Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Creative Stewpot

It's funny how some things are just meant to be, and in their own time. Life's a mystery, a wonderful thing to be sure. Indeed, a couple of weeks ago I discovered just such a mystery languishing right under my nose for...oh...about seven years.

Back story. Okey dokey - I had a 1:9 scale Morgan family in the works some time ago. I started with the mare, but from Day 1 she was a battle. Nothing worked. And I mean nothing. It was one big sculptural Bataan Death March. So I stopped. I've learned it's just better to stop and switch gears rather than force things. Either I'm not ready yet, the planets aren't aligned, or the conflict originates in my inability to listen at the time.

On top of that, I later decided they needed to be in ceramic as well, and so they needed scaling down because at the time ceramic production was infeasible with pieces larger than 1:12 scale (albeit not anymore). Really, the mare's torso alone was a good 9" long, not to mention the neck, head or tail! Back then - before large pieces were slip cast in pieces - that meant the wet, loaded mold would have weighed enough to snap one's spine in half like fresh celery.  

So I made new scaled-down armatures and shelved the original versions in the dark recesses of my studio closet.

 Here's the second generation scaled-down Morgan mare armature. Her torso is only about 6" across. I enjoy creating family sets because I can play with one theme in different ways while also infusing interaction between the pieces.

However, stewing long before all this was the compulsion to sculpt a Lipizzan stallion. I keenly remember the Royal Lipizzan Stallion show Mom took me to eons ago when I was a wee tot, I think when I was in elementary school. Let's just say it made quite an impression.

However, what stopped me in the ensuing decades were the lingering doubts about my ability to truly capture the cavorting white steeds romping around in my imagination. For one, Lippies have a very distinctive look and presence while also imbued with the feel of a living relic, a horse from another age. The breed has a high degree of type variation, too, but despite this, it's surprisingly easy to sculpt them as too-Andalusiany, -Furiosoy, -Morgany, -Arabiany, -Kladrubery, or -Cobby and I risk missing the mark entirely. There's a delicate balance of key features needed to create a piece that immediately and unequivocally reads "Lipizzan." Complicating matters, these horses also incorporate nuanced ideas about anatomy, biomechanics and horsemanship due to their "old world" build and schooling.

Altogether then, one could say that the Lipizzan extravaganza Mom took me to all those years ago was a primary impetus for the development of my art career. Why? Welp, in the truest sense, portraying this breed incorporates everything one needs to know about realistic equine sculpting. But that meant the Lippies who paraded before my tiny, awe-filled eyes had to wait patiently in my head for 30-odd years before I'd come to understand how to do them justice. Some projects really just need to bubble and burble in a creative pot for a very long time. 

Here she is, just as I recently pulled her out of the closet. A GapoxioTM wad of frustration and self-doubt.

As these things tend to do spontaneously, all this smashed together in one of those Big Bang moments of seeming destiny. I was digging through my closet on a totally different hunt (of course) when I came across that old, dust-covered mare. In an instant epiphany, I saw her reborn as a Lippie stallion. It was a literal flash. Quite a powerful moment, actually. Then like my life flashing before my eyes, I realized that's what was fighting me all those years ago! I was forcing this piece to be something it didn't want to be - something it wasn't supposed to be! And too soon.

Here he is, cut apart to be re-pieced back together. Unlike many of my colleagues, I create my full-body sculptures from a self-hardening epoxy clay rather than soft oil clay, or waxes. This means changes can be a real PITA, but it does provide a permanent archival sculpture. This epoxy also has superior characteristics for capturing detail and fleshy effects with ease, at least for me.

So here he is, pinned back together and quickly rough-sketched in Photoshop to distill the idea. Still debating the head and left foreleg position - perhaps the tail, too - but I'll let him guide me this time 'round. While I'd like to eventually sculpt Lippies in the haute ecole and "airs above the ground" movements, right now the "cavorters" have to get out of my head after all these years.

(Above segment) The original version, and (lower segment) the new version. He's going to entail quite a bit of work with tweaking, correcting, re-proportioning and getting things in synch. For example, I see already that his gaskins and hind cannons are too long. However, I work from the withers "outward" so I'll make all the necessary corrections as I go, essentially "cascading" the errors out of his nose n' toes.

Representing a culmination of my entire art career then, this piece will be a true test of how well I've mastered the art form. A heckuva challenge, but I cannot wait to get started! I figure I can work on him alongside my sproinging Arab mare to usher in 2012 with a bang. 

But oy...he's gonna be big. My largest original to date! Heck, he's already the size of my HR Metalchex! This makes him a sharp departure from the smaller scales I've been creating lately, but it's fun to spice things up every so often. And while I don't know how his size will translate into resin or ceramic, I do think bronze is a definite must.

I'm so grateful that Mom encouraged my passion for horses at such an early age - look at the journey it started! A blessed path. What a wonderful thing to look back upon and reflect, and then be able to infuse into this grandiose and thrilling piece! The past and the future, stewing together within the joyous moment! Thanks Mom!

"It has happened more than once that a composition has come to me, ready-made as it were, between the demands of other work." ~ Amy Beach

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