Studio Diary, Reflecting on Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You can imagine how massively pleased I feel when people say my work must be influenced by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. They have been the corner-stone of my development as they have for so many artists of all disciplines.

Last July I finally made my first visit  to the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle. I was invited by a lovely Collector who is from Yorkshire and is a big Hepworth/Moore fan. She has a range of my formative pieces; she is interested in those transitionary points in Artist’s work.

After the visit I poured out the first impressions in the Studio for a few months and now I’m re-studying the work of these giants and reviewing their influence on what I make and the process; The Doubts are always hovering on the edge. They regularly get to me and leave me questioning the validity of my work process; can you really share experience and ideas through abstract form?

Barbara Hepworth was confident that Sculpture was  an  essential natural work for humans, that it must be because we have done it since our very earliest days. Studying her work and biography taught me that you can join forces with your material to translate the voice of your environment into  forms  that will communicate to others.

Hepworth, Moore and most of their extraordinary contemporaries were quite sure that if you trained your craftsmanship thoroughly, and knew and respected your material, you would be able to work directly through your well informed intuition to create valuable, meaningful artwork that ‘felt right’ to you and spoke to others. The incomparable Conceptual Artist Grayson Perry talked about these values in his Reith Lectures this year and stated that perhaps the time we are in now is in need of evocative, powerful art that talks to the soul rather than the intellect.

I decided to write this post over these reflective months to clarify what I’m doing in my own practice. I will add to it over time to help maintain my focus.

It really looks like this lad is checking his phone.

It really looks like this lad is checking his phone.

Both Hepworth and Moore studied the figure extensively in the traditional way.

Both Hepworth and Moore studied the figure extensively in the traditional way.

I was one of those kids who was always making things out of toilet paper and sellotape and by my teens, in the 1970s, I was taking my subject seriously. I read everything I could find about my favourites, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore and I tried to copy their  education. I lived in Oxford (UK) at the time so I could spend hours drawing in the Cast Gallery ( an amazing collection of casts from Greek and Roman statuary; extraordinary, muscly figures that kept still!)  in the basement of the Ashmolean Museum. In  Pitt Rivers Museum there was Skeletons and freaky taxidermy ( animals in crazy poses, that kept still.) At Oxpens Tech we did formal life-drawing of nudes and during my BFA hons at the Art Department of Boston University, USA, I was was hugely fortunate to be taught figure and portrait skills by Lloyd Lilly. He was a wonderful and exacting tutor and I owe him a great deal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At The Hepworth in Wakefield.

In my early 20’s I lived in Cornwall, UK, for a year or so and visited  Hepworth’s Studios in St. Ives and kissed the ground she walked upon. My work started to properly Abstract around then under the wonderful, great-humoured, very practical guidance of the lovely sculptor Ron Wood.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA     OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

So this trip to Yorkshire was a pilgrimage for me. And it was absolutely wonderful. Pippa was a fabulous host and such a great person to be with because she is fascinated with sculpture and comes to it from a different angle than I do, making talking it through with her intricate and revealing. Plus she is a laugh and we had a great deal of fun; she showed me the real Wakefield right down to the Rhubarb Liquor.

The Hepworth at Wakefield.

The Hepworth at Wakefield.

The Hepworth in Wakefield is just awesome. A striking modern building with wonderful light. It’s right in town near the shops and one of the things that made me so jubilant was seeing families who had clearly dropped in for another visit as a treat for their excited kids who were loving it. The Museum staff had groups of children sitting on the floor laughing and chatting and making things in front of these stunning sculptures. No hushed tones, everyone there (and it was busy) was relaxed and enchanted.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Barbara Hepworth, Figure for Landscape, 1960.

The major Hepworth Retrospective ‘Sculpture for a Modern World’ is at the Tate in London this year, so  everything was re-arranged and Pippa spotted pieces she had never seen before.

This room is fantastic.

This room is fantastic.

The scene was the same at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It was an ordinary weekend and the huge carparks were packed. Families and friends were walking amongst the fantastic sculptures with the relaxed ease of familiarity, having picnics, playing, soaking-in the presence and passion of the artwork.

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

 Anthony Caro

Anthony Caro

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Lynn Chadwick.

In the Underground Gallery they had set a completely stunning exhibition ” Henry Moore, Back To A Land”. Such a great title, I was hooked as soon as I saw it as we entered the Park.  The Show  was beautifully lit and spacious. There were pieces I had never seen before.  And lots of preparatory work like small scale models, drawings, found objects like intriguing stones. His tools were  laid out respectfully. I would dearly love to have had this Show as my home. It was wonderful. There is a nice short film that introduces the Show the very well; Henry Moore at YSP.

I had planned to do my BFA,Hons thesis on Henry Moore. I had an appointment to meet with him in 1985. I transported my feint ghost of a self, rigid with respect, awe and generalised terror, to his home and Studio. But sadly he was too unwell that day to see me. One of his very kind, thoughtful and generous assistants took me around the studios and told me all about it. I wrote my thesis about him in the end and I cringe to admit that I can’t remember his name. They were enlarging this sculpture, or one very like it , in polystyrene, scaling up from a small model Henry Moore had made many years previously. The Lovely Assistant told me that Henry often felt very anxious when this happened, that he wasn’t sure it was right to enlarge a piece made to be small. We all get the doubts…!

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Both Hepworth and Moore used evocative, shifting textures that further describe the forms by capturing shadows and reflecting concentrated spots of light. In both of these exceptional venues you can get right up close and inspect the craftsmanship. At YSP, even outside, they do ask that you don’t touch the work  but the sheep use them as windbreaks and scratching posts so most people feel there their gentle caress wont do any harm and it feels very good to send Henry Moore a whispered message of gratitude and recognition from the heart and through the hand.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth. Detail of Rock Form (Porthcurno), 1964.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, Figure (Archaean) 1959.

These details of Rock Form and Figure (Archaean) show the deeply textured surface built up in plaster with the intension of ultimately being bronze. Both Moore and Hepworth had carving as their true-love but both built up forms with plaster, and occasionally clay, for models, to be cast in bronze. Here’s the whole of Rock Form showing the texture across the form;

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, Rock Form (Porthcurno), 1964. She wrote of the group of pieces that include this one;’these are all sea forms and rock forms, related to Porthcurno on the Land’s End coast with its queer caves pierced by the sea. They were experiences of people- the movement of people in and out is always a part of them’. I lived in St Agnes on the north Cornwall coast around 1980ish. Fabulous area over-flowing with strange myths, legends and other-worldly beings. People often go there to loose themselves for a while. Hepworth moved her young family there just before WW2 broke out. Her Studio and the work in it left in London was destroyed by bombings. She stayed in Cornwall for the rest of her life, playing her part in the prosperity of the area along with Bernard Leach’s Pottery that continues to this day with the Tate Gallery having a wing there.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

I particularly love Rock Form. The holes face into the form bringing light in to meet within the shelters of the sculpture. Both Moore and Hepworth use the edges of holes so ingeniously to hold or pour light around the forms. Interior space is a massive issue with sculpture made in ceramic because the pieces usually have to be hollow if they are over a certain size wether that space has meaning to the theme or not. Bronzes are hollow too but, no matter what it is made into, ceramics always carries it’s ancient history of pots that is so intricately entwined in our evolution that we describe our bodies as vessels; no one can resist looking into the openings of big pots , can they. I am particularly re-studying the use of holes and the directing of a flow around forms in both sculptors work.

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

They both also used grouped forms a lot and one sculpture made of several parts is classic Moore. It’s really hard to do. Currently my work is gradually disassembling; bases reduced as far as possible, interior space integrated with the exterior (to a point…LOT more work needed there…) surfaces deeply textured. But so far any attempts to divide the form reek of pastiche. You can’t fake this stuff, it has to be sincere and real. Henry Moore had a strong relationship with the monumental formations of stone on the moors of his formative environment and tunnelling coal mines of his community. For the last 17 years  I have lived in a landscape and culture shaped by mining; 12 in the Rhondda Valley and making Pit Markers and Memorials across the Valleys and the last 5 years  in the Upper Tawe Valley, with the front of Osprey Studios  facing a working pit and and the back  facing the ancient, worn, mountains of the Brecon Beacons. The Landscape Series ( with the awesome Photographer, Stephen Foote) is all about describing our place within  the Natural World in this location and experiential frame-work; I am guided by the foot-steps of  giants. Pleasingly I live at the foot of Cribarth, the Sleeping Giant mountain, which rounds that train of thought off nicely.

Anthony Caro

Anthony Caro

Anthony  Caro was also on show at YSP, with lots of fab models and a few sculptures that got to me because they played with contained space and were beautifully made.

Anthony Caro

Anthony Caro

The carvings of Hepworth and Moore are beyond beautiful. The ethos of Truth To Materials, held by their group of artist colleagues for some years, shines out especially in the wood pieces. I took this idea very much to heart as an intense teenager. Clay comes in a multitude of disguises, no  single one speaking for all clay. Each blend of wild clays has it’s own characteristics to be celebrated. I still honour my material and work for it. It is a powerful material fully aware of the ties that bind us to it. It has shaped us and our societies countless times over the Millenia.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, carving in wood and some of her plaster-work tools.

Barbara Hepworth used lines of string or steel to follow the forces running through the forms. Henry Moore often cut lines into the surface. Both are such bold and fantastically effective things to do in certain circumstances. Working from these examples I’ve been using repeated patterns of texture or curves  to achieve the same thing with various degrees of success.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Here’s some other images of beautiful sculptures from Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, some taken by me and many collected from the internet. My thanks to the photographers and I am sorry I do not have your names.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, Figure (Archaean), 1959. The name derives from the ancient Greek word for beginning or origin. The Archaean period saw the emergence of life on earth. Hepworth was very drawn to standing stones and felt a connection as a sculptor to the people who had been compelled to put them up. She often talked about how a person out in a landscape was a sculpture and part of the landscape. She saw her sculptures as living people. Not in a crazy way but in that her work was not done until the form was imbued with life. Over time her relationship with that piece would evolve and change, just as it does with other living beings.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have this part of The Hepworth, Wakefield as your living room?

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, Single Form (Chun Quoit), 1961. Chun Quoit is a Neolithic chamber tomb in the beautiful landscape between St Ives and Land’s End (Cornwall, UK), an area that had a profound effect on Hepworth. It was created with her friend Dag Hammarskjold in mind. When he died not long afterwards she made the stunning, 3metre high version for the new United Nations Secretariat Building in New York City. I can’t deny that I get a kick out of this wonderful sculpture being made and installed there in the year of my birth in NYC!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Barbara Hepworth.

Here is a charming video with some lovely footage of Hepworth working made by the Kroller-Muller Museum: Barbara Hepworth, Sculpture for a Modern World.

Henry Moore.

Henry Moore.

 

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth at work.

Barbara Hepworth at work.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Henry Moore at work.

Henry Moore at work.

Barbara Hepworth at work

Barbara Hepworth at work

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enflamed at Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York.

11011935_10207300528734378_8987761482456507006_o

Being invited to join this beautiful, sensuous, soul-reaching collection made my day. Some of my favourite Ceramists like  Melanie Ferguson and Monique Rutherford show with Cavin-Morris Gallery. Their introduction to their site made my week;

“Cavin-Morris Gallery has been exhibiting world artists for 30 years. We specialise in the work of self-taught artists whose work is made independently of the art world canon yet participates equally on the wall or pedestal. We represent the new generation of self-taught artists whose work remains authentic and visionary while representative of contemporary times. We also feature important works from preceding generations of self-taught artists including Jon Serl, Bill Traylor and Emery Blagdon.

We show an eclectic selection of tribal art from all the major regions of the world focusing on the unusual and the formally surprising.

Another focus is on textiles of the world, including South East Asian costumes an textiles including tribal China, and Japanese Boros: futon covers made over a period of a hundred years from cotton patches and threads.

Our newest department is a developing interest in Contemporary ceramics both functional and non-functional. We are especially interested in the way ceramists push the envelope of traditional form sand cultures. We show Western ceramists as well as Japanese, Chinese and Korean work.

The common thread that connects all this art is its uniqueness, its integrity and authenticity, and its reflection of cultural home-ground. The Contemporary artists we represent extend the continuum established by the self-taught and Tribal artists into a new and exciting multi-tiered arena.”

This article explains it perfectly; ‘A Chelsea Double Feature; Paper Meets Clay On “Homeground’s” Turf’ by Edward M Gomez.

1977362_10207300528654376_2230692460964721983_n View the stunning Catalogue here.

 

Melanie Ferguson extra ordinary pots encompass the universe and lead you beyond your borders.

Melanie Ferguson extraordinary pots encompass the universe and lead you beyond your borders.

 

11537803_10207311092638469_5240733511911114339_n

Mitch Iburg‘s stunning pots leave me breathless with wonder.

11415505_10207311092438464_4275687813521443238_o

Mitch Iburg. All the mountains of the world are honoured here.

. 

11406152_10207311509928901_6036651068093316479_o

Sarah Purvey ‘s pot in the for-ground of  the beautiful display at Cavin-Morris Gallery.

11536487_10207311510008903_3648470053000841142_o

Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York City, USA.

Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York City, USA.

Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York City, USA.

11125816_10207311509968902_6811371242251941930_o

Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York City, USA.

11144951_10207300632456971_5008811582271769390_o

Wyvern V, black ceramic, 26.7 x 50.8 x 25.4 cm. Rebecca Buck.

10985193_10207300632576974_2294998455238573011_o

Wyvern VIII, ceramic, 39 x 71 x 34 cm. Rebecca Buck.

10658835_10207300632176964_1400949773888147250_o

Up Is Down VI, ceramic, 20 x 49 x 31 cm.

11066531_10207300632536973_4455478861361309613_o

Leviathan VI, ceramic, 12.5 x 21 x 8 cm.

This is a selection of images taken by Cavin-Morris Gallery. Go to the Gallery site  to see more beautifully presented photographs of these Artist’s  pieces and the other astonishing work by the Artists represented by this exceptional Gallery. The links from each name here on this post will take you to more information about each Ceramist. I will add more images as I get them.

Sculpture by Rebecca Buck at Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York City, USA.

Sculpture by Rebecca Buck at Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York City, USA.

 

The Albany Gallery and South Wales Potters.

The Albany Gallery is one of the UK’s most established and respected galleries. Collectors keep an eye on them because they have a great track-record for showing new treasures.

South Wales Potters is one of the largest groups of professional and hobby potters, ceramicists and collectors in the UK. Members are based all over  southern Wales, England and some abroad. They are involved in putting together Europe’s premier ceramics event, the International Ceramics Festival held every 2 years at Aberystwyth University.

The Albany’s Summer Show is always fresh and wonderful. They have an excellent variety of 2D Art set off beautifully by ceramics they have selected from South Wales Potters. The staff at the Albany Gallery are lovely- very knowledgeable about the work they show, friendly and very approachable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rebecca Buck, Half A Century VII, 42 x 27 x 23 cm.

Rebecca Buck, Half A Century VII, 42 x 27 x 23 cm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bird by Jane Blair, Pots by Pam Brooker.

Rebecca Buck, Up Is Down VI, 31cm L x 25cm H x 17cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Up Is Down VI, 31cm L x 25cm H x 17cm D.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jane Blair.

The Private View was very  full and bustling but there are still some gorgeous pieces to buy.

The Private View was very
full and bustling but there are still some gorgeous pieces to buy.

Albany have set the ceramics to compliment the paintings and it looks marvellous. The Gallery is an intimate and home-like space making it very easy to imagine the Art-work in your own home.

Albany Gallery have set the ceramics to compliment the paintings and it looks marvellous. The Gallery is an intimate and home-like space making it very easy to imagine the Art-work in the rooms of your own home.

Thanks to Daniel Buck for the Photographs.

 

 

How to Make Abstract Sculpture in Clay; working solid and hollowing out.

 

Over Half a Century III.

Half a Century VIII.

The Edge VII

Wyvern VIII, 2015, 39cm H x 71cm L x 34cm D, ceramic.

Up is Down VII, back view

Up is Down V, 44cm H x 58cm L x 50cm D,

Up is Down VI, second view.

Up is Down V, back view

Making Abstract Sculpture can feel very elusive; where to start, when to stop? This post aims to de-mystify the process and give you an ideal technique that will allow you to go with your flow to make beautiful Abstract forms that express those things that are not easily put into words or naturalistic art.

Because there is no right or wrong with Abstracts you are better off with a technique that allows you to feel your way around the form and to change your mind any time you want to. Building the piece in solid clay allows you to separate the ceramic-technical needs from the flow of creativity for the most part. You do need to make good joins as you go along but with the right clay that is not a distraction. It’s a great method for pieces up to 1 metre. For larger Sculptures I often use it over a hollow clay-armature to reduce the over-all weight. Use a clay designed for sculpture and hand-building with plenty of grog (gritty bits like sand). Scarva’s ES 50 is fab and excellent value for money.

I work to music and usually have a theme I am following.  When you start out with Abstracts you need to put some boundaries in place; have a theme (an emotion, geometry, etc) or abstract a known form like a figure or an animal. All the pieces above were made using this technique. All but one are made in combinations of Scarva’s black clays.

Gill Tennant-Eyles, Emma Bevan and Tez Roberts came to Osprey Studios for a Workshop. We had an excellent day going over this technique and sharing each other’s ideas.

Make a block of clay that has the approximate hight/width/depth you feel you need at this point. Rough out the beginnings of a form.

Make a block of clay that has the approximate hight/width/depth you feel you need at this point. Rough out the beginnings of a form.

Work all around the form in stages, giving each area equal attention, refining with each rotation.

Work all around the form in stages, giving each area equal attention, refining with each rotation.

Add or subtract clay. A paddle will be very useful.

Add or subtract clay. A paddle will be very useful.

When the piece starts sagging leave it to harden up a bit. Use plastic to keep the drying even.

When the piece starts sagging leave it to harden up a bit. Use plastic to keep the drying even.

For larger pieces the process is the same. Use props or leave temporary supports of clay to hold up the form until it hardens. These might stay there until you have hollowed out the sculpture and reduced the weight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once the piece is leather-hard carve/scrape the surface. You can still add clay but pay attention to the joins.

Once the piece is leather-hard carve/scrape the surface. You can still add clay but pay attention to the joins.

At the point where the form is complete apart from finishing the surface stop building and get ready to hollow -out. The piece should be firm enough to resist a thumb-print. On very large pieces you might start hollowing the top while the lower parts are still too damp; the hollowed clay walls will need to be able to support themselves with-out distorting. Don't let the form get to hard or you wont be able to cut it open.

At the point where the form is complete apart from finishing the surface, stop building and get ready to hollow-out. The piece should be firm enough to resist a thumb-print. On very large pieces you might start hollowing the top while the lower parts are still too damp; the hollowed clay walls will need to be able to support themselves with-out distorting. Don’t let the form get too hard or you wont be able to cut it open.

How thick the clay can be to fire well depends on the amount of grog, the denseness of your modelling style, drying time and the speed of your firing.

Air bubbles trapped in the clay will expand with the heat. Grog and/or a loose surface will allow the air to seep through the clay. The same is true with water but steam expands fast. If your piece breaks into big bits during the fire it was trapped air and you will be able to see where the bubbles were in the shards. If it blows up into a trillion smithereens it wasn’t properly dry!

I dry thick sculptures slowly under plastic which I turn daily for 4 weeks minimum and then 1-2 weeks in a plastic tent with a dehumidifier. A long dry allows the water to level out as water loves to do and that will enhance the structure of the clay within it’s new sculpture shape. You will get less cracks or distorting in the fire.

I fire very slowly with an 18 degree C rise until 600 degrees C.

Generally 3cm is a fair maximum thickness for a well grogged clay.

Choosing where to cut is easy: Starting at the top make the first cut at the point where you can  reach all the parts that need hollowing to leave 1-3cm walls. That may mean cutting off a very small piece and hollowing barely a few scoops, for example the head of a figure: drill a tool down the neck and then your next cut would be low on the chest, etc. Always ensure there is an air outlet for each hollowed area. Hard to reach areas can be skewerd from the inside or outside to make channels for the air/water to escape.

Horizontal cuts are best because gravity is on your side while the piece is drying.

Horizontal cuts are best because gravity is on your side while the piece is drying. Lay the cut section on foam.

Hollow the cut section first, score the edges with a serrated kidney (NEVER make deep scores) moisten w/ water and /or slip so that that edge can soften while the section is upside-down. The hollow into the rest of the form going as far as you can reach. Mark how far you reached on the surface to help you decide where to make the next cut.

Hollow the cut section first, leaving a wall approx 1.5-2cm thick. Do not smooth this inner surface: it will make it difficult for any trapped air to pass through the clay during firing. You can leave ‘buttress’ type support walls. Score the edges with a serrated kidney (NEVER make deep scores with a pointy tool. Tiny bubbles of air will get trapped there all along your join and possibly cause a crack.) Moisten w/ water/slip so that the edge can soften while the section is upside-down. Then hollow into the rest of the form going as far as you can reach. Mark how far you reached on the surface to help you decide where to make the next cut.

 

Once both edges are softened put the pieces back together and move back and forth until you feel the edges lock together. Genuine joins are formed when the chains of platelet-shaped particles from each section inter-lock. Picture a magnified image of hair. Score marks do not give the surface 'tooth'; they allow water into the clay-body. On vertical surfaces they hold the water in place to give it time to sink in. Slip is not 'glue', it is clay particles spread out in water and has little strength, especially when it has dried. It is ideal for holding a lot of water in place to give it time to be absorbed to soften the area of leather-hard clay. Manipulate the softened clay at the join to encourge further integration of those particle-chains and to disturb the straight line of the join; cracks love to zing along a nice straight slip-weakened join during the firing when the pull of shrinking stresses the sculpture.

Quality Joints:  Once both edges are softened put the pieces back together and move back and forth until you feel the edges lock together. Genuine joins are formed when the chains of platelet-shaped particles from each section inter-lock. Picture a magnified image of hair. Score marks do not give the surface ‘tooth’; they allow water into the clay-body. On vertical surfaces they hold the water in place to give it time to sink in. Slip is not ‘glue’, it is clay particles spread out in water and has little strength, especially when it has dried. It is ideal for holding a lot of water in place to give it time to be absorbed to soften the area of leather-hard clay.                                         Once both edges are softened put the pieces back together and move back and forth until you feel the edges lock together.        
Manipulate the softened clay at the join to encourage further integration of those particle-chains and to disturb the straight line of the join; cracks love to zing along a nice straight slip-weakened join during the firing when the pull of shrinking stresses the sculpture.

 

Smooth the now recessed join with water + rub until a slip is lifted from the join's surface. Make a coil 1.5cm thick by squeezing. Do not roll your coils; it packs the finer particles on the coils's surface making it resistant to joining. Attach one end and inch the coil into the join; press in then squeeze the coil to force it to inch forward along the join; this friction creates the bond.

Smooth the now recessed join with water + rub until a slip is lifted from the join’s surface. Make a coil 1.5cm thick by squeezing. Do not roll your coils; it packs the finer particles on the coils’s surface making them resistant to joining. Attach one end and inch the coil into the join; press in then squeeze the coil to force it to inch forward along the join; this friction creates the bond between the surfaces. Coiling explained here.

Blend the coil in, leaving it raised. The excess clay will slowly release it's water into the join, slowing drying. Wrap the piece in plastic and leave for week or so until the coil has the same hardness as the rest of the form. Then you can scrape it away, compressing the clay as you go to leave a strong join that wont recess during the firing.

Blend the coil in, leaving it raised. The excess clay will slowly release it’s water into the join, slowing drying. Wrap the piece in plastic and leave for week or so until the coil has the same hardness as the rest of the form. Then you can scrape it away, compressing the clay as you go to leave a strong join that wont recess during the firing.

Make you next cut and repeat.

Make your next cut and repeat.

Once those coils have hardened under plastic you can complete the Sculptures surface and edges.Once those coils have hardened under plastic you can complete the Sculptures surface and edges. Then set to dry very slowly (min 4 weeks) under a 5-sheets-thick-newspaper or cardboard box. For very large forms you can use a double layer of bed-sheets. If you use plastic turn it regularly so that condensation doesn't drip onto the clay and spoil it.

Once those coils have hardened under plastic you can complete the Sculpture’s surface and edges.   Then set to dry very slowly (min 4 weeks) under a 5-sheets-thick-newspaper or cardboard box. For very large forms you can use a double layer of bed-sheets. If you use plastic turn it regularly so that condensation doesn’t drip onto the clay and spoil it. Or stick plastic over your selves to make a micro drying-room.

Work in progress by Gill Tennant-Eyles

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Work in progress by Emma Bevan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Work in progress by Tez Roberts

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These sculptures were all made with this excellent, versatile technique.

The Edge VIII, in progress.

The Edge VIII, in progress.

Up Is Down IV, in progress.

Up Is Down IV, in progress.

Up Is Down II, in progress.

Up Is Down II, in progress.

Up Is Down V, in progress.

Up Is Down V, in progress.

Up Is Down X, in progress.

Up Is Down X, in progress.

Over Half a Century, in progress.

Over Half a Century, in progress.

Wyvern VIII, in progress.

Wyvern VIII, in progress.

 

What Was the First Abstract Artwork?

click on this title to see the original article. Artsy has some really interesting reviews and is a great place to see stunning art-work.

  • Wassily Kandinsky, Composition V, 1911. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Who made the first Western abstract painting? That was the question that Wassily Kandinsky’s widow, accompanied by a team of researchers, set out to answer in 1946. Her late husband, a Russian painter who was among the pioneers of abstraction in the early 1910s, had himself been personally invested in the answer.

In 1935, Kandinsky had penned a letter to his gallerist in New York to insist on his preeminence. “Indeed,” he wrote of a 1911 work, “it’s the world’s first ever abstract picture, because back then not one single painter was painting in an abstract style. A ‘historic painting’, in other words.”

Kandinsky wasn’t the only artist interested in preserving his legacy. He and several early abstract painters—including Robert Delaunay, Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova, and Kazimir Malevich—backdated their works, in some cases several years before they were actually completed.

This artistic jostling reflects a focus on invention as an individual act, notes curator Leah Dickerman in an essay for MoMA’s 2012 show “Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1025: How a Radical Idea Changed Modern Art.” But, as she goes on to say, that approach is in some ways misguided. Rather than the work of a solitary genius, abstraction “was an invention with multiple first steps, multiple creators, multiple heralds, and multiple rationales.”

What Makes an Abstract Expressionist Painting Good?

At the turn of the 20th century, the world was becoming increasingly connected. Steamships, cars, and trains facilitated international travel, while telephones, telegraphs, and radios allowed for conversations between people on opposite ends of the globe.

Within the art world specifically, journals sprang up in droves; in Paris alone, some 200 reviews of art and culture appeared in the decade leading up to World War I. Subscribers were scattered across Europe and America, allowing a wide swath of creatives to stay abreast of the latest developments in art. And this period also saw the beginning of a traveling exhibition culture, led by the Italian Futurists.

“Historians talk about ‘conditions of possibility,’” Masha Chlenova, a curator who worked with Dickerman on “Inventing Abstraction,” told Artsy. “For example, photography was also invented by three people at the same time. Daguerre just happened to be the best at marketing and patenting.”

Similarly, while Kandinsky is today hailed as the father of abstract painting, he was by no means the only player in the development of non-representational painting. His work Komposition V did, admittedly, jumpstart public interest in abstract painting. Exhibited in Munich in December 1911, this monumental work was just barely representational.

It was the first such work to be put on display, and “for some artists and intellectuals, abstraction not only began to seem plausible, but also took on the character of an imperative,” Dickerman writes.

Kandinsky had been thinking about abstract art for years beforehand. His manifesto On the Spiritual in Art, which appeared as a draft in 1909 and was published the same month as Komposition V went on display, laid out the tenets of abstraction. But it would still be several years before Kandinsky would finally break free from recognizable forms in his art. As Chlenova put it, “he theorized abstraction before he made painting.”

  • František Kupka, Amorpha: Fugue in Two Colors, 1912. Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, NY. © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
  • František Kupka Study for Amorpha, Warm Chromatic and for Fugue in two colors; Study for The Fugue, 1910–11. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 1976. © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

Dickerman references Czech-born artist František Kupka as the first to display works that were a complete break from representational painting. His compositions Amorpha, Chromatique chaude and Amorpha, Fugue à deux couleurs were shown at the Salon d’Automne in Paris in October 1912, filmed for the newsreels, and then broadcast across Europe and America.

Dickerman believes that Kupka’s willingness to publicly defy convention was related to his personal history. Although he grew up in Prague and Vienna and started out as a Symbolist, he later moved to Paris and developed close ties with the city’s avant-garde—which, as Dickerman notes, granted “him an insider/outsider status that seems particularly fertile for paradigm-shifting thought.”

But further complicating the question of “first” is that it can be difficult to determine the threshold of abstraction. When, precisely, does a work go from “abstracted” to “abstraction”?

French avant-garde artist Francis Picabia, for example, is sometimes credited with the first abstract painting. His watercolor Caoutchouc (Rubber) was completed in 1909, which would predate even Kandinsky’s theories on abstraction. But other academics have pushed back, noting that the work still retains some semblance of form, reminiscent of a bouquet of flowers.

For “Inventing Abstraction,” Chlenova said she and Dickerman began by establishing clear criteria for what they considered abstract work. “Our main criterion was the artist’s own position and their statements that they’re doing something abstract,” she said. “The terminology is a slightly different question because the word ‘abstract’ would not necessarily be used. But there was a very clear awareness from the artists that were sensitive to what was happening.”

  • Hilma af Klint, The Large Figure Paintings, No. 5, Group III, 1907. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Hilma af Klint, Svanen (The Swan) No. 17, Group IX/SUW, The SUW/UW Series, 1914-1915. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This is why, she explained, Swedish artist Hilma af Klint was not represented in the MoMA exhibition. Since 2013, when Moderna Museetheld the first-ever retrospective of her work, af Klint’s oeuvre has received renewed attention from the public. Known in her lifetime as a landscape painter and portraitist, it was revealed decades after her death that she had also been experimenting with abstraction. As early as 1906, af Klint had been painting colorful works full of organic shapes, spirals, and curlicues.

This date places her several years before Kandinsky even theorized abstraction, let alone acted on his ideas. But af Klint’s works sprang from her interest in the occult—during the 1890s, she started organizing seances with four artist friends where they practiced automatic drawing and writing.

Later, when she began her largest body of non-representational paintings, she claimed that spiritual forces were directing her hand. And for an artist to be included in “Inventing Abstraction,” Chlenova explained, they had to “formulate their practice as a conscious rejection of any reference to the outside world.”

Others disagreed with this reading, arguing that a mystical approach should not negate her contribution to developing abstraction. “‘Spiritual’ is still a very dirty word in the art world,” curator Maurice Tuchman toldthe New York Times in 2013. “When the prejudice against the idea of the spiritual life in af Klint’s work is overcome, which will require scholarship, then perhaps she will really take hold in the broader conversation.”

But there’s no disagreement that the invention of Western abstraction revolutionized art production in the 20th century, nor that it was predated by centuries of abstracted forms and patterns in non-Western traditions.

“One can treat abstraction a little bit more abstractly, if you will,” Chlenova laughed, “without ultimately being too concerned about who was first.”

—Abigail Cain

How To Make A Head; Clay Armatures and building Hollow.

Busts in progress, Aug 2014.

Busts in progress, Aug 2014.

The Head

The key reason making heads is so hard is that the perception (the way we take in our knowledge) that we have built up over our lifetime of what shape the head is, is based around communication and assessing each other. Making a head requires going against what ‘feels’ right and using information we are unlikely to have bothered with before. Portraiture has a system to organise the huge quantity of subtle details. Learning this system will broaden your knowledge, and your access to more knowledge, enormously. That’s why the study of Portraiture and Figurative Sculpture is traditionally the bed-rock of Art.

It is not rocket science and you can do it. The challenge is fascinating and very rewarding.

The Technique

Because clay shrinks as it dries and is floppy when very wet a Clay Armature that will support and  shrink with the form through the drying and the firing is invaluable.

Most techniques for building  hollow have a strong ‘voice’ of their own and will influence the final look of the piece. They can demand that you harden lower sections and are then unable to change them when you later realise they are wrong. This is a real disadvantage irregardless of your skill level. It is better to work solid over a clay armature especially if you are not using a scale-model and hollow out just before finishing touches. It’s not difficult. That technique is detailed here: Working solid and hollowing out.

Or you can use this technique of building outwards from a Clay Armature to make your sculpture hollow.

Clay armature for a bust, aug 2014

Clay armature for a bust, aug 2014

3rd Bust armature in progress, Aug 2014.

3rd Bust armature in progress, Aug 2014.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

in progress, Aug 2014.

in progress, Aug 2014.

Here I chose to leave gaps that show the Armature but of course you don’t have to. The step by step manner of this method and the fact that you work all over the head  in layers from the start  makes it ideally suited to help you organise the huge amount of information in your mind while learning to make Portraits and other Sculpture.

The Workshop

Two people with a creative back-ground but who had never done a head before came to Osprey Studios for a 2 day Workshop designed to give them the practical skills needed to make heads on their own and get 2/3 of the way through a head. Day 1 was The Skull built onto the central support (that I had prepared and allowed to harden 3 days earlier). Day 2 was The Head up to the point before finishing touches. The students both took their heads home to finish. We used the excellent Scarva Crank (ES50) clay.

the leather-hard clay armature for the head

the leather-hard clay armature for the head. It will bear the weight  and be a scaffold for your additions. Some of it will get cut away as the bust becomes leather hard and can support itself.

measuring from your own head with callipers and placing the information on the armature in a way that also reinforces it..

Measure from your own head with callipers and add the information onto the armature. Some of these small, pinched slabs will also reinforce the armature. Start with where the neck emerges from the shoulders, then the chin, then the top of the head to ensure  you will hit a height that will fit in your kiln. Leave some room for error; later you can trim away from the base or add clay there to adjust the height.

I had made the Skull we used as a model previously using the same method.

I had made the Skull we used as a model previously using the same method. We also used photos from the internet and measured on our own and each other’s head. Having a model is expensive and sometimes distracting at this early stage of conquering the basics. This Workshop is designed to show you a method you can repeat at home.

Block out the skull using thin slabs attached to the armature.

Block out the skull using thin slabs attached to the armature. Work your way around the form in ‘layers’; don’t focus on one part for to long. Each part informs the whole and they need to evolve together. Mark the place of the eye-sockets, nose, mouth, chin without getting distracted by their shape. Then these bars of clay will hold up the next layer, etc.

It's surprisingly hard work. Take regular breaks to allow the info to sink in.

It’s surprisingly hard work. Take regular breaks to allow the info to sink in.

Spend plenty of time over the back of the head to ensure the size is correct.

Spend plenty of time over the back of the head to ensure the size is correct.

There will be points when it looks dreadful!

There will be times when it looks dreadful!

And points when it looks guaranteed to be a masterpiece.

And points when it looks guaranteed to be a masterpiece. Both of these phases pass!

Measure everything repeatedly and keep moving forward methodically

Measure everything repeatedly and keep moving forward methodically

Take the Skull up to the stage before finishing touches and allow to go leather-hard.

Take the Skull up to the stage before finishing touches and allow to go leather-hard. We chose to tilt the skulls a bit at this stage so that the Heads would be more expressive.

You can print these skull images to work from and there are 2 work-sheets for you at the end of this post.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Block out the whole head over the foundation of the Skull.

‘Block out’ the whole head over the foundation of the Skull; Work all around the head in rough, refining the whole form in layers rather than concentrating on one spot then moving to the next. It is crucial that you are willing to remove any part that is wrong, no matter how much time you feel you have spent on it. A beautifully worked eye slightly in the wrong place will ruin the whole. Every minute you spend on this work is building your skill so there is no time wasted.

 

You will reap the benefits of all the careful measuring you did on the skull.

You will reap the benefits of all the careful measuring you did on the skull. Note that “The Eye” is the area all the way to the edge of that eye-socket not just the bit defined by the eye-lashes. ”The Mouth” starts up inside the nose and goes out toward the cheeks and the chin; it is not just the lips. Subtleties all across that area of muscle and skin over the teeth of the skull will express the mood of this person. Think a range of conflicting emotions and feel the small changes in your own mouth-area. Don’t look in a mirror, just feel them. Do it again in front of a mirror.  “Act” the expression you want your Portrait to have while you are working and you will find it easier to capture it in clay.

Continue measuring repeatedly using callipers and check your modelling by hold a horizontal or vertical stick to it and looking carefully at the shape of the negative space.

Continue measuring repeatedly using callipers and check your modelling by hold a horizontal or vertical stick to it and looking carefully at the shape of the negative space.

Walk away from your work and look in detail at something out the window ; this will 'clear your eye'. Turn and look at the head; what is the first thing you notice? It might be an error you couldn't see when you were up close and immersed in the work. Or it might be that it looks way better than you expected.

Walk away from your work and look in detail at something out of the window; this will ‘clear your eye’. Turn and look at the head; what is the first thing you notice? It might be an error you couldn’t see when you were up close and immersed in the work. Or it might be that it looks way better than you expected.

There are many tricks and techniques for making all the features and U Tube is a treasure trove. Try out different styles to find the one that you like.

There are many tricks and techniques for making all the features and U Tube is a treasure trove. Try out different styles to find the one that you like.

Use a similar modelling style for that hair to avoid that 'Wig' look.

Use the modelling style you used on the rest of the sculpture for the hair to avoid that ‘Wig’ look. As you get nearer to being done the quality of your mark-making as you add clay becomes important. Look at lots of Portraits with Google-Images, choose the look you like best and try out using different tools until you find your own style.

If you think you may have added a thickness over 3cms cut and hollow at the stage before finishing touches.

If you think you may have added a thickness over 3cms cut and hollow at the stage before finishing touches. If not you can fire the head with the armature in situ. Dry very slowly, preferably in a tent of news-paper that will keep off drafts and slow down the evaporation. While it is wrapped up the water from the added clay will migrate into the clay-armature and soften it; you might need to put a temporary support under the chin to stop the head tipping forward until the clay has stiffened up evenly.

Double-check all your measurements and then move into Finishing Touches.

Double-check all your measurements and then move into Finishing Touches. During this stage you are reinforcing this new perception and understanding of the head that is not just about communication but is relevant to portraiture. This will allow you to see more too.

This final stage, especially over the eyes, will take a third of your total work time. A head usually takes 30 hours.

This final stage, especially  the eyes, will take a third of your total work time. A head usually takes 30 hours.

Exactly like learning a musical instrument or a sport, practice will develop the fine-motor skills specific to this difficult task. It is ALL about Practise, good technique, and the right tools and clay. If you add enjoying doing it you will make beautiful Busts full of expression. 'Talent' is a mirage.

Exactly like learning a musical instrument or a sport, practice will develop the fine-motor skills and perception specific to this difficult task. It is ALL about Practise, good technique, and the right tools and clay. If you add ‘enjoying doing it’ you will make beautiful Busts full of expression. ‘Talent’ is a mirage. I revisit figurative work regularly so that my skills don’t slip away.

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

The measuring frees you up to be expressive with your modelling . Your ‘Creative Intuition’ is largely a collection of Skills that have become so ingrained you can take them for granted. They will be inter-woven across your mind, so the deep-set memories of the experience of dancing  at a party, the exhilaration you feel out on the mountain, emotions that have shown on your face, will be part of your Skill. While you are making things music can help you access specific memories; I use particular Albums to re-set the mood each time I return to a sculpture.

A set of good portrait tools will make all the difference. Tiranti’s are famously lovely. Just holding one makes you want to work, they are beautiful. The M Series Hardwood Tools are designed for Portraiture and will fit perfectly to the important, tricky parts of the face. Scarva have a good range of quality tools and the set of fine modelling tools look like they will be nice and the price is very low. I am very pleased with my  metal modelling tools from Amazon.

Choose a clay with plenty of mixed, medium to fine grog (gritty bits). Scarva ES 50 is out-standing.

Mary Cousins finished her head back in her own Studio. She has named her Butterfly.

Mary Cousins finished her head back in her own Studio. She has named her Butterfly.

Butterfly by Mary Cousins

Butterfly by Mary Cousins

Butterfly by Mary Cousins

Butterfly by Mary Cousins

Madam Butterfly by Mary Cousins.

Madam Butterfly by Mary Cousins. Mary makes absolutely lovely, fluid, sensuous porcelain pottery.

Once you have got the hang of this excellent method you can use it to open out the space of a form.

Frame-works for The Wyvern IV and, in the back ground, The Leviathan.

Frame-works for The Wyvern IV and, in the back ground, The Leviathan.

These Armatures or ‘frameworks’ were planned to be very much part of the fractured image. But the ‘corrugation’ and circular holes you can see are strengthening the Armature and would be very suitable to an armature that would ultimately be hidden. Playing around with these Armatures lead the Sculptures in un-anticipated directions.

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

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

Here are some work-sheets you can print off and use.

Scull Work-sheet, Rebecca Buck.

Skull Work-sheet, Rebecca Buck.

Portrait/clay armature Work-sheet. Rebecca Buck.

Portrait/clay armature Work-sheet. Rebecca Buck.

A good one from google images: screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-21-47-48

In February 2016 we ran this Workshop again but on Day 2 we played more freely. We still covered the essentials. I’ll add Workshop photos over time because you will find looking at how other people have handled it helpful and the variety inspiring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The group’s skulls after Day 1.

Pi, my Studio Manager.

Pi, my Studio Manager.

Phil Hughes and Martine Wills.

Phil Hughes  making his bust into a  poignant Warrior . And Martine Wills.

Sheila Mone

Sheila Mone , leaving a lot of bust section open using expressive curves.

Kay Milward

Kay Milward took her piece into the surreal with fantastic effect.

September 2016, I ran a Masterclass with the wonderful North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio. Taz Pollard and Nicola Crocker run an excellent Studio making their own work and giving very popular classes in pottery and hand-building. They have created a lovely, business- like space with an open, welcoming atmosphere that leads everyone into making their best work. They will be running Masterclasses, workshops and classes regularly, in all aspects of ceramics and it was a pleasure to work with them. We packed a massive amount of work into one day and group worked their butts off. Taz and Nicola kept everyone afloat with delicious, home-made food, drinks and humour.

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Art teacher Sheila Mone and her lovely, forward looking department head Matt Peake, invited me to Monmouth School to work with their A Level students. The school has a set of very handsome studios and the quality student work reveals that this Art Department understands the important contribution and highly transferable skill set that art brings to a pupil.

We had 12 hours over 2 days and the work would be completed over the rest of the following weeks. The frameworks were beautifully made a few days in advance and left to stiffen. Day 1 was the skull with full measuring and day 2 was open with the only condition being that the eyes/mouth/nose placements were maintained. Some had photos to work from and I was pleased at the care and thought these students had put into their interpretation, bringing in themes and messages. Most of them had done very little clay work before! So it was a leap into the deep-end and they achieved a fantastic amount through intensive hard work. Wonderful! I went home on cloud nine!

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Sheila Mone talking through ideas with this student while the others listen in and collect information. These guys have great study skills.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Tony blocking out the skull in preparation for a portrait of Donald Trump.

With both of these heads the pupils used photos, aimed for a likeness. Setting boundaries like this will really help you to progress. The head in the back then went on to be beautifully stylised. The excellent head in front is based on Mohammed Ali. You can feel the strength and dignity of the man.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios

Robert moving forward from blocking out the skull to setting the key high points on the bones on the right plain.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Wilfred tidying the frame in preparation for developing the face. Because time was tight we left out the back of the head. This makes developing the head more difficult and I don’t recommend it. But handled stylishly it can look great.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. An excellent level of concentration.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. After giving general instruction I go one-to-one as much as possible. I aim to guide each student towards their own ‘voice’ in building, theme, and modelling style.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Wilfred has a good selection of views of his model . A selection of images from different angles is invaluable.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Really difficult to pull off but a great  challenge is 1/2 skull 1/2 face. This brave student had a steady, methodical approach that is ideal in portraiture.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. This wonderful student had already done a very good head after looking through this post so this time he chose to work double the size.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Harry had already done a very good head after looking through this post. And he has used clay on large pieces. So this time he chose to work double the size. Take your measurements and use a ruler to double them. Do not attempt to do it by eye. Larger than life heads carry an immediate power. It’s a great scale if you have a message to convey.

Harry’s piece just fits in the kiln!

Harry’s next head. Fantastic work on the very difficult area of the shoulders/base. 

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. The dark, haunting eyes in the photo were done by this very skilled student, Robert, by cutting through and harnessing the dark interior of the head. Really effective and evocative.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Rhianna had a powerful image of an elderly homeless man and wanted to portray his story. She left the eyes empty but cut smaller holes through the back of the head behind the eye-level telling an inner, nearly hidden narrative.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. The art department assistant, Kate Owens, beautiful use of clay.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. The art department assistant, Kate Owens, beautiful use of clay.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Kate Owens.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Kate Owens.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Harry’s theme here is a simple “contrast hard geometric form with organic form.” The size, the forward unyielding gaze, the beautiful, enchanting modelling style, the flow of the geometric inner form and the places where it mimics the natural structure of a head evoke a mysterious presence.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Sheila Mone helped her students and worked on her own fascinating bust.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Excellent modelling skills and empathetic sensitivity are giving this moving image sculptural form.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. This a stylish, contemporary design for the base. It is very difficult to handle the truncated aspects of the bust. There are various ‘classic’ motifs that work really well but it’s very refreshing to see a new approach. This piece was then taken further to become this beautifully

The piece above was then taken further to become this beautifully defined character.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. A few of the guys had to leave early including the student doing a superb job of Mohamed Ali using a beautiful, sophisticated modelling technique. The head of Donald Trump is being handled with great skill and thoughtfulness by another student. In each case they are aiming to capture the inner life of the man not just his shell. Of course this is very difficult but the challenge is engrossing and very satisfying and having a particular direction will get you through the many intimidating intersections on the road to a portrait. Art department Head Matt Peake worked alongside his students on the wonderful, humorous self portrait you can see front, right of this photo. The wide variety of approaches were a credit to the Art Department and the wider school.

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

 

 

 

Studio Diary; The Landscape Project, part 6, Review so far…

It’s the end of the 1st year and time to take stock. You can see the earlier parts of the story via the Contents page. Click on any picture to see it full size.

Stephen Foote and I met up after 30 years. 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 a what was occurring naturally. We set a straightforward ” Artist Responds 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, 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.

These pictures are roughly in sequence for the progression of work over the last year with Steve’s Photos next to the related Sculptures.

Bracelet Bay , Stephen Foote.

Bracelet Bay , Stephen Foote.

Up Is Down- in progress

Up Is Down- in progress

10003791_10203331962960554_1179723863_o

 

Up Is Down- in progress

Up Is Down- in progress

Up is Down IX, 57cm W,

Up is Down IX, 57cm W,

Stephen Foote; Dunes

Stephen Foote; Dunes

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

in progress, July 2014

in progress, July 2014

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

in progress August 2014

in progress August 2014

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote.

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote.

It was this fabulous picture that shifted me abruptly into figures, much to my own surprise.

Busts in progress, Aug 2014.

Busts in progress, Aug 2014.

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

A narrative developed that was also influenced by the awesome storms of the previous winter. A trio of figures, the Guardians of the Aquasphere, the Lithosphere and the Atmosphere, arose and they and their Harbingers took on characteristics that the  many life-forms of the Biosphere could relate to so that all would understand what was happening; The Triumvirate were going to let loose their forces. This was not to threaten or  punish. They simply knew it was time.

 

Brecon Beacons, by Steve Foote.

Brecon Beacons, by Steve Foote.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The Atmosphere in the form of an Osprey.

 

Porth Yr Ogof Cave, Brecon Beacons, by Stephen Foote.2014

Porth Yr Ogof Cave, Brecon Beacons, by Stephen Foote.2014

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Guardian of the Atmosphere, The Osprey

 

The Wyvern and the Osprey, 2014.

The Wyvern and the Osprey, 2014.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Wyvern, Guardian of the Lithosphere.

 

 

 

Frame-works for The Wyvern IV and, in the back ground, The Leviathan.

Frame-works for The Wyvern IV and, in the back ground, The Leviathan.

The Lithosphere has The Wyvern, a dragon that has taken a number of forms so far.

The Leviathan in progress, Sept 2014.

The Leviathan in progress, Sept 2014.

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

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

_F146711

_F147762

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Wyvern.

1981984_10203331966200635_1180227792_n

Bracelet Bay, Stephen Foote.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Wyvern.

_F147928

Bracelet Bay, Stephen Foote.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Wyvern.

_F147916 _F147712

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Osprey.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wyvern

_1020883

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Leviathon

_F147947

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Osprey.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Leviathon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wyvern.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wyvern

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wyvern

The Guardian of the Aquasphere took on the form of the Mountain Ponies that run free in the Beacons.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA _F148186 _F148023 _F148792 _F148797 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   _F147964   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA _F148811   _F148835  _F148822   _F148837

It has been a fantastic year in the Studio; I am harnessing the narrative and collective sides of the monumental Community Sculptures of the last 13 years. But I’m free to use any scale. The architectural clays I use have given me the freedom to go anywhere in space. My amazing collection of Sculptor and Ceramist friends, from all over the world, on Facebook have encouraged and inspired me enormously. I’m settled into my lovely big Studio ( and gotten over the shock of having it at last!). Stephen and I communicate very well and we egg each other on.

Many thanks to everyone who has visited the work over this last 6 weeks and given invaluable advice and feed-back.I will continue with this series of sculptures until it is done.

We will start a new project focussing specifically on the passage of water from the mountains to the ocean along the  Tawe Valley. We are partnering with some Public art venues and setting up some Community participation to widen our perspective. We will  visit  a small Coal-mine and the Open-cast mine. Only a few years ago, on the 15th of September 2011, 4 men were killed in a dreadful accident at Gleision Colliery when their mine was inundated with water. Making the Pit Markers in Blaengarw, I heard about these type of accidents but, like everyone else, I never thought such a thing could happen here, in this century. From just below the Studio down-wards the River has an extra-ordinary history in the Industrial Revolution.

Neither of us have any idea where this will lead. We feel confident that we have something with substance and a great deal of potential and we have found a work-method that is productive and sustainable. I know from past projects that the community will come up with all sorts of treasures that will lead us into work that is far richer and more interesting than we would make alone. We will trade Workshops in photography and ceramics for input from community groups and individuals. It will be a fun process. We need images, stories, myths, legends,  history-including the ancient history and favourite,  special spots on the river or tributaries.

Portraiture, Clay Armatures and building Hollow Workshop.

Portrait class 2015

The Bust

The key reason making heads is so hard is that the perception (the way we use our knowledge) that we have built up over our lifetime of what shape the head is, is based around communication and assessing each other. Making a head requires going against what ‘feels’ right and using information we are unlikely to have bothered with before. Portraiture has a system to organise the huge quantity of subtle details. Learning this system will broaden your knowledge, and your access to more knowledge, enormously. That’s why the study of Portraiture and Figurative Sculpture is traditionally the bed-rock of Art.

It is not rocket science and you can do it. The challenge will be fascinating and very rewarding.

The Technique

Because clay shrinks as it dries and is floppy when very wet a Clay Armature is invaluable.

Most techniques for building  hollow have a strong ‘voice’ of their own and will influence the final look of the piece. They can demand that you harden lower sections and are then unable to change them when you later realise they are wrong. This is a real disadvantage irregardless of your skill level. It is better to work solid over a clay armature especially if you are not using a scale-model and hollow out just before finishing touches. It’s not difficult.

Or you can use this technique of building out from a Clay Armature to make your sculpture hollow.

Clay armature for a bust, aug 2014

Clay armature for a bust, aug 2014

3rd Bust armature in progress, Aug 2014.

3rd Bust armature in progress, Aug 2014.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

in progress, Aug 2014.

in progress, Aug 2014.

Here I chose to leave gaps that show the Armature but of course you don’t have to. The step by step manner of this method and the fact that you work all over the head  in layers from the start  makes it ideally suited to learning to make Portraits and other Sculpture.

Frame-works for The Wyvern IV and, in the back ground, The Leviathan.

Frame-works for The Wyvern IV and, in the back ground, The Leviathan.

These Armatures or ‘frameworks’ were planned to be very much part of the fractured image. But the ‘corrugation’ and circular holes you can see are strengthening the Armature and would be very suitable to an armature that would ultimately be hidden. Playing around with these Armatures lead the Sculptures in un-anticipated directions (I frequently have no idea what I’m doing, just why!)

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

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

In this Workshop we will build a strong Armature, work on the Skull loosely for the benefit of looking at that and then build on the external features of the head; the face, ears, hair etc.

The Skull. 2014

The Skull. 2014

The Weekend

We’ll cover Hollowing out too.  You will get my invaluable tirade on joins. We’ll look at some different clays and talk about choosing clays. And we’ll sit down to a relaxing bring and share lunch in true South Wales Potter’s Tradition and talk shop. There will be drinks available all day.

Everyone, from any level of experience, is welcome and will get a lot out of this challenging week-end.

The Fee is £130 which includes 25kg of Scarva Crank (an out-standing sculpture clay), a set of sculpture’s callipers and set of Skull and Skeleton images. The Workshop is to give you the Techniques so that you can develop your own way of using them. Just like learning to play an instrument, practice and adding your own style will give you the results. You are unlikely to complete your head on the week-end and I will encourage you to take it home to work on or break it down and have the clay to use on your next head where you can work more slowly. I can fire your sculpture if you like and we’ll sort that out separately.

It is easy to get here  and there is plenty of Parking and the Studio is not bad for accessibility.

Winter Garden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I spend as much time gazing into the garden in winter as I do in summer. I have a lot of bird feeders and I never tire of watching the birds. The Sculptures give the garden structure and a bit of drama, especially in winter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I test pieces out to see how they look in the different light of the changing seasons. I know they are all completely weather-proof but it is reassuring to put them up against the harsh Brecon Beacons winter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Parts of the garden that were loveliest in summer can look a random mess in winter and the Sculpture can detract from that.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This slightly crazy looking Harbinger was a technical test piece that got exploded into smithereens  subsequently giving me the opportunity to test some fixing-materials. Like all the sculptures it is hollow and I hope Bees might take it over. It is 130 cm  high and stands straight on the earth. If a piece needs raising up I try and make the plinths double up as toad or hedgehog homes. It’s working because I have both living here and almost no problems with slugs at all! These days I add holes and spaces in all my sculptures for insects to rest in and my garden is always full of bees , especially Bumble Bees. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Studio Diary ,The Tumble Commission pt 7; Installation.

From the outset the many people from Arts Care Gofal Celf, Gwalia and Mynydd Marw involved in this 2 year , multi-fasceted, Baring Foundation ‘Yma a Nawr’ project have put in their all to make it out-standing. After the excellent Installation of the Sirhowy Wyvern I knew that Andrew Preece and his team at Smartfix Property Maintenance would also do whatever it takes to make this Sculpture look fantastic. They are incredibly picky and fastidious, it’s marvellous. Best materials,committed craftsmanship, and they always stick to the Budget no matter how much extra time they have to put in.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Smartfix Property Maintenance at Mynnyd Mawr, Tumble

Smartfix Property Maintenance at Mynydd Mawr, Tumble

Moving the heavy sections around meant 4 men had to be on site.

Moving the heavy sections around meant 4 men had to be on site.

The 2 bottom sections are lowered over rebars set into the solid plinth and foundations.

The 2 bottom sections are lowered over rebars set into the solid plinth and foundations.

It was critical to get the position of these first sections correct.

It was critical to get the position of these first sections correct.

The sections are filled with concrete and left overnight to set.

The sections are filled with concrete and left overnight to set.

Once everything has set the supports can be removed and the joints pointed.

Once everything has set the supports can be removed and the joints pointed.

The charming tiles, made by pupils at Llannon Primary School and residents at Mynnyd Mawr are laid out in a measured pattern.

The charming tiles, made by pupils at Llannon Primary School and residents at Mynydd Mawr are laid out in a measured pattern.

Andrew and Phil set the tiles.

Andrew and Phil set the tiles.

I did the glass with Andrew.

I did the glass with Andrew.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA07913743457_2014-10-14_14-1.32.501

 

Studio Diary, Landscape Project, pt 5.

The Leviathan in progress, Sept 2014.

The Leviathan in progress, Sept 2014

Frame-works for The Wyvern IV and, in the back ground, The Leviathan.

Frame-works for The Wyvern IV and, in the back ground, The Leviathan.

The second framework has become the Leviathan, the guardian of the Aquasphere as The Wyvern is the guardian of the Lithosphere. I will make more versions. These will have a pale gold colour. Next I will make a larger Osprey, guardian of thew Atmosphere, in the same  clay(Scarva ES50 Crank) and then move to the black clays and re-do the set.

The Leviathan in progress, Sept 2014.

The Leviathan in progress, Sept 2014.

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

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