I have been carving away on my hunk of recycled Styrofoam (polystyrene) and The Singer is beginning to emerge. Here is its present state of completion.
It has been very interesting creating this blog recording progress on this piece and previous works. I have had many comments on my blogs, many of them appreciative of the information provided. Some commentators have requested that I provide more detailed information about the process but I have to clarify that I am a working artist and my priority is my artwork. I am not in the business of writing how-to manuals. That said, if anyone has a specific question, I am happy to do my best to answer it. I’m just not willing to provide a detailed account of my fabrication process without knowing what specific information will be useful to others.
Speaking of my blog, I have to admit to being a little dumfounded by many of the comments I have received. Some of them are simply incomprehensible and I can only assume that they are scripts generated by a robot & sent out to every website for some obscure purpose. Here are samples of comments that arrived today & yesterday ostensibly about my blog “Musings-Maquettes-on-Frogs:
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I am told anyone who has a website gets this stuff. Perhaps the point is to generate more traffic to their site, but I am puzzled as to how sites for Uggs, sexcams, Tummy Tucks, LA Bail Bonds or any of the other myriad sites that send me comments benefit by sending comments to an artist describing her fairly idiosyncratic working process! The internet moves in mysterious ways and I am willing to take the good with the bad. It is unfortunate, however, that this wonderful global resource is abused by self-interest. It is yet another tragedy of the common where self-interest ultimately depletes a shared resource.
Undaunted, I return to the topic of this blog – progress on The Singer. In earlier blogs on this topic musings-maquet…-back-to-birds ; more-on-birds and on birds, I described the methods I was using to cut the polystyrene and remove dust. I neglected to mention the way I scaled up the original 20″ (50.8 cm) plaster maquette to create the 90″ (228.6 cm) polystyrene armature. First I marked off the x horizontal axis on the wooden base of the maquette at 1/2″ intervals and gave each interval a number from 1-26. Then I marked off the y horizontal axis on the wooden base of the maquette at 1/2″ intervals and gave each interval a letter from a-z. Then my partner built a measuring frame for the maquette to show the vertical z axis, I marked it off at 1/2 ” intervals and gave each interval a roman numeral from i – XL.
To carve the final work at a scale of 1:4.5, I marked off the x horizontal axis on the wooden base of the styrofoam piece at 2.25″ intervals and gave each interval a number from 1-26. Then I marked off the y horizontal axis on the wooden base of the styrofoam piece at 2.25″ intervals and gave each interval a letter from a-z. Below shows a corner of the base with the intervals.
Then my partner built a measuring frame for the styrofoam piece to show the vertical z axis, and I marked it off at 2.25″ intervals and gave each interval a roman numeral from i – XL. The image below shows the top corner of the measuring large frame. On the cross bar I added the same intervals as on the base to assist in measuring a straight line from top to bottom. Intervals have both letters of the alphabet and numbers so that the vertical measure can be used on both the x & y axis. The vertical measure closely fits the base of the piece and is supported on a two pieces of 1/2″ x 8″ wood.
Using this system I could constantly refer to measurements on the maquette in order to make cuts to scale on the final work.
Though this system has worked well, it is cumbersome as I am constantly moving the vertical measure around. The classical way of scaling up a sculpture is to use the point system, where a number of points are placed on the maquette and the location of these points are reproduced to scale on the final work. Perhaps with more carving experience I will be able to visualize where points on my maquette should be on my final work. But at present I am astounded by how far off the actual measure I am when I eyeball it.
If anyone out there has come up with a more elegant system for scaling up sculptures from maqutte to final size, (not including sending the work out to a pricey CNC shop) I’d love to hear about it.
In earlier blogs I also talked about dust control and our ugly but effective extraction system. I am also including a photo of myself in full styro-dust protection gear. I bought a painters’ paper overall for the elasticized wrist, ankles & hood as the small particles end up glued to every inch of me. I put on this full get-up for using the sander for finer work. But the paper overalls rip so I just wear a regular cloth overall & put elastic bands around my wrists & ankles to keep particles out of the overall and wear a shower cap to keep styro dust out of my hair.
This photo may offer a clue as to why there are so few female sculptors.
Usually I just wear an overall, plastic cap & googles but put on the full gear for using the sander. Who knows what inhaling these fine particles will do to you.
This sculpture is progressing slowly because I can only do a few hours of work a day before I start to make mistakes. There is no rush however as I still don’t have a home for the final product. I will most likely use the large styrofoam piece as an armature and coat the surface with 2-3″ of concrete which will probably be tinted with integral pigments. It would weigh a ton and be difficult to move, so if possible I would like to apply the concrete coating where the sculpture is to be installed. It could be a fun public participation piece where from day to day people could watch the armature turn into a concrete sculpture and talk to me about the process. This type of interaction is a great way for people to learn about & appreciate the art of sculpture.
Conversely, if a bigger budget could be found, I would finish the surface in plaster and have it cast in bronze. I’ve applied for a couple of commissions and not been successful, but I’ll finish the armature and keep looking. If anyone out there knows of someone looking for an 8 foot (250 cm) singing bird-person, let me know.