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Monthly Archives: June 2015
Demonstration of technical and visual skills
The project I decided to do for these projects and assignments were a huge technical challenge (probably why the course notes say to avoid metal casting!). I think I have worked through these challenges well (although not without plenty of errors along the way). I think I always go for the most difficult option to learn more – I like the challenge!
Resin – Worked quite well but very smelly and would be costly for anything big. Interesting to experiment with, but probably not something I’ll use again in a hurry.
Wax – Not crystal clear as described, except on the bottom (maybe it reacts with the rubber in some way). Worked well to fulfil my burning landscape idea.
Ice – Expansion meant that the base was not flat, although I guess it could have been melted flat if required. I fortunately cut and then glued the plaster mould back together, which then allowed the mould to be broken apart to get the ice out. It worked well for the images I was aiming for.
Bronze – This is a fantastic material to use and I do love the finish you can achieve with it. It is a very involved and time consuming process to cast yourself though. Some of this was learning the process, but a lot is the waiting time between coats / etc.
Wood – I’m using offcuts of what I have lying around at the moment. It would be nice to get hold of some old railway sleepers or something with more character for future work.
Stone – I was planning to use stone for some of the sculpture bases, but couldn’t find out where to get any from and ran out of time! Hopefully I’ll explore stone bases in future projects.
In terms of materials, I think I have used a very wide range of these in this stage.
Despite a few mistakes along the way, I don’t think I can be faulted in this section. In my figure piece especially, I constructed a five part rubber and plaster mould to transfer my super-sculpey shape into wax. Then the bronze casting process is very involved, both in the spueing and shelling process, then in the metalworking and finished after having poured the metal. I also had to design and construct tools to enable me to pick up and pour the bronze from the crucible.
However, in concentrating so much on the process driven steps required to mould and cast my objects, at times I felt I had moved away from the creative / conceptual work in carrying this out, although that could be just because I did this work so long ago now. I look forwards to embracing this again in the next stage.
These are probably most acutely shown in my figure sculpture as this was directly sculpted in a life drawing session, with the base fabricated to fit the figure in a more natural way than the arrangement of cushions/etc. used by the model in the session.
Design and Compositional Skills:
I am pleased with the way my residency sculptures are developing and feel this area has a very wide range of possibilities to explore. I think that modelling and adapting my design as I play with the materials is the most natural way of working for me.
Quality of Outcome
I am very pleased with the quality of my work in this assignment.
‘Esther’ – a great opportunity to sculpt from life which has resulted in a very attractive bronze sculpture. It does have a few small marks which could have been ground off before patinating.
‘Landscape 1-3’ – These realised my ideas well, the ice and wax versions providing the most interesting (although temporary) outcomes.
‘Landscape’ – My video editing abilities are limited to using Windows movie maker, but I think this worked quite well.
‘Monument to the last tree’ – This is perhaps the least successful sculpture with the patination too uniform and dark to express what I had in mind.
‘Residency under construction’ – This worked surprisingly well, although the background shelf is too busy and would probably work better with a plain rusted shelf. I may change this at some point.
Demonstration of Creativity
My sculptures may have suffered from the technical focus of the processes I was going through, and because each piece took so long to realise, I didn’t develop my ideas as far as I have in previous projects. I think I should focus my efforts on this development in the next stage (although learning yet another process in carving may get in the way of that! I can see why this has come out of the newly revised course notes for this course).
These sculptures are not particularly inspired by other artists. ‘Esther’ came from a life drawing opportunity, ‘Landscape 1-3’ came from my fascination with all things to do with maps, ‘Monument to the last tree’ came from seeing a lightning struck tree and ‘Residency under construction’ is a development of my sculptures in stage 3.
Looking back, it is interesting to see that I have produced three sculptures in this section which make an environmental statement – maybe there is something I want to say with my work!
We had a two week pose at my life drawing class, so I did figure sketches of the model at the first class and then tried modelling the figure at the second. This is currently still incomplete:
I didn’t pursue this model further as I thought the pose would make it very difficult to mould and cast in wax.
After this, there was the opportunity of a full day life drawing, so I decided to go along to that and model from life – not the easiest thing to do as I found out! It might have been easier to concentrate on sketching and produce the model afterwards, but I came out of the day with a reasonable likeness of the figure:
This was made in super-sculpey, a soft modelling clay which can be fired in the oven to harden it. I did this and then took a mould of the base and figure separately.
This is where I learnt that I needed the thixotropic thickener to use with the silicone rubber as my first attempt was a disaster and only resulted in breaking the arm off. The second attempt was more successful, but took about a month to mould as I did each section separately with three coats of rubber and then plaster.
Finally, I had replaced my super-sculpey model in wax – it would have been far quicker to just do it again in wax, but it was a good learning process none the less!
The waxes needed work to tidy them up, then they were sprued, shelled up and then cast:
They were then sandblasted and the sprues cut off and tidied up. They were both given a smooth finish and patinated. I considered drilling holes through the base and into the figure and attaching together with a bolt, but as they didn’t meet completely, you would be able to see this from some angles, so I left them separate.
27 x 15 x 14cm
I quite fancied the idea of a 3D map tile. I visualised it being cast in resin or glass and balanced over a metal grid structure, or maybe cast in ice and filmed as it melted? Similarly, a wax version with multiple candle wicks inserted in could be lit and filmed burning, like the news images of the Kuwait oil fields alight?
This idea could be a goer, so I started constructing a tile to play with. This started out as pieces of foamboard, cut out to form a contour map and then added to with oil based clay. I then added a clay base ready to pour over plaster:
I tried painting on wax to form a hollow shape first and it was a good job I did, it was very hard to get the wax out, so I suspect I have undercuts which would prevent other materials from being extracted.
So, I then needed a mould of the wax. I first added the road lines to the wax, before making a mould of this in rubber this time, followed by plaster.
The first cast was made using a clear wax. The aim was to have a burning landscape, although it may well all go up in flames once I light it – who knows!
Once the tile was cast in wax (not as clear as it should have been, but it still looks OK), I then drilled holes through it to insert three taper like red candles, so they could be seen running down through the wax as an oil well would be bored down into a landscape. I sealed these in with the wax drilled out of the holes.
The next cast was made using a crystal clear resin – a substitute for glass which is what I originally imagined it to be made of:
I had some air bubbles in this which I think is a common issue with resin casting (I think a vacuum is needed to avoid this), it also made my workshop a no-go area with the smell for about a week! Apart from that, it seemed to work reasonably well.
Finally (as I thought the expansion of ice might end up breaking the mould), I produced a cast in ice.
The plan for this was a metal grid with the metal rods at various angles. To do this I constructed some supports to be able to arrange them as I went along. The grid gradually took shape and I then welded it all together:
Joining the pieces
26 x 26 x 15cm
26 x 26 x 15cm
Wax, string, steel
26 x 26 x 15cm
It then occurred to me to combine these pieces together in a video – the ‘perfect’ landscape (crystal clear resin), followed by the landscape melting (ice) and burning (wax) as we try our best as a species to destroy it. Maybe I’m deviating too far into mixed-media here, but I thought I would give it a go.
Unfortunately this video is too large to upload to my blog site! However, if I’ve done it right, it should appear here from utube:
Inspired by what looked like a lightning struck tree, I produced some sketches:
What with the growing number of tree diseases around and ash dieback recently coming to our area, I thought a sculpture titled “monument to the last tree” might work and set about trying to create one.
I needed a base to work on as I was going to work on the outer bark of the tree only, so it would be thin and probably not structurally sound in anything other than metal. So I started out with the inner shape of the tree in super-sculpey. I then made a mould of this in plaster:
Very involved to get a simple shape, but all good moulding experience!
I then worked on this plaster base adding super-sculpey ‘bark’ and then moulding this in rubber and plaster, before casting in wax:
This could have been done along with the base in retrospect which would have been far quicker and easier.
I then cut the gaps back in, worked on the edges and then sprued it up in a fashion which I hoped would work:
This was shelled up and cast:
Finally, it was patinated and waxed:
‘Monument to the last tree’
25 x 25 x 16cm
I have been continuing work on my residency idea (see the 2 large acrylic paintings which I have added to the end of my stage 3 assignment blog). My next idea on this theme was to have a residency ‘under construction’, i.e. the framework of the shape, without the outer shell.
I tried to construct this out of wax sprues. This wasn’t as easy as I had hoped, mainly because the temperature was too low for the sprues to be in a very malleable state and they tended to snap rather than bend very much. Doing this in summer should be much more successful.
I constructed the shape I was after, then cut it in half and spued it up. Again, I am using a lot of guesswork and blind hope that this will actually cast!
After shelling and casting, amazingly it all worked out just fine:
This was then reconstructed and placed around a similar shelf as used with my previous sculptures, then patinated.
‘Residency under construction’
40 x 18 x 10cm
Demonstration of technical and visual skills
I had not deviated from the course this time and used plaster. The firewood used to impress the design works well.
Cutting the plaster blocks to fit them together was not easy and took a few attempts to get right. Getting it perfect would have been very difficult indeed, but I have embraced the imperfections of the joins.
The end result matched the initial idea I had in my first sketch.
Design and Compositional Skills:
The box shape works well stood on one of its corners and the wood impressions provide bold marks.
Quality of Outcome
I am pleased with this sculpture and it actually looks better than I was expecting it to look. The use of charcoal could have been experimented with a bit more, maybe rubbed into the whole sculpture then rubbed off the highlights?
Demonstration of Creativity
Due to the amount of time I have spent on bronze casting, I devoted less time to this project than to the previous one (although it still took a considerable amount of time – how anyone produces anything in the time stated in the course notes I have no idea!). This meant that I followed my early idea and didn’t work on developing it further. I think that was because I am less inspired by bas-relief than other sculptural forms.
The thinking behind this sculpture was to represent mans need to control nature in the containing of irregular natural objects into a fixed regular container.
Bas-relief was interesting to experiment with, but it is probably not an area I think I will continue to work in.
This section of the course looks more interesting to me and I will follow the course notes for this project.
Some initial ideas:
- I could produce panels like those on F.E. McWilliam to then construct into a large sculpture?
- Map panels?
- Could I do one of my residency drawings in this way?
- Cast in something light and make up a picture / door covering?
- Could cast a head in sections and texture the surface with bas-relief?
- Try brushing in graphite and rubbing off on surface?
- Try blowtorching the clay surface to make it crack first?
The course notes suggest looking at two sculptors in this section, Eduardo Paolozzi and Henri Matisse.
Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005)
‘Japanese War God, 1958’
This is a sculpture I think is hard to appreciate from a small picture in a book. On initial viewing it looks to be very cluttered with lots and lots of information, and not a very aesthetic form. Investigating further, this is a large sculpture at 1.5m tall, so viewing it as a 10cm picture is going to be difficult. Even so, I think this has far too much information in it to be viewed at a distance (as I am effectively doing).
I’m sure some of the forms in this sculpture might provide inspiration, but not at the scale I am viewing it at.
‘Hermaphroditic Idol, no.1, 1962’ and ‘The City of the Circle and the Square, 1963’
These are very different sculptures, the forms are much simpler, make more use of repetition, and are mostly symmetrical.
The first of these reminds me of a gaudy fairground machine, which doesn’t do anything for me.
The second looks like a mishmash of a piano/building on a machine base. It makes me wonder what it is supposed to represent (no idea really!), but doesn’t appeal to me aesthetically.
I think they are both too blocky, regular and almost plastic – the kind of look you’d get on a cheap, mass produced plastic toy – part of that could be viewing large sculptures at a very small size, but that is the impression I get.
Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
‘The Back 1-1V, 1909-1929’
These are interesting in showing the process of abstraction, and that Matisse is returning to a sculpture that inspires him again and again, over 20 years in this case. It shows that if an idea grabs you, you should keep working on it until you perfect it – probably something which you never achieve! These look like they are carved bas-reliefs, so not produced in the same way as will be done in this project.
Julius Schmidt (1923 – present)
‘Cast Iron, 1961’
This wasn’t a suggested bas-relief to look at, but it looks like it could have been produced in this way? This is full of information like the first Paolozzi, but doesn’t look as cluttered in the same way. Perhaps this is because even at the scale of the picture, you can tell that there are lots of interesting things to look at, a cityscape on a war machine base reminiscent of a star-wars walker (maybe this is where the inspiration for them came from?).
Having looked into Julius Schmidt more closely, it looks like these were probably formed using core-sand casting – something which looks like an interesting process. I guess they could be done in bas-relief though.
Read, H. (1964). A concise history of modern sculpture. London: Thames and Hudson.
Julius Schmidt. (n.d.). 1st ed. [ebook] Available at: http://www.dennosmuseum.org/education/docent/Forms/Julius Schmidt.pdf [Accessed 25 Jun. 2015].
I started out with a test tile as suggested, pressing in various tools / cogs / etc.
I really liked the effect of some of these marks. The ones which particularly worked well were the tools, the fingers (particularly when wearing a rubber glove) and the tree branches.
I decided in the end to go with the tree branches and construct a 6 panel box out of them. The thinking behind this being the trapping/compressing of irregular natural objects into a fixed regular container – representing mans need to control nature.
I cast 6 panels, then cut the edges at a 45 degree angle before fixing them together with glue and filling in any gaps.
As a finish, I painted it with gesso to give a white finish.
I also tried adding charcoal (I was hoping to get finger marks with this, but it didn’t work out that way).
38 x 45 x 40cm
Plaster, acrylic paint, charcoal
I visited The Whitworth gallery in Manchester to see the Cornelia Parker exhibition.
She obviously enjoys ‘playing’, using anything and everything to make her sculptures and pictures. They are all about the ideas, with the actual sculpture/picture sometimes being secondary. For instance she displayed a number of images using wire which was made from the metal in bullets (‘Bullet Drawings’), or gold from dental filings. The arrangement of the wire in the frame looked pretty arbitrary and not arranged in an aesthetic way. This made many of the works interesting, but not decorative. Some of these were also humorous like ‘exhaled cocaine’ which was a pile of incinerated cocaine from a police disposal.
Sometimes the sculptures and pictures from these ideas are beautiful though, as well as being interesting. My favourite had to be ‘Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991’, a blown up garden shed and contents, reassembled as in mid-explosion and hung from the ceiling by wire around a light bulb.
This sculpture has a huge presence and looks fantastic with the light breaking through the gaps. What a great idea and vision to see how it would be transformed from an ordinary object into a work of art.
Another favourite was titled something similar to ‘pornographic image’, which was a butterfly picture made out of ink from destroyed pornographic video tapes – presumably a reference to the blot pictures used by psychologists? On a similar vein was ‘Poison and Antidote Drawing, 2012’ where she used both snake poison and it’s antidote to make butterfly pictures which have the ability to kill and save your life at the same time.
Other interesting pieces were cast pavement cracks, where she had used cold cast rubber to cast a section of pavement in London and also in Jerusalem. The London location being a graveyard where she often played hopscotch with her daughter and the link between them being that the graveyard houses William Blake who wrote the poem ‘Jerusalem’.
I’m only part way through her book at the moment, so may add to this post later.
On display at the same time in The Whitworth was a room full of a large drawing by Cai Guo-Qiang surrounding a lake, called ‘Unmanned Nature’.
It turned out that this huge drawing was made using gunpowder laid on Japanese hemp paper and ignited (with cardboard on top to contain the explosion and put out the fire). Amazingly this was done on the floor in a sports hall somewhere, so is actually quite contained. It produces some wonderful marks and is extremely effective in this drawing. Who knew you could draw with gunpowder? Tempting to try this out myself, although maybe not the best idea…….?!
Blazwick, I. and Parker, C. (2013). Cornelia Parker. London: Thames & Hudson.
Demonstration of technical and visual skills
Clay slip was good to work with and offers a lot of potential to make repeated shapes. I’m hooked on bronze which is a lovely material to work with.
This project involved a great deal of technical skills which whilst I have not mastered yet, I think I have worked through pretty successfully.
‘Untitled’ came about through experimenting with the techniques and materials. ‘Bell pit 1’ was from a fully formed idea developing my ideas from a similar map based printing project. ‘Bell pit 2’ was playing around with a smaller version of the above. ‘The flick 2’ was trying out different techniques and materials to cast from life, with the subject from my previous sculpture.
Design and Compositional Skills:
‘Unititled’ – the ball arrangement works well here, but the base plaster is too thin and looks contrived on the four plaster pillars.
‘Bell pit 1’ – this piece is too regular a shape to work well.
‘Bell pit 2’– the irregular shape of this piece works much better than the bigger piece.
‘The flick 2’ – As a life-cast only the position of the hand is important in this regard, which was taken from my previous sculpture.
Quality of Outcome
‘Untitled’ has a more unfinished outcome which my tutor has been encouraging me to embrace. ‘Bell pit 1’ returns to a precise shape for which it suffers, ‘Bell pit 2’ works much more successfully for its roughness and has more energy because of it. ‘The flick 2’ worked quite well for a life cast, but personally has limited appeal as I prefer sculpture which show skill in modelling/construction rather than ready-mades/life casts/assemblages.
Demonstration of Creativity
I think that the technical aspects of the sculptures I chose to make in this stage has got in the way of creativity to some extent. ‘Untitled’ is the most creative of the sculptures produced in this stage, but I should have paid more attention to the base of the sculpture.
‘Untitled’ is an attempt to embrace unfinished materials in a similar way to the work of Adrián Villar Rojas.
An interesting exploration of casting techniques with some thoughts to take forwards on the type of finish I wish to achieve on my pieces.
The initial stage for this was to use cardboard disks of decreasing size, covered in oil based clay and then varnished to create the initial mould for this:
I then created a plaster mould from this:
I then painted the two halves of the mould with hot wax, then another layer, then joined them together and poured wax around them to get a thick coating but keep them hollow.
I then textured the “seem” with a pointed metal tool and added lines and other map based marks using a lino cutting tool.
After shelling up the piece, the wax was melted out:
And then the shell was cooked and the bronze poured in:
Apart from a dimple in one area (presumably caused by the metal contracting as it cooled?), the cast worked fairly well.
I tried adding gold using the keum-bo technique but that didn’t work, so I patinated in black, green and white and polished the seam area to make it shine before waxing.
I also made a couple of smaller pieces modelling the shape directly out of wax. The roughness of these smaller pieces worked better than the more regular large piece, which looks too much like a doughnut.
I then needed a suitable base to support the pieces and decided that burnt planks of wood would work well.
The final pieces:
‘Bell pit 1’
15 x 10 x 25cm
‘Bell pit 2’
7 x 4 x 13cm
For this sculpture, I made a container out of lino, taped together and fixed together and sealed to the base with mod-roc plaster bandage:
Unfortunately, the first of these I made too wide, so there wasn’t enough alignate to cover my hand in a flick position, so I changed my hand into a fist quickly before it set.
On the second attempt (fortunately I had only used half the packet on the first one), I made the container thinner and was able to get it to work:
After extracting my hand (easier said than done with both of these!), I then filled the cavity with wax (pouring it out when I thought it would be thick enough):
The fist cast didn’t work fully as there was a hole under the fingers and it was a bit short, so apart from casting it in wax, this is where that attempt ended:
The ‘flick’ cast worked better and so I capped off the wrist, added a post to the finger end to insert into the base and sprued it up to be cast:
The casting worked well apart from a funny area on the palm of flashing(?).
Once tidied up, I chose a brown patina and mounted the hand on a wooden post knocked into the garden.
‘The flick 2’
19 x 10 x 120cm
The course notes say that casting in metal is a “very time-consuming process which, as students at this level of study, is neither practical, appropriate or economical”. I am a believer that anything is possible and so saw this as a challenge rather than a barrier! The statement is certainly true if you don’t want to spend the total number of hours for the entire course on one stage, but otherwise it is actually possible to do. On the economics, bronze is an expensive material, but if you work small it needn’t be too expensive. The cost of the other materials is also quite high, although they will be sufficient to cast many more pieces. The really high cost is in time. In doing this, it has put me a long way back in progress toward completing my course, but hopefully I will be back on track from now on.
Heaps to learn and a very time consuming and technical process, but it was a great learning process and I will certainly be continuing with bronze casting in the future so it has stood me in good stead.
All the bronze works for this stage were worked on at the same time for project 7 and the assignment, due to the process being very involved and time consuming.
My experience at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and doing work experience at Castle Fine Arts Foundry stood me in good stead here, but the more I delved into this, the more I discovered that I needed to get/make. I even got into some serious tool construction in manufacturing a tool to pick up and pour the crucible:
I’m not going to go into the full description of the process, but here are some images of my backyard foundry in action:
As part of the casting, I produced 4 test tiles to try out different colour patination on. These looked like this:
The final of the circle and this one was a sketchbook of blind drawings – not my forte I think, but I tried some of these in my life drawing classes: