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

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