Sculptable Clothing

My quest for better art reference has brought me to a new material with properties that would make any illustrator giddy. The material in question is waxed cotton, something I am sure has been around long before its popularity as an alternative to plastic wrap.

The amazing thing about waxed cotton is its ability to adhere to itself, stick to other surfaces, and remain rigid from the beeswax coating. All of these factors play a role in making the fabric sculptable.

The kind I ordered is uncolored, but not pure white, making it perfect for photographic reference. Waxed cotton is also available in patterns and bright colors for those who would like to use it for doll clothing projects. Scrap pieces you want to save condense well and stay put for easy storage. 

Here are some more examples of the properties of waxed cotton. I find that you can get great results from pressing the fabric until it sticks to the maquette where you would see the fabric naturally rest. You can then pull the end of the drape to encourage folds that would be caused by gravity or wind. The weight of the waxed cotton does not allow for really long pieces of unsupported cotton, but you can push it! Twisting and pulling the fabric just the right way will allow for some impressive undulations.

The cotton fabric does a lot of the work by itself, but understanding the how folds should look in real life helps with the fine tuning.

Depending on the complexity of your character's clothing, sewing experience is not required. You can build clothing onto your maquette because it sticks so well. The hood I made for my female maquette is just one rectangular strip of waxed cotton that I have wrapped around her head.  

As an overview, here are the pros and cons of working with waxed cotton:


  • Heaviness prevents posing of long drapery
  • Leaves waxy residue on skin (much like Sculpey clay, but easier to clean off)
  • Stickiness makes sewn clothing hard to put on maquette
  • Difficult to draw on for cutting patterns 
  • Some fraying occurs at edge of cut cloth 
  • Smells terrible (if you don't like the smell of beeswax)


  • Sculptable for a variety of cloth posing
  • A suitable fold thickness for being realistic at a small scale
  • No-sew options for most clothing types
  • Affordable price
  • Reusable by washing with soap in cold water
  • Easy to compact for storage
  • Easy to cut 
  • Translucent quality great for backlit lighting schemes
  • Slight transparency helpful for viewing anatomy
  • Slight elasticity for more flexible maquette posing
  • Smells amazing (if you like the smell of beeswax)

There are a few more techniques for achieving sculptable clothing including:

Gone are the days of tape-covered foil! Actually, that stuff worked pretty well when I needed it. Happy reference gathering!

Imagination Takes Flight

Way back when, I performed on clarinet and had the opportunity to play with the Redlands Symphony Orchestra (RSO) as a University of Redlands student. I feel like things have come full circle with this illustration that I created for RSO and am pleased to share it with the world! Because we all know the world needs more flying maestros.


Let Me Introduce You to My Agent

Finding the right representative can be tricky business, which is why most freelancers tackle all aspects of their work. I have been extremely fortunate in connecting with a superb agency that represents a gamut of wonderful illustrators. This is a partnership that will let me focus on my favorite part of the illustration process: making magical pictures!

© 2018 Spinning Yarn, LLC. All rights reserved.

© 2018 Spinning Yarn, LLC. All rights reserved.

Check out all the cool things at my rep's website:


Dear Art Graduate Part 3

Dear Art Graduate,

Create accountability.

"Jovian Fantasy" was created for the Parallel show with Light Grey Art Lab--a great motivation factor.

"Jovian Fantasy" was created for the Parallel show with Light Grey Art Lab--a great motivation factor.

In my last post, I talked about how creating a series of pieces can strengthen your portfolio. It's a great thought, but it won't come to fruition through sheer force of will--it also takes time management and external motivation. Here are the tools that help me organize my time and light a fire under my rear:

Time Management

1. Use a Calendar

 Write it down: project deadlines, gallery shows, local networking events, conventions, and any events that might be beneficial, even if you're on the fence on whether to go or not. Studies show that writing things down can make you 42% more likely to do it. For me, the likelihood is even higher (~90%) since I make it part of my routine. I use a white board calendar, which I find faster to manipulate than a digital calendar. With that said, you should use whatever calendar is most effective for you. First, I would suggest writing down your larger goals and events for the year (big conventions may require multiple months of preparation). Next, use the first day or last day of the month to lay out the smaller goals and events for the month. For month-long illustrations, I will subdivide my deadlines to include deadlines for thumbnails, revised thumbnails, finished painting, and coloring. Just remember to check your calendar, which will free your mind to focus on creating great art!

2. Record Your Working Hours

Start recording your hours when working on a project. If you have never done it, be consistent and record every project. I use Toggl, a free time tracking program that lets you label time slots and creates a monthly overview of how you allocate your time. You can record time separately for thumbnail sketching and for the final execution of an illustration, which will give you a better sense of what to charge clients. When I make a quote, I like to find a balance between my hourly rate and standard illustration pricing. It may surprise you how long your illustration takes and that knowledge is important in planning future projects. You can also use that knowledge to negotiate with clients who are unfamiliar with the often time-intensive processes in illustration.

External Motivation

It helps to have people to keep you accountable for finishing your work, which is part of what makes art school so attractive. Here are a few ways to motivate your learning and productivity without costing your firstborn:

1. Submit Your Art

Submitting your art can include art competitions, online communities, gallery submissions, and art annual submissions. There are a bunch of art challenges out there, so focus on ones that really resonate with you. Always read the fine print for art contests, especially ones that utilize the winning artwork for a product or for advertisement purposes. A red flag would be if the winning entrants lose all rights to their work without appropriate compensation. It's more my personal stance on business ethics, but the question I ask before entering a contest is, "Is the artwork for this contest for a product that an art director typically hires an artist for?" If the answer is "yes", I don't enter the contest. 

Here are a bunch of great submission avenues that I currently participate in or have recently participated in:

The super secret tip to entering all these things is to join mailing lists. They will straight up email you the deadlines! It's madness! 

2. Participate in Local Art & Small Business Gatherings

Many art and small business gatherings are education-focused. Mingle among those who can share their more advanced techniques and freelance insight! There's nothing quite like bouncing ideas off of people and getting a healthy dose of art critique too. You will start developing valuable relationships with people who will encourage you and check in on your progress.

Coming to a city near you:

  • Chamber of Commerce After-Hours/ Local Business Gatherings
  • Collaborative Workspace Mixers (these workspaces are popping up everywhere)
  • Local Art Association Events
  • Open Studio Events/Gallery Receptions
  • Drawing Clubs/Meet-Ups (can ben discovered via Facebook and
  • Local Conventions/Art Shows
  • Workshops and Demonstrations

I stress local events as great sources of motivation since you will make more frequent and often deeper connections with people than at distant events. Look to Facebook, your local newspaper, and coffee shop pin boards for local events!

What helps motivate you? Share with us your best fire-igniters in the comments!