Thursday, February 26, 2009

Completed Figure

This is the completed figure that you saw half carved in the last but one posting, "Work in Progress". It was carved from a piece of 4" x 2" off-cut. The development work next door in the Storey is in its closing stages and they are throwing out a lot of redundant timber which they have said I can make use of.
The sharp eyed among you will notice she has a hole in her skirt. If you take a look at the previous image you will see there was a knot in the wood there and when I started carving that area the knot broke up in an unpredictable way so I carefully drilled the knot out. It has added a random factor to the work.

It is not quite finished. There are quite a few pieces like this one that are waiting for final polishing and waxing. This will bring out the grain of the wood more and (hopefully) remove the last vestiges of tooling marks.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Toys

My order from Tiranti has arrived. A brand new 1 kg. mallet and some beautifully made chisels. I've spent a small fortune.
Now I'm really making the wooden shrapnel fly.
Will post more pictures later.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Work in Progress

Making sculpture, especially carving, can be quite a slow process. But then again, I'm in no hurry. I have no upcoming exhibitions in the near future so i can take my time and diversify to use the modern word.
This is what is on the go at the moment. She stands about half a metre high. Not a Grecian figure but one influenced by Greek art. If truth be known there is probably some influence from Cypriot ceramic sculpture. Examples can be seen at Vassos in Larnaka and the Lemba pottery near Pafos.
I have been working on this piece for this last week. It will probably be finished in a few days. By "finished" I mean the carving and some polishing will have been done. After that the wood will need to be waxed and finely polished. Then there's the plinth to make... its a never ending process. Its getting quite addictive, this sculpting.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Watch out for the shrapnel!

I've been making wooden sculptures this last week or so. Most of them are made from offcuts and are really quite small at 2" or so but the one shown here is 35 cm tall, or 14" in old money.

This Grecian figure is based on one of the Karyatids of which I have done several drawings lately. She is carved from a piece of four by two timber. An offcut from a length of floor joisting/rafter.

Today I started on another figure, slightly larger. I've been doing the rough carving all day. Big mallet, big (20 mm) gouge and giving it some welly. Shrapnel ricocheting round the studio in all directions! Very good activity for a cold day, also very therapeutic.

Carving is a very physical form of art making. I've had a good day. More of the same tomorrow.

Monday, February 09, 2009


That is the title of the play currently running at the Dukes Theatre in Lancaster. I saw the play on Saturday night. My wife and I made an evening out of it. We went ofor a meal out before going on to the theatre.
The play is a high drama is about the Pendle witch trials that took place in August 1612. There are only four actors in the play but what a powerful performance. The round theatre was ideal for this as you could see the performers close up and really feel the emotive energy of the whole piece.

I have posted in the past a series about the Pendle witches and their final journey from Lancaster Castle to the scaffold. You can see this and follow the postings in chronological order in the series Lancaster Curiosity

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Now for something different....

A whole week has passed since the last posting. Dun'time fly?

So what things of great moment have I done? Two things I s'pose, started sculpting a again for a change and went to the theatre last night. More about the theatre anon.

The last time I did any carving was last spring in Lemba, Cyprus. But I fancied getting back into it. Now the studio space at Luneside doesn't really lend itself to stone carving, but wood carving, yes we can manage that. So this last week I made a couple of small, two inch high pieces and at the moment am working on a piece about 15" high. It is being carved out of offcuts from a length of floor joist, 4" x 2". I've been at it for the best part of this last week and am now about three quarters done. It is a Karyatid figure so is part of the current project. I like making sculpture. I like the way the form grows out of the material as I carve. But it is a slow process. I'll post a picture when it is complete.


.... here's something I made much earlier. Probably about nine years ago. It stands only 4" high and is made of Plasticine. The surprise is just how tenacious this stuff is. It is easily moulded and re-shaped yet this figure has stood on my studio shelf all this time. It has endured being moved to new locations a couple of times including our move from St. George's Works to our current site and yet it has survived unscathed. I would like to make a bronze casting from it sometime but I fear the cost will be a bit prohibitive.

The figure is part of a series of nurse-like figures I started way back in the mid 1990s which recurs in my work from time to time. They are part of what I call the "Enigma" series. The enigma is that I don't really know what they are about, let alone the viewer. They are "nurse" figures but are not nurses. Others have said they can see a religious element in them but that could be because I use Renaissance sources for the ideas. Personally I prefer to leave it as it is, "Enigma". Below is a recent painting from the series. It is done in acrylic on canvas and about 15 cm x 21 cm.

The model I use is very good. She never moves, never complains and poses exactly the way I put her. She is in fact a fibreglass mannequin in my studio. At the moment she is modelling in a Hellenic shift for the current series of Karyatids.

May I introduce....

....Galateia, but I'm no Pygmalion!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Be careful what you wish for

...and be careful what you promise to get that wish fulfilled. It is a bit of sage advice that I come across from time to time. Last night I learned a story that illustrates this only too well.

At my wife's church in nearby Carnforth I listened to a performance/act of worship of Jephte by Giacomo Carissmi. It is a setting from the Italian Renaissance period and the music did remind me of Palestrina in some ways. It was a by and large a beautiful performance but I think musically it is a difficult piece to sing. A subsequent look at the score did confirm this. It is written in the key of C major with several accidentals and quite a few tone and half tone intervals. Tricky. The choir did quite well considering it was and amateur choir and they didn't get the vocal score until the day of the performance so it was pretty well site read. Those of you with musical experience will know exactly what I mean. But they got the emotion of the piece across very well indeed. It was very moving.

The story of Jephte is in the Old Testament of the Judeo-Christian Bible and found in the book of Judges, Chapter 11. Jephte was a leader of an Israelite army taking on the Ammonites. Before the battle he prayed that God would give him the day and in return he would offer the first living thing he met after the battle as a sacrifice. It turned out to be his only daughter. The cantata plays on the anguish of the situation.

There are one or two similar stories but not of Biblical origin. One is of Agamemnon on his way to the Trojan war where he had perforce to sacrifice his eldest daughter Ifigenia. That did little to endear him to his wife Clytemnestra, but a least in that story, Artemis, to whom Ifigenia was to be sacrificed saved the day.

There are two Northumbrian legends of similar ilk.
At Brunton Bank top, some six miles north of Hexham there is a cross marking the site of a battle in which Oswy, king of Northumbria promised to give his firstborn son to the Church should he win the day. He did win and his son, Oswald was sent to Iona to train as a monk under Columba. It was later that Columba released Oswald from his vows and he returned to Northumbria as king to succeed Oswy and thereby facilitate the establishment of Lindisfarne.

The other story is of the Lambton Worm, a dragon-like creature terrorising the Wearside area. Lord Lambton returned from the crusades to deal with this. A local witch offered him protection provided he sacrifice the first living thing he sees after killing the Worm.
On his way back to his castle his daughter ran out to meet him. Horrified, he shouted for her to turn back and send his favourite greyhound out to meet him. This she did and so Lord Lambton killed the dog. But that wasn't the first living thing he saw, was it? Consequently a curse has lain on that household ever since.

There are other stories but I don't know enough about them to elaborate here, but the moral is much the same.

Be careful what you wish for and be careful what you promise.