Wednesday, 29 October 2014

#578 In the Field: Birds of the North Country

Our season in Canada is over and the island studio on
 Lake of the Woods is cold and dark now.  Like many of the birds
. . . we, too are headed south.

The cabin has been drained and closed up for the winter
and as we cross the Canadian border, I'm thinking about the
coming frigid weather that will soon envelope the North Country.

The cold weather came early this year yet there were sunny and mild fall days in October for crappie fishing and walking the logging roads in search of grouse . . .
on cold, blustery days we worked in the studio by the warmth of a birch fire.
Some years we've stayed into November until the shallow bays  start skimming with ice but the Wyoming studio is waiting and there's work to be done there.

Below, is an original watercolor- tinted etching entitled, "Down From Canada".
Also shown is a pair of etchings entitled, "Dabbling Duck Decoys and "Dving Duck Decoys".
These etchings, like so many of my wildlife etchings, were inspired by time spent in the North Country.

As the days shortened and became colder, many birds left . . . the pelicans and some shorebirds
headed south in September and the loons soon followed in October.  A few migrants remain but as the
lake freezes, they leave and search for open water, more moderate climate, and their eventual nesting area.
Geese, ducks, cormorants, gulls, terns, and a few other migrants have either left or soon will be on their way south.
Mergansers can be seen in the fall and among the last ducks to migrate are the hardy little Bufflehead and bluebills.

The distant pop of shotguns can be heard in the mornings and evenings
as hunters pick up lingering Mallards, Scaup (called bluebills), and Canada Geese.  

Below, is an image of an American White Pelican taken in September not far from our island
 before the beautiful birds started their journey south.
It is estimated that more than 15% of White Pelicans in the hemisphere nest on Lake of the Woods.

Below, a flotilla of mergansers as well as Canada Geese, and a resident loon with it's rich black
color changed to a seasonal dull gray, can routinely be seen off the point in front of the cabin during the fall.
Migrant species disappear slowly as their numbers trickle out with the coming cold weather.

Below, is an image of cormorants drying their wings with gulls close by.
Sketches from my ever-present sketchbook are also shown.

Three major biomes are in confluence in the Lake of the Woods region, resulting in a great diversity of bird life.
The thousands of uninhabited and remote islands offer great habitat to over
300 species of birds at one time of the year or another.

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

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

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

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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

Please see the previous blog for more information regarding the Trumpeter Swan sculpture.

The focus of this blog post is bird anatomy.  An in-depth discussion about the anatomy of birds, flight, and wing
structure can be found by going to the BLOG INDEX and visiting previous posts about bird anatomy.  These posts are a wealth of information regarding birds and provide insight into bird anatomy feather groupings, aerodynamics, and more.

A bird's wing can be compared to the human arm as shown below, but is modified for flying.

Unlike humans, the wrist joint automatically bends when the elbow joint is bent
and the wrist joint straightens when the elbow joint is straightened.

Below,  much can be learned about how the wing joints articulate by moving
and manipulating a supermarket chicken's wing back and forth and up and down.
The photo below is looking down on the bird . . . the upper surface of the wing.
Note, the bird's elbow . . . this is the thickest part of the wing.
Compare the photo below with the drawing above.
The flap of skin between the wrist and the inboard end of the humerus area
prevents the wing from straightening out - thus tiring - the bird in flight.
This tendon supports the leading edge of the wing and is connected to the pectoral muscle.
The 10 primary flight feathers are attached to the bird's "hand".

The bird artist must understand bird anatomy, wing structure, and feather groups.
The creature is covered with feathers but the artist must know what is
going on underneath all the feathers in order to breath life into the art.
The sculptor must assist the viewer in understanding bird locomotion
by understanding how the joints articulate.

Below, is an image of a recently completed sculpture depicting a Trumpeter Swan.
Also shown, are drawings and photographs that were helpful in actualizing the work.

The drawing below is the underside of the bird's wing.
Note the tendon between the pectoral muscle and the wrist . . .
it supports the leading edge of the wing.

Below, note the bulge below the swans's neck . . . this is the crop and NOT the pectoral muscles.
Always locate the pectorals between the bird's wings for they are the engine that drives the wings.

To learn more about the subjects go to the links below.

For a complete list of the blog index go to the Index Page and
type the subject in the Search This Blog link on the upper right.

Blog, text, photos, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott and Trish
A source for bird anatomy images for this blog is "Manual of Ornithology" by Noble Proctor and Patrick Lynch and additional anatomical reference used can be found by going to the link Post #616
Also, "Zoobooks" are another excellent reference resource and have routinely been referred to while preparing this educational blog for students and artists.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

#575 The studio in Canada: Trumpeter Swan sculpture

Eight years ago, I started a sculpture of a swan at the island studio on Lake of the Woods in Canada.  I finished the piece
this year and now there is an empty space where the clay
model sat during those years.  The mold was started two
weeks ago on the piece and now it is in a box waiting to be transported to Wyoming for the plaster mother-mold jacket.

I miss seeing it in it's familiar place, silhouetted by the
light in the east window.  I will also miss walking over
to it and perhaps tweaking a primary feather or
adjusting the turn of the graceful head.
Every year, as I left the island studio in
Canada, I would give it one last look . . .
and it was there in the window
waiting for me every summer.

Shown on left, is an image of the swan
taken a few years ago in it's beginning stage.

Below, is a photo of the swan in progress this summer as I made the commitment to complete it.

 While the studio in Canada is small and typically there are only three or four works going on at once, the Wyoming
studio is a large space and easily accommodates my working method of having many sculptures in progress at one time.
  Over fifty works are currently there in various stages of completion . . . some will never be completed and molded while some will be taken from a shelf after sitting many years and may be finished in a day or so.

 The reason for completing a previously started and then abandoned block-in is complex but usually has to do with inspiration, realization, or a learning experience about the individual species or design.   Perhaps a show deadline or a gallery request for the subject will encourage revisiting a piece . . . some are just not worthy of completing.   Also, I'll admit that the design stage - or block-in stage - is my favorite aspect of creating sculpture and many times, I'll simply put a started model aside until I get "jazzed" about finishing it . . . that is, if the idea was good in the first place!

Regarding the swan, inspiration was definitely a factor.  While visiting Yellowstone several times this year,
 I experienced the elegant Trumpeter Swan and, captivated by its beauty,  was "jazzed" to get to the island studio
in Canada and work on the sculpture!  When an artist is "jazzed", the work flows easily.

 Below, are images and drawings from recent trips from Yellowstone which is a little over two hours from my studio.
The Trumpeter is almost identical to, although smaller than the Tundra Swan which I had seen many times in Alaska.

Below, is another image of the Trumpeter Swan on the studio deck.
The model remained there
as the sun set and light faded . . . allowing study of the figure's silhouette.

I plan to resize and create a larger sculpture of the swan in the near future and waiting for me at the Wyoming studio are photos taken and generously loaned to me by friend and fellow artist Greg Beecham . . .
his paintings of swans are inspirational and are the finest I have ever seen.

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

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

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

#574 The studio in Canada: more about making molds . . .

The previous blog is about the creation of the Cody quick-draw bull that was transported to the island studio in 
Canada last month and the clay model can be seen on that post . . .  this post follows the mold making process.  
Mold making was discussed in post # 572, October 8, 2014.  Today's post will supplement 
# 572 with additional data and tips about making flexible parting molds.  
Please review the basic mold making procedure in post # 572.

The focus of this blog includes a more in-depth presentation about SHIMMING THE RUBBER MOLD to make a parting line or seam.  While the shimming process was discussed in post #572,  this blog will include Trish's tips - based upon over 20 years of experience - for making a flexible parting mold.

Last year, Trish taught mold making in conjunction with one of my bird sculpture and anatomy workshops.
We both learned that by far, the shimming and creation of a seam line or parting line in order to open
the mold is the most difficult concept to understand for beginning students.

Simply put:  The rubber mold must be shimmed to create a parting line or seam. . . this seam is where the mold
is divided into two sides.   The mold must be parted or separated to remove the wax replica of the sculpture
after liquid wax has been poured into the mold and cooled.

At right, the Cody bull is shown with the first coat of rubber being applied. Please refer to the previous  post for information about the creation of this sculpture.

Trish's tip:  Note the rope of clay that surrounds the model on the mold board . . . this serves as a "dam" to catch the rubber before it cures and sets up.

Shown at right, two coats of rubber have been applied, have setup and cured and the mold is now ready to shim . . .
shimming is done before the third coat of rubber.

Trish's tip:  Draw lines on the sculpture to approximate where the shims will be placed and the mold will separate . . . be careful not to make the parting seam across sensitive areas - such as eyes or deep negatives - that the artist has modeled.

Shown at right, wax-coated paper cups are cut and flattened out.  The "keys" are plastic trays that pharmacists use in drugstores to hold pills.  The keys lock the two sides together.

The paper cup shim is cut into a shape that follows the figure as shown below.  Keys are  inserted into the shim by cutting a rectangle so the key fits snug.  . . use an x-acto knife here.  The key is then taped down on all sides. The shim is applied to the outside of the rubber mold along the seam and attached into the rubber with dressmaker pins.

Below, the keyed shim pieces are taped and stapled together forming a continuous seam.
A piece of sprue wax has been added between the figure's leg and tail . . . this "gate" or channel will cause the liquid wax to flow into the outer portions of the mold more effectively.
Note the wax pour spout behind the figure's left leg and centered on the belly.

Above, the shimming has been completed and the thick shim coat - coat # 3 - will be applied.
The last coat is applied after the shim coat sets up and cures.

Trish's tip:  Use the best pair of scissors you can afford . . . I use a small pair of German 
quilter's scissors and a larger pair of Case shears.

Trish's tip:  Take the extra time to do it right . . . no short cuts.  

Remember - the mold is now the original of the sculptor's creation.

Note:  Before hot, liquid wax is poured into the mold, the two sides of the rubber mold must be encased in a plaster "mother-mold" to give rigidity and support to the flexible rubber.   After the liquid wax is poured into the mold and
has cooled, the two sides must be divided or separated and the wax replica of the artist's sculpture is removed.
Making a mother-mold will be discussed at a later date.

Molding and sculpture supplies are available at Sculpture Depot in Loveland, Colorado.

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

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

Sunday, 12 October 2014

#573 The studio in Canada: Cody quick-draw . . . planning

Last month I modeled a "quick-draw" sculpture depicting a domestic bull at the Buffalo Bill Art Show in Cody, Wyoming.  
For more information about the event and the creation of
the work, go to blog #567, posted on September 21, 2014.

The focus of this blog is my method of
planning and executing a "quick-draw".


Quick-draw paintings and sculptures are popular with collectors at art shows . . . prospective buyers love
seeing artists under pressure to create a "work of art" in an hour.  To prevent your creation from being
a dubious achievement and to make the "quick-draw" experience interesting and rewarding for
both you and the collector, your success ratio dramatically improves with sufficient planning.

I've participated in many "quick-draws" over the years and my most successful efforts have been achieved
by modeling subjects that I am very familiar with or of subjects I had recently worked with.

While a live model can be beneficial, with only an hour to work . . . many times they are simply a distraction
unless there's a handler and several artists are working from the same model.  Also, the animal rarely strikes the
gesture or pose you wish to present . . .  especially birds.   I've found that a live model works best for painters.

A drawing or even a few lines such as shown below will keep you focused.

Below is an image of the "quick-draw" in progress.

When planning your creation, keep the design simple 
and present a strong silhouette of the figure.  I try to 
squint down on my work, eliminate unimportant detail, 
and strive to make the species of the animal recognizable 
from a distance.  This is especially important when 
the clay model is shown to the auction audience and a strong impression must be made from he stage and from a distance. 

Earlier this year I modeled another domestic bull and 
cast it for the Cody show.  The anatomy and overall 
"feel" of the subject had already been researched and 
addressed so it was logical for me to create another 
design of the animal at the "quick-draw".  
Although smaller, I used a similar pose, gesture, 
and overall dynamic of the original design.

Shown below, is the catalogue entry created earlier this year that 
was sold in this year's Cody show entitled, "Taurus Rex".

Taurus Rex
19"H 16"W 8"D

After the "quick-draw," painters sign their work and the winning bidder takes their treasure home.
Sculptors must return to the studio with their creation, make a mold and cast the clay model in bronze.
Multiple castings are available to sell at the auction which typically makes it a cost-effective proposition for the sculptor.

Below, are images of the "quick-draw" clay model ready to mold at the Canadian island studio last week.
I have repaired damage and dings to the soft clay model that occurred during transport from Wyoming.

To learn more about the subjects go to the links below.

For a complete list of the blog index go to the Index Page and
type the subject in the Search This Blog link on the upper right.

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

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

#572 The studio in Canada: making the "First Season Promise" mold

This summer and early fall while at the island studio on
Lake of the Woods in Canada, I created a sculpture
entitled "First Season Promise".   The focus of this
blog is making a rubber mold of the sculpture.

 For more information about creating
"First Season Promise",  please go to
posts # 562 and # 563, posted on September 3
and September 7, 2014 while at the island studio in Ontario.

Below, is are images of the completed clay model of "First Season Promise".


Before the sculpture can be cast in bronze, a rubber mold must be made of the original clay model.
After the mold is made, the original clay model is typically dismantled and clay is returned to the clay box for future use. 

To make a mold of a clay model sculpture for the foundry to use in the lost wax process of casting in bronze,
most mold makers employ recent technology and use silicone rubber.  We use Polytek and typically buy
5 gallons at a time . . . although it is available in a 1 gallon container.  This product does not require
a release agent and can be thickened to desired consistency with TinThix TenSil liquid additive.

Below, are images of Polytek TilSil 80-30 RTV Silcone Rubber, parts A and B.
The small white container is 70 series TinThix TenSil liquid thickener additive.

Trish is an excellent mold maker and has made my molds for many years.
Below, she carefully measures part A and part B and applies the first coat of rubber -  called the "print coat" -  to the clay model. The first coat is thinner than the other four coats, has no thickener in it, and picks up all of the surface detail.

It takes approximately 2 to 6 hours for each coat to set up . . . this cure time is dependent upon temperature and humidity.  Note the oval clay "dam" she has made to keep the thin rubber contained while it cures.

Show below,  the first coat of thin rubber has cured and set up.

Thickener is carefully measured and added to the second coat and the second coat is applied.
Each coat requires a new brush as the rubber sets up in the brush in use and must be discarded.
We use natural bristle 1" industrial grade chip brushes available at Harbor Freight.

Below, the second coat has been applied and has cured . . . it is now ready to be shimmed.

Before the third coat of rubber can be applied, the piece must be shimmed.
Shown below, is the shimming process and the application of the thick shim coat.
Shimming is necessary to part or separate both sides of the mold after wax has been
poured into the mold by the foundry.  After the wax hardens in the mold, the mold is opened and the wax replica of the sculpture is removed.  The casting process then proceeds.
Note, the "seam-marks" where the mold parted will be taken off of the wax replica by the foundry.

Below, waxed paper cups are carefully trimmed to follow the contour or edge where the mold will open or part.
Note: Be sure to use waxed-coated paper cups . . . the rubber will not release from unwaxed cups.

Below, clear plastic "keys" will hold the two sides firmly together while wax is poured into
the  mold at the foundry . . . the keys are taped and held in place by the third coat of rubber.

The wax replica of the artist's clay model is so exact that it can include the artist's fingerprints!

Below, the thick shim coat - or third coat - is being applied.

 Shown below all five coats have now been applied and the mold is ready to be taken off the island and go back to the Lander studio for a plaster jacket to be made . . .
the jacket will hold the rubber mold firmly in place while wax is poured into it.

Note: We do not make plaster jackets at the Canada island studio due to transporting weight, the mess, and
mainly because the algae bloom in the lake water keeps the plaster from setting up and hardening properly.

Making the plaster jacket will be posted in a future blog.
We will also follow the sculpture throughout the entire bronze casting foundry process in upcoming posts.

Molding and sculpture supplies are available at Sculpture Depot in Loveland, Colorado.

To learn more about the subjects go to the links below.

For a complete list of the blog index go to the Index Page and
type the subject in the Search This Blog link on the upper right.

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