Saturday, 30 June 2012

“Learning to Fly”

 Finishing “Project Angel” with the completion of the rope.
 This morning Wilma had an appointment at the house, so I took the opportunity to go out for breakfast and write my blog. It is Canada Day Weekend and it was very quiet on our streets as I drove out. I passed two dog walkers who both smiled and waved enthusiastically as I drove by. Wow, a little more “friendly than usual” I thought, and I don’t even know them. On the corner I saw a gentleman with a very large bubble ring, producing a huge 3 foot bubble just as I drove by. Was it just me or has this long weekend infused people with a special “joy serum” causing them to wave enthusiastically or create bubbles just for fun?
If this takes hold, I can see someone going absolutely crazy this weekend and just for fun, I don’t know,....even, firing off some fireworks!

As you can see I finished the “Project Angel” piece with the completion of the rope. One day I planned the placement, rolled the coil clay rope and set it on the piece as planned. The next day after it had dried a little, I did the detailed work, which took about four and a half hours to do. Now I simply have to wait for it to dry. I plan to bisque fire it so it will be ready for the show in Altona in a week or so. I most certainly will have it to be ready for my Art Talk on July 17, 7pm in the Curling Club Facility next to the Altona Gallery. Then it will be included in the show till August 5 when it ends.

I have been thinking about my “Art Talk” a lot. What will my approach be? There are certain ingredients that make up an Art Talk. These may include a little background history, what inspires the artist to do the kind of work they do, how the art compares with what other artists might be doing, plus could include anything unique about the artist or the work etc. etc.

What is unique about my art is that it comes from a very “spiritual” place. One thing I usually do is have “IHOP” worship music playing while I work. My work comes out of my spiritual journey and the resources guiding that journey. As a result there are a lot of emotions it seems, manifesting themselves in my work. Many of which I am not really aware of. I am constantly surprised by viewers responses to what they see and feel about my work.

Anyways, as I’ve been looking for guidance about my Art Talk, I became aware of a song being played called “Don’t be Afraid to Fly”. My heart jumped at it and my ears began to tune in...I loved the concept. Flying is such a metaphor for new things, going beyond the normal, attaining new heights in life or in some aspect of ones life. Like now it’s graduation time and the new grads are going out into the world, spreading their new wings and learning to fly, so to speak.

Nature is so amazing, where the mother bird must overcome her own fears and doubts about the risks but at some point must give that young bird the push off the edge of the nest it needs to commit to flight. I saw a video of a Mother Eagle who had to push her child over the edge and the hesitancy with which she did it, but finally, she did it. All of this is intuition, but the two things come together; with the greatest loving act in giving her child the gift of flight comes the greatest feeling of fear of failure. What if it won’t work this time? Yet she is impelled by the urges of nature to overcome her fear and give the kid a final push over the edge. Without that the eagle will never become that iconic thing we all admire, the sight of that beautiful powerful soaring eagle in the sky. That is what he was made to do.
I will be chewing on that for a while. For me, getting into my art was the simple, fearsome, complicated process of learning to fly! I’m not soaring yet, probably never will...but even this wobbly uncertain flight of major discovery and risk is soooo heart thumpingly, exhilarating... and scary... but intuitively confirming in my spirit that it is exactly the right thing I should be doing! Wow!
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount of with wings like eagles...”
Isaiah 40:31

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Artist Talk: the Days Landmark Event # 2.

My work on display at the Altona Gallery in the Park .

And now, the second landmark event of the day, that was, Thursday, June 21, 2012.

At  3:50PM I rush out of my studio, tear down the stairs, and drive home impatiently, through rush hour traffic. I do a quick change and we are on our way to Altona, an hour away. We are going there for the 7pm  “Artist Talk” that will be held in the Altona Curling Rink facility next door to the gallery where my pieces are on display.

To complicate matters, I have not had supper yet!  I say “I” because Wilma insists she just wants coffee…ha! Forty-three years of marriage history tells me otherwise!

On our way out of the city we decide to pass on eating in the city, thinking we will stop for supper in Morris, about half way to Altona. Well, we cannot see anything except restaurants there and I’m too nervous to order a meal and see our precious time disappear. For this event I am determined not to be late. Wilma declares I’m excited!!!! (She of course, is right!)

We decide to eat in Altona. We get there in good time, and stop for supper at McDonald's. I order a burger meal, then I get two containers of ketchup, one for her and one for myself, placing the chips between us, (remember her comment about having only coffee for supper?) I enjoy my burger as she calmly “dives” into the chips. I did manage to have three or four! I simply believe this is a “right brain” thing, totally unconscious, I love that about her, and nothing needs to be said. J

But, I digress…we got to the curling rink in good time. Wilma chose the last row for us to sit in and while she was in the washroom I moved us to the front row! Ha!

The speaker was Pat Bovey. I had goggled her name earlier and was very impressed with the quality of speaker the Altona Gallery in the Park had lined up. Here are some things I discovered:

Pat Bovey is a …“Winnipeg-based historian, author, consultant, and former director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Pat Bovey teaches art history, cultural policy and arts management at the University of Winnipeg…”

It also mentions that She’s been on numerous boards, has received quite a few awards including “Woman of Distinction for the Arts” and several other medals.

Can you see why I was considering this a “must see” event?

Her presentation was warm, engaging, knowledgeable and informative. Thorough-out her talk she included examples from Winnipeg and Manitoba artists. It was great to hear how these artists were part of and involved with the cultural trends and developments of art in Canada and around the world.

She described what art is and what it dose. She described what art galleries do and the impact art has on culture and society. She shared a lot of statistical evidence showing the difference art makes in enhancing our educational system. Showing for example, that people who do art live longer! They have more life satisfaction and function better in society as a whole.  How art increases the public pride of the town, city, province and country.  And much more.

She described how artists connect with galleries using the Winnipeg artist Ivan Eyre as an example. (If you go to the Pavilion at the Assiniboine Park you will see some of his art on display.)

She fielded questions from the audience, with the general attitude that nothing was impossible. If you have a dream, there are ways to go for it. Someone from a one-coffee-shop-gas station type town asked how she could have a gallery set up for the few artists in that area. Pat engaged, gave good suggestions plus resources for her to follow up on. She left her card with her encouraging her to call anytime. Wow.

She made herself available after the presentation, chatting with members of the audience.

It was a great learning and inspirational experience for me. Compliments to the leadership of the Altona Gallery in the Park for bringing Pat Bovey in, an incredible resource for all aspects of, and anyone involved in the arts. From the response of those in attendance it was fantastic. From the response of the gallery leadership, "She will be back."

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable persons who will also be qualified to teach others.”
2 Timothy 2:27

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Wings take Flight, This Days Landmark Event # 1.

This is the minute after both “wings” were attached!

Thursday, June 22, was a significant day! Two amazing things happened on this day. Let’s begin with the first event.

This happened at 12:06 PM during lunch hour. As you can see above the “wings” are on the arms! The security braces are under each wrist to support the weight of the two hands. I was able to attach the hands one by one, holding each with my left hand and using a tool to roll the clay over the line of connection between the two at the wrist. Then I held the hand firmly to the arm for a few moments so a good bond could develop. Finally I was able to safely take my own supportive hands away and two hands, “wings” stood safely on their own!

I backed away and reached for my camera.….and there it is! Wow!

This week, I have been in my studio every day working on the detailing of the wings. I was determined to get that done and the hands onto the arms this week. As mentioned before, I carved them out of solid clay. While the clay dried, I kept working on the feathering details. When each of the hands had dried sufficiently, I cut them in half and hollowed out each half. For the narrow upper part were the feathers make the hand thinner, I removed as much clay as possible and then with my pin needle made numerous holes into the remaining clay up into the top ends of the feathers. This is so any moisture can escape easily from that area through the pin holes.

On the right you can see my earlier work where the hollowed out wing has just been put together again. You can see the cut line in the surface of the clay. As I continued the slow work of detailing the feathers this line would disappear. I noticed that as I progressed with this aspect of detailing, my feathers were looking different and changing somewhat as I moved along from one hand to the other. So, once the second hand was done, I had to go over both again and equalise the look of each hand. After-all they are hands from the same person!  J

In my excitement, I continued working on the hands and the upper arms making the connections smooth and normal. Meanwhile, the clock kept moving along and before I knew it I was getting late for that second “landmark event of the day!” I had to rush wrapping up and getting out of my studio.

I will tell you all about that event tomorrow morning!

“…Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice.”
Daniel 9:21

Sunday, 17 June 2012

A Basic Study of Clay, Part 2.

“Jonah” made with high fire stoneware M340 clay."

We ended yesterday with two questions:
1)    What you wish to make?
2)    What kiln resources do you have?

The answers will be key to the choice of clay you might chose to use. But, before we go there we must go back to the processed commercial clays again.

Clays are divided into three main groups or classes. These are low fire earthenware, mid fire Stoneware and high fire stoneware. As you can see they are classed by their maturation firing temperature. The clay bodies between the low fire and high fire clays are quite different, while the two mid and high fire classes are also different but only in matters of density etc.

Earthenware has been used most by mankind around the world. It has the lowest maturation firing temperature so from the days of antiquity it was easier to get results using different methods of an open fire using huge fires, often with the aid of stone walls, cliffs, caves etc. aids to get to the maturation temperature. This clay is still commonly used and is distinguished by it’s usually reddish, brown, orange, colour(s). Another reason it is used a lot is that it is very “plastic” and so easy to work with. Earthenware’s firing temperature is between 1745 F - 2012 F (950 C – 110 C)

Stoneware has as mentioned, two classes, mid and high fire. The latter consists mostly of a clay called porcelain. Mid fire stoneware will be a grey, buff or tan kind of colour, while the high fire kind will end up whiter. They are called stoneware because they are known for their hardness and especially with the porcelain, it is very dense and hard. Some of the porcelains of the highest temperature will actually become translucent when the walls are thin. Maturation temperatures range from 2150 F to the top of high fire at 2336 F.

OK, back to the two questions, beginning with the second. Not all kilns can do stoneware high fire clay. If you have a kiln already, you will already know that. Can you rent kiln space near your location? What are their capabilities? Answers to these questions will help in your choice of clay.

Question number one, what you wish to make could make a difference in your choice of clay. With each class of clay are many different variations of clay. This has to do with the character of the body of the clay. It basically, in a broad way boils down to how detailed will your work be? How much will your work challenge the clay? There are some clays made to fit the best of both of these worlds. That is just the kind of clay I have been using up till now. The photo of the "Jonah" piece above is made with mid fire stoneware M340 clay. You can see, there is a lot of detail in this piece. I think I pushed the envelope a bit as a lot of artists were surprised what I was able to do with this clay. (Ignorance is bliss!)

For my next piece, I have entered into the world of porcelain. I am still in the creation stage and love the feel of the clay. I am finding it enjoyable to work with. We will see how things go with the firing and the finishing of the piece. I will keep you posted.

“Remember that you molded me like clay...."
Job 10:9 

Saturday, 16 June 2012

A Basic Study of Clay, Part 1.

The second, hand detailing begins…

It is just pouring outside, again!

It has been quite a struggle this spring to get our lawn mowed and our flower garden done. It’s been raining quite a lot this spring. As the garden dries from the last rain, Wilma and I make plans for when we might get at it, after all, we want to do it “together.” Then, as the date(s) arrive, it's been either raining or had just rained enough to make it impossible.

Yesterday, we finally got into the garden, spending several hours cleaning, raking, planting annuals, mowing, watering and dragging the bags of garbage away. Guess what, it’s Saturday morning and as I’m writing this, it’s pouring rain. Fantastic, we did it! I’m feeling quite smug about all of this.

Excuse me for a moment, I’m getting a coffee.

OK, I’m back, working in the garden yesterday got me thinking about clay. I grew up on the farm and so know about and often played in “the dirt”. There are all kinds of dirt, topsoil, loam, clay, rock, etc. I have learned that clay is made up of extremely small particles of rock. When this kind of “dirt” (Clay) in it’s natural state (nature) meets with the right amounts of water, and someone takes it into their hands and forms something, and it holds that form, it’s workable clay. When it holds it’s form it is showing it’s “plasticity” and that is what makes it the workable clay we want. Then, when it is heated to a high temperature it partially melts resulting in a hard rock-like substance we call ceramic material.

Now I do admire those few artists who move around the landscape looking for and using just this kind of raw clay. But it has a lot if impurities and inconsistencies and the results are highly experimental depending on the particular clay found.

For most part time and full time artists the solution is to buy commercially made moist clay. They have processed the clay so that the artist knows what they are getting and can depend on consistent results. The supplier will have detailed data on each kind of clay they provide. This will include maturation temperature, colour, shrinkage, body content and much more.

So, now it is a matter of what you or me as the artist are planning to do that will dictate the kind of clay we might wish to purchase. The choices are numerous and staggering. When you go to a supplier, you will see lists of clay names, numbers and characteristics that can send you around the bend. Do not be discouraged…ask! Everyone knows it confusing so don’t be embarrassed. Talk to the people around you and find out what they are using and why they have chosen that particular clay. If you take clay classes, discover what clay is being used and why.

"Why", is the important question here. It will have to do with  1) what you wish to make with the clay and 2) what kiln resources you have. 

We will continue with these two "Whys" tomorrow morning.

“When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes…”
John 9:6

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Flight: Escape to Freedom

The hand becomes a wing...

I have often had dreams where I could fly. They are fantastic dreams, soaring over the earth, turning, diving, climbing, I love to fly. How often have I looked at birds with just such a wish, that I could fly like them.

Literature through the ages, poets, writers, of all races have used the symbolism of flight in many ways. Flight is an idea of freedom. It suggests liberty, deliverance, escape. Flight can also represent the spirit or soul of a person. The direction of flight is also important, for example flight downward is bad, usually a hellish kind of destination, while flying upward is good, usually a heavenly destination.

Feathers themselves again are a common symbol used in literature throughout the world. When we were in Egypt I remember the tour guide telling us that one of the gods would weigh the soul of a newly dead person against a feather to determine it’s eternal destiny. Normally feathers symbolise things such as truth, speed, lightness, ascension etc. White feathers also mean innocence or a fresh start in a spiritual sense.

When I began to consider making a companion piece to "6.5 Weeks",  I was thinking about escaping a very tragic and difficult situation that Candace our daughter found herself in. My piece “6.5 Weeks” had to do with just this situation. But I began to understand that this was only part of the story. That piece leaves her in a tied up situation. I needed to now somehow represent the next phase of her life. I had always been thinking about how she could have escaped, or how she could have been found by someone and given her freedom again. My mind was locked in those kinds of scenarios when suddenly I realised that her death itself was the escape. It was an escape from facing this demonised man to her heavenly destination. A place of no pain, no abuse or tears. It was tough on us, but really in her situation it became her only live option.

That is why my working title for this piece was “mercy flight.” That is why I used the symbol of the tied hands becoming “white” wings, the rope (the agony and the pain) falling away, forgotten in the anticipation of her “upward” flight to her awesome heavenly destination. She is free indeed.

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to  myself.”
Exodus 19:4

Friday, 8 June 2012

The Viewer Needs the Sleeves!

The sleeves are basically done.

All humans around the world need clothing! If we do not wear clothing, something is very wrong and we end up arrested. Regardless of the colour, or the kind of fabric it all behaves more or less the same. The fabric covering our body is pulled, pushed, stretched, wrinkled, folded and draped in a variety of ways. For anyone doing any artistic representation of the human figure, dealing with clothing and it’s many wrinkles, is a must.

Because we all wear fabric, examples of how it looks is all around us. The observant artist will after a little while begin to understand the basic look for the type of folds around the bent limb or torso etc.

When you consider the many sketches and studies done by the Masters, on just the way the clothing draped over the body you know how important it is. If the folds look convincing it will have a huge positive effect on your work.

As you can see in the picture above, you see the green towel in the background, draped over the angled rolling pin. I used this as a model to simulate the position of the two sleeved arms I had to deal with. I did not wish to copy the towels folds exactly but to have a model to make simple smooth folds that work with the composition of the piece, and so they will be realistic with arms raised in a similar position.

I don’t want to make the folds too dramatic as I will also have a rope draped over the arms. That rope (and the feathered hands) are to get the attention, not the folds.

In my past life, in camping I used to do magic with the kids. They always wanted to know how the magic happened, and since I always wore a colourful jacket they concluded it had something to do with the sleeves. I must have had whatever up my sleeve. An easy solution to come to for understanding the magic tricks. One day, I experimented and did the show without the jacket, so without sleeves. Several members of the youthful audience became very frustrated since now the easy solution to how the tricks were done had also disappeared. I decided, I needed the sleeves, not necessarily for my self but for my audience. It made life much easier for me and the audience was much happier with themselves, and my show.

Here, sleeves would also actually not be necessary, but they do enhance the piece. They give movement for the flying motion. They dress up the arms and with pleasing folds make the look pleasant. Also, it gives the piece a heavenly look and feel. Somehow, we all feel that heavenly beings all wear flowing sleeves. With the sleeves there it all makes sense and it all is as it should be.

“His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow...”
Matthew 28:1-      

Sunday, 3 June 2012

A Call to Arms...

Note: clay inside bottom of arms, two inches in.
Good idea to do the same at the wrists.

All right, time to get moving on this project…hup hup…

The art show has begun and we want this tardy, explosive type to get it together, march in and join his unit in Altona as soon as possible. For this type of trooper issues we have to go to the basics, boot camp actually, and start over. A total remake is in order.

We began the “arms” the other day and they have dried enough now for the next step. We need connect the arms in an X kind of form. This connection must be strong enough to eventually bear the considerable weight of the two feathered hands at each wrist. There is basically one major point of stress and that is where the arms actually cross. since human arms cannot “sink” into one another we must compensate. First, we can sink the arms a little. This will be masked by the sleeves so will not be discernible.

First, lay out the new arms on your board. Make sure the top arm is level by placing filler under each end so it lies level horizontally. If it is not horizontal all measurements will be skewed. Then, since the angles were worked out with the first piece we will simply simulate those arm angles. Grab two pieces of wood slats, hold them in a cross formation, move them alongside the model and adjust the pieces to match the angles of the arms of the model. Make sure you rest the ends on the table in line with the top edges of the models arms. Now, holding the slats where they cross firmly, place this correctly angled X over the new clay arms and adjust them to match. Then make matching scratch marks to match on the upper and lower arms so as not to lose the angle. Also mark the place where the arms meet so you can cut a groove into the lower arm so that the top arm can be attached there fitting into the grove at the correct angle. Cut the groove just deep enough to go through, or nearly through, the thickness of the wall of the arm. Because of this cut the top arm will now be a bit lower, you will have to adjust your fillers on each end to keep the arm level. Attach using slurry as usual. Also roll clay, pinching it to a thin edge on one side and firm up the outside by pushing it in (thin edge first) all around where the arms are connected to one another. Use slurry liberally so as not to trap air in the process.

Now, once the joint has set for a bit we need to cut out the center of this joint. The reason is to eliminate any possibility of trapped air between the two arms. Also, the clay will be two layers for much of the connected area so is to thick. Cutting out the center eliminates this problem. To do this simply cut a hole in the top of the top arm directly over the joint. Cut the edge at an angle so the cut out piece can be replaced easily without falling through. Now get a sharp knife and simply cut a circle close to the outer area of the connection. Let the pieces drop into the lower arm and remove later. When done, slurry the angled upper cut and replace the piece you cut out. Smooth out the cut edges and all is well.

Now roll out flat pieces and place as braces on each under side of the arm as you see in the photo.

Finally, lay a long slat at the lower end of the arms (the bottom of the piece) aligning the ends with the outer bottom ends of the clay arms and with a knife first mark and the cut, in a plumb line fashion. Make sure the upper arm is level as if it’s slanted your marks will be off. This angled cut must be 90 degrees across for the piece to stand straight up. Take your time and get it right the first time. If you make a mistake no problem, add clay and cut again.

This is the main structure that bears all the weight and if done right (the boot camp way) will save you a lot of time and grief. (cracking clay etc.)

OK trooper, that’s it for today, get this stuff down and you will have a great foundation for whatever happens in the future.

“For each one should be careful how he builds…his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light, it will be revealed.”
1 Cor. 10:13

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Going to the Next Level.

"Project Angel"

I know I’m slow this morning. I apologize for that, but I do have an explanation. I am still processing the events of last night. Trying to figure out exactly what happened. And, as a famous defense lawyer used to say, “to be perfectly clear” I had only juice to drink all evening!

Last night was the opening night of my new art show in the Altona Gallery in the Park. This was an event for the “Friends of the Gallery” (financial supporters), the showing artists and for a limited number of “by invitation only” guests of the above. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres were served.

I knew this would be a little different for me. Some things which were different from my first showing included: Firstly, that my very first showing happened in Winnipeg, my (our families’) home town. We had a lot of personal history and connections with our tragic story there. Secondly, it took place in the Mennonite Heritage Centre. This is a kind of “church” and “home” connection. A further deeper connection for us in Winnipeg. Thirdly, our personal friends and acquaintances were mostly in Winnipeg. That certainly gave that first show a completely different flavor for me. Fourthly, the opening night was open to the public, this was not. That meant that a lot of our personal friends from both present and past showed up. Now, in comparison to this event, I can see this created a very different personal experience. Also, now that I think about it, that was probably, just what I needed for a “first time showing” of my serious art. Friends coming around and affirming this my new artistic venture.

That is not to condemn what happened last night, not at all. I see this now as moving to the next level. Biblically speaking, “moving from Jerusalem out into the world!” Will my body of work “live” and “thrive” and be meaningful beyond my personal family, friends and city? It will now be observed more objectively, more and more by visitors who do not know us and who may not have heard of our story. Can it stand on it’s own? Will it be seen as art?

What a privilege to be in this gallery with such other well known and respected artists. The main artist showing his work is Don McMaster, a naturalist and lover of the outdoors. His work includes paintings of his “David Thompson Project,” a series he’s done about the explorer’s life and work on the prairies. Don has worked hard to render the events as they happened and as they might have looked, attempting to be as historically correct as possible. They are amazing. I am planning to take a day and spend some time absorbing his work later.

My work, which is very much a contrast to the rest of the showings, was set up very artistically and as you can see below, looks very classy. The rest is up to the pieces to do their thing! Go for it guys.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”
Psalm 32:8

A portion of the “Project Angel” art show.