Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happiness is...


...glorious sunshine, a heatwave that feels more Cypriot than British, making a lump of clay into a sculptural form while listening to a Bach cantata blasting in my ears via the headphones of my MP3 player, oh, and a bottomless pot of tea.
Making sculpture, whether it is as a carving or modelled from clay, involves the whole spectrum of activity. At the beginning it is quite brutal and aggressive. The rough form is made. When I've made large pieces in the past it has not been unknown to start by taking an axe to the piece of wood. Then there is the carving out of the rough shape, done with a 2kg mallet and large gouge and sending schrapnel flying in all directions. That then gives way to more detailed carving with a lighter touch, then to delicate tap-tapping and finally hand chiseling, just shaving away fine flakes. Then the sanding and polishing and little adjustments here and there.
Modelling in clay has a similar pattern; first the clay is thumped and squeezed to expel air pockets, then roughly moulded into a semblance of shape, then cut and modelled with tools using a technique not dis-similar to carving then smooth with fingers, brush, shaper and a little slip applied here and there. Slip is sloppy clay, rather like slurry which is used either as a sort of glue for to put two pieces of clay together or to smooth the finished surface.
The whole process can be quite absorbing and exciting as the piece finally comes into being. Such is the joy of making art. The picture shows a piece I did today. It stands about 20 cm (8") tall. It now needs to dry out, - slowly. In this heat, no mean task. It has been sprayed with a fine mist of water and covered in a plastic bag to slow the evaporation/drying. If it dries to quickly the whole thing will start to crack. It may be some time before it gets cast. Ideally as a bronze but more likely finish up as a plaster cast. Its much cheaper as plaster, I can probably do it myself whereas bronze casting will involve taking it to a foundry and I could end up paying the wrong side of £200 to have it done.
But... if someone out there would like a bronze of it then let me know.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cowled Head - completed


Finished at last. I beeswaxed the sculpture yesterday evening and gave it a final polish today.
Voila!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Self Portrait

Making a self-portrait is something that most artists do from time to time. I have usually done one every year or so by drawing "from the life" with the aid of a mirror. This time I worked from a recent photo.
As you may have noticed, I have included it in my profile. It's time I updated it anyway. That last one was done in Larnaka three years ago. Doesn't time fly?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Not just sculpture

I have been drawing/painting as well. It is a sculptural concept but 2D work none-the-less. These are two separate works each on 300 gsm. paper and 35 x 50 cm., slightly bigger than A3. I did the one one the left first. It is primarily a graphite drawing but with a little colour added. On completion I wasn't entirely satisfied with it so re-did it as a monochrome drawing. In both cases I aimed to have the centre of the picture in sharp focus and fusing out towards the periphery. It is a style I have developed of late; I do this to focus the viewer on the central theme of the subject.
The work is titled "Libation". Of course there is Cypriot influence here. On the one hand the quasi-Hellenic figures and the other the reference to an ancient culture.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Latest Project

Cowled Head is the name I've given to this piece of sculpture that I've been working on over the last three weeks or so. It stands about 14" (35 cm) high, not counting the base. I should point out the rough looking plank it sits on in the picture is not the intended base but simply an anchor piece to hold it on to the bench. The carving stage is pretty well completed here. Some filing has been done. There only remains some sanding to do then more sanding, then polishing and so on. It looks a bit white and stone-like at the moment after rough sanding. The grain will show more when it is finished.

Today has been a lovely warm one so I spent most of the day sitting on the studio steps sanding this sculpture. Just like in Cyprus. I noticed in the bathroom mirror this evening I have darkened my tan a bit.


Here's a close-up detail of Cowled Head. The eyes need some fine carving but not yet. The main sculpture needs more work doing on it first. If you look closely you will see either a dividing line or the abrupt change in grain running down the face. This is because I have not carved from a solid piece of wood but built up a block by laminating lengths of 44 mm square timber, rather in the way pine furniture is made. Hopefully, by this method I have avoided shrinkage cracks forming in the years to come.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ginormous Moth

Saw this moth as I went into the studio. There it was, sleeping at the bottom of the ground floor window. When I first saw it I thought it was a pipstrele bat it was so big but when I took a closer look I could see it was clearly a moth.
I've never seen one quite like it outside of nature books. All of us at the studio had a look but none of us could identify it. Is it a rare British visitor? Is it from the south brought here by fabled global warming? None of knew but I said I know someone who might.
One of my three daughters is interested in this sort of thing. She told me it is a Poplar Hawk
Moth and is usually found in broadleaf wodland and is fairly common.
Well the broadleaf woodland is easily located. Lancaster Castle, across the road from the studio, is surrounded by broadleaf trees., so much so that in summer only John o' Gaunt's Gateway is visible through the foliage.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Lazy Summer Day

Glasson Dock is a small seaport village some five miles or so south of Lancaster. On Sundays it is a regular venue for bikers, - motor cyclists to the un-initiated. It used to be a regular spot for me in my biking days.

The weather these last few days has been a bit more summer-like and this morning I thought it might be a good idea to have a day away from the studio. We are in the throes of decorating and generally preparing the studios for its official open/open day so we are rather busy with that as well as trying to make art. So a day away sounds a good idea, - while this nice weather lasts.
So, taking advantage of my bus pass I took the bus to Glasson Dock. I sat on benches being something of a sleepy old man, I walked round the marina eating a huge ice-cream. I sat at the biking venue drinking tea, having a chip butty and viewing the machinery.
I haven't ridden a [motor] bike for eight years now but the bike scene never really leaves you. You are part of that subculture for life. It is a bit like having been to sea, as any old sea-dog will tell tell you, it never really leaves you either.
Then it was high tide and the waiting boats and ships could now enter the docks. These docks retain their water at low tide by means of a canal lock system. The road through the village passes over one of the lock gates into the marina. For a good half hour or so the swing bridge was set to one side and all motor traffic ceased. Only marine traffic moved, and at a more sedate pace too. It was a very leisurely wait for the bus back to Lancaster, it wasn't going anywhere just yet.
After a bus ride through little lanes surrounding the city I was back home. The sun still shone brightly. I sat in the back yard drawing until the sun went down.
A lovely day. Sitting quietly, doing nothing. Should do it more often methinks.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Like a Turner painting


The view from my bedroom window looks out across the rooftops of Lancaster and out across Morecambe Bay to the Lakeland hills. More often than not the good Lancashire climate prevents this. But there are times when it has its compensations. The setting sun dips out from the raincloud to flood the sodden landscape with light.
Just like a painting by J.M.W.Turner.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Not so silent...

At the bottom of my street there stands the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Lancaster. Three times a day the Angelus rings out to the faithful. Three groups of three chimes followed by nine chimes, all done on the large bell. It is rung at eight in the morning, at mid-day and at six in the evening. It is quite a peaceful sound. One those "Sounds of Silence".

But we live in a noisy world, do we not? There have been times when I have walked right past the belfry and not been able to hear the Angelus because of traffic noise. Several cars pulling away simultaneously from the traffic lights can make quite a racket.
And yet, this traffic noise registers as little more than background.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Silent Thoughts



I'm back in the Northlands.
The bride's house during the final countdown to her wedding is not the most conducive place for quiet contemplation, but Wales has it's compensations. It has mountains where you can quickly find somewhere (relatively) quiet, even in an urbanised valley containing Bargoed. So my mornings were spent in such a place.
There is a disused railway which has been made into a cycle path as part of the Parc Cwm Daran, a thin stretch of National Park extending northwards from the town of Bargoed towards Brecon. It was along this stretch that I would sit on one of the park benches provided.


Sitting in the Eternal moment
Where time is "no-time".
No beginning;
No end.

Yet this body ages a little more with time's passage.