I’m back at school, working on the second year of a two year diploma program, and although I hadn’t originally intended to be a full time art student thinking about my “art future”, I do find myself in the odd place of doing just that.
At the beginning of the summer break, I asked myself what it would be like to put my “self” as the subject of a design brief, a planning document that could guide my work, my material investigations, my material practice. So I created an extensive document that laid out what might well be a life’s work; or at least work for the next several years.
I spent the summer launching myself into the project, and as I’m working on my coursework, I am attempting to both meet the criteria of the course requirements and the goal of my self-oriented design brief.
In the design brief, I ask the question: how can a person deliberately change the self, as if the self were a living sculpture that is open to, or vulnerable to, deliberate change. I lay out several categories that comprise a self: physical, emotional, psychological, political, environmental, familial, cultural, and spiritual. My intention and plan is to take unflinching look at my self as it manifests each of those areas, and while taking this unflinching look and possible unflinching responses to changes that I see I would like to make, I will document how I see and experience my changing self through writing, drawing, photography, and painting.
The pastel drawings I did this summer were the beginning of that, a way to keep myself focused on the project, but before I began in earnest.
The following pieces are a subset of what I am working on in the classes I am taking, first and second year college courses in which I’m still learning.
On October 1, I spent the morning at the studio at the college, where I prefer painting, especially with acrylics. I’m a pretty messy painter (well, I’m pretty messy at just about everything). Below is where I left off at the end of the session. Total hours = 5. So much further to go until I no longer look like a ghost.
and here are some photographs from the second ice melt session:
I’m excited to get to the video editing to see if the camera captured anything not captured by the camera or by my eyes.
This post closes off the summer of 2022, a time during which I spent making adjustments to my “self” and which culminated in learning that I had received a BC Arts Council scholarship, an award that requires that I study art full time this coming academic year. This means that I will be entering new territories, both in terms of the challenges that my courses offer me and in terms of continuing to grow personally, the deeper I get into the third act. As a friend pointed out to me, I am a “free agent”, and free agency means, for me, being able to explore my humanity as deeply as my imagination can take me. At this point in my life, this exploration is enabled through visual art and to a lesser extent, through writing.
I see this male figure as both arising from and sinking into a hot, melting landscape. The cool areas are an illusion. The creator is the destroyer.
I love the angularity of these legs.
In the writing I’ve been doing recently, I’ve been drilling down to identify my passions, and one of the things that I’m exploring is a love of pattern. This fence is the first exploration of this.
This particular drawing has several layers as I kept trying to get to where I thought I was going; I never quite got there, and I’m dissatisfied with where it sits at this point. I’m going to let it sit for a while, and get back to it after a few days of hanging it on the line where I can look at it casually from time to time.
A few years ago I made a Barbie tree from a basic wire structure. I added some dolls that I had partially painted with green and orange paint, and who had pieces of broken mirror glued to their body parts. I think this may have been my attempt to deal with body dysmorphia. I’m not sure if I actually have body dysmorphia, but I have a limited ability to know what I look like, probably related to something I know I “have”, which is prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize others by their facial features…unless I know them really well. Even then, if someone I know really well dyes their hair, or shows up where I’ve never seen them before, I just might not recognize them until I hear their voice.
Anyway, a few years ago I made a Barbie tree, and it has been sitting on a high shelf in my apartment, gathering dust. I never look at it. In fact, it scares me a bit, with all its broken mirror bits.
Also, I find that people who see this tend to feel sorry for me; but I just find this funny, so maybe there is something off about my sense of humour. Well, I don’t really care, but I don’t need to keep this any more.
And I really don’t like Barbie dolls. As you can see.
Today I decided to dismantle it. I did this in the kitchen, as you can also see.
I also decided to record the dismantling, and put it here, because really this is my only diary to speak of, and I guess I’ll continue to keep this diary until…I can no longer write or do art or take photographs.
I’m taking a drawing course through the Banff Centre this spring, a course which focuses on drawing with pencils, something I avoided doing in my college drawing classes by always opting for charcoal. But, I felt that I wanted to dedicate some time to drawing with graphite, and this course popped up in my FB feed. We are drawing eggs. Day 1, I drew one egg. Day 2, two eggs, and so on. These are the four eggs I drew on day four. I’m not getting better at drawing eggs yet, but the great thing about drawing is that I can SEE what I am doing better or not doing better. Doing something “better” doesn’t necessarily result in a better drawing, though.
Trying to draw self-portraits seems to be important to me. I’ve never known what I look like, so drawing focuses my attention on the details that I can’t see on my own. I sit at my easel and look into a mirror propped up to the right, so it feels as if I’m always looking back at myself. I don’t feel as haunted as these self-portraits suggest. I like looking back at self-portraits I tried when I first started art school, and will continue to do self-portraits from time to time as a way to gauge what is important to me at any given time.
There’s something else I like about drawing real people, including but not limited to my self. When I take a photograph of someone, a photograph of my self, I have captured the image at a particular point in time. The picture is taken, and then it is over. When I draw myself, I do this over an extended period of time, making observations of my face, which may be affected in microcosmic ways by what I may be thinking about throughout the drawing process, so I feel as if, unlike a photograph, a drawing is a reflection of the changes that can impact a face over the time of the sitting.
Different micro expressions show up in different parts of the face at different times. So the drawing of a face is a composite of those expressions over the time that the face was observed, not a “moment in time” expression of a photograph. It might be interesting to animate a drawn portrait.
After sitting with the self-portrait #13 for a day, I made some changes, reflected below. It still doesn’t really look like me, but I’m keeping both up here so I have a record on my blog, and a reminder not to jump the gun, so to speak, but to let things settle in for a while before I declare them finished. In the next iteration, I fixed the jaw line; toned down the ear by making it smaller and lighter; added some light blue in the background; darkened the sweater collar and shoulders.
Next, I want to try a self-portrait using only shades of blue. And in the next version, I’ll work on getting the eyes smaller and farther apart.
I have a number of “projects” that I’m working on, or planned, for the next few months. Right now, while I’m gearing up for the other things I am doing, I’m focusing on drawing with pastels. I also have a small air-dry clay sculpture on the go, but I have ordered a back-iron, a contraption that will help me to make sculptures without having them collapse from the weight.
In my last blog post I included an earlier version of this drawing, not realizing that it wasn’t complete.
I find it impossible to draw anything that does not include some sort of comment on how humans inhabit a dying planet. I am astounded by and curious about my own willingness to continue to turn over my van’s engine, to turn up the heat in my apartment, to run water from a tap. My own contradictions bother me and I try to turn my face away from the contradictions of others, at least until I can get my own under control.
I haven’t posted anything on this blog for a few months because I’ve been busy, but here are some photographs of some of the work I did in school and out of school since February. My focus this semester was ceramics and drawing, and I’m trying to use materials that are as natural as possible. My question is: how do I make things while at the same time thinking that there are enough things in the world already? I liked working with clay because that’s like working with the earth: some people love gardening, and I love getting my hands into the clay. I didn’t think I would. And what do I draw? I tried to draw with charcoal and pastel, avoiding plastics. Do we need more plastic? No. And I tried to draw things that I am concerned about: the impacts of climate change on water, air, animals (including people).
The series of ceramics sculptures entitled Open 1, Open 2, Open 3, and Open 3.2 (immediately below) are pieces through which I was trying to express the ways in which my relationships nurture me. I used a different glaze for each of the pieces, and tried two different firing processes, Raku and Cone 10.
This next series of drawings have been embarked upon since school ended in early April. My relationship with colour in my drawings has been tentative, so my first project for the intersession is to push myself into adding colour to drawings, while also staying with the theme of environmental degradation.
I’ve been experimenting with rawhide for the past couple of weeks, but took a break for four days, more or less, over Christmas. I bought some pieces of rawhide “seconds”, and had wanted to see how they would look wrapped around some wires, so I constructed a few wire armatures and started wrapped the hydrated rawhide around the wires. I tried sewing some pieces together while wet, but that proved to be difficult, so I bought a leather punch, which made things much easier.
However, I also made a couple of pieces without any rawhide, and they are much cleaner to look at.
Here are some photographs of five different wire sculptures, three with rawhide and two without.
And, finally, some photographs of cloth (painting tarp, actually)
I realize that I’ve been silent for the past month, and that is because I didn’t really have much that is shareable. I’ve finished my courses for the fall semester, and am moving into Christmas break. Here are a few images of what I’ve been working on.
Here are a few photographs I took with my cell phone camera. I seem to be attracted to photographing these monochromatic scenes, where grey disappears into grey. I love this type of weather, this type of light.
Book binding and poetry
Finally, I’m teaching myself some basic bookbinding techniques, including Japanese bookbinding. I have a basic plan to make a small book with two of my own poems in it, and I’m thinking of making the pages out of watercolour paper and then typing the poems and printing them out on high quality computer paper; I’ll attach the poems to the watercolour paper and draw/paint small watercolour illustrations around the poems, and bind it all together with a Japanese binding technique.
Here is a link to one of the videos I’ve watched. I think this technique looks repeatable, and I plan to use it for this first small book. I haven’t yet decided on a cover.
As I frequently do, I’ll start with the music. Jerusalem in my Heart is a group out of Montreal. Just when I think I’ve found the music that I love the most, I come across something that bumps it out of the way. “that’s the sound I’ve been looking for”, I think to myself, when the new music arrives. And I live, breathe, obsess about the new music until something else arrives out of nowhere.
Here is a link to Jerusalem in my Heart, including a whole bunch of information about the group, and some music samples.
After spending another few hours in the photography studio photographing the entities again, but this time in groupings of two, three, or four (or more), a process during which I became more intimate with each of their personalities, I came away with a concept that will, in a large format that I won’t share here (yet) include the wooden figures I made last year, the white skeletal entities I made in the summer, and the current figures that I’m working on and sharing here now. As part of this concept where I’m starting to see how the figures are “related”, I decided it was time to make a baby. Here is the first baby, and it is called “Before I Was Born”; it’s not really supposed to be me, but that’s the title that popped into my head, so there you go.
I also finished Cat Body since my last post. Baby Body (before I was born) and Cat Body, as well as being part of the larger work I creating, are also part of my assignment for 3D design and integrated studies at the college.
Here is Cat Body.
Entities in studio for second photoshoot
I have the studio booked again for photoshoots on November 9 and 10. Each time I go into the studio I’m adding the new entities and learning more about their interrelationships.
It takes a really long time to upload each photograph to WP, so I’m only including a small handful of the 200 or so that I took last week. Also, most of them are kind of crappy, so I’ll try to include only those that I think capture some of what I’m trying to express. I have annotated the photographs, as all the entities are “named” now, and it will provide a sense of the narrative.
But first…some music. Try Dorothy Ashby. In my musical explorations, I came upon the harp playing of Mary Lattimore (contemporary American harpist), which took me to a BBC radio show (available on the BBC app called BBC Sounds) called Late Junction, hosted by Verity Sharp. In the 29 October podcast is a Mary Lattimore mixtape, introduced by Mary Lattimore, and featuring a number of harpists who influenced her own development as a harpist. The mixtape features harp greats like Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, the latter of whom was active in the 50s and 60s playing “afro harp”, and “jazz harp”…
If you don’t really like harp, the playing of Dorothy Ashby or Mary Lattimore or Alice Coltrane may change your mind.
Here is a link to Dorothy Ashby on the album “Hip Harp”, from 1958.
And here is Alice Coltrane in a late career harp solo:
And here is a link to Mary Lattimore’s 2016 album called “The Withdrawing Room”. I chose to include this one instead of her more recent “Silver Ladders” because I’m more familiar with it, and I love the atmosphere it creates – I listen to this while in my studio. Beautiful.
Continuing on the theme of “body”
Gourd Project update
Here is a reminder of the process I’m following to dry the gourds.
I am not a musician, nor do I have any experience as a luthier. But I love sound. Right now as I write this post I’m listening to Mary Lattimore’s album The Withdrawing Room. Here is the link again, just in case I can tempt you.
The word “desiderium” means “desire, characterized by grief, because the desire can never be met”.
This tableau that I pulled together out of various elements is meant to represent the entities surrounding a person in their last hours. The first photograph, which tries to capture everything, is a fail, so I’ve added a number of other photographs to focus on some of the individual elements. The shell hanging in the middle is a pendulum and the small book covered in cellophane is a book of poems called “Loveletting”, in which each of five poems is an attempt at loveletting, a word based on the concept of bloodletting. A band called Sons of an Illustrious Father has a song called “Loveletting” (lyrics here: https://www.musixmatch.com/lyrics/Sons-of-an-Illustrious-Father/Loveletting), and here is a YouTube video of the song by the actual band (sound, no visuals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duOKZHs7-LY), but other than that I could not find it mentioned anywhere on the big bad interwebs. I used the word and then later found the song by Sons of an Illustrious Father.
Here is the music, sort of. I love Laurie Anderson, and I love the idea of making my own instrument, something that has no preexisting rules for how to play it, and something that is not necessarily tuned to any currently used scale. I’m not sure if that is possible. But I’m going to try.
Catastrophic Water Event
This is a short post this week, in part because I’ve had problems with the plumbing in my condo, with plumbers, ServiceMaster folk, and building management traipsing around in here. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that my life has been disrupted and I’ve not been feeling that great. Mostly I’m riddled with worry.
This skateboarder is part of an assignment in the sculpture class, as is the following piece that I worked on while the plumbing was making life horrible. Generally speaking, I love working on long-term projects, ones that I have to put together piece by piece over a long period of time. However, I also need smaller projects to work on at the same time, so that I get some feeling of accomplishment along the way. This is why I have the two projects running side by side, and then of course the lyre-making project, which makes it three projects.
All life really wants is to live. A convenient metaphor right now is to think of the breath of life as a virus occupying our bodies until our bodies give out.
So, the skateboarder and the small sculptures I’m making here are both part of my sculpture class. I have proposed to make a life-sized skateboarder, using my grandson as my primary model, and 100 “entities”, these small sculptures made of air-drying clay. 100 is an arbitrarily chosen number, but I chose it because I consider myself to be a slow learner, and I’m hoping that by the time I get to the 100th entity, it might actually be pretty good. Also, when you do multiples of things like this, set a goal of 100, that gives room for what I do and how I do it to change and evolve, which may be the same as saying that I might get better. Ideas beget ideas. It’s addictive.
Making a lyre is a longer term project that is not necessarily attached to any course I’m taking, or going to take. I introduced the project in an earlier post, and have since managed to find some squashes to turn into gourds to turn into lyres.
Next steps for lyre making:
find skin for covering
design a “harp” structure to be placed over the skin which is covering the hollowed out half-gourd. The process I’m following for making the harp is described in an earlier post, and while that maker cut out and shaped pieces of wood for his lyre, I’m going to look into other possible materials to use for the harp part of the lyre, and because I love working with figures so much, I’m going to see if I can make the harp structure look like figures instead of just pieces of wood.
I made two more entities this week. They each have a set of wings, although it’s difficult to see them in these pictures. More to come.
Last year I saw some art that used sausage casing…hmmm…I can’t recall who the artist was, so I’ll have to look that up and update this post later, if I can find her.
I want to use sausage casing for the wings on this second entity, so before diving in, I did a test.
I then cut off a piece of sausage casing from one of the strings of casing, dipped it in water, and wrapped the casing around part of the wire, to see what would happen.
The casing immediately became very difficult to handle as the water made it very slippery. Next time, a bit less water before wrapping it around the wire, and maybe use tweezers to handle the wet casing.
Entities on a Window Sill
I’ve found a couple of squashes to turn into gourds, and one, or both of them, will become a lyre. I also have a set of eight strings ready. This project will likely take me a year or longer. Updates kept here.
Well, I gave it a body and a HEAD! Oh my gosh, his head is awful.
The scarf has been painted, but I still have a few more details to add on the scarf, and I need to remove the paint containers and paint the rest of the base.
At this point I’m starting to get excited about putting on the finishing touches and looking at the whole ridiculousness of what I’ve created.
And, and, and…
Art School stuff:
one of the courses I am taking (I am taking two) is called Creative Processes. The first assignment is to make an assemblage.
I had an assignment which I documented elsewhere (in an actual physical process book, and on my school blog), so I won’t include all the process documentation here. But here are some photographs I took along the way.
My Modern Met, from June 9, 2017, has a full article with photographs of wire sculptures. I’d like to get to the point where I can work JUST in wire, and have it look good. For now, though, I’ll continue on the current trajectory until I’ve learned everything that I want to learn.
I can’t include the link to the Met here, because the Met doesn’t seem to allow itself to be linked to (?).
Last year I thought I’d like to try to make a lyre. I found a great website describing how to do so, and I put the idea aside until this fall, when I’d be able to find some gourds at the market.
I don’t actually have much new to add this week. I started school AND I was really tired so I took too many naps.
But, I did “finish” the cowpoke, and here are some photographs of the cowpoke, and then some with the cowpoke and opera singer.
I modelled the hat on a stetson that I saw on the Stetson webpage. I like how I managed to keep the ears sticking out of the hat. Everything is really rough, lots of cracks, uneven coloration. I’m torn between thinking its not good enough and thinking that I love the imperfections, that anyone playing with this cowpoke will not only be in relationship with the “toy”, but also will be aware that there was a “maker”, also with imperfections.
I have a thing about “perfect” toys, mass produced or not.
DIGRESSION in which I received the following TM:
BACK TO THE MAIN STORY:
ART SCHOOL STUFF:
So, I went to my first class in FIN 140 this past week; our first assignment is an assemblage. Here is what I have done so far to get ready. We are to gather up 4 – 5 non-precious objects, do an object analysis, and then bring them to class with various connecting devices such as string, tape, glue.
(I’m taking two classes this fall, and I suspect there may be some competition between what I WANT to do and what I HAVE to do for my assignments. Lots of naps.)
And then, because I was into taking photographs of the doll, I kept going…
Okay, enough with the doll already. But I’m putting these pictures in here to remind myself (if I ever read this again) that I tend to get carried away with figures, especially human (doll) figures. Because yeah, I had a lot of fun on Friday night taking those photos.
Because I have quite a bit of human hair, and because I’m currently working on model figures, some of which have hair, I’ve been curious about how to best add the hair to the figures. Last week I made the opera singer, who has long grey hair, but I just fumbled around with attaching hair to their head. I thought it might be a good idea to find out a better way (better ways?) to work with hair. The following video is a start in that direction. It actually looks really easy.
I returned to an earlier painting I had been working on, but which got covered by a black cloth and so I forgot about it. Much of this week has been about returning again and again to this painting, adding layer after layer. It started out as a charcoal and pastel drawing, but morphed into an acrylic painting. 16 x 22. The last time I posted it, it looked like this:
Opera Singer With a Cowboy (and a horse)
The other thing I’ve been working on is the Opera Singer With a Cowboy. Here are some progress shots.
When I resumed work on the above drawing/painting, I found another drawing beneath it, so I started to add to this one, too.
Last spring, Angela suggest that I try videotaping myself while I am making something. Talk out loud, Anne, she said, while you are in your process, and record that too. The following two videos are attempts at doing that.
The original sculpture was created by P.J. Mene, and if this is an original Mene, I should be able to find his name on the right of the base. I can’t find his name, but I can see the first word of the title, which is Djinn.The full title of the piece is Djinn, Etalon Barbe and I think I can barely see the rest of the title.
Here is a photograph of an “original”, in excellent condition. My sculpture is missing the fence (broken off many years ago when I was a child, maybe even by me?).
making a horse
Before I could start making a horse, I needed to understand both the proportions of a horse, and the relative proportions of the horse I wanted to make compared to the figure that the horse is intended to accompany (the cowpoke).
Using the proportions illustrated in the diagram above, I drew the following on a piece of scrap newsprint.
Using a diagram of a horse skeleton that is approximately the same size as the drawing, I started to bend some wire for the horse armature. I plan to make the skeleton armature as complete as possible, so will not finish this week.
No apple music? Try listening to this one track from the album, available on YouTube.
Liked that one? Try this:
In this quick video, another fast motion, I’m securing the legs to the edge of the dress with clay, then adding a ridge of clay along the bottom edge of the dress. While working, I decide to fatten the legs with the addition of aluminum foil. I hadn’t been thinking about that until this stage.
Back to the cowboy, now…
How do I get better working with the medium, yet maintain the “rough” look?
…some of the questions I ask myself while I am making relate to the struggle between process and product…
I find myself getting impatient to finish, and not only to finish, but to move on to the next piece.
Because there is a next piece, a new armature, waiting to be filled out. I create the armature for the next piece because I am “afraid” that if I don’t have something waiting for me to do, I’ll not do anything at all, I’ll lose the drive, I’ll lose the ideas, the creativity.
But by having the next thing to do on deck, I’m also in a constant state of excitement about moving on to that next thing, to see “what will happen next”, and of course to continue to build the cast of strange characters that is populating my apartment, and giving me amusing things to look at.
So, what’s this “amusing things to look at” about? Each piece I make is imbued somehow with the intentions I had for the piece, the process I engaged in to make the piece, the challenges and decisions I made about the piece, the thoughts I had about the characters and their personalities as I made them, and an excitement about how the most recent piece would “fit in” with the existing pieces. When I look at each piece, I can see the story of that piece.
I can’t overstate the depth of curiosity I feel about the growing field of characters that are filling up the upper reaches of my living space, and I imagine them moving around, dancing and talking to one another, coming alive. I find those imaginings to be entertaining, and I get a lot of pleasure from knowing that I have created those creatures who cavort, either while I am watching them, or just on their own without me.
I have a sense that I am not finished making these pieces, some more human than not, and some more not human, but imbued with human motivations yet not constrained by the mainstream of society…because of course they don’t won’t “fit in”, and so they’re free to be the goofy strange beings that they are. Lucky them.
Too much writing.
The opera singer is sitting behind me, the cowboy is on the table beside me. They would like me to write them an opera (libretto), and all the other characters need their lines, too.
How the heck do I do that? Write a libretto. Sheesh.
I pulled an old drawing out of the pile of old drawings that I don’t like and started to add some colour to it. There is no date on the drawing, and no photograph in my files, which means I must have not seen any possibilities inherent in the drawing. Yet I tossed it on a table, and pulled it out and started adding to it. I still “don’t like” it, but have learned that me not liking something is a mostly meaningless response.
In this light, the charcoal looks a bit purple, but it’s just regular charcoal. Maybe the green does that, too.
And I worked on a sculpture, adding some colour to its “wing-hands”; wanted to photograph the sculpture, and the only place that seemed like a good place to photograph it was on the extended arm-ature of The Sensate, the central piece from The Procession, which itself is a work in progress.
Adding this new piece to The Sensate redefined the piece, and it now represents time, and so together, the piece is called Sensate Reaches Out to Time…it looks like time is escaping.
Even more returns…
I can’t help but take photographs of the figures hanging out in the windows. They look different every time I look at them in different lighting conditions.
Here are a few photographs of existing figures in the studio, seen in new light.
Today’s inspirational artist is Luo Li Rong. This link takes you to her Instagram page.
Today’s music. This YouTube video is my go-to whenever I need inspiration to take me into the depths of my own emotions. Etta James’ timing, the backup group’s ability to go where she takes them, the way her emotional depth is revealed as she sings…yes, I watch this piece frequently enough. Her soul revealed during eight minutes of raw emotion, and likely fueled by heroin.
(I think that the version I used to watch on YouTube has been taken down and replaced by this version, edited to remove some of her “vocal digressions”. This version is still good, but quite heavily edited, maybe several minutes shorter than the one I used to watch, and includes an ad 3/4 of the way through.
It’s one of my dreams to be able to make a sculpture of Etta James as she looks in this video, her expressive face, her eyes.
I’m calling this post “Aria” because I’m trying to make an opera singer. Eventually I’d like to make a sculpture of Etta James, so this piece is a start towards that, a kind of skill-building exercise working towards making her. I still have a long way to go, and may never get there skill-wise, but I’ll get somewhere different from where I started.
I’m not exactly sure about the relationship between the singer and the cowboy, but it may become clear to me as I work on each.
…and to put me in the mood (for the cowboy)…I just have to say, I loved living in Alberta…
I didn’t listen to much music while in the woods, but just before I left, I was listening to Maria Teriaeva. Here’s a link to some of her stuff on Soundcloud.
As I write this, I’m listening to a number entitled Paris Texas.
I read somewhere that there’s a lantern making event in the Comox Valley, so I decide that my next figure will be “lantern-like”. I don’t have a plan for the figure other than to get away from making legs and try a different type of armature.
Inspirational artist of the week:
Sophie Kahn. My friend Elaine Smith (elainesspace.com) sent me a link to Sophie Kahn’s work. I am especially enamoured of the “externalized” armatures. Well, that’s what they look like to me.
As I work on this part of this post, I’m listening to Vivaldi’s Gloria. Choral music can put me into a state of deep concentration and frequently feelings of love and tenderness. If I am listening to certain kinds of music while working on a sculpture, it seems to help me connect to the humanness of the piece I’m working on. I think that is why I like working with the human figure.
This music, written to the Glory of God, when I hear it, reaches from the thorax of the human singer(s) and connects directly to my own breathing, and I feel as if I am truly living, that I am part of the human condition, such as it is. Here is the link to Apple Music, the best $100/year that I’ve spent. Parts of this can also be found on YouTube.
I was looking at photographs of other sculptor’s sculptures and was reminded that sometimes an external armature, in the form of an object or another figure, is used.
I always save the heads for the last because it takes a long time to get the skull just the way I want it, and of course the facial expression is crucial to what the piece is saying. I’ve experienced making a facial expression that is not what I had intended, and it completely changes my intentions for the piece. That seems to be okay, so far. In fact, it’s better than okay, because it helps me to see how a different facial expression can change the understanding of the body language. It also feeds my need for almost constant movement or change.
The thing about plastilina is that it isn’t really a “terminal” medium. As I understand it, plastilina figures are generally created in order to make molds with them, and those molds used as casts and the final figures made from any one of a number of different media…hydrocal, concrete, bronze…that seems beyond my scope at this time, as the preparation of those materials is messy and not accessible to me in my apartment/studio with a mere kitchen sink.
Plastilina is an oil-based clay which never dries. It maintains its form, but does not dry out, and I could at any time decide to dismantle the piece and use the clay for something else. That’s part of what makes it a good medium for creating molds and casts.
I imagine many sculptors who work in plastilina have many sculptures in the medium which never get off the shelf and made into molds and casts.
While I’m on the subject of molding and casting, I watched a short video in FIN 100 in which the bronze casting process was shown from start to finish. It was a technical video, a basic figure was created, a mold made, and a cast filled with bronze and then the mold removed to reveal the bronze statue…despite the technicality of the video, I found myself weeping as I watched the process. And I’m a little bit teary right now as I write about this, and I’m not sure if that’s because of the Vivaldi playing in the background or because of the memory of the emotional reaction I had to the video. The reason I record it here in my “notes to self” blog is to capture that experience for myself, to remind myself that there is something important about the act of sculpting to me. And, I’ll add now, the relationship of sculpting to music.
I’m attracted to the large size of this work, the larger than life-ness of the figures, and the scoring on the bodies. There seems to be attention to the correctness of form, but without the need for the surface of the forms to be smooth and perfect. In literature (especially in poetry), we talk about form and content and to what extent and how form and content speak to one another, and how then, to understand the poem.
When I look at some of the photographs a the above linked page and see the armatures, I get a little bit jealous, but also excited to see “how it is done”. I seem to have a deep attraction to armatures, and I even love the word…although six months ago it was not part of my vocabulary, but merely waiting in behind my awareness to become part of my life. I even recall the first time Angela said the word “armature” in a class, and I thought, “what’s that?, I want that, whatever it is, just because of the sound of the word”.
But, that’s enough writing. Am I right?
One last thing. This morning on FB one of my friends posted the following article, one I’ve come across a few times over the past several years, but every time I read it, I learn something new, or it resonates in a different way. I’m putting it here in my “notes to self” blog because I want to keep it closer to me.
It’s about creativity and the concentration required for creativity. This speaks to me now because I spend most of my days in deep concentration while I work on my stuff. Somehow it seems important. There are, of course, references to Mary Oliver, that brilliant poet and essayist.
Today’s music is The Beatles…any Beatles. Right at this very moment as I write this, I’m listening to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and singing along. I recall, at 13, walking around my home town with that album tucked under my arm, looking for anyone with a record player who might want to listen to the album with me. I could have listened to the album at home on my own record player, but it seemed important to also broadcast to my friends that I actually had this album.
And today’s artist (a new feature on my artist blog, which I mostly think of as a “notes to self” place) is Simon Bacon. You can see his work here. If you are reading this, please look, and you will see an example of the type of work that I love and that inspires me. Specifically, I saw a photograph of his sculpture entitled “Adam and Eve” on a sculpture page on Instagram, which took me to his website. So, “Adam and Eve” was the sculpture that I was initially drawn to.
And my own small things that I’ve been working on over the past week are here. These are smallish, about 8 inches or so, and made from aluminum armature covered with La Doll air-dry stone clay. So far I’ve avoided painting the sculptures I’ve made with armature and clay, but I imagined these new ones as “test pieces”, which frees me up to mess around. Of course everything is always a test piece. Or, as I learned this past year in art school, a maquette. I love maquettes. Here are some maquettes.
I’m liking making things that can hang. That might be because I have very few surfaces left in my apartment, but a whole lot of empty space over my head…
The next few shots are of Copper Dog (stone clay on wire armature, painted with copper paint) in a variety of lighting conditions. Copper Dog is my second attempt at a dog, as I’m trying to make familiar things as I work through my “apprenticeship”. The armature for copper dog was complex and more detailed than the armature for the first dog I made. Now the question is, did I photograph the armature before I started working with it?
Today I’m listening to my own Apple play list entitled Feels, a compilation of musical pieces that appeal to me from many different genres. On shuffle, I never know what will come up next, but whatever comes up has some emotional association for me from some part of my life.
Here is a link to the playlist…I’m not sure if this will work if you don’t have Apple Music but happy to hear from you if you can access or not.
When I listen to Julianna Barwick, I am transported to the place where I can focus closely.
Today I focussed on creating a more robust figure. So far, my figures have been skeletal, and intentionally so, as I worked on trying to understand the skeleton. But I wanted to have more flesh, so my goal with this final figure is to create one with some fat and muscle over the skeleton.
Tomorrow morning, July 23, will be the final few hours in the studio before I tidy everything up and head back into my home studio.
I found this paperclay in a thrift store, and today I tried to add moisture to it, to see if I could make it usable:
The paperclay turned into a bit of a porridge, so I covered the kneeling figure in blue shoes with the mush to see what she would look like. I guess she looks okay still.
Then I moved on to the Plastilina; this block has been sitting in the studio since I got here on July 5, and I’ve been working through the elements of the procession . I’ve been dreading working with it, because I thought it would be hard…and anyway, it’s plastic, so not the best thing to work with.
The studio time this July has been great for experimenting with new things. In addition to finishing the pieces from Procession, I got to try out using three different types of modelling clay: the Das, the Premier/La Doll, and now the Plastinina.
I have three more days in the studio, and on the third of those days I’ll be packing up and closing the door behind me (and going kayaking and biking and camping for the rest of the summer until I start school again in September). So, I’ll spend Wednesday and Thursday with the Plastilina.
Here is a photograph of what I had completed by the end of Friday, July 16. I’ve narrowed down the “players” to the six figures on trolleys, six on the stage, five chorus members, the kneeling figure, the reclining figure in red boots, and three figures who will be holding up the reclining figure in red boots. Also, the winged standing figure.
Monday morning visit from Lola, my product tester.
My last day here will be July 23. Next Friday. I’ve been treating my time in the studio like a job, keeping more or less regular part time hours from Monday to Friday. Working away from my home studio is a different experience of making, as I didn’t bring everything with me, and at home I’m inclined to spend a minute or two on a particular activity on my way through the studio, which is in the middle of my living space. So while I miss the ability to make small random additions, I do like not living in the middle of everything I’m working on.
Here is where I got to by the end of today, the 14th…
I still need to work not only on the main project, but also on side things, just to keep my brain from fixating on one thing.
Today’s music, On the Nature of Thingness, by the International Contemporary Ensemble. Especially, but not only, the number entitled “Mobius”.
This music got me thinking about the Jack-in-the-box toy, and I began to do a bit of research about jack-in-the-box mechanisms, which are available out of China for ~$1.00 each, but with a minimum order of 100.
Here are a couple of short articles about The Nature of Thingness. The second article includes a link to a short vimeo showing one of the “machines” used by Phyllis Chen.