Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sculpture and Color

I wanted to have sunflowers blooming for the open studio and garden. 
Luckily all it took was yellow paint and some lumber.
I want to see how the Sunflower World design looks with a rusted finish, 
so why not get it OUT  from behind my workbench, OUT of the studio 
and up on a wall to be enjoyed?

There's was nothing to look at in this corner of the yard but the very tired wood and mold shed.
Primer and yellow paint and bang suddenly you don't notice the shed at all.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sculpture and Color

It feels so strange to vandalize your own work.

Painting the faux bronze patina on the Bouquet for the City triptych left me with cans of bright blue spay paint in two different shades, each color begging to be used again.
.................That's when I spotted the Nesting Birds relief sculpture.
Here is the finished carving in AAC.
 I'd tried an unsuccessful acid patina on it. The acid color was too dark and blotchy. I'd tried to bring it back with subtle spray paint in neutral colors. Everything I did made it worse.

 I love this carving, it's a two panel cartoon of love and springtime. But to other people it was monochromatic Blah and Bland. Not good. How do I get people to SEE it?

COLOR to the rescue! 
 It felt weird to blast the relief with bright blue spray paint. (Call it my Banksy phase.) Each color asked for the next color. Green, brown, black, ochre, even gold.
After a lifetime in search of and study of the subtle, I'm learning that subtle in my sculpture can be just too damn quiet for it's own good. Time for a shout or two of color!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Studio Garden

I wanted to show you the garden to prove it doesn't look like a sculpture graveyard. 
There's many works of art, but they're hidden along the paths to be discovered. 
The game I'm playing is that you should never see more than one sculpture at a time. 
This means placement and screening are very important.
The woodland path to the quiet garden

Solomon's Seal is like a living gothic cathedral.
The quiet garden
The tree peony Boreas, god of the wind, in breeze shattered glory.
Adiantum maiden hair fern, very happy it's new space.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sculpture and Open Studio Garden

The first Gracewood Studio open garden was a success.
On a perfect sunny day, about 75 people visited the garden. I was still painitng when the first visitors arrived, so they got to see the artist at work. It was good was to stop and enjoy the garden like any visitor. 
 Visitors entered through the little gate, it's a compressed experience walking between the bamboo hedge and the garage. The Buddha with the saw blade halo is the Welcome.
Wood fired ceramic pot by Richard Brandt.
Handicapped and elderly visitors were able to navigate all the paths and found many places to rest. There are six permanent benches and many mobile chairs throughout the garden.

Some of the benches are only 8 feet apart, but are completely different experiences due to the screening of the plantings, the art and the design. This was the first bench in the garden.

When you provide places to pause and rest, people can notice the details, like this lovely volunteer columbine at the base of the bench.

Having made a place to rest, what do you see when you sit down?
I planted Mahonia aquafolium to screen the view and placed this ceramic acanthus fragment low. You don't notice it walking, only when you actually sit down is it visible.

Acanthus terra cotta fragment amid the mahonia and rose Bell Isis.

The south facing wall with grapes and bench. On a sunny day in September,  you can simply reach up to pick the grapes.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sculpture and Open Studio Garden

photo by Lisa Meddin.
Professional landscape and garden designer, Lisa Meddin, of Harmony Design Northwest
visited my garden recently. She interviewed me and wrote about it on her blog, Landscapes Alive.

If I look a bit frazzeled, it's because I was. Getting ready for Saturday's Open Studio and Garden has been a lot work cleaning, siting new work and dealing with spring growth here in Oregon.  

There's so much to be done.  The big lesson is to enjoy each task that I'm doing. There will always be more work.

I'm looking forward to enjoying the garden, the art, and the riot of peonies with garden visitors. If you can't make it, I'll be showing photos of it all next week.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sculpture and Franken-shrine 2

Context is everything.

In the studio, Franken-shrine was funny, but looked dirty, broken, and a little haunted.
Installed in the garden, across the path from the sculpture of the monk,  Still Thoughts,
the little shrine now has presence and meaning.

Playing with scale is an important aspect to garden design. The shrine looks as if it's set on the top of an enormous cliff, which is really the concrete pedestal. It's smallness evokes a mythic or mental journey to Japan or Tibet.
Originally I'd installed the shrine deeper into another bed. (above)

It looked ok here, but it was important to me to have it close enough to the path so that anyone might ring the bell. The sound is so clear in the garden's quiet, and adds another way for a visitor to participate in what makes a garden special.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sculpture and Franken-shrine

It was dead and broken. 
But now, it's Alive! It's Alive!
It's FRANKEN-shrine!

Once upon a time, it was a perfect tiny Japanese cedar shrine.
A friend wanted to get rid of it, so it was packed carelessly for a two state road trip, the bag of parts has gone missing, and three dusty years on the to-do shelf left it a shadow of it's former self...

..........which made it easier to just play with it.

I used scrap cedar for the back wall, (Love those knot holes!), maple branches and my pin-nail gun to put it back together. A small Tibetan bell hangs in the center bay.

It will be great in the garden on the path to Still Thoughts,
and ready for Saturday's Open Studio and Garden

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sculpture and Teaching Demonstrations

I was invited to be part of Portland Community College's Art Beat.

Art Beat exemplifies PCC’s dedication to education and community. For the past 20 years, Art Beat Week fills each Portland Community College campus with music, dance, literature, sculpture, painting, theater-all things artistic!                  All events are free and open to everyone.
So how do you teach sculpture,  design and composition to people who've never considered sculpture?

You design a project that is easy to participate, simple to understand, engaging, doesn't take much time and gives immediate results.

This project showed participants how to create their own simple relief on a blank plaster stamp.
 To short curcuit the "I can't make art!" people were asked to just write their first and last initials.
 It was a mind game because you must write and carve your initials backwards.
 Laughing is good for creativity!

Did I mention that many of the participants were English as a second language students?

No problem, sculpture is so direct. In each group, one or two students with a better grasp of English acted as translators. Once the students got the concept of a carved line into the plaster = a raised line in clay, everyone got busy. Some did initials, others their entire name, while others did a heart or sun.
A teacher's dream. Everyone excited, engaged and learning.
A sample of the small clay relief "coins" with students initials.
A puzzle, composition and design, sculpture process and results,
all in under 2 square inches!  A successful project.

Thank you, Portland Community College.
Other particpating artists were Richard Brandt, ceramics, Yuji Hiratsuka, printmaker
Ben Bush, comic book illustrator, Kate Fenker, mixed media.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sculpture and Faux Bronze #4

Using this method to create a faux bronze patina, you can dial up or down the effect you want to create. 

Want more BLING? Leave more blue and gold showing. Want the subtlest of subtle? Glaze away until your eyes glaze over.

The secret to this proces is to walk as FAR AWAY from your work as you can get.
Sit down and study your work for 10 minutes. Does it work from any distance? 
That will direct you quicker and more efficiently than hours of up close noodeling.

Bouquet for the City by Patrick Gracewood ©2012
The last step is to mix up a gold paint for high lights. For this use a very dry brush.

Logically these would be where the sculpture would be frequently touched. Since this is a fantasy, I use the gold high lights to direct your eyes thoughout the composition.

Shall we take a tour?

Look at the two slender branches hanging diagonally above. Those are pricked out with gold. 
Do you notice the gold? No, but you notice their delicacy and the weight of the leaves.

Since this is the first sculpture you see from my garden gate, I wanted it to read from 70 feet away, so I want contrast. If you want more subtlety, push everything back with thin layers of glaze.

Notice too, how the blues keeps the browns from going flat. 
With a very limited palatte you can get an amazing feeling of depth.

These blossoms, above, are the big finale as this sculpture reads right to left. It's where your eyes wind up. The blue drips are the most vivid right here.....
..........Where they lead your eyes to explore the ground, the suggestion of gravel, the fallen leaves.
At the far right, the first blossom to fall tells of time passing.

The plant that inspired this art was an enormous 70 + year old King George rhododendron. I took elements from it, like this torn and slowly healing branch to base the composition and contrast with the enormous fragrant spring blossoms.

In addition to being a tribute portrait of a great plant, this entire sculpture is playing games with relief depth and flatness, figure and ground, realism and abstraction. The paint, ooops, "patina" is just one more tool to help that illusion.

Until you can afford to cast your work in bronze, learn how to create a beautiful, beleiveable fake faux bronze patina it until someone is willing to make your vision a reality with cash.

It's what I'm doing.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sculpture and Faux Bronze #3

Having "ruined" the work with the garish blue green paint, now the chance to "SAVE" it.

It's work, because you're trying to make a highly artificial process look as natural as corrosion.

The next step is to mix a thin glaze of raw umber and tiny touch of pthalo green. You want a greeny brown. Using a dry brush technique, begin knocking back those garish blues. Because it's a dry brush technique, you're leaving blues in any recessed areas to peek through.

You can see it the middle panel how much quieter it is already. You can repeat the steps of painting up the blues and drips and knocking them back with the glaze until you're satisfied with the result.
Here's a detail. See how the blue goes back, but doesn't disappear, with just one glaze of brown?
Relax and have fun. The secret is to repeatedly walk as far away as possible from the work and study it from a distance to see what it needs.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sculpture and Faux Bronze #2

Go look at bronze statues that have been outdoors for years. They're not brown, and unless someone has been rubbing on them, they're not shiny gold.

Often they are very dark with outrageous shades of blue and green.
Here's how I build up the background for any faux bronze. Start with a solid dark brown base, as in the upper left of the photo. I like to use raw umber or burnt umber with a touch of pthalo green.
Painted solid brown, the relief looked like a giant chocolate bar.

For the patina, I mix pthalo green with white and paint in in every recessed area. At this point, it's gaudy as hell. You'll feel like you're vandalizing your own work. Do it!

I'm playing with the fantasy of an ideal patina. For the Bouquet for the City relief that means I want the blues to evoke the rain and fragrance dripping off this "King George"rhododendron. 

To get that, I paint the color on, let it dry a bit and then hit it with squirts of water until I get the drips I want.

Just as I textured the background to give it a sense of movement, I'm using the drips to animate the background void and help tell a story.