Thursday, November 11, 2010

Full Circle...and Beyond

One of the many Unicorns from my old sketchbooks.

Things have been busy here at the studio, preparing for Christmas, getting projects completed and started, and dealing with little setbacks that inevitably pop up from time to time. The thing is...creativity doesn't always apply to the design of a new piece. Just as much, it applies to problem-solving the technical aspects of our work because each one presents us with a whole lorry of engineering challenges that we often have to tackle on the fly. And some of them work and some of them implode in a rather spectacular manner.

One such disaster befell VToo. Despite being packed in foam, bubblewrap and being double-boxed, she arrived to my caster, Resins by Randy, with a busted supporting leg. ARGH. The problem was that the leg attached to the base had many weak areas caused by all the cuts and reattached adjustments made to the leg's proportions as the sculpture developed. I thought I had packed her suitably well to protect that leg...but physics and the post office had other ideas. Such is life. The good news is that the repair to her leg was quite simple, but the bad news is the issue of her base has been the tricky part.
For the past week I've been "tinkering" with ways to make her detachable from that darned paper-weight. Oh heck -- let's use a more accurate term....struggling. I've been struggling with ways to make her detachable from her base. Despite the frustration, doing so will allow me to ship her separated from it so she arrives intact, and in theory, make her casting easier. However, the complication is that this engineering also must allow the buyer to affix her to the base both easily and at the correct angles. This means that her foot must fit into the base much like a key in a lock so she seats onto the base in the way I intend her to sit -- and that's not easy. Not even by a little bit. In fact, two methods I've tried this week haven't worked, so now I'm on the third. But I guess it's three times the charm because -- by jove -- I think I got it this time!
Really the primary issue is having one element to that lock-and-key mechanism fixed; I needed a rigid, uniform shape to reduce the equation down to one variable. That way all I have to do is make an impression of it in the base, do a little finessing and voilĂ . So I realize now that the reason the two other attempts failed was because I was dealing with two variables -- her foot and the base -- which amounted to one big headache.

To achieve this simplified equation, I needed a peg for her foot. Not one that I made, but one made from a wood dowel or acrylic rod...both of which I didn't have. And I definitely didn't want to jump into the car and drive all the way to a craft store to buy one. I dislike running errands like that because I find them so annoyingly disruptive...and I was already pretty annoyed. So what to do? What to do? Hmmmm.....AH! Yes, of course! Why not? The handle end of a paintbrush!

Up by her hock, you can see the area of the break. But look at her hoof -- I had to rebuild it entirely, and with that "key" projecting out of the bottom. That's the butt-end of a paintbrush, with a "spine" made out of Superglue and baking soda, which was then shaped with a drill bit.

The "keyhole" in the base made by the peg. The peg's "spine" will keep her from twirling on the base, while the peg will hold her in the right position from all other angles. Once this epoxy cures, I'll finesse it more and blend it into the sculpting on the base.

So hopefully by Monday, I can hit the "do-over" button with Randy and we can get VToo into production! BAH! But on a good note...lots of new projects are underway for Christmas and 2011! Now while I promised sneak peeks of Dante and Alfred, they'll have to wait for next week. Instead, here's a sneak peek of a spur-of-the-moment sculpture I started yesterday -- a Unicorn!

Here's the fresh armature, with a Photoshopped tail and horn in the way I envision them now. He was supposed to be 1:24 scale, but he ended up being closer to 1:12 scale.

Unicorns have paraded through my mind for ages, and so I've been meaning to sculpt a series of them for years -- and now that I've streamlined the studio, the opportunity has presented itself. However, I don't cotton to the idea that a Unicorn is just a horse with a horn. No. To me, a Unicorn is other-worldly.  Something familiar -- horse-like -- but not horse...unfamiliar. Something both ethereal, beautiful, elemental...and perhaps a little bit unsettling. In that light, I don't see Unicorns romping under rainbows with butterflies and faeries. Nope. I see solitary Unicorns silently prancing through dark, old growth forests, misty lonely mountains, yawning wastelands, raging coasts, and tangled jungles...anywhere not tamed by humanity. Fierce and free, they cavort in the wild and primeval places in our hearts, embodiments of both mystery and magic, and wisdom that stretches into eternity.

As such, they've taken up quite a few pages in my sketchbooks throughout the years as I explored different ways to approach them. Here are various selections out of my 1985 (!!!) sketchbooks, so you can get an idea of what my vision of a Unicorn embodies...

Here you can see I experimented with lots of different "head types." In my series, I plan to build upon this variety since, being a fantasy animal, I have lots of wiggle room to play with ideas.

These last two drawings depict my more "old world" vision of the Unicorn, incorporating more deer-like or antelope-like qualities.

 Here's another variant, blending "old world" with some new interpretations.

Here's a more conventional interpretation, but definitely still not a horse with a horn.

On the same page, I'm playing with totally opposite interpretations. Had I been more clever, I would have made the Unicorn on the left poking his horn through the loop of his tail. As for the one on the right, I've long associated Unicorns with ivy, for reasons I can't explain. But you'll see this motif come up often in my tile work depicting Unicorns. And ivy makes such a lovely border!

So I think it's safe to say that I'm not sure how the sculpture will turn out, though I'm leaning more towards the "old world" interpretation for now. But like I said -- he's first in a series, and I intend to meander through lots of different interpretations of this mystical creature.

Speaking of which, I thought you'd get a kick out of some other selected sketches from those 25 year old sketchbooks....

Before I started sculpting, I was dabbling in oil painting. This piece was an initial sketch for a painting that never happened. It's big, which is why it's been pieced together in Photoshop. I don't know why I pitted a Unicorn against a Dragon. I guess because I thought a Unicorn would whoop a lion's hinder!

I've also had a fascination for dragons. While frightening to some, I've never perceived them as evil. I just don't "get" that idea. To me, they're like Unicorns, only in another form. In fact, when I saw the movies "Alien" and "Aliens," I was so frightened by those creatures that I filled up pages of my sketchbooks with "Protector Dragons." Once I did that, the nightmares ended.

Here's another dragon, with the fledgling beginnings of color pencil (done badly). I'd like to get back to dragons someday, because I think they'd make for some marvy sculpture work and tile designs.

I've also been enthralled with "seahorses," in the fantasy sense. So I'd like to start a series of them, too, because I think the biological variety that could be explored with them is exciting!

It's hard to believe that all those drawings were done 25 years ago -- where does the time go? In a deep sense, the age of these drawings seems to urge me to finally make good on my childhood promises, and bring these creatures to sculptural life! As I child I drew immortal creatures, yet now as I'm aging and facing my own mortality, I'm called back to them. Interesting. 

And in those same books, I was delighted to find even more carousel horses...a whole boatload of them!...

 A dramatic armored horse.

 A charming prancy fellow.

As you know, I'm nuts about carousel animals, especially the horses. And I've started the first steps towards creating a series of carousel medallions, for both white resin and ceramic. Each design will explore a different theme, and I'm really looking forward to decking out each horse in the accoutrements of each idea. Right now, I have 116 themes, so this project will keep me busy for some time! 

What a fun intermixing of the old made new again lately, but in the meantime, I have my 2010 ornament to contend with! I've finished making the pressmolds, all eight of them, and tomorrow I'll be jetting down to The Potter's Center to buy the porcelain clay. Then hopefully this weekend, The Grand Experiment will begin!

Eight innocent-looking pressmolds drying in the garage. I say "innocent" because I'm not going to let their doe-eyed, pristine optimism dupe me into thinking that this Grand Experiment won't be fraught with disaster, frustration and lots -- and LOTS -- of learning. Take a deeeeeep breath and....JUMP!

"Cut not the wings of your dreams, for they are the heartbeat and the freedom of your soul." ~ Flavia


Monday, November 1, 2010

A Rainbow of Possibilities

In keeping with the theme of "transformation" are my ventures into new avenues with my work. Specifically, I'd like to expand into the giftware market, as well as develop more inroads into the fine art venue not only to diversify the studio, but to explore new possibilities with my two hands. I don't like limitations, so I figure I can apply my skills and ideas to all sorts of creative projects! But this is no easy task because I'll essentially be starting from scratch again as I build new client bases...something that's both exciting and intimidating at the same time. Being so, I'm both optimistic and somber about the prospects.

The thing is that in the equine collectible industry, an artist creating good work tends to have it easy. Simply create reliable and consistent pieces and collectors will come to your door. Consequently, such an artist doesn't necessarily have to sweat so hard to market her work, and presentation often takes a backseat to simply creating in-demand pieces. However, this equation is flipped  outside of that market, which means I'll have to hustle to learn and deploy marketing tactics, and work on that almighty component to success -- presentation. The fact is that how work is presented can have more to do with its success than its quality, within the full spectrum of "buzz" to what actually ends up in the customer's hands. 

So I've had a busy time researching various tactics and deciding what would work for my purposes, though I fully expect to learn mostly by trial and error. I've also been researching where to take out print and banner ads once I get my inventory built up, and I'm eager to start that stage of the process. In the meantime, I've been able to apply a few of these strategies to the collectible facet of my studio, and have found that paying more attention to packaging and presentation really does impact the perception of my work. And, ultimately, I want my collectors to have a positive experience when they open that box because so much love and care has gone into everything it contains! Indeed, things only begin once that sculpture is finished!

"I believe that what it is I have been called to do will make itself known when I have made myself ready." ~ Jan Phillips

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