Sunday, December 28, 2008
"When I do a December show, the mammal in me is furious.
She just wants to rest and hibernate. This year, I got the show up and just let myself do whatever she wanted. It's made me very happy."
Thus spoke my friend, artist Jan Edwards, on self care during the last two week of snow. Two of her ceramic tiles above, Bird in Hand, and Leaf show her love of drawing and design.
......Jan also gave me the classic summation of living as an artist: "Whenever artists live too long by themselves, they turn feral.... And it's very hard to get them back."
Saturday, December 27, 2008
After carving the figure for "Still Thoughts", I'm starting work on the large papercut that will eventually be a screen behind him.What's wild is the thought process: Translating intersecting ripples and drops of water, first into a papercut, then into metal. I'm creating a static pattern that evokes the motion of water ripples to symbolize passing thoughts. How abstract can it get?
Only 20% of this design is working. It's too busy, but I need to complete it in order to evaluate it. Then Begin Again. Like any creative process, it needs to go through several iterations. Dorothy Parker on writing: "I hate writing. I love having written." I feel the same way, I love the finished result, just wish it weren't so tedious. There's no way to hurry this process along. Nothing else looks like a good papercut, but man it's a lot of work.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
It's been hard getting to the studio with all the snow. With most of the garden greenery hidden by white, the relief "Bouquet for the City, stands out all the more with a light dusting of snow.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I've got a good library. I've been fortunate to have been given several Japanese Museum catalogs. Can't read Japanese, but I soak up as much as I can from the photos. These Japanese National Treasure (11th Century) carvings seem to be carved in cedar and are from a group of statues of bodhisattvas soaring in the sky over the Pure Land and hovering about Amitabha Tathagata with reverence and admiration. Formerly mounted on the horizontal timber of the Phoenix Hall so that they could surround the larger statue fo Amitabha, they are displayed closer to eye level in individual cases. Of the 52 statues, 28 have their musical instruments. Some of the rest are dancing, while others are attired as priests. Many retain parts of their original polychrome paint. They are in the Hosokan Byodoin Musuem
Looking at the books again wasn't so much searching for inspiration as seeking confirmation that making spiritually inspired art is valid. These lovely Bodhisattvas prove it is. Valid to the point of lasting a thousand years.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
It's down to finishing work, further sanding where the wood has torn, filling some of the checks with beeswax, and deciding what to do with the 1/2 inch wide check all the way down his back. I couldn't wait any longer and put on a wash of oil paint and sealer.
It's a little harder to work the surface but so much easier to see the forms without the distraction of the light and dark rings and the knots.
He's shown with the initial cardboard cutout and the clay model I used to determine size and gesture. You can get a sense of how a sculpture evolves from the initial drawing on flat cardboard to fully dimensional. His robe changed a lot when I realized how perfectly the concentric rings could become the draping of his robe. Working in wood is a structured improvisation between what I envision and what I acknowledge in the material, a recognition of the living wood.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Frozen Pipes in the studio, frozen thoughts in my head. The bus was a crowded example of smelly humanity. The best thing I did yesterday was walk home from the studio. It took 90 minutes in 24 degree weather. By the time I got there my body was as tired as my head. Physical acitivity is the best antidote to frozen thinking. Ready to work again in the studio.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
There's a great quote by Michangelo about a sculptor's role:"Every sculptor begins as a god, and ends as a slave." There's the initial great idea, then the excitement of beginning, and then the sheer work of actually making it. That is followed by all the detail work of finishing, smoothing, refining, checking for balance, fullness of form, etc. It's creative in that it's helping the art along but it's not exciting. You just keep showing up and working till everything is resolved.
It's rather like housekeeping.
Here is today's progress
Friday, December 12, 2008
Starting a carving I want to remove as much material as quickly as possible. Once it is well under way, the art becomes to remove smaller and smaller pieces. It feels like down to the particle levels sometimes, but each miniscule bit gone contributes to his expression and form. This is a funny paradox in carving,- the more you remove, the more full the forms get......
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I've never been tempted to make art about my studio mates, the birds, probably because they are so beautiful in the first place. Add a misting of water droplets and sunlight and Beauty Bird is breathtaking. What is always a surprise is that she is fragrant too. You don't think of a bird as smelling like hyacinths. All that color and a perfume too.
Every possible shade of blue, each blue feather with a yellow underside. Some of my favorite feathers are the tiny ones from her shoulder, each one is half yellow and half blue.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
This photo, taken in late fall's evening light, makes a good thing even better. The raised bed behind the bench allows the asters envelope anyone sitting there in a cloud of blue violet. The bench's flaking surface was a happy accident of too thinned acrylic paint. I was trying to age the concrete bench, painted it dark, the paint flaked off, voila! aged bench. The wood fired ceramic water jar is by artist Richard Brandt.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Carving wood is initially an act of pure will, fueled by the desperate hope that something will come out of attacking a log. The pile of chips and sawdust grows but it doesn't look like much for a long time. You can't be too aggressive or you'll hack off material you need. But being tentative doesn't work either. It isn't until I get an eye beginning to look back at me that I know a new sculpture is going to work.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Over the weekend, I went to Richard Brandt's open house. Upstairs, in Paul's realm, fine teas were being savored. Being full of and a little buzzed by Richard's Oaxaca Mexican hot chocolate, I was looking at the sculpture and art and of course at his Asian art library.
I opened the book Circle of Bliss and was dazzled by the first image. The rainbow colored deity was vibrantly alive. I just sat there stunned watching the colors change and then put the book away..... Prisms on the window had bounced light exactly onto the page but an explanation is not the experience.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Feeling miserable can be a very good thing. It's vastly overrated as a lifestyle, but a couple of days of down has let me focus on my work uninterrupted. It's has also been sunny, incredible southern light plays across my workbench all day long. I look up from my work and there is the shadow of Geppetto and his wooden friend. That's when I know it's just a mood and will pass.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Drawings can only get you so far.
So I made a clay model for this carving, a quick gestural study, to help me understand the forms. I also brought out several carvings for reference. I'd look at them individually but it wasn't until this afternoon when I turned and saw them all together in the light that their other function dawned on me.
They're my cheerleaders.
I started collecting wood carvings about the same time I began carving. I needed encouragement (a lot!) in this difficult art. Some of the sculptures are folk art, many are religious images, a few commercial. I've bought them wherever I've been able to find and afford them, from Asian restaurants to galleries and from other collectors.
My collection of wood carvings is a dimensional reference library of answers and questions, a lineage of ideas, stories and work that continues to inspire me to tell stories in wood.
(From the left, small guilt Buddha is Japanese, on the stand is a Chinese votive deity, behind it is a polychromed Quan Yin.)
Friday, December 5, 2008
When is a Goat a Nutcracker??
When it is part of my New Years Party.
Every year I make a sculpture of wood and cardboard and any thing else that serves, pack it with people's prayers and fireworks and set it on fire at midnight to welcome in the new year. This handsome fellow was 2008's offering. Standing at 6 feet 4 inches, he is holding a baby rat, the Chinese symbol for 2008.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The Ugly Duckling all grown up, visiting on his own terms under a lemon yellow sky. I used duck, goose and swan shaped driftwood to frame it. I loved this painting from the minute I first saw it. It's funny and mysterious. Just hung it in a different room so I can see it anew.
My friend,Norm Johnson, a theatre arts professor at Ithaca College, NY, painted it. He is raising hybred peacocks and other exotic birds at Medicine Tree Farm.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
After finishing the little mother, I laid her down against a flat surface to see how much wood was removed.
That's the trick in carving, waste as little as possible,
conserving energy (Mine!) to get the most out of the mateial.