I’ve asked three brilliant sculptors to select one of their pieces and walk us through it, starting with the money-shot and then taking us on a tour of the hidden beauty and mysteries few, if any of us, will ever get to see. To read the previous posts in the series, click here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
For this installment, I will be discussing some of my own work.
"Something to Consider",
Half life size. Sculpted in Chavant’s Le Beau Touche. Molded, cast and painted.
If you keep using the same stuff there’s a pretty good likelihood you’ll wind up with same thing. I was preparing for SFAL3 and wanted to bring something new to the show. One of the ways to get something new is to use something new. I had some Le Beau Touche laying around but really hadn’t played with it. So, I built an armature, cut up some clay and started laying the Touche up before I had a chance to think about it.
I really had no idea what I was going to do. I’ve said this before, the material, the physical hand worked material, informs the work. Sometimes, the best thing you can do it just get out of the way and let things happen.
After roughing out the basics, I started defining the character. Here’s one of those blanket statements that will get me into trouble. Horror is easy. Zombies with desecrated flesh and open wounds. Aliens that look like taxidermy mounts. Jagged toothed monsters assembled from other jagged toothed monsters. They’re easy to do. And the truth is, none of its scary. What I discovered is that wit, charm and an inherent goodwill are hard. Hard to create and even harder to get to resonate. And that’s all I had going into this piece. I wanted to sculpt something that would make people smile.
Houdon said, (and I’m paraphrasing) that an expression is on its way to someplace. It unfolds as opposed to appearing fully formed. I wanted to see if I could get the viewer to consider what this guy was thinking. And in doing so, invest a little of themselves in him.
Le Beau Touche is a really finger friendly clay. Its okay with tools, but its strength is what it lets your fingers do. And that really affects the shapes you create and how they play, one against the other. Much of this piece doubles back on itself. Once, I had the ears, the hat followed. With the hat, the collar followed.
I found that, because of the nature of the clay, I laid up in smaller pieces. Pinched off a little, and thumbed it into place, added another pinch, another thumb press. And it created a nice work-in-progress texture that I really liked.
I put most of what I had into the face and then pulled back from there. Its kind of like focusing a camera. The thing you want to attract the most of the attention is in sharper focus, and you soften out from there. This is what I did with this piece. By the time I got around to the back of the piece, I roughed in just enough to tell you how things worked. “Oh look, its hair.” I figured you’d get the idea.
There so much unhappiness in the world. I think I’d like to see if I can add to the other camp. You know, flip that frown around.