Sunday, 26 October 2014

#577 The studio in Canada: Trumpeter Swan, con't . . .

Please go to blog #575, posted October 19, 2014 for more information about the Trumpeter Swan sculpture.  Blog #575 focuses on field work and inspiration, #576 on bird anatomy.  
This post focuses on artistic considerations and
art technique in figurative sculpture.  
Making the swam mold will be discussed in a future blog.
Please go to the BLOG INDEX for 
information about bird anatomy.

The goal of the figurative artist is to create a work of art as opposed to a specimen of the subject.
While there are outstanding works of art out there that show every detail, particularly in wood carving,
the more the artist knows, the more that can be eliminated.

Soft, buttery clay lends itself to a more spontaneous modeling technique and indicating every feather
on the surface of the sculpture can interrupt the sweep of the wing, the feeling of lightness, lift, and flight.
Too much detail can simply freeze the wing without creating the sensation of movement.
While quickly executed and direct modeling can give life and vitality to the work, the sculptor must refrain
 from sloppy representation of form and surface,

Below, is an image of a Trumpeter Swan sculpture in progress.

Below, is a detail of the swan's lifted wing, I have exaggerated and suggested the placement of the underlying radius and ulna to indicate the bird's wing structure.  I paid special attention to the thickness of the wing where the humerus joins the forearm in order to convey to the viewer the internal structural strength needed to raise the enormous wings.
The elbow is the thickest part of the wing.

         Like most bird artists, I know every set of feathers ad every feather within the set and I know where they go:             The primaries, secondaries, tertials, alula, coverts, axillars, scapulars, etc. My approach is to perceive and present the wing as a solitary shape or form COMPRISED of these feather groups.  I'm careful not to add too much detail and arrest movement . . . typically, I simply suggest the different sets of feathers in their proper place.  More can be said, artistically, with large shapes and form than with any amount of detail and I constantly edit out detail and overstatement.

Below, is an image suggesting the forward thrust of the birds pectoral muscles and body as it lifts it's immense wings.
The bulge below the neck area indicates the crop and the pectorals are between the wings.

The figurative artist must always keep the subject's skeleton in mind . . .
 my dear friend and great animal artist, Bob Kuhn once said:  "If the artist knows the animal's anatomy,
 he can create a moose sitting cross-legged at a bar drinking a martini".

Go to the BLOG INDEX on the right for more information. 

Blog, text, photos, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott and Trish


  1. As a student, your comment that figurative artists seek to "create art not a specimen of the subject" was profound and really spoke to me. It was like a whack on the side of my head and gave me a new filter through which to view my work and challenge my thinking about my approach. Thank you.

    It may be too elementary for others but I would welcome you to take that one step further an de-construct your statement further. What factors or views or discernment do you apply to evaluating a piece as art versus a specimen?

    Thanks again for the quality of your blog. It is a great learning tool for me.

  2. To SVines: You have made my day and please know that my blog is for you and those like you who love art. I would like to use your comment in an upcoming blog in the near future in my "Throw on Another Log" commentary. May I have your permission to post it in the blog? Thank you for your interest and your kind words . . . your input is appreciated.