Sculpting the Portrait with Zoe Dufour

Dates: 8 consecutive Saturdays: March 7 – April 25, 2020

Time: 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm (2 class will go until 6 pm*)

Instructor: Zoe Dufour is a sculptor who explores the beauty and design of nature through the human form. She studied sculpture at Ashland Academy of Art and Grand Central Atelier, and also worked with artists Gerald Heffernon and Rita Alverez. She has taught sculpture at Grand Central Atelier, the Art School at Old Church, and other ateliers and studios. See more at

Class Overview: This class is open to all levels, no experience is necessary, and teaching will be tailored to individuals. Students will sculpt a portrait in clay from life using traditional techniques. The class will emphasize structure, anatomy, close observation of the model, and capturing a likeness. Students will learn how to observe the relationship between forms and read depth accurately. The class will begin with a basic “block-in” technique, learning how to accurately establish the large relationships of the portrait, and progress gradually to modeling and finishing techniques in clay. Students will also learn how to prepare their pieces to be fired (if desired). Instruction includes demos, lectures, and constructive critiques.

Class #1 (March 7): Students will set up simple life-size armature for portrait, and discuss an overview of techniques for measuring and applying visual observations coherently to a sculpture using the compiled measurements. Students will begin to apply clay to their armature and establish the large masses of the portrait. *This class will go from 2-6 pm.

Class #2: Students will continue to work out the relationships of the large masses, while learning a simplified construction of the head, that describes the structural pattern of relations that occur on everyones face.

Class #3: Students will begin to delve in the facial features more, refining the existing masses, learning the basic structure of each feature, as well as learning how each feature sits into the face.

Class #4: Students will begin refining the features of the face, while exploring more complex relationships between form masses- the areas where intersections between volumes become more distinct or “lost”.

Class #5: Students will discuss illusion in sculpture, and how to indicate differences in texture and material through varied techniques in clay modeling. Particular emphasis will be put on how to sculpt hair, and various ways to create the illusion of a pupil and iris in the eye.

Class #6: Students will begin sculpting the shoulder girdle, so that when the sculpture is prepared for firing, it can stand without an armature supporting it. During this class the superficial anatomy of the neck will be covered.

Class #7: Students will prepare their sculptures to be fired (if desired). Students will learn how to perform “surgery” on their sculptures and hollow their portraits to an appropriate thickness to be fired. They will learn the ceramic techniques needed to join their portraits seamlessly back together after hollowing them out. I prefer to do this before the last class, because it gives students a comfortable amount of time for this procedure *This class will go from 2-6 pm.

Class #8 (April 25): Students will learn various surface finishing techniques for clay, and put the finishing touches on their portraits. Students can have their work fired at Dogtown for a small fee.

Materials: Students are responsible to purchase and bring 25-50 pounds (1-2 bags) of water clay and modeling/sculpture tools. Use whatever clay body you like, Zoe recommends Amaco Low Fire Clay (White Art No. 25). Use whatever tools you like, Zoe recommends a knife-like wooden tool, calipers, notebook and pen, and the sculpturehouse #204 wire-wrapped rake. Clay and tools can be purchased locally in Richmond at Clay People, Leslie’s Ceramics, and Douglas and Sturgess. Students can bring their own portrait armature, but we will also be building a portrait armature at the first class, the armature materials will be provided for a small additional fee (at cost of the materials, probably $15-20). Sculpture stands are provided during the class. There will be an opportunity to make a group order for clay and tools through Dogtown, at cost.

Cost and  Payment: non-member price: $410 check, $422 credit card. This class is now full contact to be placed on the waiting list. Also consider the portrait and figure workshops with Brian Booth Craig at Dogtown in August 2020.

Tuition covers instruction and model fees only. Students are responsible to purchase and bring their materials. All payments are non-refundable, unless the class is cancelled.


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