How to Make a Sculpture of a Meerkat

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Meerkats are a type of mongoose that live exclusively in southern African regions. They can grow up to a foot in length and weigh around 0.907 Kilogram. What makes them unique is that they rely on each other for survival.

Members of the group act as sentries, standing on their hind legs to get a good view of the surrounding area. They watch for birds of prey as others meerkats forage. The standing meerkat on the lookout is the ideal position for a sculpture of this animal. Self-hardening clay is a good material to use for such a project.

Decide on the size of the meerkat sculpture you want to make. Start with a half-scale model, so about 6 inches high, if this is your first such sculpture. Gather a number of good reference images of the meerkat. Find one image that clearly shows the meerkat standing on its hind legs and use this as your primary reference image. Include other close-up images of the meerkat's head and paws. Assemble your tools and clay at your station with the images close by.

Unpack the clay and knead it like dough. Knead until the clay has an even consistency and is easy to mould. Form a cylindrical shape to the height of about 7 inches. Leave the base thickest to provide stability for the sculpture. Form the head of the meerkat by gently pinching the neck area. Hold the back of the head and form the nose of the meerkat. Make two indentations on either side of the snout where the eyes are located. Pinch the sides of the head carefully to create the ears. Keep shaping the head until it becomes recognisable.

Work your way down past the head with a sloping line to indicate the arms hanging down on both sides. Use the knife to trim excess clay as you progress downward. The width of the sculpture is about the same from the elbows down. Do not worry too much about detail at this point but focus on getting the right posture and width of the body. Indicate where the forearms go inward and where the paws are positioned. Form the legs on the front of the sculpture. Do not remove the material in between the legs and tail to preserve the stability of the sculpture. This will prevent it from falling over before the clay is dry enough to support it.

Refine the triangular shape of its pointed head and detail the eyes, nose and ears. Note the location of the ears at the sides of its head. Remove excess clay to clearly define the arms and front of the legs. Shape the tail and keep the feet about 1 inch from the bottom to give the meerkat sculpture a base. Detail the nails on the arms and legs and remove more material near the base as the clay permits.

Use a wet sponge to give the sculpture a smooth surface and flowing lines. Blend your markings to make the sculpture look more lifelike.

Keep double-checking with the images to get the eyes looking focused. Create the characteristic meerkat expression in your final detailing.

Use a dry sponge and gently rub it on the clay to create a fur-like texture. Rub the sponge in the same direction the fur goes.

Wait for the clay to dry somewhat and remove the excess material around the base to finish your sculpture.