If In Doubt, Get The Journal Out...
Hello again. It's been a while.
Hope everyone's doing OK wherever you may be and whatever that may mean in terms of restrictions.
To update, I'm continuing to look forward to exhibiting my work in an actual physical forum and to have some real face to face conversations with people. I'm trying to think of the present as an opportunity to work on techniques, develop experience and create a body of work worthy of crossing the threshold with me when we finally step back into the world. Saying this, I'm also extremely thankful for all the curators who have accepted my work for digital exhibitions over the past few months as well as those who have purchased work and commissions to keep me busy.
At present I'm still mainly working in ceramics and have been experimenting with different forms of colouring such as developing glaze and oxide recipes. I've also used this time to play with "cold" finishes such as painting techniques inclusive of gilding wax, shellac and pigments.
One thing that I have noticed over the last few months is not only an increase in my already unhealthy attachment to social media, but also the impact this has had in terms of my motivation and creativity. It's plainly obvious that the internet offers a potential goldmine in terms of information tutorials and guidance on just about any creative activity you could think of pursuing. With no formal training I am completely in debt to those influential and talented teachers all over the globe who have shared information, criticism and motivation on this journey. I feel that a problem has developed further down the path on this journey and "time" is probably to blame just as much as the usual target of social media.
After feeling that I have developed a style and technique I was happy with I can't help but feel need to stretch my ability further after viewing so many beautiful pieces online. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that an instinct to develop is necessarily a negative thing, however, I think that the sheer volume and quality of accessible art can produce a fog of inspiration. What should my goal actually be?..
Thought provoking context?
Simplistic yet anatomically accurate sketch work?
Large expressive pieces?
Small detailed pieces?
The list goes on and on.
As so often is the case, I addressed this problem by falling back on one of the most important tools I have.. My journal.
In order to clear my head, I looked back through my work and thought about a realistic and suitable way to progress my work. The danger with jumping over to a completely different style is that you rarely land on the opposite side of the road. In fact, you will most likely land significantly further back than you were.
What I decided to do was note down what inspired me about other pieces and then I thought about how I could apply this to enhance my style of work.
Rather than looking at a piece as a whole and thinking “I LIKE THAT!!.. I MUST DO THAT!” it’s sometimes a more helpful approach to think “I like that... why do I like that?” And “Are the elements I admire in that piece transferrable over to my style of artwork?”
For example, I am still exploring how best to sculpt eyes and bring life to smaller sculptures. I learned that in a great deal of figurative art a more lifelike effect is given through sculpting closed eyes. (it's much easier to sculpt eyelids than try to pick out the intricacies of the eyeball on a thumb sized head). Noticing this trait on ancient Greek statues doesn't necessarily mean that you should begin replicating ancient Greek statues. However, picking out different elements to further your work will have the opposite effect of adding individuality to your pieces.
I'm a strong believer on following my own path and the artwork which really inspires me is that which stands out as really inventive and unique.
So, I guess the lesson here is stay focused on your own creative journey and...
If in doubt get the journal out...
Hope everyone is doing ok following months of isolation and uncertainty! I just wanted to touch base, dust off this site and ensure things are up to date. I’m happy to report that I have FINALLY got into my new little studio following much of the work being paused during lockdown. I’m more or less set up with just a few more units and shelves to put in. This has finally meant that I have been able to set up a kiln and hammer on with some ceramic work.
As documented on here and throughout my Instagram feed, most of my previous work has consisted of resin cast constructions primarily sculpted in oil based clay. It’s been great going back to basics and once again building up my skills using water based clay, oxides and glazes. This also means that I’m able to produce a number of one off pieces and not worry about the lengthy process of creating a mould and casting. As it has been years since I last dabbled with ceramics, I’m really having to go back to basics and change my working style. Over this warming up period I’ve just been focusing on constructing small clay based sketches to get back up to speed and build a bit more confidence with this medium again.
That said, I’m juggling various projects and have started a couple of mixed media pieces which do have some resin cast elements. Having a bit more space and not taking over the kitchen night after night means that I have a bit more freedom to juggle projects and devote more time to sculpting (rather than setting up and clearing everything away at the end of each session).
Aside from the flurry of ceramic sketches I’ve been churning out over lockdown, I’ve also completed a few different projects which I’ll be sure to post on the site gallery this week.
Please have a gander and, as always, if you have any enquiries or questions regarding any of this work please don’t hesitate to give me a shout!
In terms of the work I have been doing recently, I am coming to the near completion of three projects I have been dividing my time between.
The first is a facial portrait I have been working on in sections for quite some time. The furrowed brow of this subject conveys concern, worry and possible sympathy. The form sits at an angle on a white granite base straying from the traditional composition of such pieces, also encouraging the viewer to feel judged, taking the position of “the observed” rather than “the observer”. Avoiding the temptation to create another bronze gilded piece, I returned to the airbrush for this sculpture which I feel was the right decision in bringing greater life to the piece.
Those who follow my Instagram account will already have been introduced to the second piece entitled Scratch. Waking up in the attic one morning my attention was drawn to a tiny imperfection in the paintwork. Trying to make sense of this meaningless shape, my mind formed it into a surreal vison which I quickly sketched down and later reproduced in clay. I believe the psychological term for finding human features in objects is Pareidolia. This is presumably one of these self-defence features of the human mind designed to encourage us to feel more comfortable in isolation. The same reason we see people we know in the faces of strangers when in an unfamiliar environment. I ended up casting Scratch in and double framing the piece in, first a resin cast oval and then a larger box frame. The piece was completed very shortly over the course of three days.
I am yet to finish the last sculpture but hope to find time to cast it this weekend. This piece, entitled Alta Pete, went through a number of different preliminary deigns before I finally settled on the above composition of the sculpt. I originally had the idea for this anthropomorphic form to be balanced on a hand. This was originally intended to be wall hanging and therefore horizontally mounted but quite early on I realised that this wasn’t the best composition of the piece which is now built to be freestanding. The finger pointing upwards represents a domineering presence indicating and instructing the character towards his expected direction. You have wings therefore the expectation is for you to fly. I ‘m happy with the progression of this piece so far and plan to use the same greyscale shading as used on the recent facial portrait I completed.
COVID - 19
I was on annual leave when all this came to a head. Sat in a static caravan enjoying a little peace away from the pressures of a normal routine when all of a sudden the sensible option was to go home. Then a few days later, the lockdown was imposed, and so I didn’t go back into work. Like millions of others I’m now working from home with a list of priorities which differ immensely from those I intended to return to. Juggling work, childcare and the challenging procurement of sanitary products in order to avoid the circulation of this horrific illness which has proven to be much more than “Just like avin a cold”.
Over this period it’s been drawn to my attention that this compulsory lock down has catalysed the creative output of many of my online acquaintances. It is encouraging and inspiring to see individuals using this time positively and, more than that, seeing people who wouldn’t usually have the opportunity to sit with their children or partners and dedicate time to an activity which quite frankly is not viewed as a priority in the modern daily routine.
Given the luxury of spare time, we are drawn towards creative activities whether for the cathartic and therapeutic gains, the opportunity to entertain a toddler for half an hour or the pure enjoyment of it. Be it the creation of a contemporary sculpture or a simple painting of a rainbow, every new creation is a positive addition to the world and a reminder of one of our most basic instincts. The instinct to create.
Back to Basics..
Blog’s feel a little outdated these days taking into account platforms such as Instagram or facebook. But I’m happy to keep on tapping out these infrequent posts here, in my little corner of the internet. I can’t keep up with the ever scrolling infinity of all those apps some days. The questioning of what’s reality and what’s not. All of those avocados. Some days all I want is a lovely old, boring, static blog… far away from everyone else’s nights out, children and avocados. Now, I’m not saying I don’t get involved with all of that. I’m not saying that on certain days I don’t want to watch a “He covered his fiesta in expanding foam and guess what happened next?” video… or some long winded recipe that inevitably ends with a doughy lump being broken into two and gooey cheese oozing out. I’ll happily post and consume all of that stuff when I feel the need. But for the moment, I want to step away from all of that and write a blog in a this dusty corner, this cyber cranny..
So that’s what I’m going to do..
Lately I’ve been trying to unravel years of bad habits. I got to a point with sculpture where I felt like I was spending hours on detail without ever truly feeling happy about the result. The lightbulb moment came when I attended a life drawing session a few weeks ago. The first few model poses were held for just three minutes. Initially, I tinkered away with a fine line pencil, messing about with detail and ending up with barely a head by the end of the first pose. Next I decided to simplify my picture, concentrating on the model’s position in order to capture the full pose but simplified. The first few of these were all over the place. Perspective went out of the window and unfamiliar poses led to the creation of new bodily joints and bendy Stretch Armstrong bodies. Again and again I felt uncontrollably drawn towards scribbling in the finer facial details. I reflected on this as being an attempt to try to make the sketch appear finished, more impressive or credible.
I realised that I was drawing with paranoia. I was drawing for someone else rather than myself and what was panicking me was the awareness of a clear need to step backwards into a world of trial and error. A world full of pages and pages of embarrassing mistake making and messy drawings. I’ve since filled around three pads with pictures that will never see the light of day again and I intend to keep going. This exercise will undoubtedly lead to a reconfiguration of approach when planning a sculpture as I’ve come to the realisation that the outline, the base structure and proportions are the most important part of the process. You can add as much detail as you want to a wonky structure and it’ll never look right. In fact, sometimes it looks hilarious*.
In order to carry this ethos across to the medium of sculpture, I’ve placed a much larger emphasis upon physical form, muscle structure and proportions. I achieved this through making a set of three sculptures which are the clay equivalent of sketches (or maquettes). The most painful part of this process has been setting a time limit and working within this boundary, however, on the flipside, this current system is beneficial in that you don’t need much spare time to commit to a project.
So in summary.. For the moment, I’m going to strip things backs to basics and relearn some key skills around scale and proportions. If these basic principles are applied, it appears that the need for detail becomes far less important.
*(Please refer to the artwork of napoleon dynamite)
Well... After recently having to renew this domain name I thought it appropriate to actually post something on here which, if it were a room, would once again be a shabby, unkempt dusty hovel of a site. Be that as it may, I thought it was time to touch base with all those peering through the cracks.
The truth is, at present, there is no physical spare room within which to potter (be it fausty or otherwise). We are presently sitting within a corrugated labyrinth of possessions awaiting a new home. A process which is taking so long, I'm wondering whether we should have just jumped straight towards purchasing an adapted, warden controlled bungalow in order to house our soon to be fragile elderly bodies.
I do, however, look forward to setting up a new upgraded spare room, and starting some larger, more challenging projects once things settle at the other end.
In the meantime...
I've spent the last few months experimenting with oil based clay, rather than the air-dry "primary school" clay I began working with. This was partly inspired through picking back up an elephant sculpt I abandoned in a corner a couple of years ago. The beauty of this stuff is it never drys or cracks or becomes unmanageable over time. In this respect, it fits better my recent situation of working in short bursts over a very long period of time. The only problem seems to be focusing on one project, especially for someone who quickly transfers his enthusiasm from one project to "the next big idea". I'm having to develop a new found discipline in seeing projects through.. this has always been a problem..
All the ideas and none of the motivation.. that's me.
Not to get too massively geeky or dull but I've also managed to develop a much cheaper method of molding clay statues into resin. This mainly uses cheaper DIY silicone. Basically, this means that I've been able to produce a greater number moulds which means that I'm free to produce casts of some of the more experimental clay "sketches" I make. I suppose one perspective of this is that I'm now able to immortalise any old crap I come up with rather than the best of the bunch. I quite like this fact.. A demonstration of this can be seen in the Orchid series I produced a couple of months ago (I'll post this images on the main menu). I really enjoy replicating organic shapes and movements and these represent that. In an opportunity to once again produce something a bit less traditional (and a bit more odd) each was sculpted in a few hours and the series was cast and painted in less than a week. I've since moved on to a piece named Eve that hopefully sits somewhere between this organic approach and and a more traditional style. This sculpt is finished but not yet moulded into resin.. I'm not going to spoff reams of pretentious waffle about the inspiration behind the piece, but I will state that it has a great deal to do with strength and confidence and barely anything at all to do with religion, the bible or the price of fish...
Goodbye.. Much love X
Two Little Dickie Birds
What beautiful colours the end of the day brings us. A display so hypnotic even the careless pink wave of a worms arse below us is noted but ignored. Dessert sinks carelessly between the blades of grass and back down into the cool rich earth to rest. I glance over at Paul who examines the burnt orange horizon as if to doubt that the sun should sink and the day should end. I kick some salt from the top of this crusty brick wall to break the spell.
Paul doesn’t break form. Instead he lets out a small sigh and closes his eyes for slightly more than a second “ I can’t sing today”. With a tilt of the head his line of sight once again focuses upon the horizon.
“Why?” I respond, slightly confused at Paul’s logic.
“We sing every morning and every evening. Why not today?”
“Something’s changed today, it just doesn’t feel the same” sighed Paul.
“But... but.. it’s all still here!” I throw out one wing as if to introduce the idyllic landscape set before us, a landscape that up until now Paul has admired and absorbed and provided ambience to on many a spring evening”
“What do you mean it’s all still here?” Paul finally turns to face me.
“It’s all here Paul. The sun rose this morning just as it’s sinking back down now. None of the things that made you happy yesterday have gone, they’re all here, they’re all still here. It’s just sometimes they’re harder to see”.... “so you shouldn’t worry and you shouldn’t be sad. It’s all still here. Please don’t be sad”.
“Thank you” Paul shook his head “ I’m sorry for letting you down today, maybe it’ll come back tomorrow”.
“I hope so. I enjoy singing but it’s far more enjoyable to sing together”.
“I’m going now, you coming?”
“No” replied Paul, I’m going to sit it out until the end today.. I’ll see you in the morning”.
“Things always look better in the morning”. I attempt a parting expression which sits somewhere between cheerful, concerned and sympathetic. My lack of facial muscles fail in communicating this effectively. Paul nods and turns back towards the last slither of gold disappearing over the distant hills.
“Comeback Paul” I whisper before jumping up into the sky and sailing into the evening.
Every Now and Again I Pop Back Up..
Once again there has been a significant delay in the brain to keyboard to transference that is this blog. I could explain this by stating that spare time has been dramatically distilled down of late following the birth of my son... which has been an amazing experience however not terribly conducive to spending large amounts of time shut away, sculpting the faces of the deceased and filling the house with the toxic stench of noxious chemicals.. I have been chipping away and tinkering during the odd moment but now things are settling slightly.. (Ha!).. this seemed as good a time as any to get caught up. I’ll just try to summarise the last few projects I’ve been dabbling with over this time.
Firstly, as a small extension of the woodland “series” I toyed with a few years ago I ran a small number of Great Grey Owl mounted portraits. Following the usual process these have been sculpted, hand cast in resin then bronzed... because I bronze everything these days. Following this, I continued the run of framed Charles Darwin Portraits which have proved to be the most popular to date and, further inspired by this, I’m just finishing off an extremely short run of portraits of the Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden who (continuing the theme of drastically summarising everything) drained a bog and built a community.
Also, whilst I’m catching up, a large belated thank you to Kath and Bill at Goole Framing Gallery who have stocked some of my pieces. Please check out their website (or actual physical real shop) which presents a vast treasure trove of vintage prints and framing services. https://www.galleryframinggoole.co.uk
I’d also like to thank those who took the time to send kind messages, questions and comments. I do appreciate it and I always try to respond as soon as possible! As always, if there’s any piece you are interested in give me a shout through one of the various means of futuristic digital communication.
(Please remember I use my instagram account to document the whole process from sculpture to casting to painting to mounting and all that jazz)
Right bed time!
2017.. Here we go again...
A list of empty promises in the name of 2017..
1. Eat more fruit.
2. Attempt to socialise more using hot beverages
3. Exercise.. without using the specific amount of calories burned as a reward after exercising.
4. Learn how to program the timer on the central heating.
5. Speak to the internet more.
Hello the internet...
Yes, it’s been a while... I was busy.
As planned, I did finish the hare sculpture I’ve been working on and I’m pretty pleased with how it’s turned out. As I’m relatively new to the process of mould making this was quite a difficult form to replicate. There were a fair few prototype casualties (It was a bit like Watership Down in here at one point) but with a bit of tweaking I was able to finally achieve the result I was hoping for. Following this, I’ve now finished the mould for a hedgehog sculpture in a similar style. I sculpted both of these models originally in clay and then produced a limited number of copies cast in a silicone mould. All of this series have been cast using bronze resin as this seems to be the most fitting. In fact, every project I worked on at the latter end of the year has now been cast in bronze resin.
As the process of creating moulds is about as enjoyable and arduous as dry stone walling in a gale I made the decision to begin a few portraits alongside this task (told you I’d been busy). With no original intension of replicating these images, I developed a particular fondness for a facial portrait of Charles Darwin I completed and, as one more mould didn’t seem like a great deal of extra work, I created a latex imprint of the original sculpture. I’ve now begun production of a short run of framed copies which again have been cast in yet more bronze resin.
I’m aiming to produce a limited run of 10 copies of each sculpture which I shall be selling. Each copy is hand cast from the original sculpture and then hand painted and constructed. I’m not yet completely savvy with the process of selling online and to date have only been doing so through private enquiries on instagram.. I can add the construction of an online shop to my list of new year resolutions. Obviously if you wish to enquire about anything please just send me a message either through this site or my instagram account.
Looking through this site I do feel that it has gained a bit of dust. I’ll make an effort to update the sections to include pretty new pictures of my work along with the 2016 sketchbook.
Lets hope this this mad world begins to compose itself... *touch wood*
A Catch up - (Standing in Gardens)
Section 1 – A Lack of Apology
I usually begin a blog entry with an apology for not updating this page regularly enough. I’ve decided that I’m going to stop doing that as from this post. Apologising I mean, not neglecting this webpage. Of late this web page has been so neglected, if it were a cat it would be dead.. not just dead but it would probably have reached the compost stage of decomposition. As this web page is not a cat I am comfortable in abandoning it for a few months to whine and scratch in a dark corner of the internet until I can be bothered to scrape it up and tap out some more meaningless gumph to an audience I could probably count on one paw.
Section 2 – Horsforth Walk of Art
Horsforth Walk of Art was an event that took place a long time ago back in July. I didn’t write a blog about it at the time and I’m not sorry for that. Many, Many local artists and performers took part in this massive event displaying work in public spaces and gardens and providing hands on activities and demonstrations. Luckily, I have a very generous friend who was able to offer me use of his garden in order to display most of my work and (after carefully transporting boxes and boxes of delicate morbid sculptures) allowed me to stand next to them while absolute strangers walked in and out of his garden. A brilliant part of this process was being able to interact with people and seek opinions and criticism rather than hide behind the safety of the internet. In order to give you an idea of some of the comments I received I’ve compiled a list of my favourite feedback .. (All true)
“Ï appreciate the talent it takes to make something like this.. but I wouldn’t want it in my house” – (Man in Blue Coat)
“Urgghh.. I wouldn’t want that on my mantelpiece” (Man in Green Coat)
“Ohhh my God! What a nice big garden” (Lady in Green Hat)
“I really have no idea what the hell any of this means but my son did something similar once” (Man in Trilby)
In addition to chatting with people about what they would, or would not put on their mantelpiece, my extremely patient wife and I also ran a small sculpting activity group. This enabled both children and adults to have an opportunity to try their hand at clay sculpture. Through doing this I learnt many many things...
1.If you put a lump of clay in front of a child it makes them quiet.
2.If you put a lump of clay in front of an adult they become either competitive or uncomfortable.
3.Given a lump of clay most children will make a mouse.
4.The clay owl is lying on its back because it is tired.. it is not dead.
5.The Weirdopus is the king of all monsters.
Overall, it was a extremely enjoyable (but tiring) weekend and I was genuinely touched by the amount of strangers, friends and family who took the time to pop in. My only regret is that I didn’t have chance to look around all of the other exhibitions. I shall be sure to escape next time and have a proper gander.
Section 3 – Woodland Series
Just for the sake of trying something different I’ve started a series of woodland animals in clay. I’m going to cast these in the next few weeks/ months so I’ll be sure to provide an update of my progress via Instagram (which I do actually keep quite up to date). Early feedback has been very positive, especially concerning the suspended Running Hare sculpture I am currently working on. This is apparently considered mantelpiece friendly and, in addition, I've also been infomed that Hares are "well trendy at the moment" so that's a bonus. When completed, I’m going to paint the resin casts up in autumn colours and I should then have enough to place a limited number on etsy along with the Advocate figurines mentioned in the last blog. I’ll put a gallery of all these items on this site which is long overdue a tidy up.
This is the end of this blog.. I shall return when I have both more to say and the motivation to type it. Thank you for persisting to the end of these ramblings.
The Advocates and Walking in Horsforth
For a while now I’ve been toying around with the idea of moulding and casting while searching for a form which is simple to reproduce. I first attempted this process (with varying degrees of success) last year in trying to replicate my old friend Boris the goblin*. On this occasion I managed to produce ONE successful copy while destroying the original... I suppose in that respect all I achieved really was a clone of a goblin.. An expensive and time consuming process which proved to be of no benefit whatsoever.
I have now moved on from this experience and created a small “series” entitled The Advocates.
Each of these three characters is dealing with a separate dilemma.. illness, depression, and frustration. I designed the Advocates in order to present a group of individuals each having their own tiny dilemma. They exist to evoke a little solace in the fact that there’s always someone worse of than ourselves.. to provide a little comfort and empathy.. all wrapped up in a small desktop companion.
This series represents “round two” and gave me the opportunity to have another bash at moulding. In order to reproduce this series I needed to get my head around the process of constructing a mould out of silicone and casting copies. Overall, I have discovered this process to be extremely boring... no fun at all.. monotonous.. and at times dangerous. To reproduce copies of the air dry clay originals (which are quite fragile) I chose to cast them in a far more sturdy laminating resin. I carefully picked this material by searching the word “resin” on amazon and picking the cheapest product. I now have a room full of stinky resin copies which are awaiting painting. Not that it’s been a simple process. Many a hard lesson has been learnt over the past couple of weeks inclusive of an event whereby I nearly unintentionally exterminated the household with hazardous fumes and an odd “carry on-esque” debacle that began with me spilling corrosive chemicals on my trousers and ended with someone having a relaxing bath rudely interrupted.. (the less said about this event the better).
Anyway.. Success is a relative term and as far as I’m concerned the battle is won. I shall complete a webpage section as always once they are all painted up and ready to flee the nest..
Which brings me onto the fact that I shall be exhibiting some of my work as part of Horsforth Walk of Art on the 2nd to 3rd of July. It’s a fantastic event which gives artists an opportunity to present and sell their work within the community and I’m really excited to be part of it this year. If you can make it please come down and have a chat and a skeg around.. I’ll probably harp on a bit more about this in the next post anyway.
Here’s a link with more information about the event as well as a list of all the artists taking part..
* Boris is a failed experiment in clay and nothing more than this.. (see Boris section for more details)
Organic Sculpture... and the Sadness of Clumsiness
I’m sorry. There’s been a very prominent lull in my motivation following the Christmas period. I blame the depressing weather, lack of tinsel and abundance of airborne viral infections for this.. Although I think I’m over it now.. Plus it’s pancake day soon. Anyway, I have managed to muster some creative enthusiasm and (for those who haven’t been bombarded with shaky 3am Instagram pictures) come up with a new series of surrealist sculptures. I use the word “series” incredibly loosely as, to be honest, they’re one statue away from being “a couple of sculptures” but, whatever, three’s a series.. well a trilogy.... over thinking this... shut up!
I started working on this style all the way back last year when I was playing about with constructing an organic form sat upon a much more structured cube. I liked the contrast between the two completely different styles and the challenge to marry them into one form, each complimenting the other. I was obviously so inspired and excited by this initial prototype that I dropped it on the floor and failed to revisit the idea for four months or so.. It’s a horrible feeling dropping something you’ve worked on for hours. I saw a documentary on the sculptor Henry Moore who, upon breaking one of his sculptures whilst transporting it, said something like “it came from nothing, so why should I be sad when it returns”.. I lack this philosophical insight.. when I drop a sculpture it makes me sad.. and angry.. Some people break things when they’re angry.. I simply mourn the loss of the things I have broken.. and their return to nothingness.. and wear black for a few days... and drink a bit.. then move on.. Slowly.
So eventually, upon coming out of mourning, I finished this “series” of three sculptures all of whom seem very possessive of their allocated objects. Each figure is a representation of a different human emotion and all are modelled using air dry clay and then painted using a combination of airbrush and... well.. normal brush. I’m hoping to extend this series and revisit developing moulds so that I can produce some copies. Hopefully, this will open the opportunity to produce some to sell or give away or hide in people’s gardens. Anyway, I’ll put more pictures and hopefully a more concise description on the site as soon as I develop the motivation to do so.
Love Pete x