Sunday, 30 September 2012

A Throne for the Kingdom 3.

Planning for the sword detailing...
What am I getting into?

Having built the base of the throne, I am beginning to work out covering it with the swords. As you can see from the photo, there will need to be a lot of swords. Now I know that every piece has an element of detailing needed but this is looking a little onerous!

As you can see, I have made a newspaper sword as a stencil, and have drawn out the positions of the swords as needed to cover the front portion of the chair. You can see that this represents a whole lot of swords to be carved and laid onto the chair! And that’s just a small portion of the chair!

As I’ve been working on this, I’ve been thinking about how the nation so badly wanted a king, with a throne, like all the other nations. Samuel tried to warn them about all the negative things about a king, like taxes, taking your young men for an army and so on. But they wanted a king! So they got one, on their own terms.

Incidentally, like my situation with this chair, they did not realise what they got themselves into. This king was from a rich family. Nowhere is there any information or comments about the family or Saul knowing or worshipping or following God in any way. This is a significant omission. Turns out that during the whole time Saul was king, at no time did he ever consider worship in the temple or concern himself with the Ark of the Lord. It turns out he had no moral compass. In a short time it became clear he was in this for himself. To look good in the eyes of his public. The result was chaos and disappointment for the whole nation. Power corrupted him and the nation suffered big time.

Certainly made the next king, King David, a “man after God’s own heart” look pretty good.

I have to reconsider this sword detailing thing now before I begin. I know that at the top of the chair back swords will be sticking up into the air and will need to be pretty substantial so as to not break off easily. Therefore, I will experiment with creating a new sword stencil, a larger, more substantial sword. Come to think of it, it will need to be a much more substantial sword! This will lessen the number of swords needed to cover the chair, lessen the amount of time and work plus answers the question of stability for the ones needing to stand on their own.

Thanks for letting me think this through out loud. Regardless of size of the swords, it will still be a lot of work. By the time I’m done with this, none of you will recognise me as I’ll be totally cross-eyed and going bonkers.


OK, I have to take a break, where’s that grandson of mine...???

“Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more that twelve legions of angels?”
Matthew 26:53

Armrests completed.

Friday, 28 September 2012

A Throne for the Kingdom 2

The seat of the empire.

I know, you are wondering what is happening with the “sword throne”? Well, it has been in an incubation period.

The last you saw of it was “the plan” and then the cut slabs laying on boards.

What I needed to do was allow the cut slabs for the chair to dry to a leather hard state. That way, when I do build the chair, it will have the stiffness to stand. For the “incubation” aspect, I got spacers and stacked the two boards one on top of the other. This was to save space as I have a very small cubical of a studio. So this becomes of paramount importance. You can see them in the photo covered with my cool blue garbage bags. I left them that way to dry for a week or more. This week I unpacked these slabs and began putting the basic part of the throne together.

I lay the slab for the back of the chair down on a board and built the rest of the chair on that. Like a chair laying on it’s back. Because the slabs were leather hard I made sure the joints were well scored and received a good supply of slip (Wet clay with pudding like consistency.) I slapped on with a brush for a good firm connection.

It was the front panel that became the most difficult as it was the only piece that hung horizontally across the span of the chair. Since the chair was laying on its back there was no natural support for it. The distance was too far for it to support itself. You can see from the photo how I built a prop for it, using styrofoam, a chopstick cut to size and a sanding tool handle etc. for just the right height to keep it in its proper place. (I have a supply of chopsticks for just such purposes)

Sunday morning, we go to the next phase of the “throne of swards.”

“...and behold, a throne was set in heaven...”
Rev. 4:2

The scaffolding for the front piece.
Notice the air release holes under the armrests.

My cool blue garbage bags.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Making Commissioned Pieces for Clients

Feathers in the making...

I am presently working on a piece for a very good friend overseas. As I’m working on this, I cannot help but think of the surprising discomfort I find when I speak to artists about doing commissioned work.

Most artists seem so adamant about not doing any commissions at all or doing them only under great duress. I don’t believe I’ve heard anyone ever say they enjoy doing this kind of work. This gives me pause.

Why is this the case? The main reason seems to be the discomfort of the client having input into the work being done. The artist will usually not have total control over the projected work. This can go to the extreme, for if the client has a place they wish a painting for example, to hang,  they might ask that it be a certain colour to match the surroundings, possibly even demanding what the subject matter should be. This would be a completely custom type of work. In the end, the work could go back and forth till all is just right, probably degenerating into a huge level of frustration, and a range of negative emotions for the artist. This then complicates the relationship with the client and also, due to the negativity, affects the joy and the quality of work by the artist on the piece being created.

Long before it gets to the levels I’m suggesting the artist may conclude they don’t want to complete the piece with their name on it, for, in their opinion, for any variety of reasons it no longer represents them well as an artist.

So, in the end it becomes a bad experience for both the artist and the client.

Obviously, it seems there needs to be a lot of care taken by both parties in matching the right artist with the right client, their wishes and the project in mind. There needs to be an understanding by each of the other. I’m thinking, it’s a little like a marriage. Can we get along? What are our feelings about this and that? What do we have in common? How do we each handle money?

There has to be a period of “dating” to see if this will work. We have to get to know each other, and in the final end answer the question about, how many kids do we want? Who or how do we discipline them? What religion do we ascribe too? How do we dress them? And so on.

I am delighted to be making this piece for my friend. We know each other from a way back and both of us understand the arts. The dating period is over and a piece is in the making. I am very excited and pleased with the relationship and I am humbled that he has asked this of me. In the end it will be a gift for him, but it is also a gift “of the making” for me.

The scary part will be the shipping!

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Ten Toes...Perfect!

Simeon’s feet in his father’s hands!

Our Grandson was slow in coming into this world.  On the Monday of the week of his birth his mother (his incubation machine, as she called herself) mowed the lawn. Not even a hint of a contraction. Nothing happening. The only thing that happened was the neighbour coming out and asking her if she should be doing mowing the lawn in her condition?

Tuesday, she “walked” over to our house! Still nothing. I suggested we rent a jack hammer...she smiled benevolently at me...

That afternoon, I came home from the studio and saw a note from my wife. It announced that Natasha was in the hospital having “light contractions”. Finally, it was happening. I whipped off an email to the family expecting the birth to happen that night!

That evening they were back at home! The next day I had to retract the email and explain the “false alarm”. I decided I needed to stay out of the grandchild birthing reporting business. I knew being a reporter was tough but this grand-child had already got me into trouble.

Thursday afternoon they were back in the hospital with the “light contractions” and at 4am Friday morning Simeon William arrived. He was 8 lbs. 14 oz. He was and is a beautiful boy. As soon as we could... we visited them and took the photo you see above.

Here are a few things a “grandchild” means to me. Here are some random thoughts in no particular order: First, the stunning reality that the family is growing. First there were the amazing in-laws becoming part of the family and now we have descendants! Then there is Simeon himself, the first grandchild who represents the next generation. Who will he be personality wise, career wise and so on? I keep thinking about how fortunate he is, through no choice of his own he’s become part of a good family, a family with the means to give him the best life possible, a loving home, a spiritual foundation, the best education possible, amazing career options, and all in the democratic, free “safe” country of Canada! Wow, what amazing opportunities lie ahead for him! 

Here's the thing, his father is a Dr. of Psychology, his mother has a theology degree and has a love for linguistics, one of his grandfathers is a medical Dr. He has artists, theologians, writers, public speakers, businessmen and women and such all around him. He will be introduced to “special mind challenging games” for children. He simply doesn’t have a chance, he’ll have to become a “doctor” of any one of the above. Of course, I'm very sure he'll become an artist with his Doctorate in some aspect of ceramic sculpture!

My job as a grandparent? To love and encourage Simeon and his parents. (No problem there!) Plus, to play with him the simple games I can handle and understand! Possibly bringing back a little bit of the days when we lived on the land where as children we usually created our own games and entertainment. An aspect, by the way, of intuitive practical creativity we so need in our world today.

Most importantly, no pressure. Actually all of this doesn't really matter when you can see he's got ten toes...he will always be perfect, just as he is!

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him.”
Luke 2:25

Sunday, 16 September 2012

A Throne for the Kingdom!

Revisions have already been made from this first calculation!

Construction begins...

So where does one begin with this project? A king sitting on a throne. Of course we must begin with answering some basic questions.

1.     How large do I want the figure of Saul himself to be?
2.     Do I begin with the figure if Saul or the chair?
3.     If I make Saul a certain size, what will the size of the whole figure be?
4.     What is the relationship with the figure and the chair? Meaning will they be one unit or separate pieces where the two are not attached
 too one another?

I decided to plan the figure of the king first. How large would he have to be for me to be comfortable with him. You know, showing the roots around his body and so on. He is the main character and so this detail is important. Despite the size and imposing aspect of the chair, he is the main feature.

Whenever one makes these calculations one needs a “unit of measurement”. For a human type of figure, the size of the head is the unit of measurement to use. You will see examples of this in any art information on the human anatomy. Usually a picture of two human figures, a male and female with their head size calculated down the whole figure. Usually about 7.5 heads from top to bottom.

So I began doing this with Saul. I settled on a 3 inch sized head. When I had completed calculating his body size, I began with the chair. The key measurement for this was Saul’s lower leg size. Since he would be “sitting” on the throne, then whatever the length of his leg was from foot to knee would be the height of the seat from the floor. Since the length of this part of the anatomy is 2.5 heads on the human male I was able to apply that to the chair. If the seat was this particular height from the floor, (or chair leg height) 7.5 inches, then I could calculate the size of the whole chair. Using the picture I had of the “sword throne” I measured each aspect and transferred it to the number of 3 inch heads everything was. The result was a throne that would end up being about 21 inches in height. My tallest piece up till now is 24 inches high, so this I felt would be manageable.

Then, I got out the porcelain clay, put it through the slab roller, and began cutting out the various pieces of the chair to size. These were then placed on boards to dry so I could put them together later. For now they were to wet and due to their size, needed to dry so they would “stand” when put together.

And so, the dye is cast. I am on my way to building the throne. Will the Kingdom survive?

“He is like a man building a house, who dug and went deep, and laid a foundation on the rock....”
Luke 6:48

Sunday, 9 September 2012

My Quest, Subtleties of Light.

Notice the new LIGHTS in my studio?

I love lights! Any kind of lights, white or colored I don’t discriminate! If there is an unusual light, I’m on it. I’m like our backyard resident squirrel seeing an intruder to his territory. Immediately, nothing else matters, all other activities and plans disappear and full attention is brought to bare on this new nasty intruder! For example, I not only stop at, but will see every little shop or booth that sells those lighted lapel pins. My poor wife follows me and then discovers I was only going this particular way to get to this shop! I always stop and admire these shops. She has, a long time ago made me promise not to buy any more of these pins.

I love Christmas as the world finally moves into my love of lights. One of our malls here in S. Winnipeg have a “saturation” style of lighting during this season. Hundreds of strings of small twinkling lights are hung vertically from the ceiling over the food court. These millions of “twinkling” lights are a calming therapeutic adventure for me. I go there just to be under these lights! My “endorphins” kick in and work overtime.

I’ve found myself following a kid just to watch the lights blinking on and off on their runners. I realised later, I could have gotten arrested for something like that!

My wife and I have had this argument about the outdoor decorations of our house, ever since we have had houses. I like the “blinking” lights and she dose not. For a few years we divided the house, a larger portion decorated to her style of “non-blinking” lights and only one measly side to my style, of course, fantastic multi-colored “blinking” lights. I have even purchased those plug-in adaptors that make your whole Christmas light system blink. Soon, I hear a high pitch scream and I know my few minute of “light paradise” is over.

When we were in Kansas City with friends, we walked back and forth from our hotel room to city hall where the event we were attending was taking place. One of the hotels had a permanent “laser light show” set up set up as advertising on their exterior wall. My weakness for “light” exhibited itself and it became a practise of the group to “stop here for a few moments so Cliff can admire the same show... again...!” (I have amazing friends, thank you guys!)

I could go on and on. Oh, also, I have to mention the netting of lights hanging from the ceiling inside our outdoor gazebo. I love our gazebo, but especially in the evening, we turn on this net of tiny lights, and a warm friendly glow of light fills the whole area evenly. It’s not to bright, and not to dim. Not only that, it reflects so beautifully from the smoked glass surface of the patio table. Wow, a double whammy of lights. It’s heavenly!

Where does this come from? I think it began on the farm. From very early in my youth I became aware of light. I somehow got my parents to enroll me in a home study course in photography. Here I was introduced to l i g h t! I have been an amateur photographer ever since. I am so aware of the beauty and the emotion that shades of light can evoke in me and others. Even a black and white photograph, which exhibits shades of grey only, can evoke tremendous emotion and feeling. Then consider color and things just get blown into the stratosphere!

Now we are talking “art”. Here is where we begin talking about the quest for such subtleties in color, like in my sculpting and photography that communicates something. I want the sculpture, its shape, it’s tension, together with texture and the correct shade of color to create an emotion. To bring joy, a smile, to understand a story or thought in a new way, to communicate in a way which words would never be able to express.

“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good.”
Genesis 1:3

Saturday, 8 September 2012

“Slinging” into Action...

Yesterday, I and my wife Wilma had a meeting with a group called “Inner City Youth Alive.” They have a fundraising event happening in October and were interested in Wilma speaking for that occasion. It turns out that this annual event is very unique in that they always include an art display related to the theme chosen for their fundraising events.

As we learned about them, they also were also learning about us. Wilma made them aware of the art I was doing and so they, unbeknownst to us, made the journey to Altona to see my show at “The Gallery in the Park”. It was after this that they called to arrange a meeting with the both of us.

Inner City Youth Alive is a faith-based, non-profit organization located in the North End of Winnipeg, one of the city’s most needy neighbourhoods, ministering the youth and their families since 1986. You can check them out on their web-site

We met at my studio and talked. They told stories of their work with hurting, broken youth and their families. Drug dealers, gang members, violence, death and murder, alcoholism, addictions, serving time in jail, etc. were all part of their stories. Also included were how these broken people also sought to help one another, with amazing acts of love and kindness no one would expect or ever see.

After the meeting, Wilma mentioned how my dream of making a “David as a youth” would so fit into this scenario.

I cannot let go if the idea of making a “David” for this occasion. A David as a shepherd boy who had been neglected and forgotten by his family. Working as a shepherd, the least of any job at that time. The lowest of the low. Yet, a young man who out in those fields met his God in a real way and had the time to meditate, worship, commune and understand as no one had even in Moses’ day, the unique love God had for him. (and us.) David chose not to become angry and bitter over his being ignored and neglected, he became strong as he became convinced he was loved, appreciated and admired by his God! All of this has became clear as we read his life time of poetry and songs in the Psalms.Who cares what your family thinks of you if you know your “the apple of God’s eye”!

I envision a piece representing this strength and confidence. David standing as a shepherd boy, protecting his sheep. A youth, 17 yrs. of age, strong and confident. One or two sheep laying, sleeping, at rest, safe at his feet. He’s standing alongside a pillar of rock. He’s already killed the bear and the lion to save his sheep. He’s wearing leather and fur clothing, ready for any kind of action. His staff in one hand alongside the rock pillar, one sling around his neck like a necklace, being the shorter one used for short range shots, the other sling, the longer one for longer distance shots, is in his right hand, ready. His bag of ammunition is full, small smooth special stones lovingly chosen and gathered over many days and months, just the right size, weight and smoothness for accuracy. He is sharp and ready to protect his father’s assets. His cloak lays at the foot of the pillar used as a cushion for his well used harp.

He is the young "lion of Judah", and even he doesn’t yet know that. He has no idea that in a few days his life will change dramatically. Not only will he be singled out by a priest for an anointing ceremony, confirming the fact that he will be the future king, but also soon after that stunning experience, he will be facing the greatest challenge of his life. He will be facing a nine foot nine inch giant of a man in a life or death military encounter! An experienced deadly warrior who has no idea who it is he’s dealing with. That he is facing a 17 year old, spirit filled young man who has just been anointed to be the nation’s future king.  The giant, of course, has no idea that this boys future is to be the king, and that if he attempts to engage in battle with this young “lion of Judah” there is no other option but his doom.

For every youth, male or female, regardless of the tragic history, there is hope!

Will I have it ready for the date of this event in mid October? I make no promises but I will do my best. I would love to unveil this piece on that occasion. It just seems to fit.

If you want to see how to use a sling, check out “The Sling Video” on U Tube. It’s awesome.

“Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred select troops who were left handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.”
Judges 20:16

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Second Thing Needed...

This wet blob of clay needs direction...a vision...

So, yesterday you learned that “numbers” are not my thing! Yet it is very much needed for as you know, I do run a business, I do have a household to take care of, I do have to remain solvent and know where I’m at. I have worked out secret ways to do that without the bother of data entry and so on. Why the government cannot understand that this works for me is so sad. I will continue to work at trying to convince them as they years go by.

The second thing needed which is also a problem is promotions.

Now, I used to be the “promotions guy” when I worked in children’s camping. I enjoyed it. The photography, the designing of newsletters, brochures and mailings. But what I loved best was going out to represent the camp with a display and visits to churches and schools, spreading the message of our programs and the joy and changes this brought to the children and their families.

Then there was the excitement of gathering at colleges and Bible schools to recruit summer staff. Each school had a scheduled date. This brought all the camps from far and wide sending their reps/directors  who would all descend on the same school at the same time. There they set up all their displays in the gymnasiums, start their slide shows/videos, and then begin socialising with one another. Along with all the visiting pranks would ensew, like for example projector slide cases would be secretly exchanged between different camp displays when the reps were not looking, out having coffee or busy hiring a new staffer. It was always fun to see when the two different owners would discover this. Sometimes it would last hours! Then of course their expressions and responses to the stunt.

Now of course, I am not a camp director/rep., I am an artist! I have to promote myself and my own creative work! I am finding this very different from my past promotional work. It is a whole different animal to promote oneself! If I do something I hesitate to say anything about it. I would much rather someone else say something, hopefully good about it.

Here is the problem. Let me say it crassly. I need to let other art galleries, across Canada and possibly other countries, know that I have created something and that I would like them to seriously consider showing my work in their galleries. Also, to make this work I need put a positive spin on it, including media responses to my work.

If I’m going to wait for someone else to say something to all these potential galleries, I know I’d be waiting more than a lifetime for that to happen.

Another thing, In working this promotional thing out I have had to deal with the negative culture I grew up in. I have already been working at changing the inside voice of “you suck” to “you are ok”. I’m working hard to get it to “you rock” but that will take a while.

This week I’ve been working on my art resume which I will send out to potential galleries. As I review what others have said about my work I’m truly awed, and thankful for the amazing positive and meaningful responses. I will certainly be adding those into my presentation.

Actually, now that I’m writing this I am realizing I need to continue networking with galleries, curators, and the like in the social world of the arts. I will need to discover organizations like the “Winnipeg Arts Council” and more. There are programs and promotional activities available for beginning artists I need to investigate.

Nancy Ancowitz has an article called “Self Promotion for Introverts”. Here are some pointers she makes. These are related to looking for a job, but they do apply to my case as I’m also looking for a job...showing my work.

1 Don’t waste your energy blaming yourself for being out of a job.

2 Take impeccable care of yourself—mind, body, and soul—and remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments. Every day.

3 Whenever you feel like you’re begging, stop yourself. Think of all the people you’ve helped throughout your career. And now it’s your time to receive—with gratitude.

4 Rally support among people who value you. Ask for help in the way of leads, assistance with practicing for interviews, and feedback on your résumé.

5 Get plenty of introductions. Ask friends, colleagues, former bosses, mentors, and people you can connect with on social networking sites such as LinkedIn. Tell them specifically whom you’d like to meet and/or the organizations and functions that interest you.

6 Find a few hours of quiet time every day to take specific actions toward your job search.
7 Use your introvert’s advantage at research—online and through your network—to get the scoop on the organizations and people you want to connect with.

8 Prepare for the toughest questions you might be asked on job interviews and rehearse your answers—preferably on videotape. It’s worth putting yourself through the paces.

9 Follow up promptly when someone in your network offers to make an introduction for you. Also, circle back appreciatively and let your acquaintance know any positive outcomes of the introduction.

10 Have a few succinct stories up your sleeve that you can use on interviews. The highlights of these stories can include how you have made a difference in an organization—and the specific contributions you made. Make the point of the stories relevant to the organization you’re applying to.

OK, thank you for listening and letting me process out loud. I feel much more directed and better already. I have a vision.

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”
Habakkuk 2:3 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Two Things are Needed...

The “eye” was needed but wrongly used!

Yes, two things are needed and no, one of the things is not coffee, though I have set myself up with one as I’m writing this morning, and it is sooo good, French Vanilla ooooohhh.

There are two things I find difficult and troubling, they are promotions and financial record keeping. I have to confess, I know it's late but I finally got my financial stuff together for the tax man. And that was only after a lot of polite calls from my accountant, and one from Canada Revenue! My accountant was very polite in how he used several techniques in encouraging me to get it done. First, there were the many reminders of the reality of the fines that would be levied against me for being late. Secondly, he tried using shame, for as time went on he kept calling and I’d try to avoid answering. I’d convince myself I could not take the call because I was busy doing something important, you know, watering flowers or something important of like that. Shame though worked a little better, his calls and hearing others talking about how they had already done their taxes worked some but not enough to get me into action.

Somehow the shame and the small percentage he was suggesting I’d be charged by the government seemed by far less painful than working for hours, looking for seemingly non-existent forms, filling in a spreadsheets and doing the extensions, filling in amounts I’d paid, amounts I’d received, from who and for what, list upon list, and then there were those terrible, horrible small crumpled pieces of paper called receipts that had to be recorded. These had to be straightened out, (I was considering a steam iron but my wife would not hear of it!) to decipher what exactly it was saying, but also one had to remember what in the world the purchase had been about. Hey it was over a year ago, how can one remember that far back?

Finally, two things happened. First I got a call from an official in the tax department asking if I had filed and wondered why not. OK, that did it. Now it was not the government but an actual person I’d offended and that moved me. Weird! Shame definitely took over. Secondly, we got a call from our accountant and he reminded me that their special tax computer which calculates your taxes in one hundred thousand ways to get you the best results possible was going to be shut down at the end of this week to be re-programmed for next year’s tax season and the new rules the government had enacted. So if we could get ours in before that it would of course be to our advantage. Well, since we were now going to be fined a “small percentage” for being late we needed this computer to get the lowest tax bill possible! Now I was motivated. Weird! So, we, my wonderful long-suffering wife and I decided that it just had to get done. So we set Thursday as our our deadline date and went at it.

Have you ever noticed how interruptions increase as your deadlines increase? We only had three days to do this and right away our phones burst into life. Then I suddenly had to meet a staffer, also I had to take care of several appointments that had been made earlier and could not be moved, even the door-bell began ringing... Wow.

But, when our friendly accountant arrived Thursday night at seven pm, we were ready - sort of, in a way! We were bleary eyed, riled up, wired, tense, tired and frustrated and did I mention bleary eyed? When he came through the door we warned him of our fragile state, but he seemed oblivious to it all. How ready were we? He had to set up beside my computer and scroll through my spreadsheet to copy the information onto his. And our forms, well they were all in piles on the dining room table, on the couch, coffee table...he was very gracious and understanding and amazingly calm. What took me hours to do, he did in seconds. His fingers just blazed over the numbers keyboard! He just glanced at forms and understood them completely. How in the world is such a thing possible? It’s simply amazing and disgusting all at the same time. Can you believe it took him two and half hours at our house and he was done! That included jokes, taking a break, stories and of course entering our data!

After all that it certainly helped and eased the pain (a little) to hear that our tax bill would be lower than we expected.

It’s Saturday morning as I write this and we are still recovering! One of the two things needed had been done. What a relief!

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or the head to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
1 Cor. 12:21