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.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bovines

My long time housemate died of cancer last August, and I was on the verge of homelessness for a while. I'd thought I would need to become a truck driver (I have a class A CDL license, but have never driven professionally) however another marvelous scenario took place. My brother has a little house in New Mexico, and he invited me to live there. Within a week of moving to small town New Mexico, I landed a fairly good job at a local business.

So I am "back home" where I grew up, but for the fact that I am in a much smaller town, about a four hour drive from my original family home. I am also much closer to the foundary I have contacted about continuing my bronze adventures, and closer to the center for Bronze art of the sort I do.

I must say, I love the south west. Here it is, December 2 and the kids are outside playing in their shorts and t-shirts. No shoes of course. I am starting a smaller series of "cattle" sculptures today. I was inspired by the long horn steer I saw as I crossed into Texas from Oklahoma. I think that cattle are a perfect departure from horses. They are longer in the back, shorter in the neck and legs, and far stockier, but I figure I know most of the muscles.



 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Modern Art

I've been chafing at the bit to do some non-objective art.

I like that this piece (sans a final finish) only take me about 4-5 days, as opposed to the 45 days sculpting a "realistic" piece. I generally do not work full days in any event. My first few days on any project are 12 to 16 hour days. The time I spend really drops off as I get to the end. Focusing too much is too intense, and exhausts me.

Once the initial novelty of a project wears off, art becomes work. 

This brings up a curious point. Art as a job is the same as cake decorating as a job, or any other business. I have been looking into the business aspects of art recently. I began sculpting again after a long absence from sculpture back in 2007, with no goals, and no expectations. Most of what I made back then was destroyed. My goal back then was to come up with an armature system that would allow a more rigid base upon which to sculpt. I was not thinking of aesthetics or what I wanted as far as an artistic identity. The end result were the horse sculptures. Next, I tried to see if I could tackle the human form. Now I am doing a bit of free form art.

I feel that exploration is important to art, and being an artist. Selling art is an entirely different animal. I personally feel that as long as I stay within the boundaries of "sculpture," I should be okay. I know glass workers who make realistic sculptures of bugs and fish, and also make "beads." Obviously, one needs to diversify, to reach a larger potential buying public.

One thing I have noticed about galleries is that location dictates the price you can ask for art. I do not feel that my work, as it is presently, would sell where I live now. But, I would sell something that was of lower cost. This made me consider not only working on a less time intensive type of sculpture done in a material that would cost less to produce.

We shall see if my experiments in modern art yield this goal.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Balance and Advice

New Sculpture. I've worked on this for 45 days so it isn't new to me.I've just got a little bit more to go, and will begin to make the mold most likely tomorrow.

So this is a photograph of my latest piece-- which began as the "swimmer" there is indeed a lot of difference (I feel).  At a late stage, I placed her on her feet, and changed the "story." It may be more mundane, but that's okay with me. Here are a few (not so good) photos. That's it for 45 days.


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 In that artistic people cruising the internet are usually looking for art tips and advice, I'll share a little of what I have learned so far about the process of creating a sculpture like this.

First, you need a stable, well measured armature. I've had a little measurement difficulties leading to complicated surgeries with sticks, metal, wire. If you've seen X-rays of Degas' was sculptures, you will see that everything that is possible to put into a clay work is usually in there. I used to only go for threaded rod, but now my favorite materials are bamboo skewers and chopsticks. You can also get paper mache balls, eggs, boxes at crafts stores to use as "stuffing."

Auto body filler. Whatever brand you use, this is magic stuff. It sticks things together, fills spaces, dries hard and lends stability quickly  to anything you want to stick together. Glue or resin epoxy do not cut it as far s quick drying time and "body." One thing I have learned and will use for my next sculpture is you can make an almost clay-like substance if you add talcum powder to auto body filler to stiffen it up even more. Only catalyze a small amount at  time. Do not add the catalyst until you have mixed the filler and talc. Kneed it in thoroughly with fingers. It will set very quickly, so know exactly where it goes.

In sculpting, you need to go through an "ugly" stage. The same happens in any artistic project. Many people get frustrated at this stage, or give up, or say it is done when it is not. In order to be a sculptor, with a few exceptions, an artist needs to have quite a reserve of patience. When I was working on the pieces last year, I thought about what I was doing now that I did not do when I attempted to sculpt in the past. One is that I made a stable armature, and another was that I gave the piece time to evolve. I was not afraid to "kill my darlings" which is a term used in writing to express major editing of pieces that do not serve the whole of the piece, but for some reason of artistic ego, you want to hang onto.

I think the last, and most important thing that I have learned is to not be hard on myself, and understand that each piece has its own problems and difficulties, and I have to be flexible enough to figure it out. Do not expect perfection, or to please all people all the time. The whole idea of getting a system down is to have a "short cut" method so you can work faster, stronger, and with less mistakes and dead end ideas. Every artist does not just do one or two pieces, though some are often "known" for such. An artist needs to continually create hundreds of pieces. Some of these pieces are great, some lacking in some way. It is true that all artists wish to be perfect and to have all works they produce result in perfection, but the truth is that we only see the "best" of most of art. Quite often there is a store room of works that do not get into the public record.

I feel that by late July I will have to stop most art creation. I am announcing now that I will be taking off in a tractor trailer truck and driving around for a while. Maybe it is to see the country. Mostly it is to gather money to buy a little home and shop so I can live mostly rent free. I'm finishing up with my latest piece, and will no doubt be making the molds by tomorrow. (It was supposed to be last week, but I held off because someone wanted to see it). I am going to start the armatures and clays for possibly 2 more sculptures to do next year any time I come home from driving the truck.










Sunday, April 29, 2012

WIP-- "Swimmer #1"

How does an artist begin a new piece? Of course I cannot speak for everyone, but the way I seem to do it,specifically in the realm of sculpture, is to think about changes I would like to make to the previous piece, and bring those thoughts or ideas forward into the new piece. In other words, like cellular division, work begets other work. So, in a way, working creates new work. This present piece actually was born when I was doing the second horse, not the Birdman. At that time, I considered a group of upwardly swimming horses (a larger project which I will most likely begin at some point). I love those artists who create images of dancers or gymnasts, and yet, I think the form is basically "owned" these days by Robert MacDonald and other magnificent sculptors. I considered an underwater scenario then, and looked around to see if someone does a lot of swimming figures. Truth be told, I know very little about dancing or gymnastics. I have never been very athletic. I do know swimming. I used to live in a swimming pool in the summers when I was young. I envision this sculpture to include some fishes sea creatures at some point. I am thinking of her in terms of "Drowned Ophelia." This is another new twist in my art: the use of fantasy and dreams. I think you will like what is to come next. I do not want to give too much of this image away too soon.

Here are a few views of the new sculpture after about 30 hours of work, not including making the armature. You might recognize the armature from one of my earlier posts.

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Now, of course, Ophelia has a large amount of wonderful art works devoted to her. My favorite is the one by John Everett Millais. I also wanted to show the figure from a non-sexualized view point, and also one of semi-autobiographical interest. As a girl who suffered depression, abuse and also had Asperger's syndrome (which was not a thing anyone recognized when I was growing up), I tend to want to show where that space of total immersion is for myself-- what it feels like to merge into the elements.

I will be dropping in a few more posts of this sculpture in process.



Friday, April 13, 2012

Leaving The Safety Zone

Learning is about leaving your realm of personal safety and moving forward into unknown territory. Art is an ideal forum for public vulnerability and exposure. A lot of people do not understand the essence of this vulnerability, this exposure when they ask questions like "what does it mean?"

To be willing and able to produce something that closely echoes the inner drama and then to actually show it to people is hard on the ego. It is humbling to expose one's greatest flaws to any old stranger who browses a gallery. Most people simply avoid such questions, such talk. Certainly some of these artworks are a bit like airing one's dirty laundry. Fear makes artists contract into the safety zone. Fear also makes art buyers avoid "controversial" images.

It is funny, but at my last gallery, there were typical paintings of forests, animals, villages, streams. They were specifically designed as nostalgic, safe, innocuous painting made to order for people who feared anything thought provoking, or meaningful on their walls. They weren't even meant to be looked at. They were there to establish a "vibe" in decorator's terms.

Sales in such safe images is probably better than sales in controversial or unusual subjects. In these hard, economic times, I wonder if artists produce work relating more to the nostalgic or false memory of the culture. During the great depression of the 1930's Hollywood made many pleasant, sunny films and colorful fantasy extravaganzas to give hope, and respite to a struggling populace. The recent recession is far from touching everyone. There are people out there who have not lost it all, home, savings, job, and identity.

I count myself among those who had to re-make myself from the ground up, and I would like to begin to write about that progression in this blog. It will be a bit more personal, and of course, expose me in ways that I have been suppressing.

My first entry will be this:

I am truly grateful for being "let go" from my job of 10 years. That was in 2008. It was a soul sucking, horrible job. In the meantime the business has been sold, and they have been forced to eat crow publicly for their wicked ways, so I have had my chuckles over their problems. When I was let go, I was thrown into a growing recession at the age (then) of 48. I stood little to no chance of ever getting a reasonably paying job again. I went underground, finding housing in substandard but steady conditions. Finding food in food lines, and minimum wage jobs where the life of a person meant little.

And through that challenging time, I made several "paradigm shifts" in my thinking. For one, if you had asked me, back when I was a teenager, or in my 20's what was the worst thing that could happen to a person, I would have said, "poverty." Poverty was, to me, a worse state than war or famine. I did everything I could to deflect it. I went to college for nearly seven years trying to accumulate experience. I learned as much as I could, and worked every day from the time I was a teenager, but in the end it came anyway.

My fear came to me, because I needed it. I had become a magnet, attracting my worst fear to me. I had become that character from the early century, "Bre'r Rabbit." I'll do anything, but don't make me poor.

This connects with my first great paradigm shift. No, I do not espouse poverty as a lifestyle. It is horrible. I have gone months in the dead of winter with no heat in my house. I have had to beg for food and accept hand-outs from well meaning strangers. No one, in this land of plenty and opportunity, ought to be poor.

What I learned is that what I once thought of as important is absolutely the opposite. The big house, the nice clothes, the dinners out, or vacations, are no longer attractive to me. I no longer think much about waste, or conspicuous consumption. I live a life with a smaller footprint, and it has afforded me the ability to work on my art more. In fact, my life is more about art than it ever was.

My motto now is to work less. Live in a smaller place. Spend more time enjoying life. I still have jobs, but they do not consume me, and I do not expect the job to somehow take care of me. Jobs are my tools, I am not a tool of the job. I am not in someone else's house, this is my house.In a sense, I feel that I have taken a Buddhist's journey. Suffering, and then finding the path to alleviate the suffering, and then coming to the one great truth that none of this actually matters. It is just the thing we do between birth and death. None of it is actually compulsory. You may exit the highway at any time, and walk on another road.

Now those other paradigm shifts? Some of them are still in the making. I know that my artwork is more important to me now because instead of giving thirty years of my life to some business, they are my "end result." I won't be the old janitor who retires at 75 and dies a week later, because I have taken myself off that path.

If you look far enough ahead, you can actually see the landmarks of the diversions, and the obstructions that keep you from progressing to your full potential. Yes, sometimes they are hidden, but at other times, they are as clear as day.  When that exit sign comes up sometimes it is too late to take another exit, but along the way, you can still make it to another road, if you have willingness, faith, and courage.



Monday, April 9, 2012

Bird Man's First Wax

Let's see what wax looks like in this mold. The clay has been removed for recycling, and the silicon rubber has had a bit of time in the open air. Now it is time to pull a "clean-out" wax. This first pull has multiple uses. First, I will be able to find out if my mold is "water-tight." There is nothing more maddening than a hole or gap in a mold. Such a mold simply does not contain wax, and thus is pretty useless without massive repair. Second, I will also be able to see areas that need touch up in the final wax. No wax is perfect. Waxes must be "chased" which is a foundry term for "cleaned up." Finally the last use, to determine the final cost of the actual pour. This is usually about 10 times the weight of the bronze, times the amount of money the foundry charges by the hour. Add then any other services you are asking for, like welding, finishing, patination. Bronze can cost a lot when you use a full service foundry. The more you can do yourself, the less it will cost you in the long run. Many foundries will try to sell you a package, but you can also ask for one or two things. They are always glad to take your money. A few hours before starting I have placed a block of wax into a slow cooker to melt. The wax I am using is "waste wax that has both wax and some clay in it. It is junk and not good enough to send to the foundry, but it is still useful for certain applications. After I pour or brush a nice top layer directly on the silicon, I can turn the heat on the slow cooker full of wax either down, or off to create more of a gel-like but still brushable wax. I will use this to build up. I try to get the thickness of the wax up to at least 3/4ths of an inch. Photobucket I've placed the mold and wax into the freezer to (hopefully) speed up the curing time. I'll check on it in about a half an hour. A little segue here. I do not make molds or bronzes professionally. I am sure if I did, I would not be able to procrastinate as much as I do. While there are setting times, it really should not take be three months to make a mold. One or two weeks should be sufficient. The results: Fair but not perfect. The bunji cords were squeezing the piece too much and so the opposite walls pinched into each other. So I have to do away with the bunji cords and probably try this with lag bolts. Also the top edge was not fitting exactly. this could be offset from the squeezing effect. I won't even go into the rotten state of the wax. It is too soft, and it also has way too many air bubbles in it.The way I fixed this before was to add some expensive red (hard) wax into the micro crystalline brown wax. Photobucket Not great! Try again! I am sure you understand what I mean here. You need to test, and perfect the mold before you can pull out a perfect wax.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Combination Mold --- Bird Man (Part 2)

I continued making the mold over the major body parts, and then finally, made the mold on the wing area. My idea was to make the wing area the large "hatch" needed to pour wax. I've decided after working on the horses that it is better to pour the wax into a complete mold when possible because of the potential for warping.

Below is a side view of the second side before applying plaster, so you can see that you can place wood supports in the plaster. Here, the wood supports create a table leg effect.

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After finishing all sides of the sculpture, I was now ready to make the wing molds. I placed bamboo skewers at areas within the wing to indicate how thick my silicon rubber was. The shim was simply clay rolled with a rolling pin, and placed under the "feathers."

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Finally, the work was done and I was able to take the entire work outside. This was not really important, but I wanted to work out in the sun and it was a lovely day. I carried the whole thing, sculpture, mold, and plaster up the stairs. It weighed about 45 pounds.

Once outside, I used some table knives, and a mallet to break the mold free. When I say "break" I don't mean "destroy." I used the mallet to tap the mold at various places. This let a bit of air under the plaster. To understand that is to think in terms of physics. The entire mold is simply held on by surface tension. By moving it slightly to allow air to get under the mold, you are freeing it. This is similar to tapping on a tight bottle cap to open it.

I had one part of the mold crack a bit. One of the reasons to use the burlap in the plaster is to keep any cracks from shattering the plaster. It all remains together like safety glass. I was then able to fix the cracks using a layer of bondo.

All off, here are some parts of the mold.

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Finally, what remains afterward is to recycle any clay that can be used again. In the case of plastalina that can be a lot. Usually, all you need to do is melt the clay and "sieve" the liquid clay through a screen to take out any pieces of "garbage." Usually when the clay is too dirty to use, you can see it.

The end result of sculpture (lost wax style). The sculpture is, of course, scrap. There is an interesting life-cycle of building and destruction, but all so that you can have a finished bronze in the end.

Right now, I do not plan to immediately cast this piece. It is rather large. One benefit from making molds is that you can put your sculpture in a box, to store for later.

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End result for all this work? Sculpture in a trash can.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Combination Mold -- Bird Man (Part One)

This mold will be a cross between the full standing metal shim method and the clay wall method. You might review "Moldmaking 101" and "A Complex Mold" if you are not familiar with the methods.

When I first began this sculpture, I decided that I was going to try to make it as easy to get off of its back-iron as easily as possible in the off chance that I would want to lay it down like the first horse sculpture (Down From The Clouds).

I actually liked the way that the clay wall mold turned out better than the free standing metal shim mold (the second horse). I got the idea that the shims could be useful where the sculpture reached above parallel, and the clay wall could be on or near parallel, hence a combination mold. In the future I'd like to get some articulated back-irons made for me. I would like to be able to simply turn a sculpture from vertical to horizontal using a crank or something similar.

This, if you have forgotten is the finished work:
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This first image is the sculpture laid on its back with shims in place. As you can see, I have cut off the right "wing" part. I will be making my wax-hatch on the side of the figure, including the arm and wing. I have done this so I can pour the wing separately for I feel that the wing will be the area that will be the most difficult to fill with wax. Another area will be the small finger tips and the long beak.

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In this next image, several layers of silicon rubber have already been applied to the main part of the mold.

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The next two steps will be the cheese cloth, and then the plaster mother mold, then it is time to flip and start on the back side of the mold for part two of this demo.

See you then!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Daily Drawing

A New Years resolution: Draw each day for at least 15 minutes.

I can't tell you how long it has been since I experienced the simple joy of drawing. So what happened? I suppose my love-hate relationship with Art (yes, the "Muse" I claim to ignore). When I was younger, drawing was as natural to me as breathing. I'd always scribble something on a page during the course of a day. My notebooks were more drawing than school work. Over the years, the habit kind of fell away.

Just the other day, I realized how important it was to my art work simply to keep in the habit of drawing.

Here are a few recent drawings from my notebook. Typically the drawings I do take about 10 minutes, and I do a few of them per day. As you can see, I like strong lines and poses: sort of "Gates of Hell" strong. (Mild nakedness warning):

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(Giselle says, "I can do that too!")
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Keep Drawing!

(Another New Years Resolution: Make a post to my blog every week! At least the best of my daily drawings!)

Having Some Fun with "Bird-Man"

I was very bad about finishing any work, or blogging this last year. Sorry. Starting in July approximately, I began to mess around with the sitting man sculpture. I was going to throw it out, but then I decided that I could learn a bit about sculpting a human, because I have never done that. This answers the question, "do you re-use art?" I went slowly, using some anatomy books. Then, and some point, I tore the head off and started having a little fun with the work. I think I somewhat was inspired by the wonderful movie "Rapa Nui" which has some awesome music by Stewart Copeland. I know the idea of "shape shifting" or "metamorphosis" is very close to my heart, as is the similarity of the human form to other zoological species.

As I have said somewhere before (perhaps) I worked for many years as a paleontological artist. I was highly inspired by any kind of natural history or animal art.

Now, this is a problem that confronts most artists. What is your subject? What is your gut instinct? What sort of art do you want to do? Although I sculpted a few horses, I did not want to be "trapped" as an equestrian artist. I do like to sculpt or draw occasional animals, but that is not what I have focused my art career on (If it can be called a career). Instead, I have worked with more of a surrealist/psychological type of art, and as a re-emerging sculptor, I had to have a good idea of what it was I wanted to do.

I still cannot put it into words well enough to create an "artist's statement." I will one of these days. This sculpture is a turn towards the direction I am moving towards in my work. Sort of a synergy between animal/human. It's not quite done yet. I have a few more hours to spend on it, but the molding material is well on the way. It is now a little under 26 inches tall. The two tone effect is because I used hard wax in some places.

I am hoping to finish by the end of the week, and start to make the mold aided by a student who wanted to see mold making in action.

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