US Navy Yeoman – Part 1

As you may remember from my last post, I’m back in the saddle!

For my next relief sculpt I’ve chosen to depict a Yeoman of the US Navy at the end of the First World War. Its the same height as my previous sculpt, using basically the same processes I used on the London Ambulance Column figure.

 A brief history

US Navy Yeoman

Naval History & Heritage Command

The position of Yeoman in United States Navy and United States Coast Guard,  is typically a rating who’s duties involve secretarial, clerical, payroll or other administrative roles.

In World War 1 as male Naval ratings were sent overseas, the role of the Yeoman was filled by women recruits. The US Navy formally started enlistment for women ratings in mid-March 1917, with they’re numbers increasing to eleven thousand by December 1918.

With the advent of the armistice (and the return of male ratings to their traditionally  held roles) all were released from active duty in July 1919 – although many were were appointed to Civil Service positions within the same Navy Yards and Stations where they had served in during active service.

The initial sculpt

As outlined in my previous post, I’m using two points of reference to create the figure. A half figure shot that sparked the initial interest in the uniform and a full length image of a nurse from the same period.


Using the altered image on the right, I printed off a couple of pages of the photograph that had been previously scaled to around 120mm. As with my previously figure I placed one of the print-outs over a layer of Super Sculpey and traced the outline of the figure by piercing through the paper into the clay (use the old article as a reference).

The image was then peeled off, the outline of the figure cut out from the clay and the excess removed.

BootsUnlike the last project I decided to use a different medium for the boots and hat (Milliput in this case). The reason being is that last time around I experienced a lot of problems using Sculpey on fine detail. It’s great for creating the bulk of the figure and creating the folds in clothing, but I find that its a little too soft to control when I am trying to sculpt the more solid elements of the figure like the boots and hat. I would have used Magic Sculp but was a little concerned that it would not stand up to the baking process that Sculpey requires. Milliput is a medium that I know well and have used for making patterns in the past, it stands up to the heat and pressure required in Vulcanised Moulding so I knew it was safe to use.

Started on the boots first this time. Apart from the head, its one of the most frustrating parts of the sculpt for me (especially in relief!). If I’m going to produce full length figures in the future, its going to be a pattern that I will follow again (reason being – that it allows me to then relax into the rest of the sculpt).

HatThe hat was next. Again I used the same process of modelling it off the figure, it was then added to the unbaked clay after it had been fashioned (Milliput again).

With the proportions roughed in, the uniform created in block form, the boots and hat were then blended in to the Sculpey body, leaving the head as a flat outline. Its was at this point I paused to reflect on the previous sculpt?

FaceLast time out, I struggled big time on the face (it took way to long to get it right) this time I was determined to get a better structure to work on before I added the features. Now – you may think this is a little over the top for a relief figure but I chose to follow the traditional path in sculpting and rough in a skull. Two reason for this. Number one – I’m still on a learning curve, the more practice and understanding of structural anatomy the better. Number two – outlining the skull gives me a stricter guidelines to work to – I know that everything is in proportion and that all I had to do is build up the muscle structure to create the features. A far better approach I feel to better my understanding of figurative sculpting – I can only improve by its implementation (even if it does seem a little over the top!).

So to the final image of this post (yes – I do know it looks like Skeletor in dress).


The figure has now been baked and it’s ready for for the next stage of carving and detailing. In the next post I will cover the sculpting of the face and hair.

Before I go I wish to share a tip with you?

From posting images on this blog I’ve found a technique that has given me a fresh view of what I’m sculpting. All too often I am so close to the work that I’m blind to simple things like balance in proportions and sizes in relation to each other. By taking a few shots of work in progress it allows me to expand images (even reverse them) to give me a fresh view of the work. Unaltered – the camera doesn’t lie – you will be amazed at what you miss!

I noticed this when blogging about the Ambulance figure. Look at the image on the left – then compare it to the one on the right.


Before taking the photograph on the left I considered the face finished, however when I went to edit the image for the blog I found out how wrong I was! The eyes were way off balance and the face? Well – the second image says it all…

Years back I remember Shep Paine advocating the use of a mirror to check painting in progress (that was then) – nowadays digital photography is now an everyday item (most cell phones and tablets have a camera) it only take a couple of minutes to take a snap of your work as you progress and review it.

Try it for yourself (painting or sculpting) I assure you that it will take your game to the next level. 🙂

See you soon…


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  1. Kjeld Buchholtz

    Rich, this is coming along just great, it’s educational to read the way you progressing on such a figure, will follow it very closely and with great interest. Will this one be for commercial sale?

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