Friday, September 25, 2009

View My Portfolio

Now my portfolio is available for online viewing. My slideshows are posted in the right margin of this blog under the heading View My Slide Portfolio, just under the About Me section. For best results, view in a larger window by clicking on the provided link under each section. All the work shown is recent, from 2008-2009, and is broken up into the following sections:

Drawings: Graphite and Ink on Paper

Click on these above links to automatically view the slideshows in full screen. 

Thanks for checking out my portfolio!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Serious Play

I got really into sculpting this morning, and then the absolute worst happened-- I ran out of clay. It's not a totally loss of energy, however. The order for more is on its way, and I got a little extra time to do some writing. Here is the first draft of an essay I wrote this afternoon, on an experience with artmaking, entitled, Serious Play.

Serious Play
by Emily Bedard

Although I consider myself a Sculptor, and have gone to school to be such for the past 4 years, I have to say, it wasn’t until today that I actually understood what it is to sculpt. The verb, to me, has always carried an inherent sense of vigor. Whenever I express it out loud, I feel inclined to use a deep, robust tone like a burly Italian carver from the old country; TO SCULPT. Whenever I say, “I am a sculptor,” it is always accompanied by a sense of romance, as if what I do is controlled by an inner sacred passion. It always makes me smile a little.

            Admittedly, I never felt truly seduced by the clay. I never felt like I was having an enthralling experience; in fact it always seemed like a lot of plain hard work. Which was perfectly fine for me, for I have always understood that hard work brings a strong outcome, and although I may not always enjoy the process, it can be a successful outcome that causes you to love the craft. But don’t get me wrong, most of the time when I was not cursing the concept of sculpture, I was enjoying it, and felt indubitably satisfied in pursuing it as a career. But deep down, I had always assumed my approach was rooted in logic. I just never felt comfortable employing the word “passionate” when explaining my relationship to sculpting.

            That was until this first day of Fall, 2009. This morning I went downstairs to my garage studio with a fresh, warm slab of microwaved clay. I was happy to begin the second day of sculpting my second-ever life-size figure. I flipped on NPR and started working. The clay was warm and smooth as I squeezed it through my fingers; I kneaded out the lumps, making a consistent slap to apply to my lady. I was still in the primitive stages of my nude, still massing in the forms that were barely beginning to suggest a shape. Every mass I added, I started to see progress; every piece of clay I added became more important than the piece before it; every piece of clay had a purpose, and I knew exactly where it was going before I laid it on. I completely blocked out the radio. I had entered…the zone. Instead of listening to the radio while sculpting, I was sculpting while the radio was on.  It felt great; I felt as though the clay was an extension of my fingers. As I laid each piece onto the sculpture, even though I knew where it was going, and what form it was creating, it was like I didn’t care. For some reason, it was not the outcome that was consuming me, it was the present moment. I was almost worried to step back and see what a mess a had created. But only Almost. Sculpting was all that mattered. The feeling was all I cared about. I was having fun. I was have a really. Good. Time. 

            Who knows what brought this on. This is my first sculpture outside of school, and perhaps I am excited by having some independence as an artist. This is my second life-size figure, so perhaps I am approaching it with more confidence and trusting myself not to fear experimentation. Perhaps I am just getting better at what I do. I hope it is all of these things. It is simply a comfort to know that I’m moving forward with my sculpture, it’s nice to get these hints that you might actually be progressing. Discovering what it feels like to be passionate when sculpting has been a very important experience. And as small a step as it may be, it feels like a leap for me. Although I now know how it feels, I am in no way expecting myself to feel this way 100% of the time. It is a fleeting moment, passing quickly, but leaving an impact. I feel grateful having had it, and respectful that it may not come again for some time. But, it makes me appreciate that the hard times are also important to making sculpture. It is important to hate it sometimes, it is important to labor through problems that seem unsolvable. Like anything, there needs to be conflict to have resolution. The enthusiasm will pass, as will the discouragement. Art-making is like a series a phases; it can be exciting, devastating, and even mediocre. It is the persistence through these stages that bare an artist.  The true artist understands the fragile balance between logic and emotion and how they are forever dependent upon one another in creating valid art; it is just as important to go with your mind as with your heart. 

Today, I merely caught a glance of how vital emotion is when creating, and it will be a long journey before I truly understand the dichotomy. Nevertheless, I will still smile just a little harder, whenever I remember the oxymoronic advice of a great teacher, “to regard art-making as Serious Play.” 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Armature Stages

Now that I have welded my steel internal armature, I am ready to begin the additive process. However, there are a few things left to do before sculpting in clay. Below are some pictures showing my steps. 

This first image shows my bare steel armature which is attached to a plywood base. The base has a set of castors on the bottom so I can turn the sculpture with ease as I work. I have placed the armature next to my new mannequin to get an idea of the size, and also because I haven't posted a picture of her yet!

 Here is a second shot of my armature on top of the 2' platform I built for it. There is a joint between the top of the platform and the bottom of the armature base that allows the armature to be lifted on and off. This joint also allows the armature to pivot at the center like a turn table. By have this platform I can work on the sculpture at different heights.

In order to cut down on the use of expensive and weight-baring clay, it is necessary to first build out some form using a light, sturdy material. You can use a variety of materials for this such as foam, however, I decided to use paper-mache. It is a cheap, non-toxic material that bears a lot of strength. It is also common to use burlap and plaster atop chicken wire to build out this form. Personally, I like to use paper-mache or foam because you can cut into them easily while sculpting, unlike plaster or wood which are far less forgiving. Not to mention, plaster or wood create more unnecessary weight. Try to keep your sculpture as light as possible! You'll be happy you did.

After allowing the paper-mache to thoroughly dry for a day, I wrapped the armature with some thin, flexible wire. This gives the clay something to hold on to. Once that was on, I covered the entire armature with a thin layer of clay, as shown above. I am now ready to begin sculpting!

The Armature

Before I can begin sculpting a figure in clay, it is necessary to build an armature. The basic point of an armature is simply to hold up the clay. When doing a life-size sculpture it is important to build an armature strong enough to hold a lot of weight in clay, usually around 150lbs or more, depending on the physic of your figure. 

Different Types of Amatures 
Most of the time when sculpting a small figure (12"-36"tall) you build a wire armature from aluminum wire, and attach it to a pipe which is fastened to a board. This allows you to fashion the gesture of the armature in any way you like with the only fixed point being in the torso where the pipe meets the wire.  

This is what we call an External Armature. Although there is an aluminum wire armature holding up the clay, it is given this name because it requires a support (the attaching pipe) that is visible externally to the clay model. In other words, an external armature requires a visible, external support which is not (normally) intended to be part of the piece. This external support is the main downfall of external armatures because they provide a distraction and don't allow you to view the piece entirely in the round without having to mentally "delete" the metal pipes. It also causes added problems when making a mold. 
So, what if we have an armature inside the sculpture that doesn't require an external support? You can work on the sculpture from any angle without having to compromise with a pipe, and it makes it easier to visualize what the final product will look like. An armature like this would be made out of steel, welded together for strength, with its fixed points where the feet of the figure would meet the ground. This is what we call an Internal Armature
Now, unlike an external armature, an internal armature is solid and immovable. The great thing about an external armature is that you can change the gesture at any moment. It is not necessary to commit to any certain position because the only fixed point is at the torso. The position of the legs and where the weight sits in the figure can be adjusted easily. As soon as we take the external pipe away, we take away the strength and support. In an 
internal armature, the strength needs to come from within. However, like any armature, it needs to be grounded to a base, and the only point to do this with an internal armature is at the feet. 
In order to know exactly where the feet are going to be, you also need to know exactly how the weight is going to sit in the pelvis, along with how the pelvis is going to relate to the ribcage and the head. Because you have to know exactly where these points are, you also have to be committed to a pose, because you cannot change it later. (Note: For this reason, internal armatures are not the best choices for small sketches because you cannot alter the pose. External armatures allow experimentation, where as internal armatures are for more finalized concepts).
To weld the armature in the correct position, you will need to plot the placement of the feet, along with important bone points on the base plate you intend for the armature to stand on. In order to find these points you will need a plum line and live model. When the model is in the pose you wish to sculpt, you drop a plum line from several key bones points. Crucial points include both trochanters (hip bones), knees, pubis synthesis, sternal notch, acromian processes, and C7. Where the plum line hits the plate, mark and label it.  Also, don't forget to outline the feet! To the right is a picture of William Rinehart's Clytie, which I have used to illustrate a plum line being dropped from bone points. After these points are marked you have a guide for the angles at which your steel pieces need to be welded.  For the arms you can attach adjustable aluminum wire. Because the arms are not weight-baring, their position does not need to be fixed like the rest of the pose. 
This internal armature is what I have chosen to use for my sculpture of Liberty. A sturdy steel armature is perfect for holding the heavy clay I will be applying, as well as give me a 360 degree view without visual obstruction. Also, because I am certain of the pose I have no need for the ability to change positions. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

Welding Time

   Photo by Dan Lovell (,

My space is almost complete, and the welding station is ready to go. I've been playing around with stick welding all week, and I think I'm getting the hang of it. I welded the bulk of my armature yesterday and I'm almost ready for the next step. I will take pictures and explain each step as I progress.