You're viewing: Studio Tip

12.11.12 The tale of the mane and tail that became my main obsession

He’s finally done — Peppy Poco ChaCha.
As you might have noticed, it took much longer than I thought it would.  When I started on this little diversion of a project, back in January, I thought this would be easily completed within a couple of months.  Right.  Sigh.


Then I got all excited in August when I finished the main sculpture and Barry made a waste mold so that I could have a hard resin master to work on.  Just add a mane and tail.  No big deal.   Right…  Sigh…

Except it turned out that the tail had to be carefully designed as a support and balance structure.  Just a wee bit of engineering. That was the last blog entry. In September.  Sigh…

Since then tale of the mane and tail has become my main obsession.

Quite often, I have been disdainful of manes and tails as a sculptor. Especially manes.  They only cover up all that gorgeous neck structure that I love so well.   And, let’s face it, other artisans like to customize manes and tails to create a unique piece, so why not make it easy for them by not having a cascade of mane that will just be dremelled off anyway. (Is “dremel” officially a verb yet?  If so I suppose I can properly use a past-tense version…) So for the past few years I’ve kept manes pretty sparse.

Fraley14_ChaCha_ManeDet1_10x8_72dpi_typeBut now I was faced with a dynamic sculpture demanding that a complete story about movement be told. Where did that movement begin?  Where is it going? How fast?

Beyond depicting the structure of bone and exertion of muscle and what visual element do you have to work with? Hair. Long silky hair.




I think there’s a nice flow when all’s said and done.

But how did we get here?  Lot’s of layers:



A note here about the tail.  I started out being very swirly and curly, a highly dynamic sculpture in it’s own right.  But that didn’t work with the overall design of the piece.  Too busy, too eye-pokey for an area of the sculpture that is intended to depict a pivot point.  It was more show than flow.  In the end the idea of “Flow” won out.


Peppy Poco ChaCha will be available for order starting tomorrow, December 12, 2012.  Newsletter subscribers will receive an alert later tonight with more details.

Happy Holidays ~ Lynn

01.27.11 Holdin’ It All Together

I love shipping boxes out!  It means fun resins like Iko and Tee-Nah are headed off to new homes to be painted up and enjoyed by wonderful people.  Juggling multiple boxes can be a challenge though.
Velcro straps help hold it all together.  
These are plain lengths of velcro, completely adjustable to whatever girth you need.  Give them a try!

01.25.11 On the Straight and Level

You know how strange photos can look when you hold a camera at a crazy angle — those shots can be quite fun and help people see the world in a new way.  
But when you are trying to document  artwork accurately it’s best to avoid any distortions.  
This little key-chain size bubble level is a really handy tool for just that.  I’m not sure where I picked this up, it’s been floating around the studio for so long now.  It was probably an impulse buy at the checkout counter of a hardware store.  If you have any leads as to where folks can find one, please do share in the comments below.
You can use this tiny bubble level to adjust your tripod so that your camera is level in every direction, as well as eliminating any front/back tilt.  Capture images of your artwork on the straight and level first — then put away the level and have fun with all those crazy angles.

01.20.11 Lights – Camera – Book!

The instruction book that is.  Yup, I’ve been in a camera rut, shooting with the same settings all the time, and not always getting the results you’d hope for.  So on the advice of my friend Sarah Minkiewicz I dusted off the camera’s instructions.  Wow, I’d forgotten quite a bit about the features of the cute little peashooter (a four-year-old Pentax Optio A30).  A couple of obliging mules were rounded up for a much needed practice session.
In a studio lighting workshop last year I learned that studio photographers often do not point a light directly at their subject.  Yes, that’s counter-intuitive, but you get a softer lighting effect using the edge lighting from a parabolic reflector.  Two separate lights give you a tremendous range of lighting effects and control.
The beauty of a digital camera is that you can watch the way the light changes in real time on your camera’s screen.  Often I’ll hold a light in my left hand, move it around the set area while watching the camera screen to find those lighting sweet spots.  The tricky bit is focusing and shooting one-handed — do you remember the childhood party game, Twister?  Yes, it feels just like that.
Here’s a series of light experiments:
Single source of light from left; ambient light from the right.

Same single source of light from left; second source from right directly behind Iko, but pointed about a 90º angle away from him.
Same single source of light from left; second source from right and brought to the front a bit and pointed at a greater angle away from Iko
Same single source of light from left; second source from front left, elevated.
It’s interesting to see how positioning the lights differently can make such a big change in how you perceive the piece.  Now to be bolder in experimenting with camera settings (and more diligent in taking notes about those settings!)


01.18.2011 Cryptonite for Super Hero Peanuts

Those pesky packing peanuts.  This time of year, charged with static electricity, they’re like little super heroes defying gravity, climbing up the sides of boxes, leaping from bag to hand, then clinging there there — floating in mid-air when you try to shake them off, only to have them target the cat as their next victim.
It’s annoying.  And it slows down the packing and shipping process. 
Zap the little dudes with a spritz of Static Guard.  Puts ’em in their place quick.
By the way there are still a few of the resin mules, Iko and Tee-Nah, in inventory, ready for immediate shipment.  Just don’t be surprised if you catch a whiff of the “fresh scent” of static guard when you open your box! 
P.S.  Blogspot is not cooperating in letting me link text this morning, so here’s the addy for more information about the mules: 

11.30.10 Camping Out in the Studio

If you have a “dry” studio space (that is, one with no actual running water hooked up to it), it can be tiresome to interrupt the work flow to fetch water for projects.  It finally dawned on me that the two gallon collapsible water jug we have for camping can make life a lot easier in the studio too — doh!

I wonder what other camping gear I’ve overlooked for everyday use?!


09.14.10 On the Grid — a studio tip

I may have told you about this before, but it’s just so darn handy that it bears repeating — grids are good.

In the bottom of each damp box is a section or two of plastic grids which raise the foam supporting a piece up off of the damp plaster block, but don’t block air circulation.

Out in the open air, lay them over wire shelving to form a nice drying rack that gives plenty of evenly spaced support to tiles or other flat-bottom ceramic ware.

So where do you find these great grids?  In the lighting department of a hardware store — they are actually those grids that sometimes cover fluorescent ceiling fixtures.  They’re inexpensive and easy to snip apart with wire cutters to a custom size.

No doubt there are other uses for these plastic grids — I invite you to share your ideas in the comments section.

08.30.10 Cut to the Bone (or Armature)

Kudos to my sculpting buddy Leslie Tengelson — she did some major surgery on a sculpture.  It’s tough to dig in to make a major alteration to a sculpture that you’ve been working on for a while.
Below is a picture of Leslie and her sculpture in late May — do you see the vertical support post and how close it is to the front of the neck?  Well, as Leslie continued to refine the arc of the neck that vertical pipe crept closer and closer to the surface of the clay.  It became a big problem.  You really can’t have a metal pipe just sticking out the front of a horse’s neck…
As you see in the top photo, she sacrificed a lot of work on the neck, cutting most of it away to get down to the armature.  She replaced the single straight support post with a combination of shorter pipes and 90º elbow joints.  It’s a terrific solution.
Below, is a quick pic Leslie snapped last night after she reconfigured the pipe and added some clay back on the neck.  A much more graceful gesture don’t you think?
By the way, this is the first equine bust that she has sculpted, a portrait of her Holsteiner mare, Callie.
Her secret to getting such a nice result for her first sculpture — patience, persistence and being willing to make big changes when needed.
Way to go Leslie!

08.20.10 Toolin’ Along, part 2

Another tool that I reach for often is a spoon/spatula shaped stainless steel modeling tool.  Perfect for applying a dab of clay just where you need it, then…
smearing it out to blend in.
What I find so useful is the soft curve of the head of the tool, it allows the clay to feather out softly beneath your touch, rather than leaving a hard edge.  You can also roll the tool to very precisely place or compact a small area of clay.  Use the sharp edge to carve or inscribe into the clay.  When dipped in a bit of solvent the spoon shaped head becomes very useful in smoothing and burnishing the clay.
As with the serrated loop tool that we looked at earlier in August, there are many different sizes and shapes  of tools that fall into the general category of “spatula”.   This one is 6.5″ long, the spatula head is about .5″ at it’s widest, and is marked “euclids #61” available at Sculpture Depot  in their Stainless Steel Detail Shaping Tools section.

And oh yes, the pointy bit at the other end is rather handy too!


08.05.10 Toolin’ Along, part I

For those of you who are just starting to sculpt in soft non-hardening clay, here’s a tool that you can  use to your advantage in several ways –a serrated loop tool.  The little “teeth” on the cutting edge of the loop act as a rake or rasp to scrape off just a little bit of clay at a time. 

In addition to the fine control you have in removing clay, the grooves formed by this tool help you to visually define different areas of the sculpture — in this case the semimembranosus, gracilis, semitendinosus, caudal biceps femorus and gastrocnemius muscles of the hindquarter.  Will these striations remain visible in the final sculpture?  No.  They are used at this stage as an analytical tool while the sculpture develops.  However, this tool can be re-employed later to suggest coat texture.

There are a variety of shapes and sizes of serrated loop tools made for sculptors, many of them are available through the Sculpture Depot.  This one, the #405, is relatively small at 7 inches long with a loop of only 5/16 inches across.

We’ll be looking at other tools in future posts. In the meantime, what’s the tool you find yourself reaching for most often?