Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A New DIY clay warmer

After a bit of thinking and searching the internet for ideas, I decided to try out a foot warming pad because it is very energy efficient and also likely to be safer than the lightbulb method.

So I ordered a foot warmer and finally a hi/low plug to control the temp a bit and it's working out great.

First I ordered the foot warming pad off Amazon to try out. It only draws 90 watts with a temp of 130 degrees. After using it a bit I found that 130˚ is a bit too high and I would alternate between pad on and pad off once the clay got too warm. Since it was working well, I went ahead and ordered the hi/low plug attachment from Amazon. I only used it a couple of days and already know it was a good addition. Once the clay reaches a toasty temp on Hi I turn it to Low to keep it warm without melting.

All in all, I'm very pleased with this new system. I place tinfoil on the heating pad and then arrange chunks of clay on the foil- as I take warm clay off the pad, I drop more cold clay onto the pad.

It does take a bit longer for the pad to warm up the clay than the light-bulb, but it is more consistent without the burning/melting hotspots. Only real drawback is that the clay really needs to be in direct contact with the pad surface so you are more limited in the amount of clay you can warm at a time. In the future I may try putting the pad into a styrofoam box to trap the ambient heat and put in more clay but for the moment and for the cost, this is working quite well. Especially in winter in Colorado it is so much nicer to sculpt with buttery-warm oil-based clay than hard chunks.

After years of using my original clay warmer hot box, I decided I wanted to try something new and more energy efficient. Plus, while the styrofoam hot box works really well, it can sometimes work too well, especially for softer clays like Chavant's Clayette in Soft and cause them to melt or have hot spots that can burn your hands if you aren't careful.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Wax Chasing in the morning...

Now that the big show is finished it's time to catch up on the work that backlogged. I have a new wax of "Bareback Bookworm" on my desk that I need to finish chasing so it can get to the foundry and also need a new wax pour made for "Do you know me still?" Both of these are going to be in the 2016 Women Artists of the West 46th National Exhibition and the American Women Artists 2016 Annual Master and Signature Show.
One handy though expensive tool is my Kerr Ultra Waxer 2. You can purchase a variety of heads to plug into either of the two hot tool handles and you can also dial in different temps for both of them. Additionally you can heat metal tools using an alcohol torch burner to cut, melt and manipulate the wax.
Unfortunately, wax castings really come as perfect replicas of your original clay and I can often spend 6-10 hours on a wax - resculpting areas that are missing or marred by bubbles and other problems not to mention the seams that come from the mold.
There is also a large pour spout that needs to be in the mold in order to have a place to pour the hot wax into the mold. This is called the sprue and when the wax sprue is cut off there is a gaping hole and needs to be filled and repaired before the piece is cast in bronze.
Here you see a boot before and after chasing - filling in missing spots and bubbles, cutting off protrusions and generally cleaning up the wax.
In the case of the hand and book (removed from the original clay sculpture and molded and cast separately) the entire thumb is missing thanks to an air bubble in the wax casting. That means that I will melt and attach wax to resculpt the entire thumb.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Big Tex Commission Sculpture

I received a commission from the Texas State Fair to sculpt an award to be cast in bronze. It is loosely based off their iconic monumental "Big Tex" that welcomes people to the Texas State Fair.

The finished sculpture is cast in bronze and mounted to Texas limestone base.
The first bronze sculpture award that I created for the Texas State Fair was awarded to Chief David Brown of Dallas Police Department.
Here is a quick snap of the sculpture in the board room of the Texas State Fair.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Ten minutes of looking....

The first ten minutes of work....I hate waiting and when I see a problem I want to jump in and fix it immediately. 

Or if an area isn't as finished as the rest....but waiting ten long minutes to assess everything as a whole is important work. 

So ten LOoooooong minutes before picking up the clay, tool or brush is time well spent.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sculpting Sacagawea

I've been posting to my webpage blog and forgetting to post here too. So I'll combine a few of my web posts for you here.
Started sculpting Native American Sacagawea in Clayette Soft. This is a really creamy and buttery clay that I would recommend for larger and looser works. I didn't intend to finish this and thought it would be a quick study but I ended up liking it so continued. I feel the clay is far too soft for detailed work this small. In fact I ended up switching to Jmac medium and hard for the dress and purse details because Clayette soft was simply too soft for this.

That said, I really do like the clay a lot. Perhaps medium would have been a better choice for me but I now have a lot of soft on hand. So my next sculpt will be large so I can use it as it was intended.

I really wanted this sculpture to be about putting myself in Sacagawea's place and feeling what she may have felt. If you remember your history, she was abducted from her Northwest Coastal tribe when a young girl by the Sioux and taken east as a captive. She was eventually married to a French Trapper and just before beginning her adventures with her husband and Lewis and Clark, she had her baby, Pompy.

So I wanted to capture her expression as she came to realize she was finally home. Surely she felt apprehension, anxiety, hopefulness and happiness all at once. She did, indeed meet with her brother and by accounts it was a joyful reunion.

The working title for this piece is "Do you know me still?"

Friday, April 1, 2016

Starting a horse sculpture

Because I won First Place and Purchase Award with "Eleanor" at the Scottsdale Artists' School Best & Brightest Show this year, I received a scholarship to the school for a workshop.

This year I had decided that I wanted to branch out from purely portrait and figurative works to include animals and wildlife. It's always a good idea to try to learn and be exposed to new techniques and styles whenever possible too.

With that in mind, I chose a horse sculpting workshop by Rod Zullo. It featured new techniques in armature building, making a portable sculpting stand to take on location and sculpting using silhouette.

He recommends Jmac Clay in brown but as I had a lot of Jmac Tan in stock, I chose to use that instead. The bonus was that the cream color of the tan didn't absorb the Arizona heat like the dark brown clay does, so my work didn't melt and sag in the heat like the other clay. Happy accident. I simply like the lighter clay because it is easier on my eyes.

We started by building a simple but sturdy armature and then went on location for observing and sculpting horses from life. We were very fortunate to go to a lovely estate with some world-class horses to sculpt from.

After blocking in a simple straight silhouette form of the horse we selected a pose of our choosing and went to work fleshing out the work. While the photos may make the work look larger, this piece is about 22" long, I think. It is currently being crated and shipped from Scottsdale to my studio in Fort Collins so I can continue working on it soon.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Sketching in clay to warm up or study

Most people think of pencils when they think of sketching, however you can sketch 3d too. It's really cold and snowy so I didn't want to drive to my cold studio today so I grabbed what I had handy to do a little clay sketching as a warm up before getting to work today. This study was sculpted using Chavant Clayette Soft and as most of my tools are at the shop I used a flat stick and an old paintbrush and of course, my hands.

The great thing about 3d sketching is that is warms you up, allows you to work on problems and you can leave it on a shelf to reflect on for future works or recycle the clay and make something else. It is the act of the motion, the thought that was the journey and reward - the destination and final results aren't important. That's the beauty of sketching!

This is a great way to loosed yourself up and allow you explore without the commitment of a full piece of work and no worries about whether you are creating something wonderful or ruining things by making know that it temporary and can let go of the anxiety - something you can't always do if you are working.
I enjoyed this 30-45 minute study - it gave me time to reflect on the forms without over-thinking things and I realize how much I miss the freedom of that. Note to self- take more time for these sketches and warmups - it just may be the faster road to improvement of your work.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Eleanor wins 1st Place Sculpture and Purchase Award Scottsdale...

"Eleanor" was chosen by the judges as First Place in Sculpture for this year’s Best & Brightest Show at Scottsdale Artists School. It was also chosen by the school to be this year’s Purchase Award.

This honor is especially poignant for me because I received a scholarship from the Scottsdale Artist's School to attend a Sandy Scott workshop in 2015 and while there I would sneak into the school early just to peruse the halls, admiring the works on permanent display, photographing them with my iPad and thinking that I would love to have one of my works in those halls one day.

I am grateful that "Someday" came today.

Show opens Friday 1/8/2016 with a free and open reception from 5-7pm and runs through 2/27/2016.

Scottsdale Artists’ School
3720 North Marshall Way
Scottsdale, AZ 8525

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Starting Bas Relief Medallion Commission

I received a commission to sculpt a bas relief medallion about 24" x 24". This sculpture will be cast in Forton or Aqua Resin.

To start, I scaled up my drawing and laid it out on a piece of hard foam.

Then I traced the shape out onto the foam board using a marker.
Next I used my hot wire tools to cut the foam away. This stuff is toxic so I was careful to work in the garage and wear a mask!

Once everything was cut out, I drew in some guidelines for the shapes and began carving away using a serrated knife.

When I had the basic forms started, I refined them using files, rasps and sandpaper to further define the medallion.

Finally I put on a coat of primer to seal it. This serves two purposes: to keep the crumbly bits out of the clay and to give an even 'tooth' for the clay to adhere.

I'll let this dry overnight and then I'll come back with some warm oil-based clay and begin sculpting over this armature foam.

DIY Clay Warmer for less than $10

It's winter and here in Colorado, that means a cold studio. Cold clay is not only really hard on your hands, it is also prone to become brittle and crumble - not good for working at all.

So I have a really inexpensive but quite serviceable clay-warmer that you can make yourself for under $10 or quite possibly free if you have these things around your house anyway.

I took an old clip shop lamp and a 60w bulb and clipped it onto an Omaha Steaks styrofoam cooler that I got free off Craigslist. Because the cooler is deep and so insulated, it heats quickly and evenly. Even in my very cold studio. This is better than the old cooler that I had because it is deeper the light if further from the clay and the heat bounces around more so I have more even heating of the clay without melting or making it too hot to handle.

Because I use several different brands and types of oil-based clay, I try to keep the labels with the clay to avoid mixing them up.
I also need to warm the clay that is already in progress so I keep a 20 year old Black and Decker heat gun or hair dryer handy. I can warm the clay in the area that I am working and the oil-based clay will go from extremely hard and crumbly to buttery soft quite quickly. Hopefully these studio tips will help you in your sculpting.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Stan the Skeleton moves to my new studio

Art studios are messy places with more stuff than room. Tools, boxes, bags of clay, more bags of clay, kiln, molds, mold-making materials, scales, lights, photo equipment, files and photos, sinks, buckets, sponges, scrapers, wood, plumbing fixtures, hardware, tables, pedestals, works in progress....the list goes on.
So does the moving! I'm STILL in the process of getting my new studio space up and running full time. Finding the right place for everything is a challenge. Today's event was moving 150 pounds of clay and my buddy Stan.
Stan is a life-sized reproduction skeleton (I don't usually keep the real kind around ;-) that hangs around my studio so I can reference the anatomy when I'm working on figurative sculpture.
My family isn't very sad to see Stan go. They were never too keen on coming down to the basement where I was working and running into him. I really should dress him up more for holidays....perhaps this year a Santa hat.
Too bad the car windows are tinted.....could have been fun for the other commuters to see Stan in his seatbelt.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Casting a Bas Relief in Aqua Resin or Forton

I've been busy moving into a new studio space and casting some bas relief sculptures for the shows that I'm in. I've got a quick peak into the casting process here using my Polytek rubber mold and Aqua Resin. You could also use Forton for this type of casting:

I have been quite busy moving into my new studio space. My new relief sculptures have been juried into several shows and I have been casting them. Here is a quick peak at the process:
1) Set up materials. I'm using Aqua Resin but sometimes use Forton. I have a gram scale, disposable cups of several different sizes, gloves to protect my hands, stir sticks (popsicle sticks work well), a drill with paddle attachment for mixing. I set up on newspaper for easy clean up when done.
2) I have my Polyteck 74-10 mold set up in the plaster/forton mother mold and have brushed in the first two print coast of Aqua Resin. I do two print coats to capture all the detail letting each dry before adding the next. After the first two coats of Aqua Resin have hardened I begin the laminating process. I mix batches of Aqua Resin (or Forton) and brush on - then I apply about 10% by weight of fiberglass strand. For the sides and small detail areas I'll use 1/2" and 1" strand and for the larger areas I use 3"-4" fiberglass strand. I continue to brush in coats and add more fiberglass until the entire piece is thick and strong enough. I build up an area for attaching the hanging wires as the last coat.
3-4) I let the entire piece rest over night - Forton and Aqua Resin need a 24 hour cure time in the mold to ensure it is strong before demolding. I carefully peel the rubber mold from the casting. I used 2 coats of Polytek 7300 so the piece will release but there is a fairly strong suction bond that require slow and careful efforts so as not to put too much pressure on the rubber or delicate areas of the casting. You can see the strands of fiberglass extending from the casting as I pull off the rubber.
5) The finished casting is removed from the mold and washed with soap or degreasing agent to cleanse the surface of any of the mold release. Next I will use a rasp to remove the excess flashing and fiberglass from the edges. Then I will sand those edges smooth before priming the entire piece and starting the patina.
This bas relief measures 18"w x 24"h x 3"d and the final casting weighs about 10lbs. I find the process of casting to be laborious but the finished product is a nice stone-like casting with the benefit of capturing detail like plaster but having the strength of fiberglass and light-weight.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Sculpture donated & sold at Greeley Cattle Baron's Ball - American Cancer Society

I had a brush with breast cancer 10 years ago and continue to be closely monitored. This year my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and is undergoing treatment.

Who among us have been untouched by this disease?

So this year, I donated my bronze sculpture, "Ascension" to the American Cancer Society's annual fundraising benefit, the Greeley Cattle Baron's Ball.

It was a beautiful venue and a lovely Colorado evening and I'm honored that the money raised from the auction of my work will go towards a cure some day.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Room with a View - working on patina

Some of my new bronzes have come back from the foundry. I am waiting for my appointment with my patina artist for "Two Possible Outcomes" (Least Bittern) however I have chosen to do my own patina for "A Room with a View" shown here.

This little tree frog will be mounted to a 4" round tiered hardwood base will measures 5" tall with the base - 4" on his own.

Still finishing up the clay for "Knowing Her Strength" bas relief and should be posting photos soon.

The base for this patina of Verdegris Green is Cupric Chloride and Ammonium Chloride.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Starting a new Bas Relief Sculpture

I have started a new Bas relief. It measures 18" x 24" x 3" deep and this time I am using Chavant LeBeau Touche - an oil based clay instead of the water-based clay that I had been using. It takes a lot of clay when working larger - I estimate that I currently have about 8 bars of clay ($10 each) on the piece and will probably have another bar of clay added before I'm done.

To reduce some of the clay, I did cut a foam core board to bulk out the base a bit. While I could have used tinfoil or foam to bulk out the girl and skim coated on the clay, saving $40 or more in clay, I find that I'd rather use the clay because I can carve deeper or make changes easily in the clay, but if there was a foil interior, I would end up digging into that foil and it is harder to make changes as I work.  
You can see that there are swirls in the clay - I started with older clay and bought some new clay and the dye lot was just enough different to show. A bit distracting while sculpting, but of course won't make a bit of difference when I cast and then patina the work.

Since this is oil-based clay, it sticks quite well to the board so there was no need to make the screw and wire network to support the clay as I did when using water-based clay in the first two Bas relief that I sculpted earlier.
Additionally, since this clay won't dry, it is easier to stop and start without worry about the clay drying out and it won't separate from the board, either.

I'm just in the blocking in phase now -she will be holding a larkspur flower and have wild horse mustangs in the background. I have never sculpted horses although I used to draw and paint them often so I am really looking forward to this!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Chasing and more wax chasing

I've been busy chasing wax. First it was the new wax for "Waiting on the #9" that needed to go to the foundry and next it was the new wax for the Least Bittern sculpt "Two Possible Outcomes". The sculpture is cut into pieces during the mold-making procedure and the wax is poured and ready for chasing.

The process from clay to bronze is long and arduous. You can see that the wax pour has seam lines where the mold comes together. Sometimes they are small and easily removed but sometimes they are large and require hours of work to fix.

Bubbles are a common problem. I had the foundry pour 3 frogs and each one had this bubble. I did a test pour at home that I took extra time to brush the hot wax into the mold before pouring and it yielded better results with no bubble so I will probably pour the waxes for this frog...the extra time for me to brush and pour the hot wax was considerably less than the time it took for me to correct, fill and fix these imperfections.

All in all, the wax chasing took quite a bit of time to complete and return to the foundry - now the next step for them is to start making the slurry shell. The estimated time for the this to be in bronze is 7/24/15...and it was turned into the foundry on 5/27/15 - as I said - a long process to get to metal and then even more time to apply the patina and mount the base.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Least Bittern at foundry and offered at precast pricing

I have finished the life-sized Least Bittern with green tree frog. I'm still pondering the title of the piece and the predicament of the little green frog but it is currently at the foundry getting the mold made before staring the arduous process of casting in bronze.

This sculpture is of a Least Bittern, smallest of the herons in the U.S., perched upon reeds. This is their common practice for feeding. These little birds are slow-moving and rather than wading like larger herons they take advantage of their smaller size by hiding among the grasses and reeds and perching motionless to hunt with their spearlike bills. Its prey are small fish, insects, freshwater shrimp and yes, frogs.

This Least Bittern sculpture measures about 14.75" high x 10.5" wide by 11" deep and will be cast in traditional bronze and have a shaped wood base. Currently being offered at pre-cast pricing starting at $2100*. The retail price will be $2800 in a limited edition of 20.

*Precast pricing is the practice of offering to sell the first of a limited edition of bronze before the offical release date at a discount to help offset the costs of producing a bronze edition.
I am offering the following pre-cast discounts:
25%  discount on #1 of 20
20%  discount of #2 of 20
15%  discount of #3 of 20
10%  disount of #4 of 20
5%    discount of #5 of 20
Sculptures must be purchased prior to the release date of July 31st. 50% down to pace the order, 50% upon delivery of the sculpture. Money back gurantee on my work. Foundry time is 9-12 weeks from placement of order to delivery of finished bronze.