As I said in my previous blog post, sculpting a piece of natural barked wood can present some surprises that may require attention, re-construction or re-direction. Upon inspection of this particular piece of maple, I saw that there was a place on either side of it that had a ragged slightly splintered-off section. I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep them or not, so I decided to gradually shape or shrink them as the sculpture evolved. After removing some of the bark, I sanded and shaped the wood revealed beneath, creating a contrast of smooth and rough textures. This allowed me to begin the process of assessing and refining the side two elements.
As I began to refine and shape the elongated wood "tendril" on the left side I saw that it had an interesting way of echoing the contour of that side. After creating an opening at the "peak" to echo the opening of the branch hole, I continued to shape the area to the right of the tendril and, in doing so, I uncovered a small worm hole. Instead just of ignoring it, I tried to eliminate it by chiseling out more material but this revealed a cluster of worm holes. I ended up totally reshaping the area (I was pleased with the change), but it also exposed a splintery crack at the base of the tendril that made its survival doubtful. I was able to repair and strengthen the area by filling it with Quickwood (a mastic epoxy). This repair allowed me to continue to refine the shape of the tendril and the area around it.
The fate of the second side element, a smaller "tendril", was decided after a step by step removal of bark at the lower end and side of the piece. As I removed the surrounding bark, I also started to shorten the length of the tendril. Initially I thought that it could act to mirror the upper tendril on the other side, but eventually I decided that it did nothing to enhance the form of the piece and needed removal. Again I was faced with a structural dilemma - a crack at the base of the tendril necessitated removing a fairly deep chunk of wood. There was no going back. In the end, I was pleased with the results of my re-shaping and sanding efforts.
After applying a coat of satin polyurethane, I decided that the remaining area of bark was too uniform in texture. In order to vary the surface quality and break up the shape of the barked area, I smoothed out spaces at the top and bottom creating the effect of a raised bark oval around the branch hole. The side now felt complete. In my next blog post I will recount the evolution of the second side of the maple branch hole sculpture. Stay tuned!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words - I certainly hope so! I tend to take a lot of "in progress" photos while I work, but I think went a bit overboard on my latest piece. I was finding it a bit daunting to narrow down the number of photos for a blog entry, so I decided that this project would require a multi-installment approach. So here goes Side 1, Part 1.
As I looked around my studio for a project to fill the extended void of time and mobility created by the Covid-19 pandemic, my eye settled on a piece of natural maple that I had rescued some time ago from a pile of wood destined for the wood stove after yet another a tree trimming session. It not only had a perfectly round healed tree branch hole, but it had very interesting internal growth pattern on its reverse side that featured varied shapes, colors, and textures. And so ...I began.
The problem with random pieces of barked natural wood is that you never know what you will find once you start removing material, especially bark. It can cover a variety of welcome surprises and unwelcome complications... hidden worm holes, weak spots that, for better or worse, can alter your intended plan of action. The key to making progress is to remain flexible! In a subtractive sculpture, especially when working with a natural material that is a random shape and presents a variety of surfaces and textures, each time you chisel off a piece of material you are presented with a multitude of decisions that ultimately can determine the path you must follow to completion.
Side 1 presented me with a variety of minor decisions, like deciding how much bark to remove, and 2 major issues - one that required a repair to a structural flaw in order to retain a desired element and one that required extreme reshaping after falling prey to a hidden cluster of deep worm holes. The story will continue in my next blog posting...stay tuned!
*View this year's entries at: www.yarmouthartfestival.com
My plaster fish pieces have done well at this show in the past, but not having any of them available I needed to "go fishing", so I got out my clay and began rolling out slabs. I first began making these fish plaster reliefs in 2015 for the 10x10brunswick show (see my blog posts for 8/10/15 and 8/29/15). Over the past 5 years I have continued to make them, adding an additional wooden fish template, varying the size of the clay slabs and the arrangement of the fish, and experimenting with various materials to create different "sea weed" effects.
In addition to the threaded rod, I found that I had a piece of 1/2" aluminum tubing which fit nicely over the rod and would hide the exposed threading. I knew the aluminum wouldn't take a patina, but I also found a piece of 5/8" copper tubing that would - and it fit easily over the aluminum tube. I used a black cold patina on the copper tube and sealed it with satin lacquer. Then I began the process of elevating "Upstairs". After removing the original 1/4" threaded rod, I used a tap & die to drill out a new threaded hole (as you can see from the photo, I did not have a lot of room to spare!), and then screwed (and epoxied) the new rod into place. Next I enlarged the hole that ran through the base to fit the larger sized rod, and deepened the recess on the bottom of the base to accommodate the larger nut needed to attach the rod and sculpture to the base.
The final adjustment that I made to the base was to add a small wooden square over the hole in the top of the base. I made a hole 5/8" in diameter in the center of the square that would serve to hold the tubes surrounding the rod securely in place. Now all that was left to do was to mount the piece on the base and tighten the nut...or was it? Once I had the sculpture mounted my "internal critic" told me there was something missing. I immediately knew what I needed to do. I dug out the 3 small bronze balls that were extras left over from another earlier sculpture. Each measured about 5/8" in diameter and had a bronze peg extending from it that could be utilized as an attachment appendage. After determining the optimum position for each of the balls on the top surface of the base beneath the mounted sculpture, I used a right angle drill attachment to make 3 holes in the wood and then epoxied the pegged balls into place. Now - it was complete. I will leave interpretation of the piece to the individual viewer.
Note: "Upstairs Downstairs" can be viewed at River Arts Gallery in their new location at 36 Elm Street Plaza in Damariscotta from July 15th through August 15th.
The process of getting the gallery ready for opening presented its own new challenges. Once we were given approval from the state to open, we had to then determine if and when the 25 members artists would feel comfortable opening up and sitting the gallery. The next step was to schedule time for each artist to set up their display area so there wouldn't be more than a few people in the gallery at a time. We also decided that would not be having the two open house events that had originally been on our calendar for the 2020 season. We opened the gallery for the first two weekends in June in oder to test out our safety protocols before opening full time on June 19th. Things have gone fairly smoothly so far, and we have been happy to have lots of "Maine-ahs" on "staycation" stopping by who are out enjoying the myriad of offerings of midcoast Maine.
I recently was notified that I had had two pieces juried into each of two different end of the season statewide juried art shows - ArtinME and the Yarmouth Art Festival. A great way to finish up the Maine summer season!
The opening reception for the Boothbay Region Art Foundation ArtinME annual juried fine art exhibition will be held on Saturday, October 19th from 5-7 PM, and will run through November 23rd. This statewide art show features the work of full and part time Maine artists who work in drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, fiber, and mixed media. The juror for this exhibit was Roy Germon, the manager of Greenhut Galleries in Portland. Both of my sculpture entries, "Unintended Baggage" and "Visceral Torso" were juried into the show.
The 11th Annual Yarmouth Art Festival will take place from October 23rd through the 26th at St. Bartholomew's Church in Yarmouth, with an artists' reception on the 24th from 5:30-7:30 PM. The jurors for this statewide show were Bob Keyes, arts writer for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Anne Haas, art librarian at Bowdoin College, and art curator Wes LaFountain. My plaster relief entries, "Common Ground" and "Quiet Passage" were two of the 170 pieces out of 629 entries accepted for the show. The full show catalogue can be viewed of the festival website at www.yarmouthartfestival.com.
bolt head in with some epoxy and then epoxied a piece of tagboard over the bottom of the "G" to seal the split. Next I tackled the challenge of assembly.
I epoxied one letter on top of another, making each one at a slightly different angle from the one below it. In order to make the junctures more secure and stable, I used Apoxie Clay to "chink" the undercuts between each letter. I coated the entire piece with gesso and then gave it a coat of off-white latex paint. The next step involved using rubber lettering stamps and a sepia colored stamp pad to print dog related words, names, and sounds on each letter form...doggie, pooch, mutt, Spike, Spot, woof, grrrr, etc. Finally, I sealed the form with a coat of clear matt acrylic, and was ready to attach the piece to its base.
For the scuIptures base I decided use a "book-shaped" cutting board that I had put aside a number of years ago. I drilled a hole in the center with a recessed larger opening on the back side so that the bolt could be attached with a nut. I used my letter stamps and some of the off-white paint to print a title ("Dog Tales") on the "binding" edge of the board and then sealed the whole thing with satin polyurethane. I attached the letter form to the base with both epoxy and the bolt. The final step to completing the piece was to add 8 small plastic dogs that I had purchased at a local toy store. I made thin Apoxie clay bases for each dog, painted them a deep green, and attached the dogs to them with epoxy. Four of the dogs were epoxied around bottom letter on the wooden base and each of the other four were epoxied to various levels on the letters. Woof woof! Ready for the show!
DOG DAYS OF SUMMER at SWAG opens with a reception on Aug. 18th (3-5PM) and runs though Labor Day!
Cynthia Smith, Maine artist, originally from Connecticut. Taught art at secondary level for 35 years, retired in 2004. Sculpts in bronze, wood, stone, clay & plaster. Her work can be seen at several mid-coast Maine galleries and shows.