Monthly Archives: October 2014

Round 1: My sketchbook

I decided to try just working on one object and its development into sculptures. I chose to work with a dried thistle root, or at least I think that is what it is – it was found in a field on a local walk.

Sketchbook circle001a

I included this image in the sketchbook with the following note:

These are images of a dried thistle root (or at least I think that is what it is!). My sketches are from thinking about using as the inspiration for a sculpture. If this object inspires you to do anything in relation to it, it would be interesting to see, if it doesn’t then feel free to do anything else!

My pages:

Sketchbook circle001Sketchbook circle002Sketchbook circle003Sketchbook circle004Sketchbook circle005Sketchbook circle006

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Sketchbook circle

I have joined in this round of the OCA’s sketchbook circle, with the aim of improving my sketchbook work and making myself explore different ways of working. I will post my work on this page (and the influences from the other members if they agree to it).

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Assignment 2: Large stacked structures

The brief for this assignment is to create a model 4 times the size of the maquettes created in Project 3, one in plain cardboard boxes painted, the other utilising more textured surfaces.

I have deviated from the brief in project 3, so have no simple matchbox maquettes to work from (apart from the one I have an idea in mind for already), so I will have to continue this deviation into this assignment!

1st Sculpture

The tower of matchboxes was created with its development to this size in mind:


I wasn’t sure what I was going to create the solid boxes out of, but I had the idea for the wire framed boxes, so started with those.

The original plan was to create metal boxes for the rest of this tower, but having almost run out of gas for my welder (and money to replace it!), a rethink was required. Following the successful use of walnut varnish on distressed wood for my first project 3 sculpture (actually finished after producing the wire framed boxes for this assignment), I liked the effect and thought I’d try using it in this piece as well. So I produced 2 “boxes” in this way from a solid block of wood to be the two “blue” boxes as the base of my sculpture.


For the final “green” box, I created a box from plywood and painted it initially in white, then after photographing it and trying out various colours in Photoshop, went for a light grey colour.

Light grey

The next question was how to hold all this lot together!

The base blocks were simple, I drilled holes and attached with dowling rods glued in. The wire boxes would need to be attached with wire staples (or that was the only way I could think of doing it), so I marked the location of these staples and drilled pilot holes before hammering in the staples.

The final sculpture:

Wood, steel, glass, stone, wire, acrylic paint

Tower 1 Tower 2 Tower 3Tower 4 Tower 5 Tower 6

2nd Sculpture

Whichever of my other maquettes I picked, I was going to need to sculpt a hand! I could either do this in the same way as in project 3 (although casting a bronze hand that size could be tricky – especially as I have no facilities to do so yet!), or I could modify the design. My idea was to try modelling with wire again and hope it was more successful than my attempt which led to the plaster hand.

I was also thinking about texture (bearing in mind the brief) and was thinking that I could also use different materials (sheet metal / wire mesh / knitted wire / fabric) wrapped around the wire frame of the hand.

Thinking this through further, I realised that I didn’t have any wire strong enough to construct this hand out of. I therefore decided to work with chicken wire. I created the fingers by wrapping the chicken wire around a drainpipe, wiring it together, removing it and shaping it further by hand.

The final wire hand:

P1020312 P1020313

I was quite happy with this, but it wasn’t quite there. I was considering stopping here and adding that papier-mâché could be used as a development of the piece, before deciding that I should just get on and do it now! So I added torn up newspaper covered in wallpaper paste to the wire frame.


This worked quite well, but the paper started to yellow in some places, so I decided that I needed to paint it as well.


White was far too stark a colour, so I added graphite in the same way as I had done with the maquettes – this time with a bag of graphite power (isn’t the internet great!) instead of having to shave a pencil.

The next development idea was that I could char the fingertips of the hand using a blowtorch to work into the pieces title. I thought the whole thing might go up in flames though, so decided to use charcoal on the fingertips instead. Unfortunately this didn’t show up much in comparison to the graphite covering.

The matchbox was created out of a cardboard box and I decided to paint this with acrylic paint to look like the original matchbox:


I didn’t have anything the right size for the match, so I glued 64 matches together (well I do have enough to last me more than a lifetime now!), then filled them with wood filler, sanded and painted them:


The final stage was to assemble these. I didn’t make a base for this sculpture, although a circular one like the displaying board I made that these are pictured on would work well as a base:

‘Pyromaniac no.2’
Wire, newspaper, matches, cardboard, sandpaper, acrylic paint, graphite, charcoal

Pyro2 1Pyro2 2Pyro2 3Pyro2 4Pyro2 5Pyro2 6

Appraisal of outcomes

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Technical skills:
1st sculpture

  • The welding on the open boxes is not great and I have got some distortion in the shape which causes the sculpture to lean somewhat. This is also compounded by the joining method of using staples, which has some slack in it which also adds to the lean.
  • The wires down to the glass and stone pieces are loose on the wire across the top of the boxes. These could be squeezed into place, but that would stop some of their movement, so it would have been better to have a loop in this wire in the centre to attach these wires to.

2nd sculpture

  • The papier-mâché hand could have done with an additional layer of chicken wire for strength and an additional layer of paper also.
  • I should have used gesso paint rather than the acrylic paint I used as this would have provided a better tooth for the graphite.
  • I should perhaps have risked burning the fingertips as using charcoal didn’t show up over the top of the graphite.

Visual awareness:
1st sculpture

  • The painted plywood box doesn’t fit in very well with the other elements in this sculpture. The original plan of a metal box may have worked better, or perhaps a different colour paint may have improved it?

2nd sculpture

  • Painting the cardboard matchbox to look like the original matchbox was a mistake I think – it would have looked better colouring this in graphite like the original maquette.


  • The materials used were interesting choices to experiment with, but didn’t all work well as detailed in some of the points above.


  • The composition worked as planned as these were scaled up versions of the project 3 sculptures. The lean which was introduced to the tower sculpture spoils the composition of this sculpture from certain angles.

Quality of Outcome

The first sculpture is moderately successful, it is close to how I had pictured it, but I don’t think it ‘works’ quite as well as I was expecting it to. The lean at certain angles is part of the problem, as is the grey box which doesn’t fit with the other elements as well as it could do.

The second sculpture developed from how I imagined it as it was produced. It is OK, but not a great work of art! The hand works quite well, but the matchbox is definitely not as good as it could have been. In preparing this blog post I have also realised that this sculpture no longer fits the title “Large Stacked Structures”, but hopefully that is not a problem!

I have photographed and filmed these pieces much more professionally than for the previous stage.

Demonstration of Creativity

I think I have develop my ideas well, ignored material constraints and experiment with materials/etc., and have continued to adapt the work as I have worked through producing it. Not all of this has worked successfully, but it is a learning process!


My research work into Lorenzo Quinn and Alexander Calder show in these pieces as described in the context section for Project 3.

The biggest area of improvement I am aware of is on my sketchbook – steps have been put in place to work on this.

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Project 4: Large drawings from maquettes

Following my tutor comments, I need to be much more adventurous with these drawings. The course notes ask for A2 drawings, but I have used A1 (or close to A1) for all of these to try to get myself to work more loosely.

Initial ideas:

  • Charcoal drawing of fire sculpture

  • Pastel drawing of bronze sculpture

  • Acrylic ink drawing of tower sculpture using a brush tied to a 3ft stick (following my tutor’s suggestion)

Matchbox tower drawings

The project 3 sculptures are in order of how the ideas came to me, which was actually the reverse of the completion times as the early sculptures took longer to realise. The tower sculpture was the first to be completed and so the first to be drawn.

I started out trying to draw these using a brush tied to a 3ft stick following my tutor’s suggestion. I used watered down black acrylic ink to start with:


I did a few of these, with little success. Then I tried adding colour to one of them:


I then tried another tack by drawing in the shapes in pencil and then adding acrylic paint using a square palette knife:


This was a better result, but had no tonal differences across it. I then tried again in media I am slightly more comfortable in, picking XL charcoal to work with this time:


Pyromaniac no.1 drawings

For the first of these, I decided to work in pastels. Starting with a coloured background (purple – colour not chosen, just the only coloured A1 sheet I had), I put in the background first, then added the rest, working in a landscape format


Changing the angle to suit a portrait format, I next drew this sculpture in graphite, using a large 9B graphite stick.


The Flick drawings

Working in a portrait format, I tried drawing this sculpture in charcoal first:


Then I decided to try pastels on a watercolour wash base.

Initial sketch in pencil:

flick drawing1a

Watercolour wash added:

flick drawing1b

Pastels on top:

flick drawing1c

Appraisal of Outcomes

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

My acrylic skills are poor at the moment which is something I plan to work on. I also struggle to work in a loose manner as suggested by my tutor.

I think the compositions of these drawings are good, although I only drew the tower from one angle.

Quality of outcome

Matchbox tower:

The tower drawings show little variation in tone, something I find especially difficult to achieve when working in colour. The shapes and perspective aren’t very good on these either.

Pyromaniac no.1:

The graphite image has an uneven background (due to the unevenness of the drawing board I am using) which doesn’t work very well. The dark base of the sculpture shows up the sketchy pencil marks and is not a dense enough colour. The ‘pyre’ is not correctly drawn in relation to the base on which it sits (it should be central) and some of the boxes are not drawn correctly.

The pastel image is much more successful and better drawn – using a ruler to draw the straight edges has improved the depiction of the baseboard shapes. The angle on the hand baseboard is wrong though, it is too pointy at the front and too tight an angle as it goes behind the hand. Deeper shadows would also improve this drawing.

The flick:

I think the charcoal image works well here, although more tonal variation would improve it.

Pastels on a watercolour base also work well. I think the drips from the brown watercolour wash would be improved if they were carried throughout the other washes. The hand is the weakest area of this drawing and I struggled to get the different colours in the bronze.

Demonstration of creativity

I tried my tutors’ suggestion to loosen up my drawings, but have not achieved this yet.

Trying pastels over a watercolour base worked well and I will try this again in the future. The other mediums used were ‘safer’ options that I knew I was happier using.


The idea of using pastels on a watercolour base came after reading an article which described this in a painting magazine. Otherwise I am not sure what else to put under this category for these drawings, save perhaps that I should have performed some drawing experiments in my sketchbook before embarking on the large drawings.

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Project 3: Building three dimensional structures

Initial Ideas

Some of my sketches from playing around with matchboxes and gluing some together to form starting blocks:

Sketchbook036 Sketchbook045 Sketchbook044 Sketchbook043Sketchbook042 Sketchbook041 Sketchbook040 Sketchbook039Sketchbook038 Sketchbook037

Some starting ideas, and some arrangements which didn’t work…

First sculpture

The first idea from these sketches that struck me and stuck, was that of domino effect boxes tumbling towards a tower.


Now unconstrained by material constraints, the plan developed into a bronze hand flicking over the boxes, with the boxes constructed out of stainless steel, possibly on a wooden base?


This seemed like the obvious progression from the domino boxes, so I am not sure if it is Lorenzo Quinn inspired or just coincidence! Either way, I am quite keen to have a go at this sculpture.

There is unconstrained and then overly ambitious?! Hey, it just happens that I am booked on a bronze casting course at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and I have now got my welding kit setup and ready to go (well, after I build the welding bench it is!) – so anything is now possible! I now have my bronze project worked out, so will see how that goes and develop it from there.



After a fantastic 5 day bronze casting course, I have a bronze hand. In my original idea I envisaged a bronze (metal) coloured hand with stainless steel boxes. Having now cast the hand, I patinated it a brown/black colour, so shiny metal boxes now do not seem appropriate. Various types of metal are now on order, so I will experiment with different options and see what works best, but I am now thinking more along the lines of rusty metal boxes.

I also needed a base for the sculpture. I had a piece of pine left over from building the workshop dividing walls and decided to put that to use. On it’s own it was too light a colour so I distressed it (hit it with a hammer, punch and nail) and varnished it with a walnut varnish.

Back to the boxes…

Experiments with copper (silver soldered – more successful and TIG welded with bronze – less successful)

IMG_5525 IMG_5526

Experiments with TIG welded 3mm steel:


The steel ones were more like what I was after, and obviously allowed for the rusting effect I had in mind, so I carried on with these.

Having made enough of these, I then laid these out in the arrangement I had in mind:


This was now too cluttered, so I decided to ditch the tower:


I welded the boxes together and added rods to the base of the standing box to attach it to the base. I then decided to partially rust it which I then sealed with varnish:


Finally it was finished:

‘The flick’
Bronze, steel, wood
38 x 8 x 14cm

Hand1 Hand2 Hand3 Hand4

Second sculpture

Playing with matchboxes, the idea of a ‘bonfire’ of boxes with another single box with a match striking it as if to light the pyre came to mind. Mulling over this for a while it then seemed that the addition of a hand to this sculpture would also work well.


I started out imagining a wire frame hand and tried to make this. Using thick steel wire and a very thin brass(?) wire, I tried to sculpt a hand, but it was harder than I imagined!


I think a wire thickness somewhere between these two would work better as the thick one was a bit too tough, but the thin one far too thin to sculpt with. I need to stop buying more stuff for a while though, so rather than continue with this idea, needed to think of alternatives.

I was set on abandoning what I had done and starting again, however, mulling it over for a while, the idea of putting a cotton glove over the armature and dipping/filling with plaster came to mind (I have been playing with plaster moulds recently for bronze casting).


After some fettling up, it was then time to make a decision on colour. I decided that white was too stark for the hand (and the wire rust was staining it anyway), so decided to colour it with graphite. I shaved down a 9B pencil to dust and smeared it over the hand, then sealed it with the spray you use on graphite/charcoal drawings.

The ‘bonfire’ was to be a pile of boxes, so I painted them all white before sticking them together into a pile on a separate base.

P1020217 P1020218

The next decision was on a base to fit both elements and what colour to paint it. A few experiments in Photoshop and some mulling over in my sketchbook:

red basegrey base dark grey base brown base blue base black base

Dark grey was the conclusion and it turned out to be a good decision.

‘Pyromaniac no.1’
Plaster, wood, matchboxes, graphite, acrylic paint

IMG_5513 IMG_5515

Third sculpture

The third idea I went with was a tower. There are many ways in which this sculpture could be developed, but for this one I decided to stick with the 15cm base and matchboxes, especially given that the next assignment requires scaling up the models and that could be tricky with the other two pieces!

Some of the rejects:

IMG_5523 IMG_5524

I already have some idea of how these could be scaled up with a difference, using wire boxes and mobile elements in the style of Alexander Calder, so picked the final design with these future requirements in mind.

Sketchbook051 Sketchbook052

I used acrylic inks to try out a number of colour options:

Sketchbook055 Sketchbook056 Sketchbook057 Sketchbook058

Of these, the latter option worked best for me, but the blocks of colour were too plain and static for my liking. So I decided to paint them using a syringe filled with acrylic paint, letting the colour drip down the boxes and onto other boxes/the base.


The final piece:

Matchbox Tower
Matchboxes, wood, acrylic paint

IMG_5517 IMG_5518 IMG_5519 IMG_5520

Appraisal of outcomes

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Technical skills:

  • I welded the toppling boxes together on too high an amperage and melted the edges – this is hidden to some extent with the rusting.

  • there is the problem with the rust showing through on the plaster hand – I probably should have sealed the wire before adding the plaster.

  • The matchboxes in the ‘bonfire’ and in the tower sculpture were not painted enough to stop the matchbox design showing through in places.

Visual awareness:

  • I think the white boxes are too stark in the ‘bonfire’.


  • I think the materials used were good choices for all of these sculptures.


  • I am pleased with the composition of these sculptures.

Quality of Outcome

I am particularly please with my first sculpture, so may have to wait longer to start seeing the flaws in this one.

The second sculpture works well in the hand and matchbox section, but the ‘bonfire’ section is not as good and would probably be improved by the addition of graphite to these boxes as well?

The third sculpture is less interesting and developed than the other sculptures, but was created with the assignment piece in mind, which I hope will work well using this design.

Demonstration of Creativity

I think I have done much more to develop my ideas and experiment with materials/etc., than in the previous stage, and have continued to adapt the work as I have worked through producing it.


Some of my research work is showing through in these sculptures with my recent exposure to Lorenzo Quinn’s work probably having an influence on the bronze hand, and from there to the hand in the second sculpture.

Alexander Calder influenced the design of the third sculpture, but only in the way I have been thinking about how to develop the design moving into assignment 2.

The area I am still falling down on and know I need to improve on is my sketchbook work. I have signed up to be involved with the OCA sketchbook circle which might help with this and plan to develop these further.

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A productive month!


Tears in space Bronze

‘Tears in space’


Matchbox Tower
Matchboxes, wood, acrylic paint


‘Pyromaniac no.1’
Plaster, wood, matchboxes, graphite, acrylic paint

'residencies 1 – homes for unknown creatures' Steel 22x16x29cm

‘residencies 1 – homes for unknown creatures’

Various drawings:

P1020235 P1020237 P1020239 P1020243 P1020244

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