Saturday, April 19, 2014

SKETCHBOOK - "Belvoir Winery"

Today, it's been 4 years since my wife, Cathy, died.  Each year at this time...well...I never quite know what to do about it.  It gets a little easier, I suppose.  The family honors Cat in their own way...but it's always an odd mix of emotions.  One of the things Cathy told me in a note she left was for me to "keep sketching".  So today...I did just that.

It just happened to be one of the monthly "sketch crawls" with a group of artists I belong to online...  the "Urban Sketchers Midwest".  Today we went to the Belvoir Winery in Liberty, Missouri.  I had never been there before.  I was thinking that the vineyard would be on the surrounding land, but wasn't.  But the place is beautiful and interesting...weddings are held there.  I'll go back, if for no other reason than to go inside.  (It was too nice outside for me to sketch indoors!)

My first sketch was done from the side of the road that leads up to the old "Odd Fellows Home" that has been turned into the winery.  The marsh just caught my eye.  Drawing at this spot also helped me avoid the hundreds of children that were just up the road having an Easter egg hunt on the grounds.
The next sketch is of one of the many sculptural elements that line the looooonnnnngggg stairway leading up to the main building.  This is the entrance to the winery.
 I tried to loosen up some on my final sketch of the day.  This is part of the older buildings that have not been restored...the "ruins", as it were.  I don't know the history of the property...I'll need to read up about it on their website.
Below is one of the last photos I have of Cathy, taken just 3 months before she passed away. I am so blessed that she was so supportive of all of my creative endeavors, and I often think of her encouragement.  Thanks for a lovely day, Cat...I miss you!

Monday, April 7, 2014

SCULPTURE- "Warrior Angel"

When I read the descriptions of Angels in the Bible, I am often amazed that most of the images that I grew up seeing were of cute little babies with wings, or very feminine depictions of soft, lovely beings. It therefore struck me as odd while reading scriptures about Angels appearing to mere mortals...the text didn't match the greeting card art depictions.  The Angel would always have to say, "Fear not!" I'm sure for good reason.

I have posted a few sketches on this blog of "Warrior Angels". That is always how I see them...powerful, otherworldly, a bit scary...the soldiers of God Almighty!  I have wanted to do a sculpture of an Angel for a long time...a bit more on the "artsy" side, instead of my more humorous sculpts.  And I wanted to try to make it look like a weathered BRONZE statue. As usual, it took me WAY longer than I anticipated, and it was more difficult making this a "serious" piece.  But I'm pleased with how it came out.

Below is just some of my research and photos (with me as model...but I'm no angel, trust me).  I gathered way more than I'm showing here...images of angels, eagles, body builders, swords, armor, etc.  The angel in the middle of this page is my rough composition.  I printed it out to help keep proportions intact.
Next up...the "flaming sword".  I made this out of wood...and I wanted it larger than my sketch showed.  I also made a base that would allow me to connect and disconnect the large wing, with screws.  I cut the shape of the wing out of metal screen.  Then I super-glued washers on both sides of where the holes would go for mounting.  I created an armature of thick wire, which I then "sewed on" with very thin wire.
The next step was to cover the whole wing with a thin layer of Super Sculpy.  I baked this so it would give me a solid form to sculpt the details of the feathers onto.  The baking was done in a toaster oven.  I made a VERY rough sculpture of the angel's torso and arm...just to see how it looked with all the elements in place.
It was then time to add some details to the sword.  I glued a washer and a ball-bearing on the end of the sword handle.  I sculpted some "leather" wrappings and the rest of the basic form.  The hand was added, and then refined.  I added the forearm...but later removed it, as it was getting too long.
The lacing of the forearm gauntlet was made of little pieces of wire.  You can see where I cut off the arm below the arm band.  I had to use a lot of anatomy drawings and photos to try to get the muscles correct.  It was interesting, but way more challenging than I expected!  Once again, I did a quick "rough" of the Angel's torso, since I had refined the final arm.  Some proportions changed as I went...things got a bit larger than my initial sketch.  I wanted the Angel to have beefier proportions, and not so lean, like my sketch.
I decided to make a little skull to build the face onto. It wasn't necessary, I suppose, but it was fun.  The dark spots on the face are where I burned the surface a bit, when using my heat gun on it.
You can see the basic structure of the Angel's torso is pretty much finished at this stage.  I also added the lower wing's "armature", and baked it all, so I could build on top of it without damaging what I had finished to that point.
I had discovered a great link to a blog that showed how to make details on wings.  I don't have that site handy at the moment...but the tutorial was for miniature "tabletop gaming" characters.  I just scaled everything up, but the methods were the same.  The darker gray area on the tips of the wing were where I decided to extend the length of those primary feathers.  I used a mix of Super Sculpey, and Sculpy Firm.
The process of covering the front and back of the wing with feathers was laborious, and quite frankly, a bit boring.  I had a hard time making myself go work on those details...but it paid off in the end.  Below, you can see that I've added the FLAME to the "flaming sword".  I've also finished off the details of the lower wing.
At this stage, it was time to mount on the large wing, then sculpt the details for the rest of the feathers.  I had to change the shape of the feathers on the lower wing to match up with the large wing.  I then experimented with what I wanted to do with the base of the whole figure.  The first version was to be cloud-like swirls.  I opted for the simple ROBE treatment, to keep the focus on the flaming sword.
The last bit of sculpting detail was the Angel's hair.  The image on the right is the completed sculpture, just prior to painting it.
The paint job went through various stages.  I studied images of several bronze sculptures to try to fake the weathered look.  The base coat was a bronze metallic acrylic paint.  I glazed it with a very watered down black.  Then a watered-down aqua color, then began dry-brushing the high-lights with the bronze again.  I worked back and forth, repeating these colors, until I got what I liked.  The final color was the antique gold metallic paint on the flaming sword.
 And here is the finished sculpture!