“My Imaginary Friend”, an opera singer, a cowpoke, a horse, and a conflict…

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:

Figure with container next to it.
After another layer, it looked like this.

In this iteration, I addressed the container on the right, starting to give it more definition again.
The container on the right turns into an entity.
I want to return to this piece and enhance the lime green of the figure on the left.

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.

I have a lot yet to do on both figures, but especially the cowboy: hat, belt buckle, maybe some chaps? But definitely the cowboy needs a horse.

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 Disagreement”. While working on this piece, I was thinking about the differences in perspective between those who object to getting the covid vaccine, and those who have been vaccinated. It seems to be a conflict between emotional and logical arguments, and I can’t see how this can be resolved without coercion.

Research horses

I’ve had this sculpture since leaving home; given to me by my mother as I left home, as apparently I was the only one of the family who actually liked it. I’ve been dragging it around…no, actually, I love this horse very much. Today I decided to try to figure out (again) its provenance.

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.

The first word of the title, Djinn, is barely visible. But this is not an indication of the validity of this piece; Mene’s casts were also used in Russia, and Russian casts often include a Cyrillic inscription. I can’t find any Cyrillic inscription on this piece.

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?).

Menagerie.

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.

Lola with Unicorn Rainbow Juice (hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles)

Resumption after a break…to be a bit lazy

Today’s music is the album Bismillah (translates as “in the name of allah, spoken before any undertaking), by Peter Cat Recording Co.. Here’s a link to the album on Apple music.

https://music.apple.com/ca/album/bismillah/1509634619

No apple music? Try listening to this one track from the album, available on YouTube.

Liked that one? Try this:

The singer needs legs, so using canon of proportions to decide how long they need to be…roughly. Also pictured is the so far headless cowboy and the armature for a skipping as yet undefined figure. Lying beneath is sculpture #1, a reminder of what needed to change. Poor dear.
These legs seem right.
My new smartphone holder for making videos…if only I could find a pink skateboard & a Malibu beach tshirt.
Set up with blueberry jam in background
Sound on test of new video setup. (With broken weird glasses found in a ditch)
In this 28 second fast motion video, I’m preparing the legs by attaching them to the interior armature, covering them with smaller gauge wire to ready them for clay addition, and glueing them to frame. While doing this prep, I decided to have a seated singer, mostly because I didn’t want to have to solve the problem of an external armature/support. You can see that my cat is visiting me while I’m working, which I think attests to my concentration and emission of alpha waves…is that what cats love to bathe in?

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.

Adding aluminum foil. I know I used the word “fatten”, but really, those legs are damned skinny…
Legs…and a tongue!
A yard sale find…several baggies of real human hair…the grey seems suitable for this figure.
Refreshed eyes and tongue. The bright pink settled down into something more tongue-like by the next morning.

The bright green backdrop is part of the tripod kit I bought. The folds, I am told by the accompanying literature, will go away in time, and I’m not to iron them out (probably because the heat of the iron will melt the fabric). So, I’ve hung the fabric on the line where I hang the awaiting armatures, and will see how long it takes for the folds to disappear.
Anyway, the green is not meant to be a permanent backdrop, but merely a place holder so that I can edit the photos or videos that I make with the green backdrop by a background of my making or choosing.
So…the next step, is it to find editing software that I can work with, change the background, create “sets”, write the libretto for the opera, engaging all the characters in some kind of “processional”…because, yes, I’m thinking that the original wooden characters from FIN 131 are not only the inspiration for these current characters (who will likely be the inspiration for another cast of characters made with something else as I move forward), but also function as the prototypes within the opera that I write for them. Now, there’s a big statement…someone who understands very little about music is going to write an opera…hmmmm.

The gauntlet has been tossed on the ground…

Back to the cowboy, now…

Notes to self: This cowboy has animal ears. I think I added ears because I was too impatient to take the time to make a proportionate human head; it’s “easier” to create a fantastical creature because I don’t have to really pay attention to proportions, or getting something right. I seem to be more focused on making something a little bit strange looking, rather than making something “right”. Is this a fault? “Should” I be trying for perfection? I think this habit is in part related to lack of skill, but also related to lack of knowledge about how to work with the media I’m working with. How can I make things look better…for example, how do I get rid of or cover the cracks with this medium that dries so quickly? Could I be putting a coating of some other medium over the clay before I paint? Should I have a clearer sense of the outcome I am seeking, and work diligently towards that outcome, instead of letting myself go with what occurs to me as I’m working? For instance, I had intended and visualized a human cowboy, but as I was working with the head, I allowed myself to be distracted by a non-human head that was forming in my hands. Should I push against that tendency and guide my hands back to making a human head?

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.

More Returns

But first, today’s suggested music. I’ve listened to Einaudi quite a bit, and these two numbers are a bit of a departure for him. I like where he is going in his musical journey.

https://music.apple.com/ca/album/reimagined-chapter-1-volume-1-single/1575831066

Two returns of note.

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.

I can’t recall my original intention for this drawing other than I love working with charcoal and I might have wanted to depict an ethereality between the figure on the left and the pithos on the right.
I’m not overly fond of green, so I often use it when working on something I am struggling with.

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.

Here’s an older picture of The Sensate (nee The Watcher)
“Time”
It’s terrible to try to photograph these things with so much visual noise around

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.

These two…I MUST take them outside for a photoshoot. I know they’d love that.
This one is up a little higher, so most shots make it look heroic.
These two cats get to hang out together.
A shot of the “left window” gang.
Early morning picture on my way to the bathroom. I had to stop to take photographs as they were calling out to me to notice them, their silhouettes.
These two are always on about something, chattering away to one another.
Sunrise pushes through the shutter slats and changes the drawing on the easel.
Sunrise shadows.
More shadow play

Today’s inspirational artist is Luo Li Rong. This link takes you to her Instagram page.

https://instagram.com/luo_li_rong_art?utm_medium=copy_link

Research

the carnyx

carnyx.org.uk/mouthpiece-of-the-gods

Boudicca

https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/Boudica/

Aria

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.

This is where I started with the singer, as I attempted to break away from the two arms/two legs armature.
I didn’t like the tissue paper results, so I tore it all off.
I also removed its head when I draped plaster bandage around its body.
…and started another series of five armatures destined to “hang”. At this point I envision that they will be black.

The singer’s arms and neck have been created with La Doll clay; her head will also be sculpted from clay.
the figure on the right has now morphed into a cowpoke, complete with a lasso, and…
…complete with spurs…
The singer is covered with slip. And has a head.

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…

Research

Getting familiar with cowboy hats:

https://www.vectorstock.com/royalty-free-vectors/cowboy-hat-drawing-vectors

Belt buckles

https://www.bootbarn.com/mens/accessories/mens-belt-buckles/

Spurs

Camping projects

But first, the music link.

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 brought this one with me on the south Vancouver Island camping tour. This photo taken in Goldstream Park.
Armatures for human figure and dog
At this point I’m thinking that I don’t like the body language for this piece, especially the arms. But I know I’ll leave them like this and focus on the crossed legs and the “scarf”. Every piece feels like something I’m learning through. Eventually, I think, I’ll make something very beautiful.
From the back, this rounded bum will flatten as the figure sits on the picnic table (Juan de Fuca park, China Beach campground)
The dog gets a base. As I work on the piece, I start to “see” what needs to be added, subtracted, what’s wrong, and what’s right. I never let myself get distracted for very long by the imperfections. I just keep going because I’m curious to see what will happen next.
As I worked up the dog’s body, I could see (too late) that the body is WAAAAY too long. Still, I like the doggo. It’ll stay as is.

I imagine horns for the human figure, and I see that the neck is too short on the dog (not to mention all the other disproportions). But what can I do, I ask myself, to partially correct this disproportion, because I know it will bug me.
So, I decide to cut the lower wire of the dog’s neck and tilt dog’s head back.
At Heather campground, on the far (west) end of Lake Cowichan, the human figure gets wound wire hands and feet, and the antlers become more like feelers. You can barely see the faint teal wires joining the hands to the feet. Later, I’ll add some wound wire on the figure’s lap, with pieces joining one hand and one “horn”.
The dog gets a teal-coloured “aura”, to match the teal wiring around the human figure.
Here’s a better view of the dog’s right ear, which is slightly askew. Yes, proportions are all wrong, so I tell myself that this is a mixed breed dog, a rescue. Rescued from the depths of my imagination.

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.

At the end of each arm is a twisted wire “hand”. I chose black because that was in my travel kit.
The head gets black wire bits added to it; I’m thinking of an eventual spiky look for this piece. Black spikes, like coarse hairs or something vague like that.
Vertical wire reinforcements so that the figure doesn’t collapse when I finally decide how to finish it.
Elk on the main road through Youbou, early morning on the way back home. It’s smokey from all the fires to the south and the east of Vancouver Island.

Back home on the workbench, and the human figure gets some paint. Not content with this colour, so I wonder what will happen next.
The dog gets a coat of silver paint.
“Friends”
Both pieces arrive at a natural resting place. I can put them aside for now, watch them to see how they change in front of my eyes, listen to hear what they ask of me.
This is a favourite photo, as it shows the cracks, the silver that has been put in the cracks, and the mess of wire on the figure’s lap.
Really, my favourite place for these pieces, sitting on the wooden crates as silhouettes against the sky. This is where and when the wire lines do their best magic. I also prefer to have the dog facing away from the human figure so that they both face outward together.
I need to adjust the figure at far right as they were displaced by the wooden crate.
So. That feels better. The figure hanging in the upper right is a Barbie doll covered in plaster bandage with shards of broken mirror glued to her hands and her back (kind of like wings). She’s a remnant of 2015, I think, when I started with assemblage in the depths of the barn.
Ugh. I started to cover this figure with tissue paper, but didn’t like it, so pulled it all off again.
I found the figure “Time” hanging onto “Sensate”, and off in a corner out of the way. “Time” needed to be moved into the centre of things, so it was added over two other hanging figures.
“Sensate” has been relegated to a corner of the studio.
“Time” is just hanging around, now.

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.

https://www.sophiekahn.net/

Returning to an Earlier Project (some words about plastilina)

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.

https://music.apple.com/ca/album/vivaldi-gloria/695478701

This plastilina on coated aluminum armature kept leaning over from the weight of the plastilina, so I had to prop it up with a jar. I knew I had to find a solution to the falling over-ness.

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.

As I started working on this addition, I kept thinking about the many ways in which we “hold one another up”. There’s another expression I’ve heard, “walking each other home”, which isn’t quite applicable here, as the figures are not upright and walking. But I see the upper figure as trying to do something difficult, and the lower figure is there, helping. This would not be a permanent state of things. It is meant to represent the ways that we all hold one another up, both literally and figuratively. It is a beautiful thing to do, to “hold” another person. So much comes before that…seeing, recognizing, loving, respecting…and then this act of giving.
The lower figure still needs a lot of filling out work. But the position, I believe, is correct, even though I discern perhaps a little too much distance between the two figures, almost as if the lower figure is not close enough. But even as I say that, I think that the distance cannot be right or wrong, merely the distance that it is, which, like a metaphor in a poem, tells a part of the story between the upper twisted figure and the lower supporting figure. There may be another story in another sculpture.

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.

Here’s a great shot of the crack in the plastilina caused by the pressure of the figure having to maintain that position with no support. It is evident that I’m avoiding the details of hands for now, because I have not yet addressed the techniques of making good hands; and I avoid the details of feet by putting shoes on my figures. I think mittens might look odd, so I’m just leaving the hands plain, and thinking that the more I make hands, the more adventurous I might become over time. But I feel that I cannot prevent myself from making more pieces just because I can’t (or won’t?) do hands. Times winged chariot, and all that…and allusion chasers…here is the reference: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44688/to-his-coy-mistress

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.

Here is the “artist of the blog post” link.

https://www.christophecharbonnel.fr

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.

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/10/12/mary-oliver-upstream-creativity-power-time/?fbclid=IwAR2Ffq4RE9X-JAxE1Em1xgRxBTplKXXBtA6QtTmGrfdxVkxM3ISoEMITxkw

Small Things

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.

So. The Beatles. But would I want to be 13 again?

https://music.apple.com/ca/album/sgt-peppers-lonely-hearts-club-band-remix/1573250333

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.

https://www.simonbacon.com/

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.

this figure hangs just below another figure…a samurai made from twisted wires. And both of them are hanging from a massive globe/light fixture in my apartment.
Gold figure under wire samurai

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…

This cool cat with a skipping rope (stone clay and wire) is now living with someone else (riskily given away as a gift), so I need to guard these pictures. I loved it so much that I had to give it away…if that makes any sense.

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?

Copper Dog on my workbench, natural light.
Copper Dog in makeshift photobooth, natural lighting.
Copper Dog in new home, North Island (Caitlin Hartnett)
Cat occupying makeshift photobooth. She likes to be the centre of attention, so I think she must be a middle child.
This figure, another stone clay on aluminum armature, is a WIP. I’m using the green bowl to stabilize the wire orb while I work on the figure, doing some paint touchups with Micaceous Iron Oxide paint. I need to address its hands and revisit its feet, the latter of which are painted silver.Also…eyes… This figure will also hang somewhere in my apartment until I can find a home for it.

July 23 – move out day!

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.

https://music.apple.com/ca/playlist/feels/pl.u-Ymb09aRipKRpW

Here’s a quick time lapse video of my workspace as I prepare to pack things up. Yup. I learned how to use the time lapse feature. Not that difficult really.