Throwdown at the Hoedown.

 

 

Christopher-Michel_flickr_Web

Fantastic image from Christopher-Michel_flickr_Web. Interesting article here: //goodnature.nathab.com/larsen-ice-shelf-breakoff-our-future-in-ice/

“If there was ever an example of humankind being unable to bear too much reality, it is the current debate on climate change.” John Gray

Antarctic Leviathan, 45cm L x 23cm H x 12cm D.

I have been following the fascinating progression of Climate Change for 35 years. At last it is a main-stream subject. It’s intriguing how a small number of people are still trying to avoid seeing it, the deniers but mostly the avoiders. It is terrifying, lethal. Our doing and responsibility. The prospect of shifting the habits and habitats of our gigantic population is exhausting.

So a narrative has slowly emerged from the progression of sculptures (rather than the other way around), beginning during The Landscape Series. I wont interfere with that. I will record what I see, let the clay take the lead, research areas I need more information on, add music and follow the road. This is how I have always worked. But this time there is far more clarity.

Antarctic Harbinger I, 20cm H x 33cm L x 19cm D.

Throwdown at the Hoedown

A trichotomy of the Earth, the Guardians of the Aquasphere, the Lithosphere and the Atmosphere arose and they, and their Sentinels and Harbingers took on characteristics that the many life-forms of the Biosphere could relate to so that all would understand what was happening; They were going to let loose their forces. This was not to threaten or  punish. They simply knew it was time.

Rebecca Buck osprey Studios

Arctic Guardian and Harbinger, 70cm H x 37cm W x 24cm D.

The three spheres cover all that is water, stone or air. At first that seemed simple. But the three over-lap all over the place. And combining with sunlight, they build the whole of the Biosphere that they nurture and threaten.

Arctic Harbinger, 33cm L x 13cm H x 12cm D.

Steven Foote’s stunning photographs from The Landscape Series seem to contain the whole mysterious narrative, characters and all, I refer to them daily and they will continue to be the bed-rock of the Series.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios

Bracelet Bay, Swansea, Wales UK. by Stephen Foote

The key there became the beautiful, evocative forms left by water as it passed over rock and the land, an echo of it’s own shapes. This, coupled with intense news from the Antarctic about accelerated melting and glacial movement has kept my focus particularly on the Aquasphere.

The Aquasphere

It is changes with water that cause the most upheaval to the Biosphere. Water holds centre stage in the atmosphere’s massive weather events. More often than not it is at the forefront of dramatic episodes in the lithosphere: mud-slides, sink-holes, erosion and sometimes the provocation of volcanos.

Water takes so many forms: flowing (fresh and salt), vapour, ice. Each has a range of characteristics. The primary character is the Leviathan but there are many others involved.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Guardian I, 33cm H x 83cm W x 36cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Guardian I, 33cm H x 83cm W x 36cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Harbinger II, 13cm H x 26cm W x 14cm D + base.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Harbinger II, 13cm H x 26cm W x 14cm D + base.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Mountain River Sentinel, 69cm H x 39cm W x 28cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Coastal Harbinger II, 43cm L x 29cm H x 22cm W.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Mountain River Harbinger, 37cm L x 21cm H x 19cm W.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Mountain River Sentinel, 69cm H x 39cm W x 28cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Coastal Harbinger, 35cm L x 23cm H x 16cm W.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Leviathan VIII, 56cm H x 97cm L x 28cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Leviathan V, 45cm H x 65cm L x 23cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Leviathan V, 45cm H x 65cm L x 23cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Leviathan IV, 35cm H x 61cm L x 29cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Mountain River Sentinel, 69cm H x 39cm W x 28cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Mountain River Guardian, 36cm H x 67cm L x 42cm D. Landscape Series. Cupola Contemporary Art Gallery, Sheffield, UK

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Mountain River Guardian I, 36 cm H x 67cm L x 42cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Leviathan IX, 35cm H x 60cm L x 25cm D.

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Leviathan II, 2015, 53cm H x 79cm L x 36cm D, ceramic.

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Leviathan II, 2015, 53cm H x 79cm L x 36cm D, ceramic.

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Leviathan II, 2015, 53cm H x 79cm L x 36cm D, ceramic.

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Leviathan II, detail, 2015, 53cm H x 79cm L x 36cm D, ceramic.

The Atmosphere

At first I was seeing atmosphere simply as sky. Weather, especially the fabulous, awe-inspiring kind like hurricanes. But the atmosphere is every where, filling every gap, breathing life into the world, even under the ocean.

For this reason the Osprey is it’s main form.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Osprey II, 39cm H x 50cm W x 50cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Osprey II, 39cm H x 50cm W x 50cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Osprey II, 39cm H x 50cm W x 50cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Osprey IX, 13cm H x 18cm W x 11cm D +base.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Osprey I, 12cm H x 46cm W x 13cm D +base.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Osprey I, 12cm H x 46cm W x 13cm D +base.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Osprey III, 17cm H x 57cm W x 32cm D.

The Lithosphere

The Lithosphere, the geologic, stony part of the world has The Wyvern, a shape-shifting dragon that has taken a number of forms so far.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Guardians of the Valley, 30cm H x 67cm W x 26cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Guardians of the Valley, 30cm H x 67cm W x 26cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern IX, 14cm H x 38cm L x 15cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Harbinger and Sentinel, 28cm H x 17cm W x 13cm D + base.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern XI, 13cm H x 20cm L x 16cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern, 11cm H x 15cm L.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern, 11cm H x 15cm L.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern, 11cm H x 15cm L.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern X, 12cm H x 21cm L x 11cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern X, 12cm H x 21cm L x 11cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern X, 12cm H x 21cm L x 11cm D.

The Biosphere

I  started looking at forms and ways to describe the Biosphere’s part of this story. ‘The Land’ sculptures started in The Landscape Series but this was different: it was no longer just the form and far more the theme of vulnerability. Change in the Natural world is  wonderful, a miracle. Frequently spectacular. And terrifying, heartbreaking, sometimes to dreadful to countenance especially where the Biosphere is concerned. But there is also belonging, the perfect fit of life grown out of the combined trinity of spheres. Nurtured, protected, watched over.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Biosphere Sentinel II, 23cm H x 48cm L x 28cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios

Biosphere Sentinel II, 23cm H x 48cm L x 28cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Biosphere’s Guardian I, 22.5cm H x 22.5cm W.

 

As with all my posts I will add to them over time as things develop. Here’s some links  to interesting, key parts of the research so far for the Throw-down at the Hoe-down:

26 years ago I left New Hampshire with my first son in my arms, new CD’s of Bela Fleck in my suitcase and returned to the UK. This extraordinary music sustained and developed my work  for 15 years. Steve Vai and later a wider variety joined Bela. But this track, Bigfoot, is the key and the seed that has lead to this new Series:

Bela Fleck’s Throwdown at the Hoedown seems like the perfect title for this new Series and a fair way to honour all his music has given me, so I’m going to go with that for a while.

This fascinating article by Randall Morris about Masks describes the process that I am trying to work through here. I have learnt a great deal from Randall since joining Cavin Morris Gallery. His amazing collection and beautiful writing brings clarity to, and pin points the essence of, what is important in art. I am an animist by nature and it is my job to portray what I see but the distractions can be over-whelming.

Published on May 6, 2016  

Short essay by Randall Morris

Animism: informative article by Sarah Anne lawless. 

There is a ‘modern’ resistance/confusion to animist ideas. The waters are muddied by spiritualist ideas, religions and fantasies. It can be difficult to avoid distractions when you are working on this kind of sculpture. The process is intuitive and free-flowing. Expertise with well organised techniques allow for that by managing the clay’s weight and ceramic requirements leaving the maker and material to associate with minimal restraint. I’m not taking a political, moral or religious stand. I’m just doing my thing, same as always, doing my bit to get the sculpture made. That feels very important to me and I don’t need to know why.

But none the less I keep informed on new science about consciousness in matter and enjoy the kinship and familiarity of Outsider art/ Art Brut. Having boundaries helps to weed out those irrelevant distractions.

Within animism there are many practices used to engage and interact with the spirit world, to put it over-simply. I’m not attempting that. My role is just to be part of it. A record keeper, perhaps, a chronicler to help my fellow 21st century folk maintain a link with the natural world.

Panpsychism: The idea that everything from spoons to stones are conscious is gaining academic credibility

How the Earth Made Us, a fantastic BBC 2 series by Professor Iain Stewart. And some fab clips from another series, Earth: The Power of the Planet.

Awesome iceberg video. I now collect these!

Climate change info with a really interesting, informative video of leading scientist, James Hansen explaining the findings.

Naomi Klien‘s fascinating and very readable book, This Changes Everything and the exciting, optimistic organisation of the same name.

The Up is Down Series.

 

 

The Landscape Series.

This Series is a collaboration with Photographer and Documentary Cameraman Stephen Foote.   Click on any picture to see it full size.

Stephen Foote and I met up after 30 years in 2014. We were good friends as teenagers, both rather disengaged with school, both making art in our own time. 30 years on we both still use art work as a major part of our interaction with this nutty world. Sharing our images was a key way we got to know each other again and harnessing that process in a joint project was simply a way of capturing what was occurring naturally. We set a straightforward ” Artists Respond to Landscape ” brief and kept a very open mind while we walked, talked, Steve took pictures and I just took it all in. We met every few months and sent each other pictures of the ensuing work in-between times.

Steve is also a Cameraman and was involved in filming for Panorama during the early, very heated phase in Kiev and the Crimea. I was coming to the end of the Up Is Down Series . Our first visit was Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea. Then we went into Porth Yr Ogof caves and had a mind-blowing day for me; we spent hours in the dark, natural cave while Steve took a fab series of photographs. I stood in the river in the darkness, held the lights and listened to the flow of water, felt the under-ground breezes. From there the project clarified for us as the travels of the water from the sky above the Brecon Beacons to the river, especially the Tawe, on down to the wide bay at Swansea, and out into the Ocean where much of it will return to the clouds and begin the circle again. As it flows it leaves it’s mark on the stone, the ground, the life it passes.

These pictures are roughly in sequence for the progression of work over time, with Steve’s photos next to the related sculptures in some cases.

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Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Wyvern, 10cm H x 18cm L x 11cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Wyvern, 10cm H x 18cm L x 11cm D.

Wyvern X, 21cm L x 12cm H x 11cm D.

 

Water and Stone, Bracelet Bay, 2014, 24cmH x 56cm L x 33cm W, Marbled architectural ceramic.

Water and Stone, Bracelet Bay, 2014, 24cmH x 56cm L x 33cm W, Marbled architectural ceramic. Photo by Stephen Foote

Stephen Foote; Dunes

Stephen Foote; Dunes

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

in progress, July 2014

Wyvern I in progress, July 2014. 68cm H x 64cm W.

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

 

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote.

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote.

It was this fabulous picture of Bracelet Bay that shifted me abruptly into figures, much to my own surprise. The character of the Wyvern developed while making the public sculpture the Balarat Pit Marker in The Edge Series: the coal, a buried treasure to be used wisely or there would be consequences, watched over by a shape-shifting Welsh dragon.

Busts in progress, Aug 2014.

Wyvern busts in progress, Aug 2014.

Here the Wyvern is a guardian of stone.

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Wyvern V, 2015, 27cm H x 51cm L x 25cm D, black ceramic. Cavin Morris Gallery, New York.

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Wyvern V, 2015, 27cm H x 51cm L x 25cm D, black ceramic. Cavin Morris Gallery New York.

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Porth Yr Ogof Cave, Brecon Beacons, by Steve Foote, 2014. We spent hours down here and as I assisted the photography, standing in the river and pitch black, I felt the underground wind and heard all the sounds of water travelling through the rocks. Extraordinary. A living, breathing world of unparalleled beauty.

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Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

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Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

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Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

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The Wyvern III, 2014

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios

Wyvern II, 2014, 69cm H x 54cm W, x 31cm D, ceramic. Photo Stephen Foote.

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The Wyvern IV, Sept 2014

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The Wyvern and The Leviathan. in progress, Sept 2014.

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Wyvern VIII, 2015, 39cm H x 71cm L x 34cm D, ceramic. Cavin Morris Gallery New York.

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Wyvern VIII, 2015, 39cm H x 71cm L x 34cm D, ceramic. Cavin Morris Gallery New York.

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Wyvern VIII, detail. Photo Stephen Foote.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios

Wyvern VIII, Cavin Morris Gallery New York. Photo Stephen Foote.

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Water moves from one sphere to the next in all it’s forms, changing everything it passes. On heavy, stormy days here in the Brecon Beacons it careens in sheets 10cm deep across the grassy hills, colliding in the streams and rivers to tear down towards Swansea Bay. It drops through the gaps and cracks it has left in the stone to the fabulous caves it has been cutting for Millenia. Standing out in the middle of all this you can see the mountain ponies, uncompromising, resolute and beautiful. They became the Guardian of the water, the Leviathan, in it’s mountain form.

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Leviathan V, 2015, 11.5cm H x 25cm L x 9.5cm W, ceramic. Photo Stephen Foote.

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Leviathan VI, 2015, 12.5cm H x 21cm L x 8cm W, ceramic. Cavin Morris Gallery New York.

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Leviathan V, 2015, 11.5cm H x 25cm L x 9.5cm W, ceramic. Photo Stephen Foote.

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The Wyvern and the Osprey, 2014.

The Osprey followed as the guardian of the sky.

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Stephen Foote Photography.

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Osprey II, 65cm W x 50cm H. Photo Stephen Foote.

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Osprey II, 65cm W x 50cm H. Photo Stephen Foote.

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Osprey I, 40 cm W x 25cm H.Photo Stephen Foote.

Steve’s landscape photos unify everything exquisitely, portraying a vivid place with such clarity you can feel it around you. My sculptural response inevitably, and with some regret, separated the features which got me thinking more carefully about their connections.

The  sphinx-like form and majesty of the Brecon Beacons also showed up first in the Balarat Pit Marker. A classic sculptural motif, the reclining  figure, with it’s many options for themes. Like the complex internal aspect of the Beacons complete with breath, life (water) running through veins in the rock, hidden secrets, moods, supporting of forests, wildlife, and us since the dawn of time. The subtlety of age: the Beacons are especially ancient and have been many things in their past. ‘The Land’ sculptures are about this part of what we saw.

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Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

The Land II, 21cm H x 52cm L x 27cm D. Cupola Contemporary Art, Sheffield, UK.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

The Land VIII, 21cm L x 12cm H x 11cm W.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

The Land III, 15cm H x 43cm L x 12cm D.  

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

The Land IV, 15cm H x 26cm L x 14cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

The Land I, 24cm H x 65cm L x 19cm D.

 

At this point the Series branches off into new territory lead by images and news about Climate Change rather than Steve’s photos and my local landscape. I have been following the fascinating progression of Climate Change for 35 years. At last it is a main-stream subject. It’s intriguing how people are still trying to avoid seeing it, the deniers but mostly the avoiders. My guilty secret is that I see it as thrilling: nature rejoicing in it’s power and spectacular magnificence, the wonder of transformation. Throwndown at Hoedown is an ongoing Series now.

This fascinating article by Randall Morris about Masks describes the process that I am trying to work through here. I have learnt a great deal from Randall since joining Cavin Morris Gallery. His amazing collection and beautiful writing brings clarity to, and pin points the essence of, what is important in art. I am an animist by nature and it is my job to portray what I see but the distractions can be over-whelming.

Short essay by Randall Morris

The Up is Down Series  proceeded The Landscape Series and was a transitionary point in how I put together forms, particularly in relation to their bases. The research involved clarified my thinking and ability to see.

Most of the sculptures in The Landscape Series are built with the technique explained in Heads and clay armatures.

Pennard Primary Lead Creatives Project, part 3.

The upper part of Pennard Primary School’s sculpture is complete, cut into sections and drying. It has been a joy to build. The pupils panels and tiles for the lower half are drying beautifully. I’m putting together the Book now and it’s lovely to review the wonderful time we had with this fabulous group.

Studio Diary: The Marking Time Sculpture at Bronllys Hospital, Powys, part 8.

The cut sections had a slow dry for a month and the last 6 weeks in a tent with the dehumidifier. Water is still collecting!! Soon I’m going to have to start the firing. But if the sections are still damp they will explode into a trillion smithereens….

 

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

 

The letter tiles look great.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Studio Diary: The Marking Time Sculpture at Bronllys Hospital, Powys.part 7.

 

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

The Marking time sculpture is built and cut into sections. Each part will be prepared for a long managed drying and a very slow firing.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

It has been wonderful work. Very challenging and engrossing. The scale is great: I spent a lot of time working with-in the embrace. The supports worked really well, didn’t get in the way  and there has been no cracking at all. Scarva ES 50 Crank is an outstanding clay.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

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Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

The edges are sharp and there is good variety and rhythm in the texture. The sculpture changes as you walk around it, with that rhythm creating unity and a flow that draws you in.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Once it is installed I will use the earth pigments that have become a really valuable material in my work recently, to add a thin white wash over the whole piece. The soft yellow of the clay will glow through the white and in the dappled shade of the woodland we will get a dream-like radiance. Over time the moss will add the finishing touch, making the form part of the place.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

The Red Kite, which represents the community supporting military from all angles with love, strength and unity, is very overt. During the consultation people spoke about a dragon in the mist, etherial, a force of nature. The dragon is there in the form making the embrace that shelters, guards and protects the vivid, swirling blue mosaic which is life. The dragon’s face shifts, the eye changing with the light.

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I have put blue underglazes on the wonderful mosaic pieces made by the fab pupils of out-standing art teacher, Ross Bennet, at Llandrindod Wells High School. The colour will deepen in the fire. A range of rich blue, high-quality glass pebbles will be set with these ceramics in the middle of the embrace.

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The 3 corner-tiles have soft blues added. They will also deepen in colour and have the same satin-matt texture.

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The 3rd corner tile will be done with Mount Street Junior School in Brecon. It will have the story of an army joining forces with a dragon that is shown in part 2 and the tri-corner  celtic knot will feature again.

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Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

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Studio Diary: The Marking Time Sculpture at Bronllys Hospital, Powys.part 5.

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

The full structure is built and the 1st layer of the textured surface is on. It has been every bit as challenging as I hoped!

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

The next stage is developing  the surface to enhance the flow of the curves. The clay with extra grog added will go on in layers using ever-smaller tools. It takes a great deal of time but it will leave fascinating, subtle surfaces and edges that are also very strong.

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

In these early stages it can look distractingly chaotic. Any part that just doesn’t work well can be removed and redone.

Mick Farrell and Janet Epplestone visiting Osprey Studios to help with their very useful feed-back.

Mick Farrell and Janet Epplestone visiting Osprey Studios to help with their very useful feed-back.

It was lovely to have Mick and Janet call in to give me their objective feed-back. And some gorgeous flowers for my birthday! I will get in as many people as I can to double-check how the piece is being read. The Red Kite is becoming very clear. Bringing together the Dragon will be the trickiest bit.

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

What do artists do all day?

At Bracelet Bay, Wales, UK.

At Bracelet Bay, Wales, UK.

Here is a collection of my thoughts and descriptions about making sculpture written in reply to student’s questions.

A Level project at Monmouth School: natural forms in art, particularly in portraiture both 3D and 2D.

It would be of great help for you to answer a few questions for this investigation. Any further insight into your personal influence of natural forms would also be greatly appreciated. My specific questions are:

You say that your abstract forms start with a theme or a known form and I know that you draw all the time, but I wondered whether you start with sketches specific to the planned piece or go straight into working with the clay?

Drawing from life has been an important part of my training but I never do it now. I still use the figure and heads to practise my skills (use it or loose it) but always in 3D and clay. These days I draw imaginatively for fun and to capture impressions and these sometimes are shapes which I might re-explore in clay.

Generally I go straight to clay with a theme as a starting-point.

With my best work I am filling in the space with clay- the form is there already.

Or, most often, I play intuitively and then work through the challenges that emerge. Rarely do I have a specific intension other that a guiding idea but I admit that frequently I’ll realise I am making something else! The front of your mind can go chattering on while the bigger part of your brain does the real work. Music is wonderful for keeping the two focussed. If I start dancing or singing I know I’m working well.

The system is to arm yourself with as much real-life information about natural forms as you can cram into your head. This becomes the structure of your ‘intuition’. Add reading, ideas, opinions, dancing, experiences and especially music. Really good, practiced craftsmanship then allows you to access this unique perception of life and put it into your medium so that you can share it.

The great benefit is I can turn to clay to work out everything. It’s my language, my thought process and what I have to offer the world.

I keep my studio and, as best as I can, my life-style, organised and tidy so that I am fit and ready to respond to events. For example the storms of this winter and the news about progressive arctic warming has gone straight to clay without me over-thinking it.

The most difficult part is maintaining belief in this process and keeping a clear head amidst constant distractions and doubts. Sculptors like Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore both used this approach. Many artists do. I turn to them to renew my courage.

In your blog you say that organic, natural forms are a strong influence on your abstract work and you talk about the influence of Barbara Hepworth in particular. Has she also influenced your more figurative work and which other artists have influenced your figurative work in particular?

Both Hepworth and Moore did many forms that were figures that they could see in the landscape in the way of animism and that gave me the confidence to show the figures I see. Most of my sculptures are of somebody, frequently birds of prey.

When I was young Brancusi and Giacometti blew my mind. Now I look at a lot of out-sider and art brut on Facebook (a fantastic resource for sculpture where you can study techniques in the artist’s Albums and ask questions). I greatly admire the fabulous craftsmanship and uncompromising imagination of Alex Oliver

( https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008249700514 ), Christophe Charbonnel

(https://www.facebook.com/Christophe-Charbonnel-117379408457506/  ) and the perfection and power of Patrick Villas’s modelling (https://www.facebook.com/patrick.villas.14

Seeing their work has opened the door to my using such naturalistic forms expressively. (before they were always disciplined exercises). My sons get me watching a lot of Marvel and super-hero fantasy films and the art-work is absolutely fabulous. They’ve pushed me to be more playful with my figurative work and that’s done all my sculpture a lot of good.

As well as rock forms, some of your pieces remind me of shells worn away by the sea and I wondered whether you are influenced by other natural forms, such as shells, leaves or coral?

I watch a lot of natural history and science programs and spend a fair amount of my free time outside. Trees are crucial to me. And I do collect shells and rocks. My thorough training means I can see things clearly and remember forms very vividly.

Drawing and making studies in clay of skeletons, the figure and heads teaches you the vocabulary of forms and especially of how nature transitions from one form to another in everything. For example that difficult area between the eye, the cheek and the nose: so subtle. You will see that in shells and all living things as well. Fascinatingly it also shows up in stone that has been shaped by the various processes of water. You need that knowledge to make abstract forms.

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Bracelet Bay, photograph by Stephen Foote.

This post about my currant series might be useful. https://ospreystudios.org/2018/02/03/throwdown-at-the-hoedown/

 

Guest-speaker Talk for Carmarthen School of Art.

I‘m a dual national, British/American and since my early teens I’ve been working intuitively using techniques, disciplines and materials from Figurative Sculpture and hand-built pottery to make mostly Abstract forms that describe ideas and experiences. I recently learned my work is Bio-morphic which sounds way better than some of the other things it’s been called.

I am going to give you an over-view of my work with  the whys and where-fores of doing it my way and  some ‘what’s the point thrown in’.

 I am 400 years old and I’ve been doing this for a Millenia, so my theories are tried and tested to breaking point. I work in clay but the majority of what I’m going to say applies to all art-forms.

Like all self-employed, vocational, sole-traders with a micro-buissness,(Yep! that’s us! ) our job is a roller-coaster over-loaded with risk, running on  low cash-flows.

There is a harmful myth that Artists are “different”. That isolates us. It makes it easier to not pay us. It makes prospective clients nervous about how to approach us. And it can distract us from important parts of our Practice.

Loads of  people, from Brick-layers to Social-Workers, pour their hearts into their work.

And they all wake up at 3am, wide-eyed with The Doubts: is their work good enough, shouldn’t they be doing more, in a different way, etc, etc!

I still get The Doubts about every 2 months. You look at your work and think “ this is RIDICULOUS!!! What am I DOING? I’ve really lost it this time.”

And some-times it’s true! You have, in fact, gone down a very bad road, for months, and it’s time to retrace your steps that bit older and wiser. Three steps forward, two steps back. Call in colleagues and get some sugar-less feed-back to help to see your way forward. And be ready to return the favour.

At Rhian Goodhand's Glass Studio.

At Rhian Goodhand‘s Glass Studio.

Or Type 2 Doubts where you walk in the Studio and think “What? Make sculpture? Me?!I can’t do THAT!?” The blank mind, empty hands…has your Muse and your Talent run off together and left you useless for ever?

Nah, you just need a break. Get outside, read, feel, experience, re-charge. Then get back to making lots of work: some of it will be really good.

Stephen Foote Photography.

Stephen Foote Photography. Steve and I have an on going collaborative project, The Landscape Series. We challenge each other and exchange really valuable, no-frills feed-back about the work. It has definatly upped my game.

Isolation and The Doubts wreak havoc with a lot of artist’s careers. There is all kinds of help and support for micro-businesses out there. Assume that it WILL apply to you. Keep books on your accounts. Talk shop with other Sole Traders.

And it is important to have some structure for, and understanding of, your creative process that will give you the confidence to hold your ground and routes to solve the problems.

Working Intuitively:

Where DO our ideas come from? Why do some pieces seem to build themselves using your hands?? Why don’t we think that is creepy?

Intuition is made up of your memories and perceptions that together are your Knowledge.

Many of your memories come from actual experiences, physical and emotional, many from films, books, art, daydreams and your imagination.

Add in the strong pull of the cocktail of hormones that are involved in our every move, societal  influences and Collective Consciousness (now accepted science and it must play a role along with  Inherited Memory).

Every bit of your life  stops off to be  shaped by your perception on the way into your memory bank.

The quality of your Perception is set by your learning and experience and it will develop and change. So your memories will change too. Your brain reviews memories every 2 years or so and chucks out the irrelevant, rarely used stuff and re-files handy, popular stuff according to up-dated perceptions.

So your Knowledge and your ability to gain knowledge is limited by prejudice, ignorance and inexperience.

Artists have an important role in Society. One of Barbara Hepworth’s many strengths was the conviction that societies, as far back as we know, have always needed and supported artists so that they could gain the skills required to unravel and describe the ideas, beliefs, moralities and experiences of the group so that everyone was on the same page.

So it’s very important to educate yourself and develop your perception constantly throughout your career to avoid being narrow minded or irrelevant.

Like Actors we need to rehearse the physical characteristics of emotions and experiences so that we can capture and express them.

A vivid intuition needs skilled craftsmanship that can capture and communicate ideas. Scintillating, profound knowledge will be wasted if you are all thumbs.

Just like musicians and sportsmen, artists need to train the specific muscles needed. And become expert in handling the medium that suits us best.

So we need to practice reliable, effective exercises throughout our career to keep our minds and bodies fit for creativity.

 

Barbara Hepworth at work.

Barbara Hepworth at work.

Henry Moore at work.

Henry Moore at work.

It really looks like this lad is checking his phone.

It really looks like this lad is checking his phone.

                                               

As a teen I loved the work of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore ( I still do) and I researched and did my best to re-create their education for myself. This was very much at odds with the currant art-practice 35 years ago and I got a lot of hassle for it at college. I get the impression that would not be the case here at Carmarthen School of Art. I was angrily accused of being ‘very early 20th century’ when I refused to explain my coil-built abstracts in terms of inner psychological angst and insisted on life drawing.

(My pieces were about inner psychological angst, mind, but I didn’t need tuition for that – I was already really good at it).

For 15 years, as well as making my art work, I went to any life-drawing, portrait or figure sculpture classes going. And I drew the classical sculptures, skeletons and taxidermy in museums as well.

Eventually  I switched to setting myself exercises using photos and skeleton diagrams. I still do this regularity to sustain the skills and measure my ability.

What you gain from this training is this:

  • a broadening of your ability to see and perceive what is in front of you.
  • a collection of memorised forms, details and structures that enrich your visual vocabulary.
  • an understanding and appreciation of the structure of forms.
  • fine motor-skills in your body specific to your art-work.
  • disciplined systems for organising the huge, over-whelming amount of information in front of you so that you can work with it.
  • clear mile-stones to aim for and use to assess your fitness: Figure study has definable rights and wrongs.

    The measuring frees you up to be expressive with your modelling .

    The measuring frees you up to be expressive with your modelling .

Add practicing and experimenting with your materials. And challenging your ideas by no- holds- barred discussion about everything with all kinds of people, not just artists. And understanding emotions by sharing your own with trusted friends and caring about others of all species.

Clay

I got into coil-building when I was 20, after my Foundation year (fantastic course in Banbury, Oxfordshire) when I was teaching pottery at a Summer Camp in the USA.

Life was very chaotic and stressful at that time and the rhythm and intense, absorbing relationship with clay that you get through coil-building and the slow, steady progression revealing the form drew me in like a sanctuary.

Big round pots, glazed hideously, developed into a-symmetric vessels with sheer clay surfaces, then to forms involving spirals, then sculptures incorporating birds, especially the Ospreys I watched on the New England lakes.

2 years on: I went to Exeter College of Art And Design here in the UK for a BFA in ceramic sculpture. The interior space of the forms ceased to be relevant and gradually the vessel openings were gone. My 2nd year was spent at Boston University’s excellent and intense Program in Artisanry, where the mostly post-grad potters could discuss foot-rings for hours with out being boring.

For 18 years, until I was 30, I did stints of waitressing double hours for a few months and then studio work for as long as my money lasted. I always worked from home, including when that was my Van. I fired at community centres, taught pottery and sculpture to Adult Ed, special needs and Summer Camp.

When I was about 28 I had gotten to coil-building naturalistic figures and of course I was struggling because that’s a fool’s errand right there.

I had made one that wasn’t too awful and this guy says to me, “yeah, that’s pretty nice, I guess you built it solid and hollowed it out, right?”

What?!

So I switched techniques for the figures and realised that wedding your-self to a technique isn’t loyalty, it’s absurd!

Always get outsiders to look at your work in progress. Ask them “ what’s the first thing you see?” and remove the plastic. Those fresh, first impressions can be so helpful. If there is a figurative element ask “is this about a character? Who are they, what are they doing?”

If they say “it’s a rooster running away” and you were aiming for “The Leviathan, Guardian of the Aquasphere, shape-shifted to the form of a rampant horse raging through the oceans” consider the differences between the two and you have the bit that needs work: the head was too narrow and the ears needed to be stronger.

Leviathan VIII, 56cm H x 97cm L x 28cm D.

Leviathan VIII, 56cm H x 97cm L x 28cm D.

Do it yourself: Take a break every 1 1/2 hours and go clear your eyes for 15 minutes. Load the washing machine, check messages. When you go back to the piece what’s the first thing you notice? It might be a problem. It might be a lovely bit.

Working Solid and Hollowing Out

So I spent the next 10 years working solid and hollowing out, loosing the advantage of the rhythm and voice of coiling but gaining the advantage of working on the whole form from the outset and being able to change your mind right up to the last minute.

You can separate the artsy work from the technical stuff: they use different parts of your head and don’t always mix well.

You block out the basic sizes,

Rough out the form

Refine all over in at least 5 cycles of adding/ subtracting.

Let it go leather hard on the surface,

Cut/Hollow/rebuild.

Do finishing touches in 3 rounds: Remove, Add, Burnish (especially the edges)

It’s a great method for any shape up to 75cm x 50cm – above that the weight becomes a pain and you are better off working hollow with a clay armature. You still might hollow parts out.

Or you can Coil-build from a scale model using an internal support structure made of clay….

Large scale sculpture in clay.

Around about when I turned 42 I got the opportunity to do something I had always wanted to try: working really big.

I made a 6m long x 2m high sculpture with 9 life-sized figures and a 2m x 1.5m piece with wildlife, both incorporating seating for a community regeneration group.

Both were ‘blocked-out’ in large brick-clay coils  using a scale model, then continued by adding and subtracting clay. They were then cut into sections which were hollowed out. The internal supporting structure (built w/ smaller coils) was discarded. The sections were fired and reassembled by a builder with cement, concrete, steel reinforcing and a lot of swearing.

A year or so later I was running a community Sculpture Studio aimed at ‘The Hard To Reach’ by a fab Regeneration group The Creation Development Trust in Blaengarw. (near Bridgend, UK). My group were awesome. They were mostly dealing with awful mental health problems so they couldn’t get jobs and had time, energy and intense life experiences to burn.

After they had all made some lovely things for friends and family it became clear they were going to drift off.  So we decided to make a big brick-clay sculpture together for the new park planned by the ferocious Community Council for a big area of waste ground.

Calon Lan would tell the epic story of Blaengarw from it’s notorious ancient history of un-tamable Silurians, through to the industrial revolution, mining, bitter strikes, a culture in ruins and a slow, often tortuous, re-building.

Parc Calon Lan, Blaengarw, South Wales.

Parc Calon Lan, Blaengarw, South Wales.

There was something important to do for every kind of Volunteer from researching through the local archives to the hard labour of building the structure 5m long x 2 m high in a basement barely big enough, designing letter stamps and carving narrative reliefs.

I’ve done about 14 of these intensely collaborative projects now in various sizes. Because the sculptures are big you can fit in loads of different ideas and styles. The Sculptor’s job is to find ways  to included as many people as possible and make damn sure the piece looks awesome (because your Volunteers trust you and deserve no less in return for the huge amount of time they donate), while being safe and vandal-proof because it’s in a public place.

I use the frame-work of ‘Co-production’ for all my projects. The very interesting theory is that humans are naturally co-operative and strive to be a useful, valued part of the group. So a good group leader asks for something in return for what they have to offer. Studies have shown that if you don’t use this method your project will probably be ineffective in enabling real change to take place. (All my funders have been involved in Community Regeneration on some level).

People will go all out if they feel valued as a contributor. If you are the Benevolent Professional bestowing your gifts upon the weak and needy you are requiring them to stay weak and needy. They will begin to drift off when they can’t stomach being patronised any longer. They wont have gained anything so your project has failed, leaving you frustrated and stressed and your reputation damaged.

So I offered to trade my skills on the tricky bits (eyes, hands etc), teach skills and ensure the final sculpture was fabulous in exchange for the local knowledge and experience, stories and symbols and the work each person took on for the task.

Building Calon Lan in a small basement.

Building Calon Lan in a small basement. (How to..)

Sharon was invaluable. She worked on every stage.

Sharon was invaluable. She worked on every stage.

Jim, ex-miner, ensured that the images were accurate.

Jim, ex-miner, ensured that the images were accurate.

A lot of Public Art is made like this though not always so hands-on. It’s expensive because Volunteers need a lot of time but you get massive value for money because  all the skill-sharing and co-production feeds back into the community.

These projects really highlight how much Visual Artists have to offer.

Many Artists specialise in non-verbal communication. A lot of people learn that way and regularly struggle to ‘find the words’ particularly after a trauma.  We can guide people towards the form of wordless communication that best allows them to express themselves ‘beyond words’.

While hands and eyes are busy on artwork people find talking openly feels much less dangerous. They start to take themselves less seriously as mistakes are made on the art and every one laughs uncritically. Problems fall into perspective and become interesting challenges.

We laughed and cried a river while making the big brick clay Pit Marker Memorials because of the stories we were telling in clay. We worked from the heart, unashamedly: we wanted to share the tears. Now people with generations of miners in their families go to the Ocean Colliery Pit Marker, set by a pond on the mountain where the pit head was, to remember and mourn. And visitors and new comers can go there and better understand the village and the  history that shaped it.

Ocean Colliery Pit Marker, Blaengarw, South Wales.

Ocean Colliery Pit Marker, Blaengarw, South Wales.

This is good, important work that sustains the humanity of our society.

Creative work is at it’s best when it communicates emotion with a sincerity that genuinely connects with the viewer.

Sculpture and pottery have the advantage over many other art-forms of being overtly physical so they can reach people more directly.

A lot of what we make is decorative. Stylish. Attractive. Or Narrative. Intriguing. It is understood and appreciated by the brain. Sometimes everything clicks and a piece is able to reach into people and connect with the heart and perhaps the soul.

That’s the best.

But there is a huge need for all kinds of art-work and processes. Our job is to find our niche in there and get as skilled as we can at providing our part of the  structure of civilisation no less!

I’ve taught clay work to all sorts of people with all kinds of abilities. Many have been inexperienced in creative work. Some people ‘take to it’ very quickly. They transfer skills developed in other activities easily, they are very dexterous.

It gets called ‘Talent’ but that has become a misleading term that stands in the way of a lot of creativity. People are lead to think Talent will come to you if you want it enough or that you are born with it as a blessing. And that others are denied it…

Talent describes prodigies and savants. The rest of us have born and acquired ‘aptitudes’ for particular types of work. As a social species humans come in various types for the good of the group.

Psychologists studying creative aptitude have put forward the idea of ‘Flow’. Flow is when you get lost and engrossed in an activity, time flies etc.

We all recognise this, yes? Nope.

They found that 7 out of 10 people experience Flow. 3 do not. Their aptitude is better for different work. Of the 7 that do there is a spectrum with those people lost in Flow or who need to spend a lot of time there at one end and those who can easily dip in and out at the other.

Go to the right point on the spectrum down at the ‘out there’ end, add circumstance and opportunity, training and practice and you will have an artist. All kinds of jobs require high levels of Flow and creativity. We are not crazy or weird, don’t let anyone call you that. Our passion does not set us apart either. People in every type of work pour their hearts into what they do.

I like this idea and it fits in well with my experiences with students and Volunteers. People often describe doing artwork as ‘therapeutic’. So why aren’t we all exquisitely calm?!

I don’t think artwork has medicinal properties but rather ‘nutritional ones: I’m pretty sure many people fall into mental health difficulties because their circumstance denies them access to creativity, non-verbal self expression and Flow.

Part of our ‘calling’ is to build bridges for these people through our own art-work and in guiding them to theirs. And that can be life or death stuff.

A lot of nonsense is bandied around about mental health illnesses fuelling creative genius. It is a cruel Myth. Some geniuses have done what they can to make the best of the awful, destructive diseases they are stuck with. Many people living with all sorts of disabilities are denied jobs so they choose to spend time productively on art-work.

Gwalia Mynydd Mawr Home. This lovely man couldn't speak any more but he drew beautifully and loved clay.

Gwalia Mynydd Mawr Home. This lovely man couldn’t speak any more but he drew beautifully and loved clay.(How to..)

                                                     ————————————

So Sculpture is my first language, the one I use to understand the world and sort out my thinking. And I also use it to communicate with other people.

It can be very difficult to tell if people are picking up on your message. They may have a strong, visceral reaction to your work but, not being able to find the words, say nothing.

A website and Facebook are great for making your work accessible, your ideas clearer and your self approachable. And I have found to my own surprise that I really enjoy running mine. I think my work has made big steps forward since I got into this stuff three years ago. Writing posts has clarified my ideas and getting really nice photos of the sculpture has helped me to look at it very objectively while rewarding me for putting in those hours spent on the edges and surfaces. People’s kind words, likes and shares are very encouraging.

And best of all I am part of a world-wide network of Makers of all kinds sharing photos, techniques, ideas, understanding and encouragement. I have learned a tremendous amount. Online stuff  now fills part of that  productive work pattern : 1.5 hours in the studio then break for 15 minutes. I used to do long, punishing hours deep into the night….that’s not ‘Work’. That’s looking a bit like ‘Obsession’ right there.  Now I work 6 days a week, 7-5ish, with proper breaks. Some of that time is paper-work and internet stuff. Some is outdoors walking, thinking, taking it in. Talking with peers, reading, listening. 

Music plays a crucial role in my sculpture. I use particular playlists for each Series. That inspires and guides the forms and brings me back to the right point after a break. My sons are into the vivid, wildly creative Games and animations that have become the voice of their generation and their influence has lead me to my best work yet.

On a good day I know look like an Olympic athlete, or at worst, Miss Marple on steroids, but the inconvenient truth is that I’m a dilapidated wreck. So everything in the studio is on wheels and, happily, I have the best assistant on the planet who can pack more sculpture into a kiln than physics can justify. I don’t intend to retire. I’ve already thought through how I could keep making stuff after the loss of any body-part. But will sculpture continue to work for me? Many artists see switching to a different job and life-style a failure or heresy. But our hard-won skills are entirely transferable, especially in a global, multicultural era that relies so much visual communication.

Osprey Studios. SA9 1YT.

Osprey Studios. SA9 1YT.