New Mexican Sculptor

My photo
New Mexico, United States
I'm living in New Mexico where I sculpt and paint. After a long absence from art, I am now creating smaller bronze figures. This blog is mainly devoted to that work.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Moldmaking 101

By C. R. Larkin

Most small sculptures like this are done in a series, that means that copies need to be made. To get a good copy, you need a good mold. Many people do molds that degrade over a long period of time, or which they can get only one or two copies. I would like to make at least 15 in this series, perhaps 20, so I need a mold that I won't have any trouble with-- and that means spending the money now for better materials.

I have chosen to use a good RTV Silicon Rubber mold so that the “library life” is fairly long. I also need to choose my molding rubber on the basis of things like toxic fumes as I am working in a house, and also how pliable the rubber is. I will make a brush-on mold with an auth body putty (Bondo) mother mold. The alternative-- making a solid “block” would cost too much. As it is, I bought a gallon of the molding rubber, a regular tine based catalyst, and a thixotropic catalyst.

I begin this mold by taking the sculpture off its base, and lay on its side on a large base-board. I intentionally made the armature extremely rigid and tough, (remember the auto body putty in part 1?) and also used very hard plastaline. In the photo, you can see many of the things I will need for mold making, the most important of such is a decent gram scale. I got a small but accurate scale for about fifteen dollars.

My first step may surprise some people: I coat both sides with one layer of silicon rubber mold material, waiting first for one side to set, and then the other. This primary skin will pick up all surface details. I did this first because I did not want to risk any marks during the molding process. I must say that it is impossible not to have any mars at all. At certain points in the process, I will be able to buff out any imperfections. Here, you can see, one side is covered and I begin to create the foundation of the clay wall I will be using as a parting line.

Next: I continue to build the clay wall foundation and start inserting clay in the narrow cracks between the foundation and the body of the horse. I want as few things to actually touch the body of the horse as possible, so there is a lot of “floating” material.

Close up of how parting line will divide the body of the horse in front. I have decided to use a “Z” shape to catch all the legs so I won’t need to make more than a 2 part mold.

Continuing clay wall:

“Z” line crosses the belly. Front right, front left, cross belly, then hind right, hind left.

Over several days the mold is built up, including the parting line. When the rubber is 1/4th inch I further build up and stabilize with a cheese cloth layer.

Once I have enough mold rubber on the mold, I pour the mother mold, using another wall made of cardboard to keep the Bondo from sliding off. This takes an entire gallon can of Bondo.

When the Bondo has set, I then flip the mold to start on the other side. Here is the next side of the horse:

I carefully remove all the clay and pink insulation foam. And clean up things like “drips” which you can see now point upwards.

As you can see, the mold is no longer on the board, which lightens it a bit. It is parked in its mother mold now. I want to make sure the two halves of the parting line will not stick to each other, so I put a release layer ONLY on the parting line where the clay wall once was. When I add more rubber now, the rubber will stick to the horse, but not to the parting line. This is the final preparation step before starting the next side of the mold.

I must wait over night for it to cure to make absolutely certain that the 2 sides do not stick together. Since it is winter here, silicon is notoriously slow to set, and molding times are longer.

I’ll post a few more pictures, but basically the same procedures will be followed on the second side. First the mold is built up, then a cheese cloth layer. I will build another paper wall and pour my Bondo mother mold and when that is set, I will crack the mold. I’ll probably need to do a little cosmetic work, but that’s about it.

The next post will show resin casting. I want to pull a resin just to have a few to show off.

See ya,
C. R. Larkin

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Down From The Clouds Pt. 3

By C. R. Larkin

I took time off from work just to finish the sculpture. The mold will be started in a few days. I ordered the supplies and they should be coming in by Friday. I will have a few thoughts on the whole process to finish up. In the meantime, I will work Thursday, Friday and most of Saturday exclusively on finish work. I feel it will be enough time.

Anyway, here I place the last leg of the "creation" (except the tail):

As you can see I also have the last foot on. I am skinning the hoof armatures so they are thicker and have all the hoof parts (coronary band and etc.) I have also moved the leg down as suggested.

A few things need to be done again-- the mane, for example.

I work on the surface muscles. I think I have the region between the end of the ribs and the hips (waist?) worked out on this side. The horse now has 2 hind legs.

After a couple more days: Done--

It took about 45 days to sculpt on a random schedule. My sister died (one year older than me) and I did not feel like working for a while. If I had worked 8 hours a day, It would have taken about a month. This is in plasticine. I have the mold making materials and will make a mold shortly for both sculptures. Now, a few instructions: I am a New Mexican artist who has been influenced a bit by the Prairie School. (I actually studied under a famous southwestern artist who has a "School of" attached to his name.) I like a lot of angles and tool marks, but I like smoothness too. (conflicted). I seek a mild stylized effect not hair-by-hair realism. I find this in most of my work. It borders on realism, but in a way is still stylized. I really think I am finding my "stride" to use a horse metaphor.

Please do not dwell on the fact that I have a terrible camera. Sometimes I get criticisms of my camera equipment more than the piece of art.

Next post: Making the mold

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Down From The Clouds Pt. 2

By C. R. Larkin

Of course the camera would break down at the "wire stage" so I can't show exactly how I got the armature wire welded. Here is the finished armature. I use a lot of Bondo (auto body putty) to make a stable armature.  So far the armature has taken the most time to do, at about one week of work. There was a lot of frustration with soldering. I did not realize that soldering was not an alternative to welding. One class I will need to take is a welding class. Even doing these small armatures, the skill would be helpful.

Nearly finished, and painted so that clay will adhere.

Here I play with clay a bit to see if the skull is working out. I need to figure out how to make the nose, which is what you see here.

This running horse's armature still has a way to go. I need to beef up the rib and belly. I kept it as it was to insert lag bolts to hold it up. Rather than working in green Roma plasticine clay, I might use hard red wax. Each shift to new materials is another learning curve and another challenge.

Finishing up with the armature: I fill the horse body out a bit using tin-foil and Fiberglas with bondo.
One of my fears here is that it is too skinny overall or that my measurements are off. I hope to find out if I am wrong before I am done (I hope not after).
The flanks were way too narrow front to back:

I make a stand that will hold the sculpture while I am working on it. Since I have used bondo, it is very rigid and strong, so I am not afraid of it falling over.

A last look at it before I start to sculpt:

After about an hour, I am not that afraid of the measurements any more.

By the next morning, I am pretty sure I will need to shorten the neck, and the back. (or move the hips forward.) When I added to the back of the flanks, the back became longer-- I had to do similar veterinary operations on my last horse, removing the head several times. It may also be that the shoulder girdle is too forward. This would be an even easier fix which would involve only minor structural work. It would shorten the back without cutting the "backbone," the major stable structure. It is nothing to worry about. This is just metal, clay and stuffing, and I want the measurements to be right. Taking things apart will just add a few days to the sculpting.

These fixes are much like final editing in a paper. They are necessary, and not unusual. Here, I ended up taking about 1/2 inch from the bottom of the neck. The removal looks like it fixed the neck.

I still do not like the back legs. Something is still wrong with them. I will fish around and try to figure this out. In the meantime, I made bondo nostrils for the horse. I figured that of all the parts that might be inadvertently "squashed" or destroyed, the delicate nostrils would. They are to be fully bellowing like wind-socks. (The face is very fragile and I will not even attempt it until the horse is in final sculpting.)

Started to rough in the muscles in plastaline. Did not use the red wax.
A friend drove 100 miles to get the clay. Had a problem this week. There was a death in the family and I did not feel like working. Am hard at it again. Here:

Okay better photos from the most done to least done side. I am making some repairs on leg placements.

Beginning to see a "horse" now. I've worked on the waist, and replaced the stand. The Rt. Leg is off again. Didn't like the last iteration.

I'm still here. Last week someone was fired at the job, and another death (no one related to me), so I had to cover & work a lot. Here is the most recent addition. I am nearly done with the horse. I decided not to make it a racing scene, because frankly, I want to get on with the other horse and I actually don't feel like sculpting humans, little tack and so on.

I did a lot of tweaking. I reduced the thighs again, took off and put on again several parts, and added hair. (No hind Rt leg yet.) Why? You might ask-- because that between the leg area is hard to get at with that leg. The leg is the last to go on. I took the Rt pastern and hoof off because I will duplicate the horse's left hoof so they will match perfectly. You will notice the horse went to the hair-dressers. The dark patch is window screen which will disappear in the wax. I also did a LOT of smoothing and buffing. I don't want the finished result to be polished. I want a kind of tool mark pattern over it all.

Swept back look:

In my next installment, I will be finishing up and then I will write a bit about molding and casting.

Down From The Clouds PT. 1

By C. R. Larkin

I decided to do another horse sculpture. This one will be in approximately phase 5 of the (12 phase) gallop by Muybridge. I will be somewhat ambitious with this next project. The horse is just one part of it.

So, first step. Armature and measurements. Sculpture is all about measurement. Getting a measurement off will ruin the work, and it is so easy to do. As you can see, at first glance, it looks more like "creature" creating than art. In fact, in the beginning, you use a lot of the same techniques as the latex mask fellows who make the movie monsters.

Since most horse measurements are in "heads" I have to create a head. This is the first step in the sculpture. The miniature skull. Since the skin is so close to the head of the horse, I have decided to do the forehead work separately so I can have extra foreheads when the need arises. This is 4.5 inches (11.5 cm).

Make a mold and cast for an extra.

The finished horse skull.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A New Sculpture

By C. R. Larkin

I'm less than a month from molding and casting my small horse sculpture. I want to do a lot more of these. At present, I am getting a new armature ready for a larger sculpture. Although bronze is expensive, I will ultimately get there. For the time being I will be doing a casting in "cold-cast bronze" which is a powdered bronze suspended in polyester resin. This is a picture of the new horse sculpture in progress. The head looks a bit large because the photo was taken with a wide angle lens.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Giselle's Big Test

By C. R. Larkin

I’ve worked with Giselle on her socialization nearly every day this past year, taking her to the dog park, and to dog friendly stores. While she accepts people, she has only just begun to accept other dogs. She is nearly accepting of dogs her size and smaller, however is a total mess when it comes to big dogs.

On Saturday, we went to the yearly "I Love My Dog" dog exposition in Lincoln, Nebraska. I left Carlos home because he is a total enabler. She did amazingly well. The place was a madhouse: a blaring loud speaker, a ton of people and mostly dogs, all sizes and shapes, loud music as canine acrobats jumped for toys and free-jumped hurdles. I led her around and around, letting her see many places more than once, meeting the same people and dogs again and again. It wasn’t for me, it was part of her socialization.

When encountering a big dog she will normally try to escape. Worst case scenario, she freezes, squats and poops. Yes. She is a fear-pooper. I brought a roll of small plastic dog-poop bags and some paper towels with me, but did not need to take them out once. Although she looked up many times begging me to get her out of there, she was a trouper. I brought her among Nebraska Italian Greyhound Rescue’s founder Scott’s tribe of rescue dogs. Versaci, an overly friendly rescue IG licked her ears and she accepted it although she looked about as you might expect. Like, “eek, a boy is licking my ears!”

I was very proud of her as she sat for a photographer from the Omaha-Metro-Lincoln edition of Pet Enthusiast Magazine. At first she wiggled around and squirmed, and I thought that I would have to sit there and have my fat arms appear in the picture, but at the last moment, she sat as though waiting for a piece of sausage, with a fierce Iggy look on her face. The photographer was pleased and took another picture, while Giselle flawlessly repeated her performance. I’ve never been so proud of Giselle. Other than a few spectacular jumps onto some exhibit tables, she acted like a dog who was not reactive.

This was her big test. A huge loud place with random dogs all over, small children running up to her and touching her face, lots of confusion and excitement. Aggressive dog? Reactive? No now I categorize her as “slightly timid.” I mean, greys are slightly aloof. That means, they don’t pay much attention to people. The forty mile an hour couch potato, only Iggys are smaller, but they are every inch a greyhound. On the way home, she didn’t whine and fuss much as she always does when in a car. She calmly lay down, and looked a little worn out. I guess I would be too if I had been negotiating all of these strange sights and sounds for around four hours.

Her next step will be agility training. In late March, I will enroll her in GLOC Beginning Agility 1. GLOC is the Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, and I don’t get the various acronyms they use for various types of dog registries yet. Giselle is a full bred mutt. A paperless full-bred. I think her high jumping will be useful if she had a focus. She can jump a hurdle twice her height while carrying a can of cat food. One day when I get a proper video camera, I’ll take a movie of that and post it on YouTube. I’d like to get her into some kind of sport. She might never win an event, but it’s about fun. That’s why I got a dog, and it would be nice to know she was having as much fun as I was.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Omaha, 2008

By C. R. Larkin

Gin Stinger, out of Go For Gin and Ide Delight out of Ide, captured during the post parade to the second race, claiming, at Horseman's Park, Omaha Nebraska, Sunday, June 20, 2008, Louis Ranilla abord. Painted in Oil. It is still not finished, though I don't think I will do anything new until next summer.

Friends harp on me for chosing to paint "quiet" moments during horse races, rather than the more exciting moments. Frankly, I really feel these moments say more to me. The jockey has most likely only met this horse a few minutes before. He must assess what ever he has retained from reading the horse's race chart, what he has been instructed to do by the trainer, and what he himself can feel of the horse he is on. I think of it like someone who is about to ride a luge on an unknown sled which might have a screw loose or just not work.

You will also note, if anyone reads my blog, that I am more fascinated by small local horse parks and races. I've already started to know these local Jockeys by sight. They ride at Fonner Park, Fair Grounds in Lincoln, Columbus and I think, Prairie Meadows, in Iowa. I'd love to hear from them. I'd also love it if my art inspires anyone to watch local races at small tracks.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

IG Reunion

By C. R. Larkin

Torn apart and forced to live in separate cages, Giselle and Barney went to two totally different situations: Giselle to a poor but loving home, and Barney-- to a family who did not want him. Yes, Barney, left, was an abused dog, from what I learned from his new and much better people. He was forced to live outdoors in an unheated structure. He finally ended up in rescue where he found nice people to care for him. The meat of this story? I believe that Barney is my dog, Giselle's brother. 

According to the owner's knowledge of him, he came to the same pet shop as my dog. The pet shop only had two sets of Italian Greyhounds in quite a long time. It was rare that they ever got an IG, let alone a pair of siblings. And the third piece of evidence is that when I was looking at Giselle, I remembered seeing that her brother was a solid gray (not an "Irish" color pattern which is the white and color pattern you see on Italian Greyhounds). I am not going to go into how buying dogs at pet stores is a bad thing at the moment. I know this is an issue. Perhaps I will debate it in another blog. 

What inspires me are the amazing coincidences that brought Barney and Giselle on the same paddock during an IG fun day here in Lincoln. The fact is that I saw Barney at the other end of the paddock and thought: "That dog looks like it could be related to my dog!" After hunting down the owners (yes, I am pushy like that) I pointed it out and they told me where Barney came from. He was purchased by a teenage boy who had not gotten his parent's permission. I can understand that. They took him but he hadn't worked out. Italian Greyhounds are notoriously hard to house-train. They made him an outdoor dog. The shock! The horror of that. Italian Greyhounds are notoriously hard to house-train, they are also total indoor dogs who need constant heat and total love and adoration (I think all dogs do). The thought of chaining a tiny slender dog with no fat deposits in a shed -- in Nebraska! 

As you can see by the photographs, they look like twins. Barney is actually a bit larger, and his color patter is different, but bone by bone and muscle by muscle they are practically twins. It is like looking in a mirror, especially around the eyes. 

I love that I found her brother. I had always regretted that I could not have them both. I am so happy that a potential tragedy was averted and that IG rescue could help one unfortunate dog. I guess it is important to keep the story that surrounded the purchase of an animal. After we spoke and I got these pictures, Barney's family and mine have met a few times. I try to make as many of these IG get-togethers as I can locally. I think it is fun now to see if they "remember" each other. Even if they are really not related, the similarity is amazing, their stories are so perfectly meshed, that we simply assume that they are brother and sister. It's a happy ending after all for both of them.