Monday, April 16, 2012

A horse for Derby

With Derby approaching I thought I'd do a horse emerging from stone. The concept is one of achieving freedom -the horse is releasing itself from the confines of the stone. I've always liked horses and have drawn them from the time I was a kid. It has been years since I have carved any and even then, they were just rough sketches.

This piece of limestone is a section from a large block for an earlier commission. It was cut from the block with a hydraulic chainsaw. That is why it is this odd shape. I like using pieces like this, there is a challenge to fitting a sculpture into it and sometimes you end up with a better sculpture. This piece will be carved directly, there will be no model though I will use various reference photos. The horse was drawn on out in the stone yard to see if it would fit.

I cut a line around the outside of the drawing with a 4" angle grinder. Any stone beyond that line I can safely remove though I will still cut wide. I begin cutting with an angle grinder with a diamond tipped 9"blade. I make vertical cuts and I will come back across with the grinder to remove them. The diamond cuts quickly through the limestone and it makes a lot of dust!

I roughly cut the front profile of the horse then start removing stone from over the horse's back.
In this photo I have drawn the horse with a raised knee. As I get further into the piece I realize that I can't do that, the leg and shoulder will have to be dropped on that side because of the shape of the existing stone, the body will have to twist down on it's right, but that's okay, I enjoy direct carving because you may start with an idea and then changes as I carve. Sometimes the changes occur as I carve because I see a new direction to go in. With this horse it's because I am limited by the existing stone. It is a challenge and I enjoy it.

The cuts in the horses back. You can see from this photo that the stone is somewhat wedge shaped. It is also seems to be leaning to the right. I will have to twist the horse's body slightly to fit the stone.

The stone sticks out on it's left side and I know I can comfortably remove this area. The facial features of the horse are barely cut in and thick. As I work I will define various areas. I leave the ears very thick until I have a better form on the head.

I work my way down the horse shaving away areas with the grinder. I have cut the ear although it is still a bit heavy. While I use a 9" angle grinder to remove large sections, the 4" angle grinder is the tool of choice for the actual carving of the piece. I use a diamond blade for roughing out the piece. I approach it from various angles - front, top, back as I carve to be sure of where I need to cut. I find it is best to define one area (such as the head) and then follow that form down into the stone - the head leads to the neck, the neck to the shoulders and so on. As I refine an area it becomes obvious where the next part of the horse is.

I use an air hammer to remove stone from behind the sholders. I start defining the mane being careful not to cut into the neck underneath. I have marked the line of the neck with a china marker in order to maintain that line.

The horse's right side will be slightly lower and the neck will have to run on an angle in order for the horse to fit into the stone. I drew the neck on the stone with china markers before I made any cuts.

I grind over the area that had chisel marks from the air hammer in order to better read the form. I begin to form the horses leg and shoulder.

I used the crane truck to rotate the horse so that it faces south. I was having trouble with one side as it was on the north side and always in the shade. That side was lagging in progress but now it will catch up.

I draw on the facial structure of the horse, making a line across the head to ensure the eyes are symmetrical to each other. I mark the bone structure and draw on the vein that is usually seen running down a the length of the face. I switch to a masonry blade for forming the face. It is less aggressive than diamond so I can get a smoother surface. I will cut the basic details (eyes, bones, vein) with this tool.

I begin carving this side of the horse by starting at the front and working back.

I refine the forms with a 4" angle grinder. I have yet to define the shoulders and leg on this side.
I am undecided whether to have the leg bent (as drawn) or straight and pointing down.

This side is more finished though it still needs work. I was going to define the lower leg but I like having it disappear into the stone...

Cutting down the neck of the Heron and Feeding Koi

In the last post I realized the Heron's neck was too long. I used photoshop to determine the correct length. I mark the section of neck to be removed...

and use a hacksaw blade to cut through the neck and copper tubing inside. I will then cut through the neck at the point marked on the right and remove that portion of the neck. But how to get the neck back together?

The Heron's head, cut off. You can see the copper tubing inside the clay. I will use a wood dowel to join the two sections. It is about the same diameter as the tubing. I insert it into the neck of the heron toward the head as far as it will go and then mark it. I then do the same with the other section of neck. I then carefully measure and then add the two distances and this gives me the length I need to cut the dowel.

I use the hacksaw blade to cut the dowel.

The dowel is such a tight fit I have to twist it into the copper tubing but this is a good thing - the tight fit will hold the head securely in place. When I replace the head I see the fit is not exact, but that is an easy fix...

I carve clay away from beneath the neck and put it on top and on the sides of the neck.

I then use a soldering iron and more clay to completely fill in the gap between the two sections.
The shortened neck, now all it needs is little feathers on the front of the neck like those on the breast.

I have been experimenting with the grass clump. In this photo the lower part of the clump is just in front of the herons straight leg...

And this is the clump starting just even with the leg. I have removed the supporting rod from the scene via photoshop so I can get a better feel for how the piece will look in the site. I like the clump a little forward of the leg, the clump even with the leg feels a little weak visually, but then I suppose I'm splitting hairs....

Another view.

Don and I went to a store specializing in fountains to see if they have grating for disappearing foutains. I am interested in using that for the Otter Sculpture.

While we were there I got to feed their Koi. They were swarming in for food. Really cool creatures....

Monday, April 9, 2012

A visit to the Falls, heron detailing and other things

After Don's bench installation we went to the Falls of the Ohio across the river from Louisville,Ky. I have read a blog which descibes all kinds of interesting characters as well as many unusual bird species (wink, wink) which are found only at the falls. I hoped to see evidence of some of what I have seen described on the fascinating blog but we came up empty. There are areas of irridescent sheen coming out of the sand. I thought this almost looked like smoke coming up from the stick

It was interesting to explore the rocks and discover the various fossils.

I have been adding and smoothing out the feathers on the herons breast. I use a soldering iron between the feathers to fill in little crevices.

I refine areas around the wing feathers with a knife.

I add details under the heron - as the heron will be on a base 6 feet tall the underneath will be easily seen so I want to give this area some interesting detail.

I feel the heron's neck is too long, so...

I have shortened it in photoshop. I'm going to think about it before I do anything drastic.

This is an otter and lilypads sculpture I did last year. I set it up as a fountain but I didn't have a pump strong enough for the effect I wanted. Then winter came (though it really wasn't much of a winter) and so I let the otter sit dry. Now that spring has returned I am trying the piece out just as a birdbath. I want to see how the piece does as far as maintenance with just still water. My earlier otter water features were just birdbaths, so I'll try it with this one as well.

A detail of the otter...

This is a little maquette of a job I am doing for my veterinarian. The doctor is checking out a puppy while the mother watches.

My first turtle crossing of the year.....

Monday, April 2, 2012

Adding thin feathers to Heron, Flight sculpture at the foundry Don's bench installed and another Opossum rescue

For the long feathers, mainly upon it's breast, I roll out thin strips of clay.

I attach them to the bird and use a soldering iron to make a clean connection to the body. These feathers are on the heron's back. I will come back with a loop tool to clean up the melted area left by the soldering iron.

I also use a metal tool to fill the area between the feather and the body. Otherwise the tiny undercut will be an area where the mold will catch and tear.

I start filling in the breast with tiny thin feathers. This is the most fun part of the sculpture.
I really like the texture of these feathers and how they contrast with the rest of the surface. It's a bit tedious having to attach each separate feather and then go back and smooth around each one, but I think it will be worth it in the end.

I apply the feathers sparingly over the breast area. I will come back with additional feathers and then smooth them with a soldering iron and wax tool.

I have to consider the sculpture from this angle as it will be over 6 feet up in the air and the primary view will be from underneath.

The heron with feathers across it's breast, it just needs a bit more tweaking...

Flight, a sculpture you may have seen receiving a mold in a much earlier post is now in wax at a nearby foundry. It will be cast in several sections, then welded together.

The hands will be cast separate from the main sculpture. Nick, who works at the foundry, chases the hands of Flight.

The hands of the original wax of Flight are removed so that the new hands can be fitted to the sculpture. The sculpture will then be dipped in a ceramic slurry and cast in bronze. I will return to the foundry when it will be welded back together.

Don installed a bench recently. Derrick Sheroan of JBB inc. operated the crane.

The bench is not that large but the 74 foot distance (the man standing at the far left of the photo is where the bench will be) makes the 23 ton crane essential. An installation with this kind of reach requires a consummate operator and Derrick is one of the best.

The bench glides into place....

The bench installed...

We found a mother opossum hit on the road and took the two surviving babies to Monica Wilcox at Woodland Wildlife in Radcliff, KY.

She has a number of animals she is helping to recuperate, including this hummingbird. Check out the photo album on their website .