20″h x 15″w x 7″d
Fired ceramic, rubbed pigment and wax patina, wall mount.
I’ve been working on publicity for our Valentines season double weekend show in our new Venetian Red Gallery space, so haven’t had much time to sculpt recently, but I did accomplish something, something I’ve been stressing over for months — figuring out how to patina my new series. I experimented on a couple of small test heads, then got up my nerve and patinaed the above pictured “Orangutan.”
Feb 22 addendum: Now I’m painting. Yes, painting…painting faces, on cardboard. Um hm, I did say cardboard. As in corrugated. Because I just wanted something to quickly experiment on, and there was a nice box at hand. And now I kind of like the mid-tone ground, the absorbency, the repurposing. Not sure if I’ll post photos (which would only serve to document my current state of digression from whatever trajectory I was on before).
After watching myself from afar…well, not that far…for many decades, I’ve noticed some patterns within my disorganization. My current position in the creative cycle I call “scrabbling.” Like what you would do if you were stuck in a mud bog…try to scrabble your way forward. Or what you would do to the side walls of a pit you’re stuck in: try to scrabble your way out. Scrabbling is unsettling because there’s no way of knowing if all the frenetic energy expended will ever move me in any beneficial direction, or just exhaust me. But I also have an underlying current of enigmatic expectation, that anything can happen. My critic grumbles nothing probably will, but my 17-year-old core-self says Some Big Thing Just Might.
I experience the full gamut of emotions simultaneously during scrabbling, resulting in an over-cooked internal stew that tastes kind of gray, but nevertheless provides abundant energy to keep on scrabbling. And I do feel highly motivated to keep on scrabbling, no matter what, no matter if there’s no known why (yet). The afar part of me is entertained watching myself scrabble. I’m curious to see where it will take me this time — where it will lead me artistically.
Untitled, ceramic sculpture by Steve Eichenberger
A little smaller than life size. Sculpted solid, hollowed out, pieces cut out and glazed separately, then black grouted back together. It doesn’t translate in the photo, but the mid-toned portions have exquisite patterns of shiny black nubbins smaller than the head of a pin; visually and tactilely mesmerizing. The lightest section looks and feels like ivory — not white — but it’s virtually impossible to photograph pieces with extreme lights and darks without over- or under-exposing one or the other.
I think this piece has something to do with the ever-present background/subconscious weighing of issues that have no clear answers.
“Strange Bird” in process. (5/11 addendum: SOLD!)
I’ve been invited by White Bird Gallery in Cannon Beach, Oregon to be in their Animals show this spring. This is a possible piece for that show, if the human ears don’t disqualify it from the “animal” category.
Small quick sketch for patina testing purposes, face 5 or 6″ tall.
Small quick sketch done this afternoon (face is 6″ tall). May do some more small faces because I need things to try out patinas on without experimenting on major pieces.
Final photo above added Feb 17. “Exploring Happiness” series, “Orangutan” by Steve Eichenberger.
Major challenge to hollow out, but it’s done now and drying.
First completed piece of my newly evolving series, working title for the series: “If You’re Not Laughing, You’re Not Paying Attention.” Approx. 12 x 12 x 6, wall mount, hand-built one of a kind fired ceramic w/underglaze, SOLD (thanks C&L of Portland).
More about this piece in previous post.
I say ‘evolving’ series because I still feel like more of an observer of my current work than an originator of it — the meaning is still in the process of settling in. The most obvious common denominator is laughter. Some pieces look like “hearty laughter.” Others look more tweaked, perhaps drifting closer to maniacal laughter…which is fine by me, I can easily identify with that…maniacal laughter seems a perfectly rational response to much going on around me in these strange times economically and politically.
I’m in the midst of being a guinea pig in my own experiment: experiencing the positive endorphins released in the process of sculpting big laughs. It’s hard to be all hang dog when face to face with huge laughter.
12/12 finessed ears and teeth. Think I’m about done with sculpting phase. Was going to do some other things with this, but kind of like it the way it is so may leave it. I was going to do the same things to the previous similar one, but decided to keep it as it was…I can just keep making more until I’m ready to try the modifications on one…
13w x 14h x 8d in wet clay stage — pretty big.
12/11 revision with oversized ears roughed in…think I’ll leave them this big for comic effect; will refine them tomorrow after the clay has had a chance to firm up a bit.
Soooo time consuming! but fun.
My inner critic is heckling me for spending so much time on these faces without knowing if they will sell for enough to make even minimum wage for my time. So far it’s not getting to me…I’m too busy enjoying the process, which for now is worth more than money to me.
A year ago I was optimistic and excited about living the futuristic sounding year 2010, and it has not disappointed! It’s been tumultuous for us, but momentous as well. I’m sorry it’s nearing its end, but it’s not over yet. There’s still 1/14th of the year left.
Many good things going on artistically:
–A local couple made a very encouraging purchase from me today, they bought one of the brand new pieces I’m working on before I’ve even finished it! It still needs one more trip through the kiln to fire on the underglaze. I’ll post a photo of it later with its final finish, but you can see it in wet clay form here: If You’re Not Laughing, You’re Not Paying Attention. Thanks C & L from Portland! This was a wonderful affirmation for me as I continue to experiment with this new series. Visitors to our just-completed Open Studios event saw me working on another in this series, not named yet, shown in the slideshow a couple entries below (female face, ram’s horns), which I finished sculpting today.
–I like my new studio. I know I’ve said that before, but if I can’t repeat it to my blog, where can I say it?!? Today I had fun showing dozens of Open Studio visitors my new space and new sculptures in process or fresh out of the kiln.
–The positive response to our Open Studio event (five days over two weekends) was energizing and motivating! I want to populate my tall white walls with a crowd of sculpted faces!
–I’m looking forward to my next piece, based on a photo of a boy letting out a roar of a laugh! I contacted the photographer who immediately gave me his blessing to use it as reference. It may well end up looking like an old man simultaneously with looking like a youngster, which would be fine by me…that’s kind of how I feel! Anyway, I’m anxious to be “surprised” by how it turns out over the next several days. I’ll add new photos to the slideshow below as it progresses (12/10 update: sculpting phase complete as shown in final slide):
It’s so nice to have a DRY indoor area to build things like this in our new location! I can do woodworking any hour of of the day or night in the large hallway right outside the studio door.
I began my current face/head sculpture on a vertical board. The clay stayed put just fine until I added a lot more weight with the curling horns…I’m lucky the whole thing didn’t plop facefirst onto the floor, but fortunately it gave me some warning by suddenly but uneventfully coming unstuck and gapping about half an inch from the supporting board. So I leaned it at an angle temporarily while I built the above adjustable tilt stand to use in just such situations. I’ve been wanting such a stand for a long time, now I have it!
By ‘sculpting the sculptor’ I don’t mean a self portrait, but rather working on my real flesh and blood self moment by moment day by day month by month year by year decade by decade until death do me part. It’s not rocket science, but more like gardening…hacking away at what I don’t want, planting and cultivating attributes I do want. Nor is it usually very interesting or exciting; more often it’s boring and tedious, like weeding. And, like weeding, once isn’t enough. The weeds keep coming back.
So every day I’m alive, entropy happens, and it’s up to me to take proactive steps to counter it.
I’m encouraged to persevere in my biological sculpting efforts by research in the field of neuroplasticity, defined on Wikipedia as follows:
Neuroplasticity (also known as cortical re-mapping) refers to the ability of the human brain to change as a result of one’s experience, that the brain is ‘plastic’ and ‘malleable’. The discovery of this feature of the brain is rather modern; the previous belief amongst scientists was that the brain does not change after the critical period of infancy.
If I’m diligent in my efforts to supplant negative traits with better ones, I’m actually changing the structure of my brain. Sculpting neurons.
I’m bringing up this topic because this past weekend we had a lot of folks come to our first ever event in our new space (thank you one and all, it was a big success!), and I noticed how much it took out of me to talk about my work and/or show people my in-process work in my new studio space. Part of me would rather keep all that to myself until the work is completed. But I know I appreciate it when other artists open up about their process, their insecurities, their energy swings, so it’s not fair for me not to. I’d like to get past the reticence though, grow thicker skin…get to the point where such experiences energize me rather than drain me. I can use the vague sense of inadequacy stirred up by such interactions to spur me to dig even deeper, work even harder to develop my creative skills and work habits. To develop a lattice of neurons robust enough to shake off occasional scrutiny, whether from my own inner critic or studio visitors.
I think part of the issue is that I create work for myself, not for “the public.” I’m just not much of a social animal, I guess…I’d rather let my sculpture do the talking.
Quick sketch, about a foot high. SOLD Fired, underglazed…may just wax it and leave it pretty much like this photo. I resonated with this while sculpting it, decided to leave it alone when I grabbed the head and pulled upward, causing neck to appear strained. ‘Stressed but OK’ is a common modus operandi for many of us these days.
Another experiment with a wall mounted piece; working title, “If You’re Not Laughing, You’re Not Paying Attention!” It’s almost life size. (photo of finished piece added 12/23)
This one happened without any preconceived idea of what to make today…just pawed through some reference clippings first thing this morning in the studio and used a postage stamp size mug shot of some random guy as a jumping off point. It was fun to be “surprised” by the day’s work. No I don’t have any idea what kind of ears those are…except that they are NOT intended to be rabbit ears! I roughed in various shapes and sizes of horns and hair tufts, but these ears seemed the funniest so I went with them.
Not sure where if anywhere this is a step toward, but at least I’m making wall mountable work for a change instead of work that needs a pedestal/table/ledge to live on.
I think of “sketches” like this one as experiments/explorations because I feel like I’m flailing about in new territory. I learned from such things as:
–I first made the neck straight under the head, then impulsively sliced off one side and added to the other, instantly making the pose more interesting to me.
–moving the irises/pupils to one side enhanced the “turning his head” effect (extrapolating from the ram’s horn experiment a few days ago where I directed the gaze sideward/downward, in that case to engage the viewer as she/he comes along the hall toward the studio door)
–still didn’t get the lips flat enough…it looks like he’s saying “Heyyy” or something…difficult to convince my brain to flatten the lips out against the teeth as they would be when smiling broadly. (It isn’t obvious in the photo, but that’s his tongue, not lower teeth, just inside the lower lip.)
–nostrils widened since they are attached to the skin that is pulled back by the cheek muscles
–I’ll correct it before the clay dries, but when I snapped this photo I had forgotten to add clay underneath his left eye (right in the photo) where it would be pooched up from the rising cheeks. This makes his left eye look more like it’s looking, and his right eye look more like it’s laughing.
–experimenting with muscles in forehead and their contribution to the emotions conveyed
–it’s difficult for me to get wrinkles right…to get a solid material to look like supple skin…I feel I made some progress on this piece, but have a long way to go.
–I’m curious why a certain shape looked “funnier” to me (horns/hair/ears)? Is it the extreme sideways positioning of the ears? Are moose inherently funnier looking than deer? Is it because predators faces are often more vertical (eyes closer together and smaller), and harmless creatures’ ears are usually larger (to hear predators)? Chihuahuas do look funny with their big side mounted ears, vs a dobie with clipped vertical ears.
So, while the resulting sculpture is the most obvious product of a sculpting session, it’s definitely not the only product; I’m also enlarging my repertoire of ideas and skills to use on future projects.
Another nice by-product when it happens, as it did today: enjoyment of the process!
Progress as of Tuesday night. It was about 8 p.m. when I was ready to slice off the horns, so I asked one of the moped guys next door to catch them. With horns out of the way, I sculpted regular human ears underneath…but then covered them mostly back up with hair. Sculpting phase is over, let the hollowing out begin.
Partially done — hope to finish the sculpting phase on Sunday. About 12″ high. Noodling around for something to put over the door to my new studio space…originally intended for this to be a small maquette, but it grew along the way, so maybe if it turns out OK it can serve as the final, at least for awhile.
43 h x 12 w x 22 d
I did finish this piece in time for Art in the Pearl. Watch the slideshow to the very last image to see the completed piece.
Some of the photos I’ve shot in the past two days of finished pieces. “Gratitude” above.
“Balance of Power”
I’ll add details such as size and a blurb about each piece when I “officially” add them to the Portfolio section.
Set up the scoop background in our photo room and did the above test shot of “Reprieve” tonight. May tweak it further, but it’s in the ballpark of what I’m after.
Over the weekend I built lightweight crates I’ll need to transport my larger works via truck to two summer shows coming up. They will do double duty as pedestals at the shows.
I’ve been getting a lot done since my last post…finished patinas on all pieces, waxed some of them – all pieces are pretty much ready to display. Now need to photograph all the pieces, get my booth figured out, make signage, decide pricing, reserve a truck, and so on and on…
finished hollowing out. not sure there’s time to make any more big pieces and complete them in time for BAM show…
sculpting phase complete — will start chopping it up tomorrow for hollowing phase.
tail on, ear armatures in place, ear slabs made and setting up preparatory to adding the ears tomorrow.
pretty much done except for ears and tail.
here’s where i ended up tonight. but before i did, i had some fun with eye experiments (below)
getting “bigger is better” out of my system
and a couple more variations
Masses roughed in, left uncovered overnight to set up before further sculpting.
The weeks are flying by! BAM is looming!