Sunday, January 31, 2010

Refining the clay

Using the point of a wooden skewer, I mark out the major muscle groups. I will define these areas with a rake tool.

I use a loop tool, called a rake, to go over the clay and make an even surface.

I remove the head of each sculpture, so that I can work on it separately. I have a floor flange, mounted on a board with a section of pipe, which the pipe of the head slips over. I use a laptop (shown) to display pictures of the models, for reference.

I have defined the torso of the man, and begun work on the torso of the woman.

Over the basic figure of the man, I apply clay in the muscle groups of the chest and abdomen.

I have defined the torsos of the man and woman and have added muscle mass to the man's legs.

I feed birds everyday. At the studio, I have 8 places where I put out sunflower seeds. These turkeys are the biggest birds coming in for snacks. It has just started to snow.

We had a fair amount of snow - 6". Here, a female Cardinal and a Red Belly Woodpecker are helping themselves to some sunflower seeds.

Saturday night, we had a freezing fog. The result is that everything has a coating of ice crystals. This is lower field in front of the house. It has flooded from recent rain.

The freezing fog left a heavy layer of ice crystals on these plants.

This is a closeup of ice crystals.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Packing clay onto the Terre Haute commission

This week, I was able to make dramatic progress on the Terre Haute commission.

Needing the ability to remove each head separately, I cut pipe that will slide over the metal neck rods of the sculpture armature. I use a sawz-all to make the cuts. I hold the pipe firmly to the bench to keep it from moving, as the sawz-all cuts with a reciprocating motion.

This picture shows the newly cut section of pipe.

I cut a piece of foam that will easily fit inside the form of the head. I trace the area that needs be removed, so that I can affix it to the pipe. As the foam of the head will be about 3" across and 3" deep, I will use two pieces of foam (the foam is 2" thick). Then, I will cut a hollow, to match the pipe, out of each half, and then glue them together. The resulting piece of foam will be 4" thick, but I trim it down with a knife.

The pipe will slide over the neck of the armature. I can take off each head and work on it separately. By sliding the pipe over the metal rod, I ensure that there are no edges to catch and make removing the head difficult.

The foam is attached to the pipe with hot clay.

When adding clay to the armature, it must be firmly smeared in small amounts all over. Otherwise, it will simply fall off. Subsequent layers of clay stick easily to this first layer.

I add clay to all areas of the sculpture, making sure to push it firmly into place. I have decided not to add foam for the children's heads. They will be made entirely of clay. Foam in their heads could end up being more trouble than it's worth.

I continue adding clay, covering the foam and metal. I periodically check measurements against the maquette.

At this point, I have added clay onto most of the figures. Now, I will add clay to the childrens arms.

I have added clay to all areas of the figures. Next, I will start defining the forms.

On Monday, there was a dense fog all day. It gave everything an otherworldly feel.

There was a freezing fog one morning, and I spied this plant outlined in frost.

I took a walk by the creek while it was still frozen, and thought I'd take a macro shot of the bubbles inside...

Sunday, January 17, 2010


After Don and Steve had made the armature, it was time for me to add foam, to take up the bulk spaces in the sculpture.

I got pink construction foam at Home Depots to use on the sculpture. It comes in 8 foot sections - kind of a problem to get into a car. I had a pocket knife ready to cut it down myself, but they had a saw there and offered to cut it down in 2 foot sections. How nice!

I measured the torso of the maquette and cut two blocks of foam to fit. I held each piece up to the armature and traced around it with a magic marker. I cut out the section of foam, so that it fit neatly over the pipe. I am using a light flexible knife to cut the foam. A heavy knife has a tendency to break chunks out, instead of cut.

I use Elmer's Glue-All to attach the pieces of foam to each other. I have used Liquid Nail in the past, but found that it crept into the clay. I prefer Elmer's, as it is non-toxic. However, it is messy and leaves lots of drips!

Here are two pieces of foam on the woman's armature. In the seam, you can see the glue that I have applied.

The larger pieces of foam have been attached to the armature. I will let the glue dry a little before trimming down the foam (so that it will be well within the finished sculpture). I measure various points on the maquette to make sure of this.

Wires are put into the pipe for the fingers of the hands.

I have trimmed down the foam and cut off most of the skewers - they will stay in the foam and act to stabilize it. I will add wires for the children's hands and foam to block out the little girl's dress. Then I will start packing on clay.

I drove out during the recent snowstorm to look for interesting shots. This is our neighbors house, just down the road. The Ohio river is right behind it. The house, on the hill behind it, is in Indana.

After a snow, it is fun to get out and look for tracks. These are on the creek. It has a great graphic quality; the tracks leaving dark marks in the snow and the white areas surrounding the tracks in the melting area of the creek. I think these are fox tracks.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Welding the armature for the sculpture "Light of Hope and Healing"

Measurement are taken from the maquette, so that sections of the steel pipe can be cut to proper lengths.

Don grinds the ends of the pipe.

The pipe is shaped to make a better, stronger weld.

After determining the correct angle in which they should be joined, the pipes are clamped together with a vise grip.
Steve Mcmillen, a neighbor and friend, is doing the welding on this job.

Steve welds the pipe together. You can see an enlarged photo of the maquette on the wall.

The woman is the first of the figures to be welded up. Each figure will be welded separately, measuring against the maquette, to make sure that the angles of the armature are correct.

The man and woman are welded up first and will act to support the little boy and little girl. Here Don is determining where the little girl will fit in relation to the man's and woman's arms.

The joints of each figure are strengthened with sections of metal strapping. In this photo, the little boy is braced across the hips.

The armature is finished. I will block in the larger areas of the figures with foam. Wires will be inserted into the ends of the arm pipes for the hands. I will then apply the clay

I noticed some snowflakes on the car window and decided to photograph them. It was snowing at the time, that's why the snowflakes on the right are blurred. I thought it made for an interesting shot.

A deer comes up to help herself to sunflower seed I've put out for the birds - I don't mind feeding her as well.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Studio move, and beginning the sculpture for the Hux Cancer Center

My new studio used to be the stone studio and it was filled with dust. Stone dust and oil clay do not mix; before I could move my sculpture materials in, the dust had to go. Our neighbor, Steve Mcmillen, helped us out immensely by cleaning out all the dust. After all the wheelbarrows of dust have been shoveled out, he used a leaf blower to blow out a good deal of dust. He finished up with a powerwasher, as you can see above.

I loaded everything into buckets (this is just a small part of my move). I have also brought my smaller sculptures (they are on the bench against the wall) to keep me company. The storage cabinets still need to be moved, so that everything can be put away.

I have to recycle the clay from the Home of the Innocents sculptures. The sculptures are cut down into chunks (see bucket on lower right), then the chunks are put into a pan, which is set on a heater (on left side of photo). It is
covered with aluminum foil and a towel which help keep the heat in. Heating the clay makes it soft and easier to work. I form it into small rolls, which go into their own bucket (top right of photo). As I form it, I remove any bits of foam or plaster left over from the last sculpture project.

Don and I went to Bark's Welding supply in Corydon Indiana to buy the pipe and welding rod for the sculpture.

Inside Bark's Welding Supply is the band saw on which the metal pipe was cut.

I had some people come in and model for me, to make sure that the scale maquette is accurate before enlarging. The life studies pointed out areas that needed improvement. (Subtle, but important for the final piece).

The first step in creating this work involves making the metal armature, which is a stick figure in the pose of each person in the sculpture.

These are the dimensions of the woman, measured at different points. The armature for the arms of the figures will terminate near the wrists. Wooden dowels and wire will form the hands.

My secret weapon for enlarging sculptures is the proportion wheel. It is actually designed for use in graphic arts to determine
percentage of enlargement or reduction. But, it's great for sculpture, as you can set your scale to any proportion. Find the measurement of your maquette on the inside wheel and then the measurement on the outside wheel tells you the measurement on the sculpture.

...and finishing this post with some wildlife shots. This is a Red Bellied Woodpecker on the sill of the old clay studio.

Here is a doe that was near the new clay studio. I managed to get a photo before she realized I was there and ran away....

"Oh, NO!" - Mr. Bill