Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Athletic Inspiration

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Olympics. Being a former swimmer and diver, some of my favorite events were in "The Cube." Although I was never at the level of these athletes, it is a pleasure to watch them and I can better appreciate their efforts having been in the water myself a time or two!

The divers were inspiring for their athleticism and their strength and I am finding myself wondering just how can I capture some of that sport's unique qualities in stone.

At first, it seems like such an unlikely pairing--stone to represent diving. I have made sketches for sculptures inspired from Ice Skaters and other athletes, but have never attempted a diver before. It definitely deserves some exploration.

Exploration and risk taking is part of the artist's life. If we only did what was done before I think it would not be fulfilling for the artist. Sometimes the viewer likes to see that however. It can be uncomfortable for the viewer if the artist takes risks and goes beyond what is expected of them.

I like to work out my ideas in sketch format. Then I typically go directly to the stone. I know some sculptors like to make maquettes and while they can be useful for working out some details, I prefer whenever possible to have the stone communicate to me what is the best way to resolve the challenge.

So I will draw some and sit some with some stones and we'll see what I come up with! Will it be a 10? Or will it be a miss? Like diving, we won't know until it is all done.

Monday, August 25, 2008

How Hard is that Stone to Carve?

People often wonder how hard a stone is to carve. Of course, there are two meanings to this question. One being, how challenging is it to carve anything? Most people seem daunted at the prospect of the subtractive process of carving (as compared to the additive process of building up a sculpture from clay, for example.)

Today I'm going to address the other meaning behind that question. Literally, how hard is that stone? Some stones are actually pretty soft and can be scratched with your fingernail, making them about 1-2.5 on the Mohs scale. Soapstone is a good example of this soft stone. Soapstone comes in a wide variety of colors, depending upon where it is found. It is easy to carve. Again, it scratches quite easily, so keeping it looking good can be a challenge, especially if it will be handled a lot.

The Mohs scale is the scale of hardness for all stones.

Pretty much everyone knows that diamonds are about as hard as they get and it takes very special tools (and skills) to work with diamonds, a 10 on the scale. Most stones used for sculptures fall somewhere between those two extreme--between 4 and 7 on the scale.

The numbers are deceptive, they really don't go up in an easy progression. Each number reflects a significantly harder level. Granite and some marbles are quite hard and are typically worked using diamond or carbide tipped tools. Other stones use a basic tool--and are a lot easier on the body to carve when using handtools.

So if you have the proper tools, even a hard stone on the Mohs scale can be carved. If you have the wrong tools, carving that same stone will be next to impossible.

One of the challenges is that since stone is a natural medium, the stones are not pure...I've carved many stones in the 5 range on the Mohs scale that had bits of iron and quartz in them. Quartz is officially a 7 on the scale. When I ran over the iron and the quartz bits I totally ruined my standard file. When using a carbide or diamond file on the softer stone it is overkill. Getting both components to be even level and looking good is a challenge and an awesome result when done well.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sculpture Show Goes Green

Loveland is a big sculpture town. We have sculptures and sculptors all over town. It is really great to be a part of a place with such an appreciation for sculpture. The world's two largest outdoor sculpture exhibitions both take place in Loveland, and this year they went "green".

These exhibitions take place in August, typically on the hottest weekend of the year. There are of course food and beverage vendors at the shows and smart people are drinking water all day to stay cool and hydrated.

For the first time, it was actually possible to recycle your water bottles at the show!According to Bruce Philbrick, Loveland Solid Waste Division superintendent, attendees recycled almost 3/4 of the waste from these two shows and the Art in the Park craft show. That kept about 19,000 pounds of waste out of the landfill.

Next year perhaps the food and beverage vendors will use recyclable containers for their goods, thereby reducing the landfill contribution even further.

I say congratulations to Philbrick and his organization. By having high-profile events like these demonstrate the importance and ease of recycling we can make our world a better place...and maybe, just maybe, by taking up less land and fewer resources for trash there will be more room for art!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sculpture at the Olympics

In addition to all the great athletes to watch in Beijing, there is also great art. Part of the Olympic celebration is a fine arts exhibition, Olympic Fine Arts 2008. Artists from China and around the world are participating in this exhibition.

The International Olympic Committee first held the art contest at the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia.

This third Olympic arts festival, with the theme "China and the world", will last nearly a year with the intent to continue the spirit of the games. Works are in all media, with over 800 works on display. That's out of over 10,000 that were submitted!

The exhibition opened on Aug. 11, 2008 and is scheduled to remain up through Sept. 17th, however the preparations and festivities started in January of this year. The plan is for exhibitions to travel to other countries around the world.

Unfortunately the much promised web presence has not turned out--at least I haven't been able to find it. There are lots of articles confirming the opening, and even a few photos of people at the exhibition, but not the gallery of the works that I was hoping for.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sculpture Withdrawal

It has already been a week since the Sculpture Invitational started...I'm suffering from withdrawal! Withdrawal of seeing sculpture and talking about all things sculptural, from shows to sales to techniques to stones, my brain was filled last weekend.

I did get a quick fix when I was walking in my neighborhood on Monday morning and saw a beautiful marble bear in the back of a trailer...I recognized the bear and then the sculptor walked up. Turns out he was visiting some old friends before he headed home. He and I had been tent neighbors last year. We had had only a few minutes to catch up at the show. Now I got to hear some more details about what he has been up to and how the show went.

He told me about a new show that he was in that is in South Dakota and some of the great contacts he has made. Of course he also gave me a bit of a hard time for not being in the show this year. So we made a pact--we'd see each other next year, both as exhibitors. So there you have it, my first public commitment to be in the show next year. Guess I'd better get cracking--I mean carving!

That is one of the great things about artists. Some people would think we are "competing" for customers and therefore we shouldn't encourage too many other artists to participate. What we understand is that art is so subjective that there really isn't competition. The customer who loves my work might not like his at all, and vice versa. Oh, there will be customers who love work by more than one artist--I sure do, but even if the collector decides to buy one person's work over that by another artist, it still isn't a competition. We also know that by having more artists with a variety of media and styles, we encourage more collectors to come!

Another great thing about artists is there willingness to share what they know with other artists (and lay persons, too.) Whenever I go to a booth or studio and see something that I admire, I ask lots of questions. I let the sculptor know that I'm a stone sculptor and the conversations are just awesome. I have asked opinions on polishing, tool preferences and how someone got a specific feel on the stone. I've also asked questions of sculptors far more experienced than I am about a problem I've been having. I always get great responses. I really appreciate the teachers that I have found this way--even if the lesson is only five minutes! I enjoy teaching others, too, and find the openness and sharing is fantastic--it really helps offset the fact that we spend so much of our time alone in our studios. Maybe that's why we like to share when we have the chance!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Art Still Selling

With all the folks bemoaning the economy it is easy to believe that no one is buying art these days. Well, that is just not true.

A painter recently told me, it is all about knowing your market. True in any business. He found where people are buying art and contacted galleries in those areas, and he is selling.

The Loveland Sculpture Invitational and Sculpture in the Park shows, which were held last weekend, are like huge, outdoor, temporary galleries. Sales happened there, too. Figures haven't been released yet for the Invitational, but the Park show has been holding steady at about $1 million in art sales for several years. Not bad for a 2 day show! 2 days of active showing and lots of months of preparation before that.

One of the reasons so much sculpture sells at these shows is the reputations of the shows. People come from around the world to both exhibit and to buy sculpture. Collectors know they will find a variety of quality art at these shows and they will be able to see it all in one place, in one weekend.

So if you want to sell your artwork, do a little homework. Getting into a gallery is good, but is the gallery selling? Are the staff members real sales people or are they just keeping the building open? Does your work fit in well with the gallery and the community? Is this your target market? If the answers to these questions are no, then it is time to find a different gallery--even if that gallery is in a different city or state!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sculpture In the Park Continues Through Today

Celebrating it's 25th year, The Loveland Sculpture in the Park show opened Friday night with the Patron's Party and to the public yesterday. Another fantastic show, this year blessed by cooler temperatures and some gentle breezes, the show continues today.

Sculpture in the Park started in 1984 and hosts almost 200 artists. Last year more than $1 million dollars in sculpture was sold at this show alone. A percentage of the sales is taken by the Loveland High Plains Arts Council which runs this show with the help of 500 (give or take) volunteers. The funds raised buy sculptures and make improvements to Benson Park Sculpture Garden.

Loveland is indeed fortunate to have enough caring volunteers to put on this show and the show across the way, the Sculpture Invitational. While the majority of the volunteers are put to work during and right before the show, volunteers are needed all year long to pull these shows off!

For more information about the show, click on the title and you will be taken to the Loveland High Plains Arts Council's website.

Sculpture Invitational Opens Tomorrow

Almost 300 artists will be participating in this show. It is estimated that over 4000 sculptures will be on display!

Tomorrow (Friday) is your chance to go for only $3 since the show closes early. The Patron's party (special ticket is required) is in the evening.

About $800,000 worth of sculpture sold last year. Artists pay a fee to be in the show. Those proceeds are donated to local art programs and also toward donating sculptures to the city of Loveland.

Most of the artists come from the US, but last year I met sculptors from Africa and Europe as well.

Click on the title and you'll go to the Loveland Sculpture Group's website about the show for more details.