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"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...." (sculpture project)

Recognize the line? Most teenagers certainly do! Using this famous line from the movie Star Wars and the help wanted ad below, I started my first-year sculpture students on a most unusual and interesting ceramics portrait project.

I realized that my students were intimidated by the idea of working with a traditional image in full-scale portraits. I decided to put a new wrinkle in the Sculpture I curriculum at Half Hollow Hills High School. Understanding the necessity and importance that my students work with full-scale portraiture, I capitalized on student interest in the sculptural images being created by artists within the motion picture industry. When I began my discussion of artists and their role in film, it was obvious that many of my students had not thought of the people who create imaginative creatures for the big screen as artists. We went on to list our favorite movie creatures. Some commonly listed characters were the Joker from Batman, Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars, Freddie Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street, and the title character from Alien. Student interest was heightened by showing them books and examples of special-effects sculptures created for science fiction movies past and present. Many of my students helped to create a reference file from which to begin sketching. The file included two- and three-dimensional objects such as masks, photos, comic books and even a number of authentic human and animal skulls.

Before the students began working in clay, I made a presentation of clay construction procedures and a review of the anatomical proportions of the head. The students were informed that they could work in the round or use relief techniques. While they began their preliminary build-up of clay, they were reminded that although the heads should appear alien in surface imagery, it was important to retain basic human form in terms of proportion and scale. I stressed this point because retention of the elements of human form contribute to make an alien realistic enough to be believable. Straying too far from the human form can often result in the a rather cartoon like character. The students found it easier to master the correct proportions by using pottery calipers for all measurements. They were encouraged to take measurements from their own heads as they worked. Excitement grew as the students started adding details to their personalized aliens and student discussion followed each innovation in feature development.

This project not only involved my students more deeply in the sculpture process, it also created school-wide interest. Students outside of the art program dropped in to check on the progress of the special-effects sculptors. I believe the students actually surprised themselves in their successful first attempts at creature production. They received positive feedback, not only from their own artistic progress, but also from their peers who eagerly checked on the daily additions to the student sculptures.

Make room in your studio George Lucas, you just might see one of my inspired ex-students in the near future.

Help Wanted: Ambitious, creative and imaginative art student wanted to create three-dimensional sculptures of alien forms for high-tech science fiction movie studio. If interested in entering a growing field with potential for big $$$$$$$$$$ call ...

Alan G. Glueckert teaches art at West Hollow Juniper High School, Melville, New York.
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Author:Glueckert, Alan G.
Publication:School Arts
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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