Wednesday, April 29, 2009


They've torn down the little shack behind the studio and are building a two story house  close to the lot line. It will look down into a special part of my garden.  There goes my privacy.

So I'm researching the growth rate of Incense Cedars (Calocedrus decurrens) for a solid dark green wall (70 feet tall) that won't grow too wide (8 to 12 feet wide). Turns out that Incense Cedars provide the wood for most pencils. 

In looking online I found this curious blog Timberlines : Musings from the Forest: Thoughts and discussion on the pencil industry, forest management, California Cedar Products Company and the artistic and written creativity enabled by the wood-cased pencil.

I thought that writing about sculpture and the garden was a small audience.  A blog for pencils lovers? I must admit that I use ink for my drawings as it doesn't smear. But everyone that has ever held a pencil can learn and enjoy something new about the most humble writing tool.  Go Here

Monday, April 27, 2009

Vegas Yesterday. The Original Corinthian Capitals in Situ.

My friend Janice Lawrence sent me this photo after reading about the Corinthian Capital I sculpted for Las Vegas. 

Here are the original Corinthian Capitals in context in 
The  Forum.  As in Rome, Italy. 

The only problem is that the recreations are translucent plastic not marble. The image looks like a bad Photoshop job.  Which makes me wonder how unreal the actual site looks. It's hard to trust reality or it's stand in these days.

Maybe they could install lights inside the replacement columns to glow with changing colors at night. Disco Forum anyone?.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno. Science and Sculpture

Isabella Rossellini has a new short video series called Green Porno.  (photo: Getty Images)

She has a good sense of humor and is the first to admit Green Porno is a little sick. Each video is the very definition of droll. They're very playful science lessons.

Watch for the great cardboard and paper sculptures that look like anyone could make them. Anyone given enough time, construction paper and glue and a staff of talented artists. The puppets give new meaning to my tag "The pleasures of cardboard"

 Go Here to watch the series

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Golden Dragon at Wynn Casino in Macau..

永利巨龍 Wynn casino dragon (macau) from raychan on Vimeo.

When you work on a movie or big project like this one for Additive Workshop and Michael Curry Designs, you do your part and move on. Rarely do you get to see the completed results. We did pretty good for an army of Anglos sculpting a Chinese Dragon for a Chinese audience.

This Golden Dragon wasn't nearly as pretty in the making. It was a lot of fast and furious hard work. The sculpture is enormous. 27 feet tall. 27 feet long. The head is bigger than my Toyota van. 

I was part of an army of hands slathering and tooling molten oil clay over acres of foam. The creature was done in 8 and 10 foot sections with special care taken so that in the end all the sections would match up. It was never seen complete until after it was molded.

Another division of Curry's team constructed the giant lotus blossom. That shop creates wonders.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009

                                     "Whatever it is you are meant to do, do it now.
                                         The conditions are always impossible." 
                                                                                  -Doris Lessing

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Have Karumi - Make Art!

Karumi is the Japanese word for "lightness". The famous Japanese poet Basho used it to mean "the beauty of ordinary things spoken of in a simple way". He compared karumi to a shallow sandy river.

The spirit of Karumi can be understood as a disposition of lightheartedness that overcomes the burdens of the past and consciously ignores the shortcomings of the present while doing the unconventional.

All that in one fabulous word. Sounds like a good mindset to make your art. Yes?

From The Japanese House - A traditional for Contemporary Architecture by Heinrich Engel. The book is an out of print classic. I couldn't find any link or bio for the author.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Critical Thinking -Adam Gopnik on Dr. Johnson

Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker, writes vividly about Dr. Johnson, the first modern personality. (Dec 8, 2008 issue. A good article is never dated.)

"The critic's job was to distinguish between what belonged to the history of taste and what belonged to the canon of art, and try to explain what made the permanently pleasing permanently please. For Johnson's great question is not how to write, or what to write, but why write. His criticism provides a simple answer: To help us enjoy life more, or endure it better.

Johnson has no illusions about criticism's ability to fix or cure. Critics are to writers not as doctors are to patients but as bearded ladies are to trapeze artists- another, sadder act in the same big show. 

"Every man can exert such judgment as he has upon the work of others; and he whom nature has made weak, and idleness keeps ignorant may yet support his vanity by the name of a critic," he wrote.

I now have a new way of thinking about art critics..... another sadder act in the same big show. Beards and all.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Vegas Today and Tomorrow

It's Vegas, Baby.

Here's two renderings of how Caesars Palace News envisions the Corinthian Capitals that I created. There they are way up high touching that desert sky.

Where was the Rat Pack glamour, the decadence and bikini clad babes when I was making the sculpture?

No where to be seen.
Down on earth, the shop was full of guys. Just noise and dirt.
The only thing tougher than being a gum shoe detective in Vegas is being a sculptor in Portland, Oregon in the winter.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Corinthian Capital Sculpture #7

Are you ready to be done with this?

I certainly was. I'm pictured here with the two parts finally assembled for the casino owner's review and approval.

Keep in mind this is only half a column. And that the capital was only one part of the project. Each capital rest atop an enormous cast concrete column. 60 feet tall. The scale of the project is mind blowing.

The people in the shop, the toolers and laminaters are amazing. They track all the measurements and build the parts to come out exactly right. I love working as part of a team to create architectural scale work.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Corinthian Capital Sculpture #6

Up on the tall ladder again to check the work. Almost done.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Acanthus Leaf Sculpture

In the midst of the Corinthian Capital I was also working on recreating a decorative urn for a Seattle grade school. More acanthus leaves.

Here is the original drawing to fit the space, the clay model being laid out, and the finished leaf. It will be molded and cast so it will fill the entire band of the urn.

UPDATE: Here's a shot of the finished urn model (top photo) shown without the pineapple finial. That face lurking above it is of Jimmy Hendrix.  I created it for the Garfield High School remodel in Seattle.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wood Carver Bernie Ross

On Easter Sunday we got a quick visit from Katja and Bernie up from California for a family wedding.

I've known Katja Irvin for years through the Contact Improvisation community. Katja is an amazing dancer. She showed the girls how to do handstands, walkovers and some of her capoiera skills.

Her husband Bernie Ross is a wood worker, restoration artist and carver so we got to talk shop. His website shows a few of his many skills. I enjoyed his whimsical folk art styling of a pair of handsaws into snakesaws.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Corinthian Capital Sculpture #5

Here all the leaves on the lower half of the capital have been cast and positioned and are being tooled to hide the seams.

You start to get an idea of the scale of this project....

Right now tho' it reminds me of a cartoon crown for the "king of cartoons" from Pee-Wee's Playhouse

Friday, April 10, 2009

Corinthian Capital Sculpture #4

Now for the second half. It's a lot more complex. I'm only sculpting one quarter of it. That means that it must match up exactly on both sides. Two quarters to make a half column. That gets molded and cast twice to make an entire Capital.

Here it is, seen from the 2nd story loft. One of the biggest problems of working large is getting far enough away from the work to check it. Things can look fine at arm's length, but this monster is going up 60 feet in the air. That's 4? 5? stories tall! It needs to have more punch than finesss to read at that distance.

The second photo shows a cardboard maquette of the projection of the largest leaf on the first half. No point in wasting much time or energy sculpting what cannot be seen because it's hidden by this leaf.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Corinthian Capital Sculpture #3

The first leaf has been molded and cast twice to give me registration for the lower leaf. If you look closely you can see the center line and the cord used to establish it. To the right some of the tools used. I made the plastic wheel as a finishing tool for the recessed lines. It establishes both the width and a fixed radius at the bottom that allow for easier molding.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Corinthian Capital Sculpture - Tricks for Measuring

For quick checking of my visual measurements, I use a string stapled to the mid-line of the project, here, the center of the first leaf of the Corinthian Capital.

I wrap the cord around my pencil, pull it tight and can swing it from side to side to see how things are lining up. It's fast and an easy way to ensure balance on a sculpture.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Corinthian Capital Sculpture

If you choose to accept this assignment: Here is the beginning of the Giant Corinthian Capital. A not too good photo printed on copy paper. Only one angle to figure out all the details of a highly complex sculpture.

When I ask for more information, I get enlargements of the same photo. They don't want me sculpting 1 inch square pixels, I'm sure. No further information will be supplied. Damn.

Sometimes it feels like I am doing sculptural forensics.

Oh and because of the scale, it will be modeled upside down.

Batten the hatches 'cause I took the assignment.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Celtic Cross Sculpture Photos #3

In visual art, horror vacui (literally: fear of empty spaces, also known as cenophobia) is the filling of the entire surface of an artwork with detail. Every surface ornamented but not chaotic. There is also an underlying structure and organization.

I know that each of these panels has a bible story as inspiration, but that inspiration, those intertwined knots and morphing animals also comes from a deep preChristian origin, ie Celtic or Norse.