the disarticulating man part 1

The second maquette I’ve made of Jordan Morley has proved to be the most complicated I’ve ever attempted. The idea was to produce a studio aid that while plausible as a human figure, would also disarticulate in ways that would allow me to use it more expressively. I can’t begin to explain what’s going on behind it in order to achieve this, but I’ll post pictures of the back of the maquette for anyone brave enough to try and work things out.

There were some portrait sketches of Jordan to get things started.

Then began the process of snipping paper shapes and loosely assembling them, to get the proportions of the figure established.

The first part to be completed is the head. The work is a combination of collage and drawing. I use paper snipped from magazines. Not the glossies, though. I prefer magazines printed in a matt finish that I can paint and draw on. I like the tonal qualities and textural details that come from the collage technique.

All the paper parts are pasted onto black card, to give a firm support to the maquette’s construction.

Gradually the figure begins to emerge.

Although I have an overall plan, each stage of the maquette requires endless problem-solving. Fixed pivot points don’t work for this type of figure. A fixed pivot point anchors a joint, but while it may work for say, a hip in the standing position, that same fixed point will look all wrong if the leg is raised. The answer is to use moveable bars at the back of the maquette to create ‘sliding’ fixed points, and in this way the movement looks a lot more plausible.


It’s a fact that it’s damned hard to make a moving two-dimensional nude figure, and it taxes all of my ingenuity. Here I’m roughly working out the articulations for Jordan’s hips.

part 2 to follow

13 thoughts on “the disarticulating man part 1

  1. Loved this.
    It reminds me of the anatomy lessons of my youth. ( I studied medicine for three years, until I got married and dropped out of university, as we girls did then.) But we had plastic skeletons and used plasticine for muscles, to try and understand how it was going to move, and how it would look from a fixed point.

    This moving maquette you are making, being flat, must be a real challenge.

    I read somewhere that to be able to draw realistic movements, the Disney cartoonists used to film people and animals in movement ( they were told or led to make the needed moves ) and then copied the movements in drawing, photogram by photogram.

    Now they do it with computer programs, but the programs have not yet reached the art of the old cartoonists…

    It is always a pleasure to come here to visit. There are so many great surprises !
    thank you very much for everything

    • Maria, I didn’t know you studied medicine.

      One of the much-loved toys of my childhood was THIS. I adored it!

      The Disney character animators did indeed begin to use ‘rotoscoping’ to aid their work and make the movements of their creations more naturalistic, and I don’t believe it improved their artistry. I love the vitality and imagination of early Disney, though I can’t bear what the studios produce these days. All those Barbie princesses warbling glutinous songs, curdle my blood.

      For me the genius of animation is rooted in the European tradition. Just watch THIS little film by Yuri Norstein. It’s miraculous. And HERE’s an extract from Jan Svankmejer’s Alice, the best version of the story ever produced for the cinema bar none.

      • I have been unable to come, lately. But today, what a feast !!!

        I can’t stand the new Disney princesses either. But I love the old films, especially the bad stepmothers and beautiful witches. I have them all at home on DVD, and watch them again and again. And now, with my grandchildren, I have the perfect excuse.

        And the Russian film about the hedgehog and the fog, I just loved it. Especially because it is in Russian, and I only know a few words of Russian, so that it makes the tale even more magical.

        I always hated Alice in Wonderland. Maybe because I was obliged to read it in English as a very small child, and by the time I could have enjoyed it I was reading “Treasure Island” and “Just Williams”, and could not be bothered with “books for girls”. I promise I will watch it tomorrow. Maybe this time I’ll end up reading the book as well.

        Thank you ever so much!

  2. An out-Clive-ing-Clive tinkering with bits? Hmmm…sounds like fun! I sympathise about making a moving maquette of a nude torso….skin is so much more fluid than fabric or paper. That’s a splendid job you’re making of it!

    • It’s a fact that over the years my maquettes have become more complicated in structure in direct ratio to the clothes they shed. I see it as a challenge that has to be met!

      But of course, I have to make a new puppet for each changed viewpoint. No matter how tricksy I get… and though I can give the impression that a figure is changing direction by the use of replacement heads and feet… I can’t move a maquette from one fixed viewpoint to another without building another maquette!

      Ha ha. I’m glad you think I’m making a splendid job of stripping Jordan!

  3. I am totally in awe Clive! As someone who is all fingers and thumbs, my head hurts at the thought of the task you are undertaking.

    I take my hat off to the dedication you are currently showing to your art and very much look forward to seeing the finished result.

  4. Just knockout Clive, each stage of the process looks masterful; the portrait sketches, the collaged elements, the beautifully drawn torso and the superlative mechanics – what a wonderful, wonderful post, it’s so inspiring!

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