07/24/14

WIPs

I decided to make a scaled up version of blindfold guy. Here’s how he’s coming along. The pieces of him will need to go on a base, which will mean either extending his neck to the shoulders, cutting his hands off almost at the wrists, or making a sloping base. I can’t think of any other solutions (not keen to put him on sticks).

blindfold_guy_01

blindfold_guy_02

This fairy or goblin is the focus of a piece that will ultimately be quite large. As usual, the camera makes his head look big.

goblin02

I started off with a soft oil clay “sketch” model to help me decide on proportions:

goblin01

Then I made a new armature and got going with the wax. I’ve got three thoughts about his pose: playing a small flute two-handed (as above), playing a large, strange goblin flute two-handed, or playing one-handed and the other hand supporting him, or just hovering.

goblin03

goblin4a

goblin04

I think I like the version with the free hand best. The flute can be more more goblinesque. When I’m sure of proportions and the arm pose I’ll adjust the angle of the torso and shoulders.

 

07/13/14

Things in the garden #7

About a month ago I lost my Easter lily vine — the one that was looking so good. I had bought a new pot for the solandra, and the chaps who sell the pots persuaded me to buy a new one for the Easter lily as well, citing its slightly chartreuse leaves as a sign that it was overheating in its plastic pot. I doubted that it was overheating, as I had (and have) loads of other plants that are just fine and dandy in plastic. But the flowerpot men had a lovely big ceramic pot, and given how big the vine can grow, and the fact that it had reached a height where I was going to start twining it around the fence, making any future repotting a difficult prospect, I decided to go for the pot swap.

The chaps did the repotting themselves, in their singularly brisk idiom. I was slightly concerned, but the perfume flower tree which they had also repotted for me had survived without missing a beat, so I thought I ought not to worry so much. However, within a day of repotting — indeed within 12 hours, if I recall correctly — the vine’s leaves drooped, and it never recovered. I thought it was perhaps planted too deep, so a few days into its decline I raised it, and noted that it had grown very little in the way of roots, despite having shot up tall above ground. This rescue attempt having made no difference (except perhaps to hasten its demise?) when I at last removed its sad dead stem a few days later and took a good look at it, there really seemed to be only one main root and a few much smaller ones, and the main root was damaged near its join with the stem. I fear the wound may have been made by the trowel I had given the men to help release the plant from its old pot.

I felt awful — very guilty and sorry for the plant, and mad at myself for having lost it. I went to Chatuchak to buy another, but nobody had one for sale, since they aren’t currently in flower¬† — and won’t be until December. I can still go to the Or Tor Kor market, where the shops are permanent, and see if somebody has one lurking around. In the meantime, however, I’ve bought a Giant Pinwheel Tree (as in, its flowers are giant pinwheels; the tree isn’t a giant — it came home with me in a taxi, roots in front and branches in back). Stu and I very carefully installed it in the pot I bought for the late Easter lily, and it seems to be fine. Its flowers have a beautiful, unusual spicy scent, just like Peru balsam.

I also bought two crimson crape myrtles that are now in front of the porch flanking the doorway, and a mauve hibiscus that I’m pretty sure is an Australian native (technically not a hibiscus but an alyogyne, but close enough). I put it next to a vivid yellow hibiscus, and the colour combo looks great. I also bought a morning glory and hung a trellis on the fence for it to grow up.

I think the daturas have done their dash. I had hoped that in this climate they’d be perennials, but I guess they really are annuals after all.

I was going to buy caladiums, but for some reason they’re more expensive than many other plants here. As a cheap alternative — and a very cheerful one, I think — I went for some coleus, four different ones, and put them all in a pot together. I did splurge, however, on a hydrangea, and also picked up a smaller and cheaper one. Nothing says home, and grandmothers, and all the rest of all that I miss, like hydrangeas. These aren’t the blue globes of my jardins du temps perdu (so underappreciated by me at the time, so cherished now that temps are perdu), but smaller and paler, almost moonstone-coloured — and, the vendors told me, heat-tolerant and unaffected by soil pH.

The rose is growing well, though hasn’t flowered in the last three months or so, and the maple-leaf hibiscus is entirely recovered from its aphid episode. It is growing tall, and I do hope it flowers again.

Last but not least, I bought a young green jade vine, which when it gets going looks like wisteria from the planet of the space dragons. I tried making a wire trellis for it to grow across the porch, a job which I thought would be fairly easy, but which turned out to be a right mongrel, with the wire getting all tangled and whipping around, assaulting other plants and generally not being at all tractable. In the end I just made a ladder for it up one porch post, which I’m now not happy with. I think I either want to wind the vine around the post or just get another trellis and hang it from the porch frame.

07/10/14

Loncon and after

I’ll be at Loncon from 14 -18 August, and attending a workshop at the Sculpture School in the Buckinghamshire town of Wendover at the end of the month. In between I’ll be loitering in the Chilterns, rambling through woods and hopefully doing some walks on the Ridgeway, and generally revelling in England’s green and pleasant land.

I note that in Wendover there’s Rumsey’s Chocolaterie, tantalisingly reviewed here. Don’t have to wonder what I’ll be eating, do I?

 

07/6/14

Two weeks without coffee

I’ve now gone 16 days without coffee, apart from a one-day lapse in the first week of abstinence. I’ve been drinking tea as a substitute — cup for cup, not doubling tea to make up for the lower caffeine.

In the first week I had headaches and felt fairly crappy. By day 10 the headaches were gone, and now I feel fine.

Results?

Well, I’ve stopped craving coffee, though I do need those cups of tea.

My sleep has also improved. I’ve been getting back to sleep after waking in the night, and I’m now starting to feel less like something nasty scraped off a shoe in the mornings. Of course, this was an uncontrolled experiment and correlation doesn’t equal causation. Still, I’m not going to go back to drinking coffee to see if my sleep quality worsens again. I just hope it stays at least as good as it is right now.

It’s harder — impossible, actually — to say whether my anxiety is any better, as it comes and goes on its own (and notwithstanding variations, it has been at a manageable level for years; I’d just love it to diminish even more, and am very keen for it not to come back in force.)

I see no reason not to continue without coffee, anyhow, and see what happens.

 

06/20/14

Experiment

For the first time since I was about 15 I didn’t have coffee this morning. Instead, I had a cup of Twinings Assam Bold tea.

I only discovered Assam Bold on my last trip to Australia. It’s a delicious, full-flavoured cuppa, and I’ve found that it’s a good tea to drink when I’m working. It’s strong enough to deliver a noticeable pick-me-up effect, without any of the jitters coffee can bring.

I’m only a very moderate coffee drinker, mostly sticking to two cups a day and drinking tea the rest of the time, but since I’m prone to anxiety, bad nerves, fatigue and insomnia, I’ve been wondering for a while whether filling up the tank with coffee as soon as I stagger out of bed might be starting the day on the wrong foot. However, facing said day without both the caffeine and the comfort of a hot cup of brown milky liquid has always been too dreadful to contemplate.

Three hours after my cup of tea, I’m not as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as I would be after coffee, but I’m nowhere near the rather horrid state I’d normally have descended to if I’d had no coffee, either.

I am, however, craving another cup, though this time I want Russian Caravan, my regular go-to tea.

It’s now evening and I’ve had 3 cups of tea today, and no coffee, and I’m ok. Curious whether I’ll sleep better than usual.

06/16/14

Porcelain Dandies

Few things delight me better than a porcelain dandy, so I thought I’d assemble a little coterie of elegant specimens from around the coffee houses and country estates of the internet.

This gentleman is one of my favourites, with his hipster-black frockie that looks inspired by a fancy hearse, fine lace, pensive face and delicately arranged hands. Surely even such a creature as he would not strike such a pose, with his hand turned so, if he were alone, so there must be an invisible other in the scene. Is he perhaps about to offer his arm? Or has the other just disengaged herself from him, leaving him sadder but available? Or is he, perhaps, completely mad, wandering among philodendrons in the company of a dead quaintrelle?

This almost elfin dandy is quite the delight with his splendiferous floral ruffles, echoed in a cheeky (yes, pun) panel at the back of his coat, and his mischievous expression. Clearly a man who knows better than to take anything seriously, least of all himself, the item in his hand is described as a purse, so perhaps he is shopping for more ruffles, but I’m not sure it isn’t a box of snuff, or candy, or…well, it could be anything. Perhaps it’s the gift of seeing the world through his Siamese-cat eyes.

Only a bust, but what a bust: this Riessner, Stellmacher & Kessel dandy wears his fetish for collars on, well, his collar. From the little white flowers on his shirt to the frill on his necktie to the gold toggles on his coat; from his heavy, benevolently cynical eyes to the bow resembling knotted aspidistra leaves on his hat, he’s a veritable duke of dandies; the outward flounces in no way conceal the firm jaw and proud backbone. Call him a sissy and you’d better know how to shoot.

In contrast, this uncommonly casual dandy not only has his waistcoat but his shirt unbuttoned, and has even lost his cravat; perhaps he kindly gave it to another dandy who had lost his, or else used it in bedroom games, where it fell into a state unfit to be worn. Aside from his tender state of undress, I like his very porcelainity, in that he is painted and gilded more like a china figure being a china figure than a china figure pretending to be a man, giving him a typically dandyish aspect of play between natural and unnatural.

This German Rudolstadt pair of a dandy and his lady attract me with their matching outfits, seemingly intended for camouflage in exceedingly posh country lanes and hedgerows, and his exuberant hair. Healthy rural fashion victims, limber and pink-cheeked, one can see how happily they are captivated by the sounds, sights and scents of nature, by the rush of the wind, and by their own vigorous youth. Their decoration marks them as natives, like the young beau above, of the land of porcelain people.

Of humbler background, I should think, is this Chelsea porcelain youth in pink and yellow (from here) — but what a brave and gorgeous outfit. Is he selling the flowers, or handing them out to people he admires? Could he be Eros, every stem a dart of love?

A joyful Japanese dandy or wakashu, from the Edo period (from here) seems to be showing off his beautiful sleeve to an admirer. “It is hard to imagine men attired in full length kimono’s (sic) embroidered with clusters of flowers,” the commentary says, but personally I have no trouble doing so…

I wonder what’s at stake for this Capodimonte chess-playing carpet knight and his lady friend? Neither seems to have captured a piece yet. Of course, the longer the game, the more time they must spend in each other’s company…

Lastly, a gentleman who I almost didn’t include because the photo isn’t good, but his pose and expression charmed me too much. Not the fanciest dandy of the bunch, or the youngest, his gentle appearance and lifelike quality give me good feelings. I would have him for an uncle, and we would ramble in town and country, visiting all his favourite haunts and discovering new delightful venues. He would buy me hot chocolate, while I would buy him stockings, and at times he would look pensive, as if gazing down the old roads of time at some beloved disturbance in the ether.

 

06/14/14

Susan Siegel

I came across New York-based artist Susan Siegel in the preview of the next issue of HiFructose (which has a terrific cover by Travis Louie).

Siegel’s paintings, particularly her portraits of Rococo, therianthropic squires and ladies, appeal to me greatly, with their bright colours, bold and meadow-rambling paint, and of course their charming subjects. Her drawings are also very much my cup of tea, combining sharp observation with the visual language of the sketch to render animals and part-animal figures with a vivid, sensitive, metaphysical presence.

Are we living in an artistic hour of the therianthrope? The hybrid human-animal figure is one of the most ancient themes in art, and I don’t suppose it has ever gone away, but I have an impression that it is enjoying an unusual popularity in the fine arts and people’s imaginations in general. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine why — questions about our rights in relation to animals, awareness of the loss of species, discoveries about animal intelligence, the ongoing scientific revelation that we are animals, albeit fancy and brainy ones, perhaps even the hope that if we symbolically unite ourselves to the animal world we might find relief from our specifically human troubles — but one would really have to ask individual artists.

Or is it just that my own interest is drawing me to this kind of art? The democratic nature of art online, sans the filtering interference of self-appointed guardians of culture and fabricators of canon, is something I delight in and am grateful for, and I wonder if it’s simply that a whole broad world of art, which has been with us all the time, is finally getting some public air and light. There is so much to see and discover, in art both of the present and the past.

I look forward to the canon falling into rusty disuse.

Posted in Art |
06/7/14

Finished

The two squashies and egg are ready for the foundry, so all the pieces I’m planning to take to LonCon are done. I might have missed the boat with these last three, but we’ll see.

I had a go at cold cast bronze. When it comes out of the mould it looks like brown plastic, and has to be sanded back to reveal the goldy colour of the bronze.¬† I’ll need to at least add black dye to the resin to make the unpolished areas darker, and if using patina I might have to sand the whole piece. I don’t know yet whether the time spent sanding and finishing will be worth it.

I do want to try cold casting with marble and porcelain powder. Not to mention glow in the dark pigment…

Meanwhile, I’ve tried casting a two-colour squashy. It didn’t quite work as planned… I like the second one, which is the phone seeing things. I couldn’t repair the horns, so the only option is to file them down.

squashy_clear01

squashy_clear02

 

Found a cool Tumblr site, beinArt Collective, founded by Jon Beinart, devoted to strange figurative art.

I also want to mention Arch Enemy Arts, a Philadelphia gallery which puts out calls to artists for themed exhibitions. The current one is “Artificial Intelligence”, deadline 11 July, details here. Arch Enemy “is dedicated to exhibiting emerging and established artists focusing on lowbrow, pop surrealism, realism, decorative, figurative, urban, macabre and narrative style art in a wide range of mediums.”

And finally…

mental_cheese

Could mental cheese be the precipitate of brain fog?

05/28/14

Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered…

Well, not dangers, except for some hot wax and sharp knives. But I must have said it was going to be a piece of cake, as technical difficulties haven’t exactly hung back shyly in the wings. Anyway, Mino is now at this point:

mino_wax07

I cast the bricks in wax because they were pretty rough looking and covered in blobs of glue, and the wax is easier to clean up than the paperclay the originals were made of. The base is made of slightly softer wax than the bricks, so I was able to leave it out in the sun until the brown wax softened, then press the bricks into it (the flat part of the base acquiring some blisters in the process! Don’t know if I’ll be able to flatten them without making it worse — might have to leave them and call it added character). What remains is make sure all the bricks are 100% sealed to the base so that there are no gaps underneath them for silicone to flow into.

I also finished Squashy’s mould and poured some waxes. The wax just doesn’t want to flow into the tips of the horns. I thought it would be ok, as they’re right at the bottom of the mould, but I guess it’s too hard for trapped air to get out. There are a couple of things I can try, and if they don’t work I’ll have to decide between individually repairing each piece’s horns, or casting the horns separately in two-piece moulds that I can paint the wax into. I suspect the first option will be faster.

squashy_cast