Monthly Archives: September 2014

Bronze Casting Course – Yorkshire Sculpture Park

I went on a 5 day “Bronze Casting” course at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in August 2014, run by Chris Butler from Castle Arts Foundry (

Unlike the metal working course in May, I went prepared with ideas this time!

The first day and a half was spent ‘playing’ with wax and moulding our creations:

Working on my hand sculpture

Working on my hand sculpture

My 2 finished wax sculptures

My 2 finished wax sculptures

We were only supposed to create 2 pieces, but I had some time spare so created a third piece. The doughnut shape was considered doubtful whether it would work as it would be difficult to get it to dry in time, so I got to run my third piece up as well – bonus!

The next day and half was spent coating these with a ceramic shell (with time to spend looking at the sculptures in the park whilst they dried):

Shelling my extra sculpture

Shelling my extra sculpture

My hand sculpture with first shell on

My hand sculpture with first shell on

The shells drying

The shells drying

Then came the firing of the shells and pouring of the bronze:

Melting out the cup wax

Melting out the cup wax

Melting out the rest of the wax

Melting out the rest of the wax

Adding a glass fibre ceramic layer

Adding a glass fibre ceramic layer

Firing the shells

Firing the shells

Melting the bronze

Melting the bronze

Pouring the bronze

Pouring the bronze

Followed by breaking off the ceramic shell, cleaning them up, patinating, waxing and polishing:

Hammering off the shell

Hammering off the shell

Chiselling/scraping off the shell

Chiselling/scraping off the shell



I got the hand and sea-weeds done on the course, but the doughnut took another good few days to clean off all the ceramic shell!

My finished pieces (well the doughnut is fully finished, the other two are parts of bigger pieces which will be photographed again when they are complete):

Bronze 15






Yet again, another course at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone.

Bronze 17

(many thanks to Cintia Prieto for the majority of the photographs in this post – used with her permission)

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Assignment 1 – Tutor feedback

My tutor has pointed out some shortfalls in my working methods and also in my drawings, which requires a rethink of the way I work, especially after my recent disappointing drawing mark. I have not been engaging fully enough in the comments of my tutors and have been too keen to press on with the course rather than go back and work on what I have already done to improve them. I am therefore going to work through my tutor’s comments fully this time, go back and make changes / improve what I have done in the last assignment before carrying on to the next one.

One of the main comments that I need to work on is to have more fluidity / take more risks / avoid describing and interpret a theme / do sketches without worrying about accuracy/drips/etc. I think this is where I need to focus my energy – coming from a scientific/engineering background, I think I am too precise and detailed and this element gives me difficulty. This looseness is often what I enjoy, certainly in paintings, so I do need to concentrate on this area.

Project 1

My tutor’s comments were that he felt that my composition could be more dynamic and engaging with the viewer through the development of some of the rectangular forms and their relationship to the curves which could be done through the linking of the small cut out circles.

I agree that whilst the composition is harmonious, it isn’t very exciting. What I’m not sure of is how to develop the rectangular forms or link the small cut out circles.

I am assuming that the area he is referring to is the rectangle on the square which doesn’t quite fit in with the other pieces. Adding a circle to this area might link it to the rest of the design.

Project 1 changes

I did a few sketches on this:


And some Photoshop work on the image:

Development1 Development3

The addition of this circle does improve the sculpture. Both options work, but I think I prefer the half hidden one.

I did wonder about adding more circles:


However, I’m not sure this adds anything and you can have too much of a good thing!

I went back to my tutor to see if was on the right track or not. His comments were that he felt it “needed more happening in it” and “responding to the circles and curves and adding to this may have opened up some interesting dynamics to the sculpture”. Adding these circles is perhaps a small step in this direction, but could be developed much further.

Project 2

My tutor comments here about an early idea I had about sea groynes which was developed into nest sculptures and then a theme of ‘residencies’ but them abandoned because of material constraints. His comments were that I should spend more time on a subject and develop a theme with more rigour as I had started out doing. He also encourages me to not over think the material constraints, just get going and make.

A question I needed to ask of my tutor then was “can I go outside the material / dimension constraints specified in the projects? Or should I keep to these constraints but develop my ideas further to adapt my ideas to these constraints?”

His response was:

With regards to constraints of the course including dimensions and materials, please allow yourself to go outside the constraints of these projects and respond to the sculpture for what it is and not what the course guidelines tell you, they are only a guide and you will not be penalised for breaking the boundaries.

Try not to get confused or frustrated with regards to briefs and ideas, as with my first comment, remember this is about sculpture first and foremost, yes develop your ideas but I would like you to handle and make with your materials without boundaries or constraints of any kind, not with briefs or the course notes.

Remember to get into the making of sculpture, get used to the feel of the materials and marry this with your initial ideas for a work. Avoid at all costs designing a sculpture.

This is very exciting to me as I felt I was stifling the urge to play and go outside the boundaries of the projects. His final comment is also very interesting “Avoid at all costs designing a sculpture”. I guess this is where I went wrong in this project and ended up prescribing the outcome too early in the process (although changes were made whilst constructing it).

On my ‘explosion of fire’ sculpture, his comments were:

you need to be more playful with the materials, allowing a sense of ambition to take over the making of this sculpture. For example what if the wood struts ‘exploded’ out of the sculptures board and starting to emanate out of the work?

This now seems like an obvious development of the theme I was working on and I should have been thinking along these lines.

Another comment he makes:

The back board is also very illustrative of the idea of fire. Try to avoid describing your theme and instead look to interpret it as you use the materials combined with your imaginative interpretation of an explosion of fire might feel like!

In some ways I think this is a reflection of my lack of painting skills, but it also relates to the comment I made earlier about struggling to take risks and being too precise. The main issue though is the lack of enough thinking / development work before committing to an idea.

A revised painting of the backboard:


And with burnt wood exploding out of the sculpture this time (would need to be suspended on fishing/nylon wire from the ceiling):


I have gone too illustrative again by adding the red ember areas and the background could still be much better.

His final comment on this project was:

you need to be much more self-critical in your evaluation of your sculpture, discuss the successes and failures of the work and try to develop an insight into your thought processes.

The evaluations have all been re-done


These need to be used more as a tool to develop my ideas and these drawings need to show more ambition, working at a minimum of A2 in size and using fluid materials.

Assignment 1

this a much better sculpture and shows you have the ability to be intuitive about your making process without illustrating an idea.

I need to ensure I continue with this in my future work.

Your drawings in this assignment have not fulfilled the criteria of the assignment notes, please try to be ambitious with your drawing and use it to extrapolate another layer of creativity out of the thing that you have made.

The course notes didn’t seem to specify any drawings for this assignment piece, so the ones I made were a bit more of an afterthought to the work. This is definitely an area to fix!


This was a pastel drawing I attempted on my assignment piece – not very successfully though. I really should keep going and get this right, but I am finding this sculpture to be difficult to draw, plus my heart is not really in it at the moment as I am now well on with the next project. I may come back to this at a later date, but will definitely make sure to focus on this in future projects.

There was also a comment again about my self-evaluation comments. I have gone back and re-done all of these. They are probably still not ideal, but I will aim to be much more self-critical as I go forward.


A comment about removing the complicated tags in my blog where the reader has to click ‘continue reading’. It looks like this is a feature of the theme I am using and to modify this requires modifying the theme which I don’t think is possible on a WordPress site blog? I was planning to move my blog to my own website anyway, so I will try to do this and change this at that point. Already having work on the site makes me reluctant to change something which might break it. Perhaps this is why many people seem to set up a new blog for each course? I may end up doing this, but I am quite keen to keep it all together as a record of my progress throughout the whole course if possible. I will work on this area and see what I can do.

UPDATE – this is now done, removing the “Continue Reading” links and also ordering the blog in ascending rather than descending order so the assessors can just keep scrolling down the blog to view my entire work. Hopefully this will meet with their approval as I don’t think I have the strength to undertake another big review of my site!

Suggested reading

‘Bauhaus’ artists in relation to my assignment sculpture.

Kinetic art and think about the way sculptors use it to marry concepts with artistic process. In particular Naum Gabo, Alexander Calder, Jackson Pollock and 1960’s Op Art.

Op Art

I initially thought this was a spelling mistake, as I had never heard of it! Optical art makes use of optical illusions and I have to say, these don’t do it for me! They are more likely to send my eyes funny and are not something I plan to study in any great detail because of that! For me this falls under the category of art which I feel “why bother”! They seem to be mainly digital artists, or paintings/sculptures done which seem to express little feeling and be sterile in nature.

Of the artists I looks at Jesús Rafael Soto does seem to be an exception though, and I can appreciate his work more than the others, maybe because it is shifting more to kinetic art than Op Art? It is certainly more approachable and creates some great effects, despite the process being quite scientific / mathematical.

Kinetic Art

This is all about introducing the sense of movement either implied or actual into art.

Naum Gabo

I particularly like his face sculptures reduced to a number of planes, but his linear constructions are more relevant in relation to my assignment sculpture. The use of nylon threads to create three dimensional curved shapes by wrapping them around planes of plastic is very effective and provides a sense of movement in the piece.

He doesn’t seem to have produced much moving kinetic sculpture, but his fountain at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital in London looks particularly impressive.

Alexander Calder

He has much more of a sense of fun in his sculptures. I particularly like his ‘Brazilian Fish’ 1947, ‘Finny Fish’ 1948 and others on this theme. These have elements that move due to the disturbance of air around them, but he is particularly well known for his development of the mobile as a sculpture.

Jackson Pollock

I am aware Jackson Pollock paintings for the kind of looseness I can only dream of! Described as a kinetic painter, he uses unusual tools to produce his paintings and they often have a 3D and movement effect to them through the use of drips and splashes.


There are some fascinating artists here and it would be interesting to try to include some kinetic elements in one of my sculptures.

Photographing and filming

Although not commented on by my tutor, this was not very professional for my last assignment, so I thought I’d make more of an effort for this going forwards.

Key notes to carry forward:

  • Be bold and adventurous and not constrained by the brief
  • More rigorous development of a theme
  • Use drawing more to develop ideas, working large and in a fluid way (this is going to be the hardest area for me!)
  • Be intuitive about my making process without illustrating an idea
  • Don’t ‘design’ a sculpture
  • Show more insight in my learning log / self-assessments
  • try some kinetic art
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Completed work – none this month!

Lots of work in progress though, so September should be a bumper month. I’ve also been getting my printmaking work ready for assessment and moving my blog to this website (a very tedious and time consuming process!).

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Project 3 Research

Course suggested research

Andre Volten

‘Architectonic Construction’ 1958

Looking at sculptures in the course book is very deceptive as I had this down as a wooden sculpture until I found it on the web and realised it was in brass and marble. It is easy to see how this probably started life as a wooden maquette though. Constructed of simple geometric shapes of triangles and square section, it looks more like a constructed sculpture than a stacked one to me though. I like it’s simplicity though.

Some of his other work seems to fall better into this category. ‘Column’ , ‘Cube’ or ‘Sign’ for instance.

David Smith

‘Cubi IX’ 1961

This is much more like a stacked construction and presumably more like what I will be producing with the hundreds of matchboxes I have just got (I must think of a sculpture to use several thousand matches now!).

Again, another deceptive image (even when it is in colour this time). I would have put this down as brass when it is in fact stainless steel. Again, it is a nice simple structure which I like. It looks like he has used some interesting marks on the surface too, possibly from a grinding wheel?

A piece of his which I really like (but doesn’t fall under the stacked sculpture category) is his ‘Royal Bird’ 1948. As well as being interesting to see that you can join steel, bronze and stainless steel together, it is a very interesting piece with lots to occupy your attention. Some of his similar work starts to look a bit cluttered and messy, but this one remains a very pleasing sculpture as a whole.

William Turnbull

‘Llama’ 1961 and ‘Oedipus’ 1962

These are made of bronze, rosewood and stone. I can’t say that these do anything for me. I don’t find the individual parts or the whole sculpture to be very interesting. Looking through his other work, these also don’t appeal to me, so I will move on!

Hans Aeschbacher

‘Figure XI’ 1960

Again, this doesn’t appeal to me as it seems too bulky, although always difficult to judge from a black and white image. I also can’t find any sculptures of his on the internet of interest to me.

Kenneth Martin

‘Oscillation’ 1962

A spiral sculpture in bronze. Again, hard to judge from a picture, but it doesn’t leap off the page at me, nor do the few other works I can find on the internet.

Alexander Rodchenko

‘Construction of Distance’ 1920

This just seems like a few blocks of wood stuck together to me. I’m guessing they are coloured and maybe that adds to the sculpture when seen in the flesh, but again, another sculpture which does nothing for me.

Rodchenko’s ‘Spatial Construction no. 12’ 1920 is more appealing to me, but doesn’t fall within the stacked construction category.

Comparison of liked and disliked sculpture


Further research

Barbara Hepworth

Some of Hepworth’s sculptures fall into this category, e.g.:

‘Four-square (walk through)’ 1966

‘Three forms vertical (offering)’, 1967

‘Three part vertical’, 1971

‘The family of man’, 1970

The latter of these I have visited at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park:

P1010700 P1010701

Made of bronze, these are very striking and dominate their landscape surroundings. She uses very characteristic holes and carved out rectangles and leaves textural marks to add interest to the blocks. The blocks on the sculptures photographed are not aligned with each other, the twist adding interest and making a blocky sculpture less blocky (if that makes sense!). This also makes it more interesting from a number of angles, rather than just being designed to view from 1 or 2 angles. In contrast, this nearby sculpture of hers is best viewed from just two angles:

P1010706 P1010707


Various Artists on a sculpture trail in Birmingham

Jo Naden

Dove sculpture in bronze

Although in the description on his website he says that he is not aiming for an exact representation, these birds do look very lifelike and accurate. They have a patina which makes them look more like stone than bronze which is interesting.

June Ridgeway

Pots broken after biscuit firing and glazed separately before piecing together again.

These were interesting, but looking at her website, I actually prefer her whole pieces which use combustible materials (string/threads/organic material?) to create patterns on the top of her vessels – link.

This method of firing ceramics looks very interesting and I will have to have a go at it at some point.

Peter Walker

Peter Walker’s sculptures were angular animal shapes, made out of clay and then cast in bronze, then treated to look like rusty steel – the immediate question for me being, “why didn’t he make these out of steel in the first place?”!

I can’t find a link to a specific image on his website, but “Horse in Dynamic Form” was the style of sculpture I saw. His website is terrible to navigate though!

RSBA Gallery, Birmingham

Naomi Robinson

Naomi produces thrown ceramic vessels and whilst there isn’t anything remarkable for me about the vessels themselves, their decoration using black glaze with fragments of text exposed in unglazed areas is very effective – link.

Joan Sharma

Joan doesn’t seem to have her own website and the sculptor group she is a member of has a limited selection of her work to view.

The piece of hers I liked was a carved green/brown serpentine stone which had a lovely contrast of smooth and textured areas on it.

The sculptors group sounds like a fantastic idea and way to learn – a shame there isn’t anything like that in my area.

Birmingham Gallery | Castle Fine Art, ICC

Lorenzo Quinn

Lorenzo Quinn works mainly in metal using the human hand or figure in different ways.

‘During love’ Aluminium and the other pieces in this series are very simple but effective.

Some of his ‘Gravity’ series were here as well, but these didn’t work quite as well for me. Maybe it was a matter of scale? Or that they started to look a bit more mass produced and less individual? Or that the metal figures didn’t gel with the stone they were balanced on?

‘Draw your own time’ also was interesting, but didn’t grab hold of me.

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Assessment Result 2

In moving my blog to a this new site and having to do a lot of it manually, I have noticed the poor areas of work which I had skipped over at the time, so perhaps I should have expected the low grading of this course. Some areas were definitely lacking in my work – a wakeup call for me!!

I think there are fewer of these areas in my printmaking work, so am hopeful for a better grade when I submit this for assessment in November. I am also reviewing how I go about my work in my sculpture course, with the aim of achieving a much higher grade in this area of work.

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