Some thoughts on how to approach this program.
1. As you work your way through the program, keep in mind that it is best to follow the sequence of progression as closely as possible, but if once in a while you jump ahead I won’t be there to lecture you. As long as you practice the quick exercises regularly you will improve your skills. Like a musician that practices scales, or a draftsman that draws hundreds of sketches, a quick sculpting exercise routine is the fastest route to success.
2. Do not rush through the program. Take your time to study, understand and practice each section and try to enjoy the process. If you were my apprentice after each task we would discuss the origins and development of each volume to see if you understood. Try to to do the same on your own. Ask yourself what bone, muscle, cartilage or skin is involved in a particular volume, regardless of whether it is on an ear, nose, neck or any other part of the sculpture.
3. You need to study some anatomy in order to be able to create believable expressions. It is only when you understand the mechanical function of each muscle that you will be able to bring expressions to life. Sculpting the skull and facial muscles is the ideal opportunity to do so. It is best not to skip this exercise.
4. Foremost, you need to learn how to see volumes. It sounds evident, but in fact, it is difficult to really see facial volumes. Make sure that your model, as well as your work, is lit properly, and rotate both regularly to vary the play of light on the surface of the face and clay.
5. One note to the perfectionists out there. Not everything you sculpt has to be perfect. Your focus should be on manipulating as much clay as possible in order to develop mechanical skills and muscle memory. It is easy or even unavoidable to become discouraged if we expect every piece to be perfect or to become masters overnight. It takes time to acquire skills, enjoy the journey. On that note, I always encourage my students to spend more time practicing sculpting than hollowing, firing and saving their work. Your next sculpture will be better than the one you are finishing now so move on.
6. Keep in mind that as your skills improve, your objectivity, ability to analyze your work and expectations also increase, therefore you become more demanding and when looking at your past work you see weaknesses that eluded you before. It is a positive phenomenon as it encourages you to constantly strive for better results, but it can also create the illusion that your progress is slow. Always keep some of your earlier sculptures around so you can evaluate your progress.
7. On a personal note, I slowly keep improving my own skills. I feel that more of my portraits are successful likenesses, based on my current expectations. I am ok with that.