Steve Lord Discusses Digital Sculpting and Finding Perfect Animal References

Posted July 23rd, 2015 by Henry Winchester — Category: Events — 0 Comments

Steve Lord has been sculpting traditionally since the age of 19, and digitally since 2007

Steve Lord has been sculpting traditionally since the age of 19, and digitally since 2007

Ahead of Anatomy Lab: Designing Creatures for Film, Steve Lord chats to Gnomon about how he started out in digital sculpting and reveals his drive to always improve with every project.

Gnomon: You've been sculpting since you were 19 – when did you make the leap into digital sculpting? What were those first steps like and what impact did it have on your sculpture-making?

Steve Lord: I've known about digital sculpting since 1998 but I didn't start until 2007. I knew that I should have started long ago but I was fighting it the whole way. I didn't want to face that my 15-plus years of experience had been thrown out the window; the years of hand-eye coordination; the feel of the clay.

I finally realized that I had better get on board or get left behind, so I had an excruciating three-month learning curve. Now I realize that my years of traditional sculpting were not a waste – rather, it enhances my digital skills and vice versa. My internal constant measuring helps when I sculpt in-pose for digital pieces.

You're a master of figurative sculpture - what kind of scientific level of understanding do you need of anatomy to be able to tackle these with such incredible precision? Is the learning a never-ending process?

I wouldn't say you need to be an expert in anatomy; you don't want to get bogged down with all the names. I can't remember all the muscle names! But I do think if your focus is creating creatures you do need to know where muscles go and how they interact with one another. I would suggest doing at least one animal écorché model before starting creatures.

I never stop learning. I spotted some problems with my anatomy preparing for Saturday's talk at Gnomon. Always be checking yourself – never be satisfied. It's okay to like something you did, but look at what you could do better next time.

Steve Lord successfully launched and funded a Kickstarter campaign to produce a statue of a canine anatomical reference figure

What are your favorite sources of reference for studying poses and rhythm of creatures? Any tips?

There's a plethora of info out there to choose from. You can find videos on YouTube for dissections, fighting animals, galloping horses. National Geographic and Animal Planet have good programs to watch. Pinterest is great for all kinds of reference, too.

To get good rhythm in your pose you must study life, plus taking a class or two on composition doesn't hurt, as well as looking at master works. Anna Hyatt Huntington was a good animal sculptor – look at public monuments as well, there are a lot of good ones out there!

How important is it to understand animal anatomy for those looking to design and model mythical and inventive creature concepts? What advice would you give to those looking to get into designing creatures for films?

If I was hiring someone for creature design I would obviously look for inventive unique designs, but the main thing for me would be believability. Does the creature make sense? If it is not easily understood how it will propel itself then you better have a good back story of how it moves!

The very first thing I would focus on if someone handed me a picture of their design would be the joints. The elbows, the knees and the interaction with the muscle tells me volumes. If your creature doesn't make sense then all the scales, pores and veins won't save it, and you will lose your audience.

What will be the focus of your presentation this Saturday? What can we look forward to?

I'm going to focus on the interaction of muscle, bone, tendons and what happens when they are in action. I'll show how to analyze reference and deconstruct it to learn how to really see what you are looking at.

I will do a demo of my process and talk through it explaining what I'm doing. I'll try to demystify anatomy and make it not-so-scary to tackle!

Related links:

RSVP to Anatomy Lab: Designing Creatures for Film
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Browse Gnomon's on-campus courses
Discover Gnomon's Online Anatomy Course


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Founded in 1997, Gnomon has trained thousands of students and professionals for careers in the entertainment industry. Find out more