Saturday, December 25, 2010

Turtle maneuvers, and rock hard headaches...solving my granite drilling and bronze mounting problems

These guys are heading off somewhere with a united purpose in their semi aquatic minds...

Drilling holes in the granite bases and screwing in the semi submerged turtles for Bumper to Bumper was giving me some major headaches.
Some turtles were drilled and tapped with a smaller size hole for 10/24 screws, while the others were larger for quarter twenty screws. I got different turtles cast and metal worked at different times, which explains that.

Keeping organized was a lifesaver, with each base numbered, and each turtle marked on its underside according to which base it went on and it's position in the lineup.

Getting the hole locations marked was easy enough. After smearing some release agent with a Q-tip around each hole on the undersides of the turtles (thanks for that, Lee) I pushed a flattened pea sized ball of soft waxy clay over the hole, positioned all the turtles on the base and then removed them.
Six little flattened bits of clay with short stalks corresponding to the holes under the turtles were stuck nicely to the granite.

Then I just lowered the right sized diamond core drill bit into place, clamped the granite, surrounded the area with a dam of clay, filled the dam with water, removed the tiny blob of clay I was aiming the drill at, and slowly and carefully drilled through the rock on the slowest speed my drill would go.
I've mentioned before how much I love that rubbery stuff on rolls you can buy for your cutlery drawer from the supermarket.
I find it great anytime I need some grippy friction and cushioning, so it was great under the granite to help hold it steady.
I took my time and lifted up the drill several times so as not to overheat the granite since that might cause it to crack.
When the drill went right through the water drained out into a bowl underneath and I repeated the process until done.
I used a chinagraph pencil to remind me which were the quarter twenty holes on the granite (so I didn't drill the 10/24 ones with the same bit)
My legal disclaimer goes here...water and electrical appliances don't mix. So of course I'm not suggesting you do what I did, I'm just saying it's what I did. Check with the manufacturer of your drill press to find out what you should do, and of course wear safety goggles.
And a snorkel too, if you like.
Oh, and super hot bits of rock could shatter and fly off and do you or others all kinds of damage.
So wear all the appropriate safety gear and keep kids/pets etc away.

I used a half inch glass and tile bit (looks like a spear) to widen the holes and act as a countersink on the back side while spritzing the bit with water to keep the granite dust from rising, and to keep the drill and granite cool.
So, to continue my legal disclaimer, don't drill anything without using a proper air filter on your face or the dust might kill you. Only work in well ventilated areas. And get the proper supervision.
And don't get water on electrical equipment. That's just asking for trouble.
So the procedures I've taken and am describing here are not meant as advice. They are for your entertainment so you can marvel at how I have somehow survived such reckless behavior. (so far, anyway). So view this not as a 'how to' post, but as a 'how NOT to' post.

Best to simply hire a pro.

So later I used a nylon washer with each screw. The washer is essential otherwise the screw gets jammed in the hole, while the nylon washer can become crushed into the hole and provide some compression for the ever tightening screw.

That worked wonders for the smaller 10/24 screws, but the larger quarter twenties didn't have the wiggle room and got jammed up inside the narrow 1/2" wide steep sided hole.

A 5/8 or 3/4 masonry bit turned out to be the answer to that problem.
Masonry bit

Depending on how deep you make the countersink, and how many nylon washers you use, and how long your screw is, and how thick your granite is, you can get it to work out every time.

Before I got the masonry bit to use as a countersink I spent a whole evening messing about trying (unsuccessfully) just to get a couple or three turtles screwed into place that were needing quarter twenty screws. It was a frustrating nightmare.
But when I got better tools to do the job, it was a breeze in comparison.

For quarter twenty screws I'll use a 5/16" diamond core bit, and a 5/8" masonry bit for the countersink, with 1/2" screws and one or two nylon washers in each for granite 3/8" thick.

For 10/24 screws I used 1/4" diamond core bit, and the 1/2" glass and tile bit that looks like a spear.
I'm sure a 1/2" masonry bit would work great for that too.
After some clean up, felt dots go on the bottom of the granite to keep it from scratching the furniture, unless you're really determined of course.
Where there's a will there's a way.

Oh, I almost forgot, Merry Christmas!

Click these links to visit my website... - Sculpture that loves you back
or my Etsy store, CritterVille

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Through a glass's a spooky looking scene...

Cut up bits and pieces embedded in mold material, waiting to be cut out so waxes can be made.

You might recognize the snail from one of my shoe horns, and of course a tree frog which I'm making as a stand alone wall mounted frog.

That isn't Rumplestiltskin in the background spinning straw into gold, it's Lee flattening the bottoms of my Bumper to Bumper mid size turtles.
Somehow he manages to keep his fingers off that fast spinning abrasive disk (I'm very glad to say).

Click these links to visit my website... - Sculpture that loves you back
or my Etsy store, CritterVille

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Season's Greetings from my politically correct singing mice!

They may look to be singing in perfect harmony, but these politically correct mice are all squeaking different songs celebrating different things in different languages at the same time.
It's a cacophony that looks way better than it sounds!
Mice at least can't sing very loud!

After they finished they all rushed off as a man (or a mouse) to share a tangy meal in the garbage can, followed by a nice communal snooze.

Click these links to visit my website... - Sculpture that loves you back
or my Etsy store, CritterVille

Friday, December 3, 2010

You can't beat a good story...

John Buscema preferred Harold Von Schmidt to Frederick Remington.
That's what he said in an old interview I was reading in the summer.
Well in that case I figured I'd better get familiar with Harold Von Schmidt (since John Buscema is one of my all time favorite draughtsmen and visual storytellers - I've collected bunches of his work over the years).

So I found a book online ('Harold Von Schmidt Draws and Paints the Old West' by Walt Reed, published by Northland Press) and ordered it, then took off for Loveland's Sculpture in the Park show, via Vail (to drop off some bronzes for Cogswell Gallery and make their acquaintance in person ) this past summer.

While in Vail Meridee and I visited Claggett Rey gallery since we knew there'd likely be loads of great stuff in there.
I was bowled over by this huge painting of a bull making a break for it that was full of drama.

Turns out it was by... Harold Von Schmidt!

Now I was seriously anxious to get my hands on that book!

The above reproduction of that painting is from the book...

And here it is again, with Harold sitting in front of it!

The book is just a gold mine of great stuff, and I also learned the bull wasn't making a break for it, but because it is white it is being driven from the herd to prevent contamination and preserve the pure bred blood lines.

Great illustration is great art, of that there is no doubt in my mind. And what I love about great illustration is how it draws you in.

 I didn't need to read anything to know these two were contemplating settling in the valley below them.

Personally, what first attracts me is usually skillful execution, deep anatomical knowledge and the compositional sensibilities of an inspired and accomplished artist, and then I might find myself completely sucked into the story they're telling... can't help pondering those lives,  what led them to that point, and wondering what might have come this guy...did he make it?

Harold says in the book that one of his jobs as an illustrator is to sell the story, and make sure you go on from looking at the picture to at least read the first line of copy.

One of things I love about the silhouette below is how much Harold uses the viewer's brain to fill in the blanks. There's just enough there to clue you in, but your mind 'sees' everything it needs to to complete the picture.

Being a  storyboard artist myself I guess I'm just a sucker for a good story that's beautifully told.

Click these links to visit my website... - Sculpture that loves you back
or my Etsy store, CritterVille

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Impatience vs Perfectionism...

So you have an idea for a piece.
And you're itching to see it done.
You have some clue of how certain things must look - how good they have to be - in order to make seeing it finished worth while.
If you're anything like me these two opposing forces of impatience and perfectionism pop up as a dialogue time and again when you're working on a piece.

Just like the little devil on one shoulder, and the little angel on the other, lazy Steve and perfectionist Steve perch whispering in my ears...

'Go on, just slap a bunch of clay on there and fill out the shape, you'll get an idea of how it will look finished much sooner that way'

'Don't listen to him, get the proportions right, you'll only have to pull it all off and do it over when you realize the proportions are all wrong'

'Come on, this is taking forever, why don't you just fill out that bit really quickly and see how it looks'

'You know if you don't work out from the skeleton and carefully add the muscles before you concern yourself with the surfaces it'll look like a lifeless blob, then where will you be?

'Don't listen to him, your sketch is lively enough, did you start from inside out with that?'

'You're only going to make it once in clay, it will be around forever in bronze, and it will have your name on it. You want to cringe and wince every time you see it?'
First little clay sketch I did of sumo wrestling toads

Completed clay (table top size)

Sumo wrestling toads large version in bronze

There's lots of other thoughts and feelings swirling around besides these, but  these tugs of war never go away for long!

Although I do take pride and pleasure in the things I've made, as soon as something's done, then there's always the next thing.
But the last thing still has to take on its final appearance in bronze.
And there's always a lot to be done before that happens.

And time itself continues the work where I left off, hopefully revealing depth and character and continuing to tell the story of each work through the changing patina of age.

Click these links to visit my website... - Sculpture that loves you back
or my Etsy store, CritterVille

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Top to bottom tree frogs, and my first New Mexico rattler...

After I posted some out door 'tree frogs on a vine' close ups (but no complete top to bottom single images since I was going to do them inside),  Deborah Paris commented...

'the natural light makes them look fantastic. Anyway you can photograph the whole thing that way in a natural environment? It would look super!'

So I thought I'd do both!
The 'no distractions' way (might as well take advantage of how dark it gets here at night!), and around a pond.
Good job I got around to it quickly too. The inferno of color from the leaves was gone the very next day after a severe frost, and it even snowed last night.

This pond has bullfrogs in it (too cold to find any now though!)

2 different patinas

So thanks Deborah, great idea and right in the nick of time!

I still have to tidy up the indoor pics I just took (lots of dust on the table surface etc).

A couple of days before halloween I ran into my first rattlesnake since moving to Santa Fe five years ago.
I'd encountered a couple in California out walking about on some hiking trails (I wouldn't call myself a hiker: I start crying, sit on the floor, thrash about while turning purple and refuse to walk any further after about an hour and a half).

This time we were driving home and I saw a snake in the road.
As per usual I pulled over and jumped out, as I've often done before to encourage with my feet what is usually a bullsnake to get out of the road.

This time it was a rattler.
It had some blood on it, wasn't moving, but looked alive in a normal snakey pose (plus it wasn't flat yet!).
I noticed it was a very pale sandy color with very distinct markings, and some black and white bands by its rattle (which was up, but wasn't rattling).

My guess is it was hit once, maybe just dead, maybe nearly dead.
Anyhow, caution being the better part of valor where I'm concerned, I didn't attempt to usher it to safety since I didn't have a broom or anything on me.

A bit later we drove past the same spot where it was a barely noticeable ring of snake jerky on the road, and the next day there was no sign of it at all.

Eager to identify it, I googled some descriptions, home ranges and pics of various New Mexico rattlers and in the process saw some rather gruesome photos of hands that had been bitten.
They looked like rather gory balloon animals or over cooked sausages that had burst on the grill.
Chilling, to say the least!
Anyhow, I reckon it was a Western Diamondback, and it was right at the entrance to the community college which is right near a lot of houses.
So I didn't feel too bad that I couldn't save it!

And if you really want to give yourself a scare, do a google image search for 'rattlesnake bite'!

Click these links to visit my website... - Sculpture that loves you back
or my Etsy store, CritterVille

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tree frogs in my back yard?! Some bronze tree frogs on a vine.

I haven't got around to photographing the whole piece from top to bottom in one photo yet, so here's a bunch of close ups of my recently finished 'Tree Frogs on a Vine' bronze sculpture, in an edition limited to 250.

You can't beat shooting bronze in the dying embers of the sun's as it bids goodnight over the horizon.

I imagine I will post the whole piece this weekend, shot more traditionally indoors...

I tried out a couple of different patinas (or to be more precise, Mike Masse did).
He always does a stellar job.
Can't quite make my mind up which one I like best.

I'll probably go with the one that matches the Froggyballs.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Is that the 'great pumpkin' and friends, lurking in the pumpkin patch?

What have we here, scampering about among the pumpkins?

 Why it's none other than Sprightly, Nosey and Chubby, looking for seeds!

Could it be?
Is that the elusive 'Great Pumpkin', come to join his crittery friends?

Click these links to visit my website... - Sculpture that loves you back
or my Etsy store, CritterVille

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Mouse Project - Ah, the excitement of opening my box from Lulu...

Nosey, Chubby and Sprightly were as excited as me for a first look inside!


After a great deal of superb work by a whole bunch of terrific people (thanks again so much everyone!), I received my copy from yesterday (it looks GREAT!) and so The Mouse Project is officially launched!

What does that mean?

I have a page devoted to it (see the link next to 'home' at the very top of this blog? Or just click HERE, or vistit which includes:

• A link to the page where you can preview or buy the book

• An image from each artist used in the book, with links to their websites.

• A free to download PDF 'lite' version of the book that also takes you to all the artists' websites.
It's kind of a preview with one image from each artist (plus the clickable links to their websites).
A portfolio of more than 20 of the very best painters you'll find anywhere online.

• A quick YouTube trailer showing a lot more pieces than the PDF (but you can't blink or you'll miss some!)

Profits to benefit animal shelters.

So without any further explanation, just click HERE and check it out!

And here's the YouTube trailer just for good measure!

And many thanks again to Karen Appleton, Chris Beck, Paul Coventry-Brown, Bill Cramer, Jelaine Faunce, R. Garriott, Claudia Hammer, Jeff Hayes, K Henderson, Diane Hoeptner, Martha Kellar, Meridee Mandio, Carol Marine, Michael Naples, James Neil Hollingsworth, Craig Nelson, Jennifer O'Cualain, John Poon, Roseta Santiago, Dreama Tolle Perry and Lynne Windsor for doing such a great job in helping turn an idea into a better looking reality than I even hoped for!

Click these links to visit my website... - Sculpture that loves you back
or my Etsy store, CritterVille

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tree frog 'Rolls Royce of shoe horns' progress, museum show, and my mouse project book is officially in the mail...

The tree frog shoe horn is coming along, after a few glitches (described in an earlier post).
But I'm liking how it's coming along (not so thrilled with my photography skills on this bunch of pics!).

I decided to fill in the hole that hangs it on the nail, and have the frog hollow, with a keyhole shape cut into the leaf on the back side (only the keyhole is upside down) so it hangs magically on the wall.

I think this one and the snail complement each other nicely.

Or will when they're done, after molding, wax pulling, wax chasing, investing, burnout, bronze casting, de-molding, metal chasing, and patina. That's quite a process!

So it might take a while!
But it is the Rolls Royce of shoe horns, after all.

I filled the hole in and will hang it 'invisibly'

unfinished wax original (yet to be molded)

unfinished frog on leaf shoehorn

In the meantime I'll just have to make do with the cheapo and unsightly (but perfectly functional) shoe horn I bought from WalMart.

I recently published 'The Mouse Project' through, but have it set to 'private' until I get to see the printed book. It should arrive on Wednesday.
If all's well, I'll hit the 'public' button then and immediately post that it's alive and kicking!

I can hardly wait, I'm very excited to see the printed version, having been messing about with it for ages now on my computer.
Thanks to all the amazing work from 21 other artists I'm sure it will look great!

My Froggyballs and Athos, Porthos and Aramis the turtles are on display in the Albuquerque Museum's Miniatures and More show for this year which opens tonight, so I'm eager to find out how that goes.
Froggyball #1  a soda can,  and    Froggyball #2

Athos (top), Porthos (bottom left) and Aramis (bottom right)

Last year's turnout was very impressive, as I'm sure it will be this year too.

I'm working on some new mousey things which I'll no doubt post about very soon.
And I'm still planning on taking some pics of the critters in the pumpkin patch.

It's fun having a few balls up in the air at once!

Thanks for reading...

Click these links to visit my website... - Sculpture that loves you back
or my Etsy store, CritterVille