Project 5: Still life, drawing and modelling in clay

Research

Pablo Picasso

‘Mask, 1901’ and ‘Head of a Woman, 1907’ – Two very different face sculptures, the first using very fluid and rough modelling to shape the face in a rounded way. It is a very expressive face, with smooth contours. The second face is very different, the features are precise and hard edged. The inspiration is obviously from some tribal art, with the planes of the nose starting to suggest the move to cubism. The face looks quite flattened and the marks from making it are left on the surface.

‘Head of a Woman, 1951’ – This combines smoothed surfaces in the rounded base and head, with rough surfaces showing the modelling of the form in the joining piece. It is interesting to wonder how he came to this sculpture, do the rounded and rough areas have significance or do they just look good together? Is there another element of tribal art he is combining with the flattened head?

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‘Head of a Woman, 1909-10’ – Definitely into cubism here. It is interesting to see how he has shown the planes of the face here, although from the image in the book, I’m not sure I like the overall outcome.

‘Glass of Absinthe, 1914’ – I find this sculpture more interesting, firstly in how the artist gets from (presumably) a glass of absinthe, to something very far removed from that. It has qualities of a glass still – more like a cocktail glass than a shot glass – but maybe that is how absinthe comes? Secondly, the sculpture has very interesting planes, holes, areas to visually explore, and an interesting surface texture. It would be interesting to know how it was constructed before being cast in bronze – perhaps part construction and part modelling? It looks like the base is the casting cup from the casting more than it being a deliberate part of it?

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‘Bouquet, 1953’ – I think this is great, it is abstract, but you can very quickly see what it is and how he got there. Changing the hole in the jug handle into a half sphere protruding out rather than in and generalising the mass of flowers into an amorphous mass, but adding marks with some of the plant lines.

‘Stick-statuettes, 1931’ – Work on a similar theme, developing figure sculptures. He leaves many of the marks from the sculpting process on these figures. It would be good to work on a theme in a similar way to this.

‘Design for a Monument, 1929’ and ‘Bathing Woman, Design for a Monument (Drawing), 1927’ – two very abstracted sculptures, in which you can see some of the elements of the starting figures, but they have developed very far away from their origins – it would be great to try to do something similar with the first project. On the drawing, it is interesting to note that Picasso shaded to suggest form, but not according to how the light would fall on it.

‘Baboon and Young, 1951’ – Combining construction and modelling in a very surreal way.

 James Wines

Just spotted his ‘Corona I, 1962’ whilst looking at Picasso’s work and really like this piece. It is very rounded bronze work, yet suggestive of a machine. It would be interesting to see in the flesh to work out how he has combined bronze and cement in this way.

Umberto Boccioni

‘Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913’ is a sculpture full of energy and movement, suggesting speed. The surface looks to be smooth and from the picture it is hard to tell how it was made.

‘Anti-Graceful (The Artist’s Mother), 1921’ – presumably he didn’t like his mother? This is a lump of sculpture which lives up to it’s name. Presumably modelled out of slay or similar. Doesn’t do mush for me!

‘Development of a Bottle in Space, 1912’ – I do like this one and if it is indeed a ‘development’, I would love to be able to see the versions which lead up to this one. The main form is obviously still a bottle, despite being hollowed out. It is intriguing to wonder how he got from a bottle to this sculpture – the neck label / metal has got larger and separated, the cap or cork has distorted, the side of the bottle has been removed – did that go into the base or disappear? The label has gained a lot of thickness. Where did the surrounding forms come from though?

Max Ernst

‘Tete double: Oedipus, 1935’ – Cast forms then modelled? Hard to tell without seeing in the flesh, but I don’t think this does anything for me.

‘The Table is Set, 1944’ – I immediately want to know what these objects are and how he came to these shapes from their origins, presumably through the simplification of shapes?

‘Moon Mad, 1944’ – again intriguing to see the development of an abstract sculpture from a figure. Doing some figure sculptures would be an interesting project to undertake.

‘The King playing with the Queen, 1944’ – obviously chess inspired, I suspect this may have started life as a constructed sculpture rather than a modelled one.

 

Enough research for now – on with the sculpting….!

Initial Thoughts

The thought of doing a representative still life doesn’t appeal as much as trying to abstract a still life arrangement, so this is what I am going to try to do.

I’m not sure how easy this will be, but I will probably need to do more preparatory work in my sketchbook to achieve this, which is a good thing for my sketchbook development as well.

It will be interesting to see how far I can develop ideas from their starting point, in a similar way to how Picasso developed his figures into his ‘Bathing Woman. Design for a Monument (Drawing)’ 1927 or his ‘Design for a Monument’ 1929, or Umberto Boccioni’s ‘Development of a bottle in space’ 1912 or Max Ernst’s ‘The Table is Set’ 1944. These examples show some of the infinite variations on how this could be approached – let’s see how I get on!

A few sketches thinking about abstraction:

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Having written the above, the words ‘still life’ caused a creative block in the same way they did on the drawing and printing course! I tried a few still life arrangements which gave me no inspiration at all:

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An idea of boxes in a corner appealed for a while, but I then went off the idea:

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This lasted for a few weeks before I decided that I just needed to get on with it!

Still Life Arrangement

In the spirit of ‘getting on with it’, I threw together various objects which provided a variation in shape and texture. I did some sketches in my sketchbook and adjusted these to give a pleasing arrangement and interesting forms to sculpt.

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After deciding the arrangement, it was time to do some sketches of the arrangement:

P5 Sketch 1

Charcoal

P5 Sketch 2

Brown and black acrylic ink applied with a paintbrush

P5 Sketch 3

Watercolour background with pastel and charcoal on top

P5 Sketch 4

Charcoal

These sketches show the still life arrangement well, but don’t develop it any further. Due to lack of inspiration on how to move it forwards, but I decided to just get on with it and use this exercise as a modelling practice rather than trying to produce a work of art.

The final sculpture – roughly life-sized (I may paint/wax it when it is dry, but it is complete for now):

Clay 8 Clay 7 Clay 6 Clay 5Clay 4 Clay 3 Clay 2 Clay 1

A successful representation of the still life

Sketches of my sculpture, all in charcoal:

P5 Clay sketch 1 P5 Clay sketch 2 P5 Clay sketch 3 P5 Clay sketch 4 P5 Clay sketch 5

These are the kind of drawings I should have been doing at the start to develop the still life before I started to model it. Because I haven’t, I have ended up with effectively a copy of the still life in clay, rather than exploring anything – lesson learned!

I did finally treat this sculpture with shellac. Final piece:

”Clay still life’
Clay, wood, shellac
38x36x27cm

Treated clay 1 Treated clay 2 Treated clay 3Treated clay 4 Treated clay 5 Treated clay 6

Appraisal of outcomes

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I think this is a well modelled sculpture, fairly accurately representing the still life arrangement it was based on.

The arrangement of the still life objects is interesting, with the cloth providing a link between them and a flow through the sculpture.

Quality of Outcome

As a “copy” of the original still life, this works very well.

Demonstration of Creativity

This sculpture lacks imagination or any development.

Context

Not really applied in this sculpture.

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