Monday, August 24, 2009

For the Goo of it All

Today I've been workin' on Mr. Stocky, the mini scale stock horse guy. That's not his name, though, just nick-name. He already has a name, but I'll leave that for the "reveal" of his release announcement. All my sculptures have a name before I start them -- so much about them is built upon the name! A name conjures up everything about a piece -- it has such power!

Anyhoo, that's a sneak peek in the pic above, his lower shoulder and upper foreleg just roughed in with fresh epoxy...very roughed in, clearly! I'm going for an old foundation bulldog type, but not too bull-doggy. A happy medium, I suppose. It'll be a fun challenge, striking that balance.

What's fun about stock horses is the "goo" of their bulky muscles. All that "fun stuff" their muscles, fascia and skin do is one of the things I'll be playing with in this piece, and I'm already having a wonderful time with him. Anyone who knows me knows that I love "goo," or that "fleshiness" that makes sculpting living things such a challenge and delight. (My ratties are full of goo, as you might have already guessed! Bigs n' blobby -- that's hows we likes 'em!) The trick with realistic sculpture isn't getting the anatomy right, necessarily -- it's capturing the living flesh of the subject, which isn't the easiest thing to do with static clay. This to me, of expressing living anatomy in sculpture, in all its nuance, variety and "moment," is perhaps the most enjoyable way to infuse life into a sculpture. Otherwise I'm simply sculpting an anatomical illustration, which by definition, was drawn from a dead horse. And there's only one way to capture living flesh in sculpture -- through an appreciation and understanding of flesh, or "goo." Goo is glorious!

Anyway, this guy is in a standing position, but in a rather "akimbo" stance as though he just raised his head very quickly from grazing, as if to say "Hellooooo ladies" in the next pasture (I decided to make him whinnying). Perhaps he's a bit of a Don Juan. Or he could be rather "chatty." Or maybe he's just very friendly. Who knows -- but it does present some delicate issues when it comes to sculpting him.

Why? Well, because of this stance and movement (yes -- even standing horses are moving!), this initial step -- getting the scapula, humerus and radius figured out -- actually is the trickiest part for this sculpture. For starters, this area is where the proportions of a piece like this begin to solidify because once "set," and their systems working properly and their musculature blocked in, the rest of the piece can "ooze out" around them, proportionally and mechanically. In a very real sense, the whole "believability" of this piece as a living animal -- imbued with physics, mass, minute balancing, kinetic energy and "moment" -- will first be determined by this area since horses carry so much weight on their forehand. In short, in these first initial steps, I'm immediately at the most critical stage of this sculpture.

Now in a moving piece, especially with both forelegs off the ground, this isn't such a critically tricky area because the shoulders and forelegs "hang" from the torso (or spine), allowing you a bit more leeway in sculpting. You can sculpt from the "torso down," so to speak. However, in a piece such as this, with his torso firmly resting on the support of his forelegs in this forehand-heavy stance, we have the opposite effect -- of gravity "pushing down" his torso between the muscular "sling" of his forelegs (there are no bones that connect the equine scapula to the torso). This means that I have to sculpt from the "feet up," in a sense. Not literally, but conceptually. In other words, this piece has to express the look of a heavy animal (stock horses are heavy critters with all that muscle! -- about 1,000 - 1,300 lbs!) who's bearing a lot of his weight on his forehand, and who also is engaging in the countless minute balance adjustments throughout his spine, hindquarter and forehand, which will be expressed in how his spine, pasterns, hindquarter, forehand and other areas are tweaked or postured. Even his mane and tail will contribute. He has to have "weight." He has to have "moment." So how his forehand is sculpted will make or break this piece, and I'm very excited to see if I'm up to the challenge. Each day brings with it a new crackle of anticipation!

"It seems to me madness to wake up in the morning and do something other than paint, considering that one may not wake up the following morning." ~ Frank Auerbach


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Better Late Than Never!....

Finally, my report on my June trip to see my three buddies -- Kay, Steph and Laurie -- in Ithaca, NY! Every year, we four get together for a weekend of nuttiness, usually either in Napa or Sonoma for wine country, but this year we ventured over to Stephani's stomping grounds. This is a cartoon on Stephani's fridge (above) -- it cracked me up.

Anyway, coming from a high desert in the west, the lushness of Ithaca and the colonial-esque architecture was very exotic. That line from "History of the World, Part I" in which the King says (after taking snuff), "Everything's so greeeen!" kept popping up in my head while I was there. And with the lush tree cover in the depths of summer, it was like living in a rain forest. Steph commented, "It's like living in a head of broccoli,"....a totally apt description! Gigantic broccoli....everywhere. Like I said....very exotic to me!

We first went to Wegmans. OK...Laurie and I were total Wegman neophytes and our jaws hit the ground when we walked in! For the hopeless foodie that I am, it was truly a kind of Mecca. Unbelievable! Anything and everything you could possibly want! The produce area (fruits and veggies I've never even seen before!)...the cheese area (cheese from all over the place -- there were roqueforts, mobiers and garrotxa
galore! -- oh my -- any cheese you could imagine, they had it!)...and the ethnic food isles! They had an entire isle for goodies from Ireland and the UK! The Asian isle was...well...I got hungry really fast, lemme put it that way.

Then Steph gave us a tour of Cornell University, which was wonderful, and apparently chock-full of esoterica! What a gorgeous campus! They do not build things like that anymore. I posted some more pix of the campus in my Photobucket album if you'd like to peruse them. I love universities -- especially old universities. If I could somehow be a professional student at one of these places, I'd be all over it like green on Ithaca. Here are some highlights...OK, where to begin....let's begin here (because it seems to sum up our wild weekend)....

This is Deja, Steph's dawg. Craaazie!

The clock tower in the commons. This clock tower has quite a whimsical history! The confounding pumpkin even has been honored with a special flavor of ice cream produced by the Cornell Diary, "Clocktower Pumpkin!"

This architecture -- couldn't you just die? How cool is that?!

Here are my fellow conspirators: Kay (left), Steph (middle) and Laurie Jo (right), posing with the Big Dude, Ezra Cornell.

LinkThen she took us to the amazing Andrew Dickson White Library (above). If there's one thing I love more than a university, it's a university library. So imagine my face when I walked in to this first thought when I entered -- " can I live here?" Can you believe it?! Incredible! In the wood cases in the isles were dozens of exquisite ceramic molds of beautiful bas-relief pieces -- so delicate and crisp in detail! And me being a bas-relief maniac...well...I went bananas. Oh the inspiration!.....

Speaking of bas-relief work...check out this carved wood panel (below)...beautiful works were all over the place in this library...I died...

Somehow, in all the library, Laurie found the one book that tends to describe our crazy weekends together (ha ha ha!)...

Then we ventured to the stables on campus and came across this little guy!...."HI!"

There also were some wonderful donkeys (and a donkey foal!), and their shots are in the album. Here's a bit o' history about the stable area.....

Then we ventured to the pond and garden area, which in a word, was "magical." And who welcomed us?....

A big, fat, blobby squirrel, that's who! Biggest squirrel I've ever seen! Huuuuge. I swear, almost the size of a Pomeranian! Suffice to say...I wanted to ooze his goo, but he was too quick. Well well WELL. Meandering around the pond, it felt like we'd wandered into a Monet painting....

I took a ton of pond and lily pad photos. I love ponds and lily pads with a passion, and I intend to use these images as reference for tile designs. Frogs, fish, dragonflies, bitty birds -- bring it on! We even saw a very fat muskrat! Heaven! The entire pond area was a cacophony of chirping and croaking, thanks to these little guys (below)! I died...again.

What a super day! Thank you Stephani! Now as for other shenanigans in Ithaca....

Here's a plate of the eggs benedict I had for breakfast one morning (above)! It looks like a goofy face, doesn't it? Delicious and slightly disturbing...yet entertaining -- now that's what I call a good breakfast. What further set this restaurant apart was this unusual stained glass window (below) -- where else are you gonna find a lobster with a refreshing cocktail? I fully support crustaceans partaking of libations!...

(Below) We also wandered around gorgeous Ithaca Falls....

And of course we had to have breakfast here, as well (below)! I mean, c'mon! Being Mystery Science Theater fans (it's the only thing that plays in my studio while I work), it was written in the stars! For those of you who don't know, the MST episode of "Manos, The Hands of Fate" is considered an all-time classic! To our great chagrin -- they didn't sell T-shirts! ARGH. What a missed opportunity!

So there ya go -- a fabulous weekend in a head of broccoli with some fellow "Manos Maidens." Speaking of fabulous weekends, Hubby and I are off next week to see AC/DC in Tacoma -- wow, that sure came up fast. I'm sure I'll have plenty of photos from that to share with you as well since we intend to tour Olympic National Park (new inspiration beckons!), so stay tuned!

"I've learned...that no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with." ~ Andy Rooney


Sunday, August 16, 2009

More Big Things....

We decided to take a day-trip to McCall, which is about two hours north of Boise. It's my Hubby's old stomping ground after he moved to Idaho from Wisconsin. McCall's Payette Lake has its own "Loch Ness Monster" -- "Sharlie." Hubby thinks he's a big sturgeon, which would still be fun. During pioneer days, whole teams of horses or mules were needed to pull out the enormous sturgeon in Idaho's lakes, and maybe (fingers crossed) a big one managed to escape that fate!

We rode up with two friends of ours, who also ride Harleys, and had a terrific time. We had to get Hubby outta the house -- the motherboard to his computer is acting up and well...sometimes the only cure for frustration is to just get away for awhile! We went to lunch at one of our fave places there (they have a good porter!):

And though it was a bit of an overcast day, I still got some good shots from the North Shore of Payette Lake:

This big stump was so fascinating and pretty.

This was so cool -- this exposed root system...

Here's more -- look at those interlaced roots! I expected this tree to start walking on them, wading out in the water for a quick dip!

This stump swayed back and forth in the tide, and I imagined it to be the big prickly spines of some unknown sea animal as he broke the surface momentarily -- maybe Sharlie!

This stump just looked so odd out there in the water -- I wonder what his story is?

Today I'm working more on The Boat and on the mini stock horse. As for the latter, he's currently on his back with his legs in the air. His foreleg epoxy is "resting" a bit before I tweak it more. It's a beautiful day, but Mr. Stocky has captured my attention...

"An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn't know why they chose him and is usually too busy to wonder why." ~ William Faulkner


Friday, August 14, 2009

Now for some BIG things...

I'm playing catch-up...again. My life feels like a mad scramble up a speeding escalator these past couple of weeks. I'm chin-deep in the Summer 09 issue of The Boat (we have three proofers on this issue - it's that big!) and getting back to work in the studio (more on that in a bit).

Anyhoo....check out that double rainbow (above), seen from my parent's back yard a couple of weeks ago. It was impressive. Clear as day and complete, from end to end. Perfect. Oh, to have a wide angle lens! Doh. One often forgets the scale of a rainbow, and I think including some mortal debris in the shot helps to convey it.

Speaking of feeling one's mortality -- we took a day trip on the motorcycles with my cousin, Greg, (who also rides a Harley) up to Galena Summit. If there's anything that can make me feel part of a bigger picture, it's a vast landscape. Galena Summit (where this shot was taken) is about 8,450 feet in elevation and in the background there are some of the Sawtooth Mountains. It's truly impossible to impart the sense of distance and scale when it comes to things like this -- it's just something that has to be experienced. Oh, to be a bird and simply jump off a hill side and swoop around! If you'd like to peruse more shots, please visit my album here. By the way -- if you're "into" big puffy clouds like I am, you'll like quite a few of my pics!

There's a couple more shots of this bitty Blobby in the album, too. I went nuts with all the little squirrel-blobs running amok at the visitor stop on the summit. And when he goo-ed out like that...well, you can imagine. Well well WELL.

Anyway...the studio. YES. I'm back to work! Finally -- something has lifted and I'm feeling myself again. It's odd. If I don't have dozens of different projects going at once, I get bored. Yet if one of them "stops" me -- I get stopped on nearly all of them. It's like one of the millions of hamsters in my head gets stuck in a habit-trail tube and creates a big back-up. A ham jam. I think the Haffie mare was the jammed ham. Hey, it had to happen -- I had to learn and she was the teacher. But learning and art come in their own time. They cannot be rushed or forced. I guess my "sub-routines" finally worked out the problem cuz her sculpting is done! Yes -- DONE! Well...."done" for now. I'm going to put her away for a week or two and come back to her with fresh eyes. If she's still "done" then, then she's officially done done. And yes -- she left her big lesson for the last, but I'll talk about that later when she's truly done. The thing is -- now that she's taught me what I needed to know....

I'm now earnestly working on the mini-stock horse! I couldn't have attempted this piece without first completing the Haffie mare. I had to learn from her before I could tackle this fellow. And I have to admit that I was a bit trepidatious about him. You really have to know your stuff to sculpt a convincing stock horse. Their muscle quality requires a kind of knowledge and nuance about musculature that isn't for the timid or unknowing! It's very distinctive. It's also very easy to get carried away with their muscling and you end up with some kinda weird "Marvel Comic" version of a horse. Then again, it's very easy to go the other direction and create a kind of puffy-blob of a horse, with muscle more akin to Drafter bulk than bone fide "stockyness." It's also tempting to focus too much on muscle delineation, and you end up with something that looks like a skinned dissection illustration rather than a depiction of "living flesh." So riding all those tight-ropes is definitely tricky, and challenging! But thanks to Ms. Haffie -- I'm hummin' along on him splendidly! What I expected would be a hair-puller has been easy and second-nature. I guess my sub-routines experienced a necessary upgrade thanks to the mare. So all anxiety about him as been replaced with excitement and obsession. He's also grown, which is what I expected anyway. My sculpts tend to grow as I work -- once the length of the shoulders (which is here I start sculpting), back and hip are fixed, then it comes together. But until that time, the size of the piece is in flux. So here are some sneek peeks of the Haffie mare (again) and of the (very much in progress) mini-stock stallion:

Haffie hinder

stocky sneek peek

Speaking of obsession...this new PJ Harvey album, A Man A Woman Walked By. OK -- granted -- her music definitely requires a "taste." It's certainly not for everyone (Hubby refers to it as "freaky harpie music"). But, to me, if any "rock" musician can be considered a true artist -- she's it. I'm bonko over her work and have all her albums. Well, I got this new one on a loop as I work on The Boat while I wait for the epoxy to set up on the stock horse (so I can refine it more). But I hear those songs in my head when it's not playing! Ack! You can listen to "Dark Hearted Love" off the new album here.

Anyway...where was I?....oh yeah...The Boat. Working on this e-zine is a blessing. Being so right-brained in the studio, I need a balance with some left-brain work, which this puppy provides. It also helps me to "fill in the gaps" between epoxy-time and paint-time to keep me busy. It's a new kind of challenge, too -- between gradually learning the bells n' whistles of this fabulous program InDesign®, learning new spins on design concepts (from cereal boxes!), writing articles and relating with the wonderful's been awesome. If I could somehow make a living doing this and my art -- I think that would be perfect. One of my big passions is sharing knowledge -- I cannot contain what I've learned. It has to burst out. Even better -- The Boat attracts fellow artists (columnists and article contributors) who have that same yen. So working on this e-zine fulfills my soul as well as my left-brain needs. Anyway -- in a few weeks, I'll post some teasers of the issues here, so you get an idea of what I'm so gaga about.

"The cyclone ends. The sun returns; the lofty coconut trees lift up their plumes again; man does likewise. The great anguish is over; joy has returned; the sea smiles like a child." ~ Paul Gauguin

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