Category Archives: Stage 3 S

Project 5: Still life, drawing and modelling in clay


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?


‘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?


‘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:


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


P5 Sketch 2

Brown and black acrylic ink applied with a paintbrush

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Watercolour background with pastel and charcoal on top

P5 Sketch 4


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):

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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

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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.


Not really applied in this sculpture.

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Project 6: Modelling in plaster

I had some initial ideas for plaster sculptures before reading through the notes / looking at the research:

Plaster idea sketches Sketchbook021


I looked through the suggested research and made some notes in my sketchbook:

Reg Bulter

‘Study for a Great Tower, 1963’. This sculpture fits well with my residencies idea and could inspire a similar sculpture. The sculpture is apparently made of “Bronze wire and metal”, “welded to stone base”. The image actually looks more like a modelled form in plaster or similar, equally the base looks more like flowing plaster as well, and I’m sure you can’t weld metal to stone, so I am not convinced the materials quoted are correct. Although it is a man made tower, the way it is fashioned means that it has more of an organic than man made feel about it. I like the inclusion of a small figure for scale in the maquette and the way it is photographed outdoors to make it look as if it is the full size object.


Elizabeth Frink

‘Harbinger Bird III, 1960’ A simplified bird sculpture which is hard to appreciate looking at a picture in a book. Presumably this was modelled out of clay before being cast into bronze. The thin legs of this sculpture gave me pause to think about a few options for sculptures.


Bernard Meadows

‘Large Flat Bird, 1957’. Again, very difficult to appreciate this from a small image ina book, but it does show how far the sculpture has come from a bird if that was the original inspiration. Am I looking too literally at my ideas again? Maybe.

F.E. McWilliam

‘Puy de Dome Figure, 1962’. This has the feel of an angular Henry Moore. The flat panels it is made up of look like they are made up of very interesting shapes and texture – they look like the framework of a building which has been exposed. This could be combined with the idea of a tower sculpture? Would this be done by impressing wooden dowel in clay and then casting in plaster?


Henry Moore

‘Standing Figure (knife-edge), 1961’. The textures look like they could be interesting on this sculpture – it maybe retains the marks of his hand whilst sculpting the figure out of wet plaster? It is a very minimal sculpture of a figure, although obvious what it is. I don’t think I particularly like it, but can’t put my finger on why? I think it looks like it doesn’t know what texture it wants to be. It is part smooth and part rough, but neither seems to work for me, alone or together in this form.

Germaine Richer

‘The Bat, 1952’. A pretty abstracted sculpture of a bat. There are some very interesting webbed areas on the base and the top looks like a tree branch. I don’t think I understand this one! It is interesting to see that this sculpture is in plaster and looks to be untreated – whether it was used to produce a bronze or not is unknown.

Barbara Hepworth

I also have a book on the Hepworth plasters which I looked through before starting out in this section. Hepworth used plaster extensively, but mainly as a means to carve than to model. She used aluminium mesh and chicken wire armatures.

Interestingly, she made working models at the size the bronze was to be, but would often make small versions after the large ones. She believed that changing the scale changed the object, writing

‘if it is right in maquette form it would be utterly wrong when increased in size. The converse is also true – miniatures of large objects become merely toy-like’.

She also did not use drawings or sketch models before commencing on her sculptures, unless required by a commission, conceiving the sculpture in her mind – something I can relate to!

She uses a wide variety of surface textures on her plasters, which was an important factor to her, providing instructions to her foundry that it was:

‘essential that all scratches and marks should show’.

She even used a hatchet and an axe to make some of her expressive marks.

She didn’t use polystyrene as a base, despite having experimented with it. She also casted blocks of plaster to then carve, something I think we do on this course in one of the next stages.

Sometimes she coloured her plasters to indicate the bronze patina she wanted, and also to visualise how it would look in its final bronze material. Interestingly, it was also sometimes done to highlight if the plaster had been damaged in transit.

I find her work very inspiring and look forward to this stage and working in plaster.


The course suggests selecting a subject from the still life subject matter, or the stacked sculpture drawings and maquettes. I could ignore this and persue my residencies ideas, but I feel I have unfinished business with my still life + the idea of towers sculpted in the style of F.G. McWilliam appeals to me. I may do both! – I did!

Still Life – plaster

I think my best sketch of the development of this sculpture was the cloth/flowing area from the top of the box to the ground (incorporating the gloves and book), with dripping bottles and the flat edges of the box where it is exposed:

P5 Clay sketch 5

I started out making a polystyrene box, then adding polystyrene to this and the baseboard to get the rough shape of the flowing element that I was after. I used cardboard tubes to provide the base of the bottles.

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Nor really knowing what I needed to get, I tried a few different options for adding material to the sculptures:

Plaster Bandage from Tiranti.

These cost around £3 each for 15cm x 2.7 metres and didn’t go very far. They were very nice to use though and resulted in little mess or waste.

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Coarse Scrim from Titanti.

This was much cheaper at under £5 for 7.6cm x 100 metres. It didn’t stick well to the polystyrene if working against gravity (which the above did well) and provided a much rougher surface.

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Scrim bought for the printmaking course.

This was similar material to the plaster bandage and worked just as well as it, but with more mess from making up the plaster. A much more economical way of doing it though.

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I added polystyrene shapes to the wave as I was going along and filled in the gaps around the bottles to blend them into the sculpture. As a result of this, it took me 7 hours to plaster this sculpture and the tower on below – most of that time spent on this one! Also, this sculpture ended up being very heavy as I used a huge amount of plaster on it. It is obviously worth getting the shape as close as possible early on to avoid this happening.

7 hours later, this is the final plaster before starting to carve/sand. I’m suspecting it could take a long time to dry out as well, especially as my workshop is cold!

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Towers – plaster

It would be quite nice to work on a huge scale with these, but I have to be a bit realistic in fitting them in the house (never mind where I put all these sculptures when they are complete!) + I have a limited amount of materials to work with at the moment.

I started making some rough box shapes (this may be better to do by casting the blocks, but I will see how it goes).

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I then used the plaster bandage and printmaking scrim to cover the boxes (the coarse scrim did not stick to them), before adding a layer of plaster. There seems to be a very short window of time to work with the plaster when it is solid enough to stick to the sides of the sculpture, this resulted in getting a very rough surface on the boxes as I was busy trying to get it all on the sculpture before it set, so had little time to make it smooth. I suspect this will result in an awful lot of sanding later on (depending what look I go for)! Maybe it is the plaster I am using (fine potters plaster), so I might have to try some different stuff for the assignment, especially as I have almost got through the huge bag I started with anyway.

This is where the tower ended up before starting to carve/sand:

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Towers – sanding

It soon became clear when I started work again on this sculpture that I had been very sloppy applying plaster to this – a combination of being at the end of my mammoth plastering session and being too tired, and the difficulty of applying plaster to the undersides and vertical edges of this sculpture. To rescue this sculpture to what I had in mind would have required a huge amount of sanding and re-application of plaster, so I decided to use this one as a test-bed for tooling/texturing/painting/etc. for my other sculpture.


Still life – sanding

The plaster was not thick enough in parts to do the amount of sanding I had in mind, only allowing for texturing marks to be made and edges smoothed down. I could hardly lift this sculpture anyway, so decided not to go back and reapply plaster. I smoothed the flowing/cloth areas, leaving the bottles in their deliberately roughly applied texture.

Still life – painting

I did a few test paintings to determine the colour combination to use and then painted this sculpture in acrylic paints. I painted the bottles first in a light red all over, then in a darker red just on the surface areas, leaving the indentations as light red. I then painted the rest of the sculpture in yellow ochre, using a random brush movement over the surface.

The final sculpture:

Plaster, wood, acrylic paint

Plaster1 Plaster2 Plaster3 Plaster4Plaster5 Plaster6 Plaster7 Plaster8Plaster9 Plaster10 Plaster11 Plaster12

Appraisal of outcomes

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

This could have been modelled better in the first place to avoid having to modify it quite as much as I went along, resulting in a very heavy sculpture which used a lot of plaster to construct.

I think the colours work well together. The red areas look solid and sedentary and the yellow area looks like it’s moving and this contrast provides interest.

Quality of Outcome

The final form is quite pleasing, although I would modify the top of the box area to make it less regular if I started again. Probably working with a thick, plaster soaked cloth would have given the flowing form I was after, rather than working with small pieces of bandage. This would then be followed by some layers of plaster to enable some carving to be done.

The main flaw with this sculpture is that the flowing area needs to be much smoother to achieve what I had in mind. If this had been achieved, the painting of this area would also need to be done in a much smoother, seamless colour.

Demonstration of Creativity

This sculpture shows more creativity than my clay sculpture and asks questions of the viewer:

What are the red objects? If they are bottles (which you would expect to be smooth), why are they all rough? Are they towers in a city – equally, why are they rough? Are they oozing some kind of liquid?

What is flowing around and through them? Is it lava, or some form of goo oozing out of the square edged form?


A much better sculpture than the clay still life “copy” it is based on, although not as good (in the flowing area) as the development sketch.

Other views

In an effort to try to develop my thinking about how my sculptures are received, I posted images of this sculpture on the Facebook OCA fine art student group and asked for comments. These are the responses I got:

  • are you trying to show flow? To me the problem is there is a disconnect between the pillars and the rest of it. Also the surface of the flowing bit isn’t smooth enough. Only an opinion – unify the colour and smooth it out.
  • I see organic flowing over more man made shapes. This is a juxtaposition between organic and angular forms. The angular suggests architectural elements. The colours are warm suggesting heat. Therefore my reading has to be a pyroclastic flow obscuring parts of a town. Specifically, I am reminded of Vesuvius and Pompeii. There is symmetry in that idea. Lava hid the sculptural elements of that culture and is echoed within you own.
  • My first impression was of something escaping through a corroded retaining structure. The top of the ‘flow’ has skull like characteristics, especially in the view showing it with the angular block at the base. I also get hints of a nose and eyes sinking between the two pillars. I sense life dissolving, decay loss of faculties (dementia?)
  • My first impression was of a flow of molten butter but it could also be read as gold seeping out from behind a barrier. When I put this into Google I got lots of references to Job and washing his steps in butter and the rocks giving forth rivers of oil – is it a biblical reference about the loss of wealth?
  • it’s very interesting I really like the shape and flow of the central part – I think the red is bothering me.

So, a very wide variety of different interpretations of the piece, some I had no idea could have been interpreted from what I had produced! I think that going forwards, I should be asking myself some questions:

  • What was I trying to achieve? Have I achieved this?
  • To an outsider, what does this look like?
  • What association do the colours have? Do those associations match what I had in mind?
  • What do the surface textures suggest? Do those associations match what I had in mind?
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Assignment 3: A modelled sculpture in clay or plaster

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:

Sketchbook021 Plaster idea sketches

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.

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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In the next, the straight sections were covered with small tubes pointing in random directions:

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Some images of some other incomplete experiments:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

‘Residency No.3
plaster and steel

Residency3a Residency3b Residency3c

‘Residency No.4
plaster and steel

Residency4a Residency4b Residency4c

‘Residency No.5
ceramic and steel

Residency5a Residency5b Residency5c

‘Residency No.6
ceramic and steel

Residency6a Residency6b Residency6c

‘Residency No.7
ceramic and steel

Residency7a Residency7b Residency7c

‘Residency No.8
ceramic and steel

Residency8a Residency8b Residency8c

A large (A1) sized acrylic painting of ‘Residency No.6′:

Residency painting 1

Another large (A1) sized acrylic painting of ‘Residency’, lines in the style of Henry Moore:

Residency painting 2

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.

Observational Skills:

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!
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As an aside, I noticed that I had a lot of comments about the background used for my assignment 3 sculptures – a wooden board scratched through it’s previous use as a board for concreting on! In my photographs of the sculptures, the background had become an integral part of the sculpture itself. I decided therefore to do some experiments with the background and see what a difference changing it meant.


IMG_5756White background:

IMG_5757Painted background:

IMG_5758Wow, what a difference!

The background can make or break these sculptures. Something to think about. Maybe I could paint the background on aluminium backgrounds and bolt the shelves to that?

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Assignment 3 – Tutor feedback

Sketchbook and Learning Log

In the overall comments, the main one to note was that my sketchbook and learning log are still under-par. This is an area I guess I was aware of, so really need to crack now before going any further. It also means going back on some of the blog posts already put up and amending them (now done).

Project 5

My tutor was pleased with my drawings when I worked with more dynamism and fluidity and thought my sculpture and its finish was effective. The main point to note going forwards was to remember to look and reflect on my work and consider future developments for sculptures, based on the work I have done. That thinking should also be reflected on in greater depth in my learning log.

Project 6

“I was interested to read that you had asked for other students to offer their opinions of this work on the student Facebook page. For me the sculpture is interesting because it conveys a sense of ugliness and seduction, the form changes from geometrical to organic and is then squeezed by the two red forms, the sculpture is well finished and adds to the sense of allure. I feel this is your best work on the course so far and should show you a possible path forwards.”

Additional work – “As an additional exercise I would like you to make a robust large scale fluid drawing in response to this work and see what that does!”

I did try this in pastels:


However, I don’t think this drawing adds anything new. I think maybe this is because I have moved on in my mind to other things and this sculpture isn’t inspiring me as much as other ideas I have?

Assignment 3

“The sculptures look interesting in their raw state, where you can identify their nodules and orifices. As you finish the works some of the glazing, in particular the blue, overwhelms the sculpture and it is difficult as the viewer to discern what we are looking at. Please also be very careful not to over-finish a sculpture through the use of elaborate backgrounds, these can often detract from the work and make it look old fashioned.”

I get the point on the glazing overwhelming the sculpture in terms of losing some of the definition of the form, but then I feel it does also meld it together well. I’m not sure I would agree here on my tutor’s comments about the use of elaborate backgrounds. I could see how they might end up detracting from the work, but I can’t see how they make it look old fashioned.

Suggested reading and viewing

Please take some time to look and respond to Phylidda Barlow’s work and make reflective comments in your learning log and the way it relates to your plaster work ‘Flow’.

Phyllida Barlow

Phyllida Barlow makes large scale sculptures out of cheap and easily obtainable materials which she describes as “anti-monumental”.They are crudely constructed by piling up materials / fixing together in a random fashion, which makes them appear to be bodged together. Some areas are painted (equally roughly), whilst much of the material is left untreated. The whole edifice looks unstable and thrown together.

In her interview with The Guardian, she says that she “isn’t that good at making, isn’t very good at detail”, her work embraces mess and collapse.

I can see why my tutor is asking me to relate my ‘flow’ piece to this work in that it is very loose and embraces the unfinished look. However, I think her work is the polar opposite of what I do and like!

It is always hard to judge artwork thought the viewing of images on a computer screen, but I don’t see the appeal in these sculptures. Most of them don’t appear to have a pleasing form, don’t seem to suggest anything more than a pile of rubbish, don’t seem to offer interesting areas to visually explore, their scale is impressive though.

The only one of her pieces I have found which I like is this piece. The pillars and struts look neater on this structure, the suspended box object has an interesting surface texture and the broken end shows the underlying structure of this and a contrast to the solid area. The protruding concrete(?) blocks provide a narrative with their appearance of having smashed through the suspended box.

In contrast many other pieces, this amongst them, just looks like a pile of rubbish attached at the top of some step ladders.

Maybe they need to be viewed in the flesh to fully appreciate them as even this video I found didn’t do anything for me.


“Highlights from Phyllida Barlow’s Show ‘RIG’, October 2011.” Phyllida Barlow RA Elect. Royal Academy of Arts, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.

Cochrane, Kira. “Phyllida Barlow: ‘Just Going to Art School Doesn’t Make You Famous'” The Guardian, 31 Mar. 2014. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

“Defying Gravity: Phyllida Barlow’s Tate Britain Takeover – in Pictures.” The Guardian, 31 Mar. 2014. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

Have a look at Adrian Villar Rojas who was on show at the Serpentine Gallery not long ago, to see just how ambitious you can be with modelling in clay, you can see examples of the work on the Serpentine website.

Adrián Villar Rojas

I can see the appeal of Adrián Villar Rojas much more than Phyllida Barlow. He also works on a monumental scale, but also at smaller scales, however, his work appears to be well made, detailed and visually appealing. He often chooses materials which degrade over time, which provide interesting textures and effects.

His recent exhibition at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery called Today We Reboot the Planet was based on the imaginings of a world after we have destroyed it.

I don’t like all of the work, but many of the pieces are interesting and offer comment on the way we treat the planet. As commented later on in this post, this is not the kind of work you would have sitting in your living room. In a gallery environment like this, I can see it makes a very interesting exhibition which I would have liked to see. His works for this exhibition all appear to be in clay, and he seems to have made everything and anything out of it for this exhibition. He doesn’t fire any of his work though, so it will all disintegrate and be returned to the earth. He also incorporates living material into his sculpture, their attempt to grow and eventually to die, being a part of his work.

His work ‘My Dead Family, 2009’ where he made a 28m long sculpture of a whale stranded in a forest in Argentina is a beautiful piece and would be great to see in the flesh. To be able to produce a piece of sculpture on this scale must be a fantastic achievement – something to aspire to!

Interestingly, whilst my tutor has been trying to steer me away from representational work, Adrián Villar Rojas’s work is definitely that. From a Guardian interview (link):

When he was at art college, he looked at the conceptual mood prevailing in Argentine art and did the opposite of what artists today are supposed to do: he set out to tell stories, depict figures, express emotion.

Overall, I like his work and might well try some pieces in the same kind of style.


“Serpentine Galleries.” Adrián Villar Rojas: Today We Reboot the Planet. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.

“Adrián Villar Rojas: Today We Reboot The Planet.” Art Fund. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.

Jones, Jonathan. “Adrián Villar Rojas: Why I Made Kurt Cobain out of Clay.” The Guardian, 19 Sept. 2013. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

Pointers for the next assignment

Remember not to over-finish a sculpture and reflect in depth on your successes and failures.

My thoughts

The above is a selection of my tutor’s comments about my work looking at the areas I need to develop and also picking out some of the main views and criticisms.

The main issues I have are with my tutor’s comments that my project 6 sculpture is my best work so far on this course, my assignment pieces are over finished with too elaborate backgrounds, and his pointer for the next assignment to not over-finish a sculpture.

I feel that my tutor is pushing me towards the more modern art installations, for example the work of Adrian Villar Rojas who he asks me to have a look at. The main issue for me here is that whilst I could go down this route, I don’t think it is a route I want to go down, at least not at the moment. Work like this is interesting, but to me it is only really suitable for gallery exhibitions. The work I enjoy and therefore want to produce myself is work which is displayed in commercial galleries, which you can imagine putting on display in your own house – i.e. work which is “finished”. Maybe I am being unadventurous in this respect but, long term, my aim is to exhibit and sell my work. However, I am not aiming to be putting on solo shows in London, rather small shows in local galleries and, for that, I would be looking for work which I guess is more commercial.

Going through a course like this is an opportunity to push the frontiers and experiment, which I will certainly continue to do. I just don’t think I will be doing this to the extent which my tutor would like me to do. I did a post on my thoughts about ‘Art’ in an early blog post to see how my views of this change as I go through the course. I think I am learning to appreciate modern art more than I did when I wrote this post, however, I still want to be producing work which appeals to the masses. Well, maybe not going that far, but work which can be appreciated for its beauty. That beauty can be weird and wonderful, but still beauty.

For me, I think my best work so far were my assignment pieces. I get the comment about the glaze hiding the form too much (and will hopefully get chance to try some more and see if I can rectify that), but apart from that, I could see these on display in a gallery. As for my project 6 piece, I was quite pleased with it, but I couldn’t imagine this on display in someone’s house.

So, how do I go forwards from this?

Maybe do a mixture of both?

I think a mixture of the two could work, I will just have to see what the views of my tutor are.

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