional or mythological creatures – can you give us some more examples of this? (In the book you mentioned using bat wings and a horse-like face for dragons.)
Blending anatomy and features of animals we know from the real world is an essential skill in creating animals of fantasy. It’s true you are creating something that does not exist, but your creature will be more believable if you base aspects of it off of things we recognize here on earth. I will often start with a base anatomical structure of a canine, feline, or hoofed animal, and then build on features from there. I try not to use too many features from a single animal or it won’t look very imaginative. On the flipside, using too many scattered features can make the creature look like patchwork. I also like to reference prehistoric animal skeletons too! Another favorite is looking at deep sea creatures. There are so many fascinating elements that can be incorporated into creatures that aren’t so run-of-the mill as animals we see here on land.
FAN QUESTION: What was the first creature you sculpted?
I know you will be shocked, but it was a dragon 🙂 It took me two weeks to create and I still have him sitting on my shelf for inspiration. That same sculpture would now take me about two days to make. The Monster Clay dragon featured in my book is actually a recreation of that same character.
FAN QUESTION: Guys, I have no experience in sculpting, whatsoever. My passion is drawing but I think each art form goes hand to hand. And since I have experience and currently work with Injection molding machines… how can a person switch from a mega bore job like that to a job of making action figures, for example? Can this book help out, too?
Fantasy Creatures in Clay can definitely get your creative juices flowing. While it doesn’t specifically discuss sculpting jobs, the techniques you learn can definitely be applied to skills like action figure sculpting. Once you get through a project or two, the ideas will really start blossoming. Who knows where you will go with it! It’s all up to your own creative mind!
Fantasy Creatures in Clay Book Trailer:
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