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