The Stone Piece Nr1 – “Deliverance” Part 1

Hello everyone,

With my exhibition opening this Friday (22 August 2014) I start to present the artwork here for those who can’t attend the opening in person.
Part of the aim of the exhibition is to add an educational angle. This has been requested by the Gallery. It is to provide some insight into traditional sculptural techniques.
For this reason I have kept all the work that usually gets discarded once the artwork is finished. So here it goes:

A sculpture can be created in three ways.
1/ By careful planning, great preparation and extensive study. The result is decided and the stone carving stage of the creation is just copying the preconceived form.
2/ By “freeforming” – a process where nothing is certain and the sculptor finds the form by carving the stone.

Whilst the first approach builds a good foundation, it kills the flow. And while the second approach has a great flow, carving stone is hard labour, takes a long time and is expensive. Not many can afford the time, effort and expense to see if it works.

I work using the third method, which is the combination of the two above. In a partnership. I like to know where I am headed, I like to know and understand the form to a point where I am saturated with it and mostly don’t have to rely on preparatory drawings or clay models.

Then I regard the stone. I form a relationship to it. I invite it to share the journey. To have it’s say. And then I pick up the chisel.

These days an imposed restlessness rules any occupation. It is a restlessness of productivity. Things have to have great value and have to be accomplished immediately. And so, often even artwork can be infected by demands of the “more and faster”. However we, the artists, are in luck because that which needs to be expressed can neither be rushed nor ruled.

The sandstone carving I want to start with here is a testimonial to the above.

I had some stored up imagery that was on my mind when thinking of carving this particular block of stone. The choice was of course limited to an extent by the size of the block. Here are a few sketches working out the volume of the stone.

After that I did a few anatomy studies. You may notice how the design slightly changes with the restrictions imposed by the size of the stone.

The next stage was to transfer the ideas in the drawings into the 3 dimensional model in clay. Once I decided to do the clay model I made sure it is approximately the same size as what the volume of the stone would permit – approximately 55 cm (21.6 in).

The clay model worked fine. Pleased with the expression I set out with great gusto to carve the block. It was too heavy to lift on a stand so I carved it on the ground often kneeling down.


When I got to the stage of roughing out the head I could not get past the bearded man. I tried several times to adhere to the clay model, but the stone itself was imposing its solidness and stature and was turning into an old man. As I was carving a few pieces at the same time I was able to leave the man alone for a couple of days. When I returned to work on him, the assumed course did not change.
To be continued..

Holiday Tips

Often when I’m busy with teaching and working and tending to my family and professional commitments, when every second of my time is taken up and I just can’t spare a moment to draw and then an opportunity presents itself, quite a bit of the unexpectedly available time I spend just wondering what to spend it on. Should I practice the view of the upper leg I couldn’t work out the last time? Should I just “freeform” and see what comes out of the unfocused pencil movement on the paper? Or should I continue on the pen and ink drawing I started a few days ago?
It is my personal experience, however many of my students said it happens to them too. Well, the answer to the question where to jump first is quite simple.

It doesn’t matter.

Drawing is a cumulative activity. The more you do it, the better you get at it. The same applies to what is it you choose to draw. It all goes to the same place – you are enriching your toolbox. Every line you draw ads to your ability to visualize what you are looking at or thinking of, as a simple shape that can be defined and therefore grasped and represented on a piece of paper.

I often urge my students to use time consciously. For example, you are sitting at your office, making a phone call and you are being put on hold. The elevator style music in the handset is attempting to soothe you while you wait. Those 5 minutes of your life you never get back can be used to further your skills. What? How? Just draw a series of circles like these.

Not much attention is needed, it is an exercise to lighten your hand to attempt to draw a “perfect” circle. Draw a few thousands of those and your ability to draw rounded shapes of the body will become perceptibly better. Have you noticed how few of the straight lines can be employed to render the human figure? It’s all pretty much curves.

Or try to put a ball like shape into a box and make it touch the sides of the box, like in the image below. Or create a simple relationship using basic geometric forms, like boxes stacked on top of each other. It’s Christmas, there will be boxes around.

That’s a good exercise in comparing sizes among different shapes. You see it’s not all high art we do while learning to draw the figure.

Another good one is to draw the interior of the room you are sitting in. You’re wondering what could drawing a room have possibly in common with figure drawing. Well just about everything other than the subject matter. You would practice drawing simple geometric shapes – the man made world is quite angular, you woud practice an ability to compare sizes and volumes of different things in the same space. And then there is perspective. To make sure that while the table sits on the floor, the chair next to it is not floating above the floor. You know, the same challenge you are facing when trying to draw a standing figure with both feet on the same floor. That’s quite hard, isn’t it. Drawing a simple rectangular shape such as legs of a table and chair are much easier. The form is easier to define and therefore to draw. Once you get that right, you just removed one element from drawing the feet that’s no longer challenging. The image below is just a quick study I did while watching television during a weekend away. Well, I wasn’t really watching the TV, listening is enough these days. TV shows are like radio plays with pictures. Used to be the other way around. You looked away for a second and you missed the point of the whole motion picture. Anyway below is the drawing.

I want you to have a look at the sketches above. Very rough and inaccurate. That’s all it needs to be. Creating a masterpiece is not the goal. Exercise is.

So here’s my advice for this holidays season. Keep drawing. Anything and everything, slow or fast, detailed or rough. It’s all good. Every second you spend drawing grows your skill.

What makes a statement?

Some time ago I started a thought comparing an accomplished draftsperson and an artist. You can find this article here.

In the meantime I continued the thought:

I suggested in my previous blog that the difference between an excellent draftsperson versed in anatomy, perspective, elements of drawing and all the other disciplines needed to produce a realistic, believable figure drawing and an artist is that the latter uses the realistic, believable figure drawing as a tool to make a statement. One could say that the draftsperson makes a copy of what he is looking at, while the artist uses what he’s looking at to create.Everyone can learn to draw. And fairly fast. Of course the more time one spends practicing the faster the results arrive. Just like learning a new language. Have to learn the letters, grammar and words before one can make coherent sentences. The equivalent of this stage in figure drawing would be the ability to draw a nice, realistic, believable copy of a model.

But apart from being able to ask where the post office is and comment on good weather, there’s a lot more to interaction in the newly learnt language. Exchanging ideas, being playful, make and understand a joke, make a point. The same applies to figure drawing. Once we are able to copy what we see by applying basic rules that can be learnt and practiced, we can take the next step. When I teach figure drawing, already in the beginners course I split the 8 weeks in half and I tell the students right at the start that in the second half of the corse I want them to cross over from copying only to partly creating. Let me explain on the following example. Modelling is not easy and the models get tired sitting in a pose for 20 minutes. That’s not surprising, all kind of hidden pains and cramps surface just after a few minutes. So what the models often do is they rely on the skeletal structure to hold them up in overextended positions. Prime example of this is the hyper extension of the elbow. It becomes bent a bit over the limit of what it should be. It’s not painful, but it looks unnatural.













Now that you are looking at a photo, you just accept it as it is. It is a photo. But imagine an exact realistic drawing of those elbows and cramped fingers. That just would not look right. Armed with the knowledge of anatomy we can take the next step and use the model and the pose as an inspiration and change the existing pose to create a position in which the elbow looks different. Have a look at the quick sketch below.
 Of course there may be occasions when to create means using an extended elbow, but to train oneself into more creating and storytelling figure drawing rather than just copying opens up a whole new world of possibilities. According to some experts up to 93% of our communication is non verbal. Body language, facial expressions and gestures are there to be used to create that statement. And what is that statement? That’s up to each and every one of us alone. It is what we want to communicate to the rest of the society. Of course that kind of figure drawing takes longer to master. In fact it is a life long effort, but it takes you places where you get to know yourself that much better.