Wednesday, March 26, 2008

At the Foundry Today - Cheyenne Courtship

I took Cheyenne Courtship to Northwest Artcastings at the beginning of this month to be cast into bronze. Well I got a call this morning, from the foundry, wanting me to come in and check over the clay, before they start making the latex rubber mold of it.
You can see all the photo's of the complete clay of this piece on my website

Here I am, with the clay, now cut apart for mold making, cleaning and filling scratches and holes.

As you can see, arms are removed, and so are many other small parts, such as the knife and sheath. On the table behind the clay, on foam pads, are arms and all the other parts cut off the piece.
On the way home from Bozeman, about a 50 mile trip, I pass a herd of Buffalo on the Ted Turner Ranch.

Well see you all next week. Today I purchased some new clay, a different colored clay, and will be working with it next week. So keep checking back in.
Let me know if you like what your seeing or if you have any questions.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Down from the High Lonesome (p8) Still on the first horse

This is where the clay was yesterday evening. (Remember, you can click on the photo and it will appear full size.)

Now I start to sketch in the neck. The neck of all animals are similar to the human neck. Just structurally different. All the muscles are the same as in humans, just arranged according to the skeletal structure. Once you realize that, it's easy to picture the muscles as you sculpt them.
Below, I've taken the horse I have been working on for the past two days and re-join it with the other horse, still to be worked on. You really start to see this piece coming together now.

Well at the of of this day before Easter 2008, this is where I am. I'll be away from my studio till the first of April. Please come back and check in then

Friday, March 21, 2008

Down from the High Lonesome (p7) Muscle

Today I gather the reference materials. Muscle drawings from an art book have been scanned into my computer. The reason I do this is so that I don't have to fumble around with tons of reference books. I can just fumble around with tons of flat sheets instead.

My Tools. Tools range from Calipers, various wire tools, metal wax working tools, and a hobby knife.

And I start adding the muscles onto the skeletal structure of the horse. First His abdomen. You have to start somewhere so I start with abdomen to set the main bodies profile. I use the wire tool to shape the clay. It's serrated. This helps my eye to see the form I'm shaping.

Then I start sketching in the muscle groups. The rear of the horse is very complicated in it's structure. So I start there. I save the head till almost the last. It sticks out, and therefore more apt to be hit as I turn the piece to work on it.

One side of the horse, after a days work. It takes time to figure out what the muscles are doing, in the position and movement I've put horse into. The composit photo below shows two different angles. In the angle on the right you can see I've added the outline of the neck, and throat of the horse.

That's it for today.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Down from the High Lonesome (p6) Second Horse

As you can see, I've added a wooden dowel for strength. Back when I first started sculpting, I used to spend a ton of money on galvanized pipe, galvanized elbows, and the flange they would attach to for additional support. I found that the simpler the better.
Now for really large pieces, yes, you would use pipe or anything else like welded supports. For this size, wooden dowels work just fine.
Continuously I measure. You have to make sure proportions are spot on. You might skate by without having your proportions right on, but unconsciously, it will look wrong.

Well it's just add clay and form the skeletal structure. This will be the base that you add the muscles and tendons.
That's it. The two horses are to the point were I can now work out the composition. This has changed three times since I began this piece, and it may change again. The process is fluid.

Next I start adding muscle. That's when the horses will start to come alive. Stay tuned.. so to speak.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Down from the High Lonesome (p6) First Clay Added

Ok, I have the general composition started. It may still change. You never know till you add clay and see where horses heads are in relation to the other horse and rider.

The photo's above show the clay of the first horse to get clay. As you can see I create the skeletal structure in clay. Not precise, but enough, so that I can add muscles later.

Below are 2 videos I shot in time laps. That's it for today.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Down from the High Lonesome (p5) Creating the Base and Composition

Today I'm including photos and videos. Above you see the two sections or removable platforms on to which I'll be attaching the horse armatures. The large board then becomes the mother board that the two RP's are attached to. I do this so I can work on each horse individually as well as giving myself the freedom to adjust the composition.
I've finished the two horse amatures, now I start to lay out the composition for the finished clay. I've made two videos for you on this process.

OK, here's a video of the final composition.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Down from the High Lonesome (p4) It Begins

Well I'm entering these blogs today in reverse. Starting at the end of the process of creating the horses armature first and the first part of the process last, because that's the format of this blog. What you enter last will appear first.. Kinda confusin ain't it?
The reason you don't see a photo above this section, is because that's what I start with... Nothing. Just air. It's up to me to fill the air above my sculpting stand with something of beauty and worth.
That's a daunting task when you have to keep creating to keep the galleries, and the people who produce your work happy.
It's kinda like writing a story. You have to start with that first word. The armature for a clay, is kinda like that first word. Once you start, you can eventually get to the end of the story. Hopefully making it interesting and fulfilling for those who read or see it.
So lets start.
First thing all artist's have to do is decide on the size of a painting or a sculpture. In sculpture and more exactly, in bronze art, you have to decide what it will cost to produce what you have in mind, because that will eventually determin what it will sell for.
Doing two riders on two horses is going to cost double and sell for double of what a single horse and rider will sell for. So to keep it in a certain pricing range at the end, I've decided to do a clay half the size of last horse and rider piece I did.
Once I come up with a size, I print out a drawing of a horse to the scale I'm going to do it in. This will determine the eventual length and height of the piece I'm creating.

To make the horse's armatures, I have to scale the anatomy of a horse drawing I've scanned into my computer from a book to the size of the horses I'm going to create. Now I could plot and draw out the layout of the horses anatomy. I would do that if I had an extra day to do that. I figure the books on anatomy are a tool, just like the wire tools I sculpt with. So why not use it to your advantage. So I do.
You'll notice in the drawing of the horse, just behind his rib cage there is a section of white. This is where I cut the drawing to adjust for the length of the horse. The artist who drew this skeletal drawing made the horses anatomy a bit short. The distance from the top of the horses head (between the ears)to the point of his shoulders, is equal to the distance between the point of the shoulders and the highest point of his hips. In the drawing he was shorter and therefore not equal in this measurement.
I start bending the copper tubing to the length of the horses head. Once again the head was shorter in the drawing compared to what it should have been, so I adjusted the length of the armature of the head.
There are formulas for the anatomy of every living creature. A horse is equal in height, from the bottom of it's hooves, to the top of it's shoulders, to the length, from the front of it's chest to the end of his body. Or in a human, the Greeks came up with a formula, thousands of years ago, that we still follow today. A man, for example, is 7 and a 1/2 heads to 8 heads tall. Ideally I make my figures 7 1/2 heads tall. This works for me.
I bend the tubing to follow the neck bones then the main part of the backbone. I bend it back onto itself where the point of the hips are. This gives me the ability to attach the rear legs properly.
I then follow the shape or outline of the thorax, or ribcage.
I don't use anatomical terms, because, quit honestly, I'm not educated in those. I'm self taught. I just know what is where. I ain't a doctor.. so to speak.

I now have a basic structure for the horses armature. This has to be a strong structure. Depending on the size of the clay, this part has to hold the weight of all the clay, for the horse and eventually the man or woman.

To create the legs and to make them to scale, once again I use the drawing of the horses skeletal structure. I bend a section of copper tubing in half then I put the bent part at a point on the back bone of the horses skeleton. I have to attach the legs to the frame I made before so I leave enough room to tape it with electricians tape to the frame of the horse.
With the plyers I bend the two shoulder and leg halves together. The reason I do them together is so that they come out exactly the same in length and angle.
I will change the angle of the shoulders later when I come up with the action of the horse. One shoulder might be raised while the other might fall back a bite. Depending on the horses movement. Kinda like if I were to do a armature of a man or woman, I would change the angle of the shoulders to match the movement of the person.
Bending two halves of the 1/4 inch copper tubing together is not easy, but it's necessary.

Here are the front legs bent and formed. I've separated the points of the shoulders. For a Barb Horse, they would be narrow in the width of the chest. So I don't separate them as far as a modern day horses shoulders.

I read someplace that Barbs were so narrow in the chest that when they stood on all four legs their front legs would tend to pyramid or splay out from the shoulder.
When doing a horse from the west in the early to late 1800's you have to keep that in mind.

This photo shows the finished horse armature done to scale. Now I make the second one, exactly like the one I just made. This took me about an hour and a half.
I've gotten faster at it over the years.
Next step is to create the base that the horse armatures will be attached to.
That comes Monday. So check back in then.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Down from the High Lonesome (p3) Spanish Barb or Cayuse

If I were to create a pony as it actually looked like back in the 1800's, it might not sell, because they were bucket ugly. The photo above is a great example of how dang ugly they could get.
The Western Horse is very seldom portrayed correctly in Hollywood Movies. It's much easier to just hire out modern day Quarter Horses than to actually hire out Spanish Barb and Cayuse Horses. Those were just a few of the horses that roamed the western plains and mountain valleys of the early to late 1800's.
In researching for any western bronze that I do, I never ever use Quarter Horses for most of the periods of history I portray. It means throwing out all you know about modern day horses and changing it to match the confirmation of the older style horses. Modern Quarter Horses wouldn't have survived in the old west. It takes grain to raise the modern horse. The old west horse had to survive on grass and whatever they could forage. They were built for that kind of survival. The modern Quarter Horse would have died from the gases that would have built up in it's stomach from eating just grass and such.
Most westerners called all horses back in the 1800's mustangs. Actually the horses were made up of different breads Cayuses and Spanish Barbs are but a few.
The Spanish Barb has a legacy bequeathed out of the Spanish discovery, exploration and colonization of the New World. Arriving by ship to confront foreign environs, the Spanish Barb horse adapted, endured and survived the epoch of exploration, conquest and colonization, and continued through the age of settlement of the American West. The Spanish Barb was one of America's greatest resources and without the presence of these horses, history would read quite differently today.
One little known horse from that period of American history is the famed Cayuse Indian Pony of the Northwest. Although the settlers called most horses raised by the American Indians "Cayuse ponies", the Cayuse Indian Pony of the Northwest is a distinct breed which originated in the 1800's. Its conformation and its background set it apart from the mustang, Spanish Barb or other wild horses. If you want to see a great rendition of a Cayuse Pony, find a photo of the famous bronze, "End of the Trail" by James Fraser.
Alright that's the history, now I have to determin the breed of horse, and the size of the new clay, "Down from the High Lonesome" (refer to previous entries). I then need to start designing the base on which the two horses and riders will be mounted on, then I create the armature out of copper tubing. I'll leave that to the next entry in this blog. Stay tuned and maybe you'll be making armatures and sculpting a horse of your own. That's why I'm doing this. To educate you as to how much goes into one bronze. It isn't a hap-hazard process. It takes a lot of thinking and researching. Well time to get to it!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Down from the High Lonesome (p2) Researching

Researching for a new clay, Down from the High Lonesome (3/10/08 entry), is time consuming. It can take days to gather all the material I need to proceed to the next stage, and that's creating the characters in the new piece, or clay.
Above you can see just a few of the photo's I've gathered from researching the web. Researching the web can be frustrating. If you don't know the exact terminology to put in the search window, you get a lot of bad returns in your results. I also photographed a local lady, Lea Ann (Otter Banks Gallery, Ennis Mt), who is part Indian, for the head of the Crow or Blackfoot woman, who is riding behind the mountain man. Haven't decided yet on Crow of Blackfoot because I'm still gathering material. I've found more on the Blackfoot than on the Crow, so I'm leaning more for the Blackfoot woman. It's all part of the formulation process.
I have tons of books as well. These really help. Mostly though, you spend many hours of gathering photo's of clothing from at least near the period of the clay, around 1830. There's a lot of speculation and imagination involved in coming up with costuming. You can look at paintings done by George Catlin (1790 - 1872) and Carl Bodmer (1809 - 1893), but they were artists, not archeologist's, so you have to just take their paintings at face value.
I've taken photo's of clothing in Museums such as the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody Wyoming. I've used models dressed in authentic reproductions of clothing from that period as well. The maker of the clothing does his or her research as well as to design and construction of clothing from that period. 1830s, there isn't much that has survived. So there's a lot of educated guessing, and artistic license involved in designing the clothing for a sculpture.
I feel pretty confident in what I come up with.
Well back to the researching part. Time to try and find paintings of Mountain Men from that period. Believe me, that is almost non-existent.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Down From The High Lonesome (Part 1)

Many months, and sometimes years, spent in the mountain valleys, weathering the cold, rain, and blistering heat, a Mountain Man comes Down from the High Lonesome. This is the idea that sprang into my head as I lay on my left side in bed this morning, stretching my right arm back behind me, to work out a kink in my shoulder. These happen more the older I get. Well at that instant, the vision of my next clay popped into my head, of a mountain man coming down a rocky twisted trail from up in the mountains.
I can't explain how I see a piece when an idea comes into my head. I don't actually see it. I feel it's shape and form. As if I were touching a three dimensional figure. I feel the hooves of the horse as they step over fallen rock. I become the horse, it's muscles and bones moving, it's head turning in the direction of it's careful step, as it changes it's direction of descent. I feel the sway of the man, moving to the horses movement. His left hand senses the cold steel of his rifle through the doe skin sheath that covers it. The fringe on that sheath moving to the movement of the horse and man. I feel his face, grimacing with the pain of hours in the saddle, as age starts to tell him, a comfortable rocking chair would be an ideal place to sit, and not on the Santa Fe style saddle that squeaks under his weight, and to the horses shifting anatomy, as his Cayuse picks it's way down the rocky trail. The saddles rawhide covered parts groaning at it's joints. The sound of pebbles and rock, echoing off the canyon walls, as they rolling down the steep mountain side. His Crow Indian wife, uncomplaining, rides, on her horse, behind him.
The vision of her just popped into my head as I sit here writing.
Ideas sometimes take years to form in my head. To get to this point, it took about a week of reading, watching movies, playing games on my computer. All the while in the back of my head, trying to come up with an idea. Many artists have different ways of coming up with a vision. I try to do anything but sculpt or draw. I do those things that relax me. I just clear my mind.
It's kinda like when you taste different wines and then to clear your pallet, you swish water in your mouth, before drinking the next glass of a different vintage. Well I've been clearing my pallet.
I freed my mind of the last clay I'd been working on. Making way for the new idea to take hold. I have to be excited about the idea, to do my best, with it.
Well now it's time for me to do my research. Clean my studio, from the months of clutter and reference materials that are stacked there. Putting them in order. Then creating the armature to hold the clay. This all takes time. All the while the vision I had this morning matures. I call friends with my idea. Bounce it off of them. I listen to their knowledgeable input, then I start applying clay. Creating something that may have been, but never had been seen, in the empty air above my sculpting stand.
Stay with me. I'll add photo's of this creative process here on my blog, over the next few weeks and maybe months. You'll be a part of my creativity. Hopefully you'll experience a little of what I experience on this road to, Down from the High Lonesome.