I had been thinking along the lines of sculpting a piece based on the idea of a cocoon and had made a number of sketches on this idea:
However, I couldn’t quite visualise it working as well as I wanted it to.
Having a re-think, I decided to pursue an idea I had based on a thistle root which I had sketched and tried to develop for a bronze sculpture in my sketchbook circle sketchbook.
I was thinking that this would work in both plaster and clay. I also fancy trying to produce a mould of the plaster versions to produce a wax for bronze casting also.
I tried a version in wax (incomplete – ran out of wax!):
In plaster, I produced two sculptures. The first of these used a base of wooden doweling with screws in it, plus a polystyrene section. The other using similar wooden doweling with screws and a wire frame section:
I then coated these with plaster bandage (I found a much cheaper supply than my earlier attempts with this), then a coat of plaster over the top. Leaving the wire one with a smooth surface, and the polystyrene one with a rough surface:
After sanding down some areas and tidying them up, I was then ready to paint them in acrylic paints. I first tried some colour experiments:
Even with these tests, it was hard to tell how they might turn out! Should I go for natural colours, or way out bold unnatural colours? I eventually decided to try one of each. I could always paint over them again!
The bold blue colour was inspired by Katharina Fritsch with her blue cockerel on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Four coats were needed to get the intensity of colour needed.
In clay, I produced three (complete) sculptures using paper clay. The straight sections were constructed on wooden doweling wrapped in paper (with the wood removed once built).
The first rounded section was produced without any frame and collapsed a bit in joining it together (not necessarily in a bad way though, but not as intended). The straight sections had small tubes attached to it:
The next two rounded areas were produced by wrapping clay around screwed up newspaper which worked much better. In the first of these, the straight sections were covered with lumps of clay moulded into it:
In the next, the straight sections were covered with small tubes pointing in random directions:
Some images of some other incomplete experiments:
After firing the sculptures, I then glazed them in colours I hoped would work and then fired them again using a specially constructed structure to support them in the air to be able to glaze them to the bottom:
The first to be glazed – unfortunately the colours will change – I love it as it is now though (although it would need a different shelf to sit on if it was this colour)!
The next three in the kiln for their glaze firing:
The final ceramic sculptures:
The sculptures were planned to sit either side of a rusted metal shelf, so the next stage was to make this shelf. I played around with various different ideas, cutting the shapes out of cardboard and seeing how they looked. These three designs I decided to go with:
The shelves needed to be sturdy enough, so I chose 3mm steel to make them out of, cut the shapes from the cardboard templates and welded them together:
These were then rusted and painted with an acrylic medium to seal them.
The plaster sculptures were fixed to the shelf using a piece of wooden dowel (they were light, so just balanced in a horizontal position for photographing – this would be glued in place if permanent).
The clay sculptures could have been fixed in a similar way, but contact between ceramic and metal would not be conducive to moving these sculptures as they would be very likely to break. Therefore I worked out a way of attaching these by glueing coach bolts in the bottom section and nuts in the top section, protected by a small piece of leather to cuchion the ceramic from the metal:
I had three shelves and five sculptures and tried out various combinations possible. These were the most successful:
plaster and steel
plaster and steel
ceramic and steel
ceramic and steel
ceramic and steel
ceramic and steel
A large (A1) sized acrylic painting of ‘Residency No.6′:
Another large (A1) sized acrylic painting of ‘Residency’, lines in the style of Henry Moore:
Appraisal of outcomes
A series of unusual sculptures in both plaster and ceramic, split by rusted steel shelves. The development of the idea from a thistle root has retained the idea of what is above and below the surface, through splitting the work above and below a shelf. The work has developed from its origins, but retained a natural shape, dissected by an urban/industrial metal shelf. This provides contrast between the two elements, as well as raising questions about the piece and inviting speculation as to its origins and meaning.
Demonstration of technical and visual skills
Whilst the choice of wood dowelling with screws in as a base for the plaster sculpture seems to have worked well, the polystyrene block in ‘Residency No.3’ does not fit well with the rest of the form and I should have changed this element of the sculpture. The metal mesh used in ‘Residency No.4’ works a bit better, but the ‘nest’ area still doesn’t meld well with the rest of the sculpture. Maybe some similar screws in the metal mesh might have achieved this.
The use of paper clay to fashion the other sculptures was a good choice and allowed the use of scrunched up newspaper to form a structure to work on for some of the ‘nest’ areas.
The rusted steel shelves worked well in achieving what I had in mind.
My welding leaves a bit to be desired still, but some sanding down and the subsequent rusting of the shelves hides this well.
The acrylic painting, particularly of ‘Residency No.4’ is not ideal. The more natural colours of this plaster sculpture work better than the bold blue of its predecessor, but the mark making is too regular or perhaps too flat.
The bold blue colour of ‘No.3’ was chosen after viewing the work of Katharina Fritsch with her ‘Hahn/Cock’ on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. The bold and brash nature of this colour, combined with it being the complimentary for the orange rust seemed to work well. No other artists were intentionally referenced whilst working on these sculptures. These works were based on the close observation of the thistle root that was the inspiration of the series, sketches made of it and where they lead me, and the possibilities that came whilst sculpting and thinking about it.
Design and Compositional Skills:
The design and composition came mainly through visualising the sculptures in my head and in modifications that came about through working with the materials. I did some sketches, which did lead to some developments, but most of these were only to record my visualisations.
The concept of the sculpture split above and below the shelf worked well, the success of the individual sculptures is more about their cohesiveness and colours.
Quality of Outcome
‘Residency No.3’ – the colours work well together, although not as well as the more natural colours of later sculptures. This sculpture mainly falls down on the ‘nest’ area and how it fits with the rest of the plaster areas.
‘Residency No.4’ – this is the least successful in my view. Whilst the ‘nest’ area works better than ‘No.3’, the acrylic painting could be better and the sculpture is not unified.
‘Residency No.5’ – this is the most successful sculpture. The colours work well together and the whole of the ceramic form fits well together. The flow of the glaze and evenness of the colour binds it together more than the painted plaster sculptures. It is well constructed, causes the viewer to look closely and question what they are seeing, and I could visualise this piece in an exhibition.
‘Residency No.6’ – this is moderately successful, the colour is perhaps a little too light and green, but without testing the glazes before firing, has worked well. The top ‘tubes’ don’t fit as well with the bottom knobbly bits. The shape of the ‘nest’ area works well though.
‘Residency No.7’ – this is the least successful ceramic sculpture. The ‘nest’ area form is not very interesting, the colour of the glaze doesn’t suit it and it is top heavy (the bit below the shelf is too small).
‘Residency No.8’ – this is the second most successful sculpture. The colours work well, the form is interesting, both in the nest area and the cylinders coming out at odd angles above and below it. It is balanced and well constructed.
Demonstration of Creativity
I think all these sculptures show creativity in their journey from a thistle root to the forms they now are. That creativity has come from thinking, sketching, and responding to the materials being used. Colour choices have been arrived at through looking at other artists, thinking about the form and achieving natural colourings, and also through guessing what might work based on small sample glaze squares on the internet (which bore little relation to the outcomes!).
They also show technical creativity in their construction and joining together.
In my view, a successful outcome to the modelling section, which has helped me to see the possibilities of various media and reinforce my belief that the mixed media approach, is the path for me. I enjoyed the use of clay much more than I expected and intend to explore this medium further.
‘Residency No.5’ is the first piece I have produced on the course that I could see myself being able to sell, which hopefully means I am on the right track!
Comments from friends and fellow students on Facebook (my notes in square brackets) about the first 3 sculptures:
- Look great Mark. I also like the third one best [‘Residency No.5]. I’m not sure why, but it seems more “complete” to me, if that makes sense.
- Blood supply to a dodgy heart?
- Hideaways /nests ? Love the colours especially the purple orange combination.
- Like them! Is the 3rd one [‘Residency No.5] titled ‘It was then he decided to get a professional plumber in.’? 😉
- I like the contrast of the orange and green. The shapes are intriguing and made me look at it closely. Interesting piece.
- Lost industry – rusting, distressed metal – shipbuilding or other traditional manufacturing? Death of manufacturing?
- They look great! I particularly like number 5; it brings to mind tree stumps and roots, but designed by a plumber! They all work very well with the metal brackets, which make a great contrast. 3 and 4 bring to mind some sort of organic screw, or ancient swords, or perhaps very weird root vegetables!