Thursday 20 December 2012

Fine tuning the inside in the dry

A real test for my shelter today as it poured with rain. I worked on the inside again and began to angle the edges. I feel really optimistic about this piece. I am a little surprised and delighted by its simplicity but as the piece progresses I am becoming more sure that it will work really well. The simplest ideas often work better than the more complicated ones in my experience. Perhaps because there is nothing more than the essentials. I wonder if this sculpture would work well bigger than life size? I think it might.


Wednesday 19 December 2012

Shelter complete

The news is full of flood warnings for Cornwall so I have been waiting for a serious downpour all day but thankfully it never materialised. You will see in the picture that I have roped my new shelter down in case the rain that is forecast is accompanied by wind. Moving the whole thing around today has not been very encouraging as it is a rather wobbly flimsy structure. I think more work will be needed to stiffen the whole thing up. Tomorrow I shall be able to work on carving whatever the weather.


Tuesday 18 December 2012

Shelter under clear skies

Another beautiful day which allowed me to carry on work on the shelter. I had to go off and get more steel for the bracing the whole structure. The whole thing looks very top heavy but it would be great to have that much height. I almost cut the legs shorter but decided to wait until I have put the roofing on. If the whole thing is too unwieldy then I’ll shorten the legs.


The other slight concern is that the whole thing might blow over in the wind! Hopefully the open sides will allow the wind to just pass through rather than to sail off into the distance like the house in the ‘ Wizard Of Oz’.

Monday 17 December 2012

Rain shelter

Today I put the shelter together,welding the legs on and standing it upright. The legs are a bit wobbly and will need some stiffening before I put the roof on it. The roof will be about ten foot off the ground. I want it to be high enough for the gantry to fit underneath. I don’t know how well it will work with the ground being on a slope. I will just have to make it to find out I guess. My photo today is another of Pooch’s as my camera is still not working.


Friday 14 December 2012

Shelter from the rain

Today brought a great change in the weather. Gone is the crisp, clear, cold weather of the last few days and the warm rain has returned. I spent the day making a shelter to work under. I built the steel frame and will assemble it outside when the rain stops. I am using clear plastic sheeting which will let light pass. Hopefully enough wind will pass through to blow away the dust.

Today I cannot resist posting another picture that Pooch took yesterday.They are so wonderful.


Thursday 13 December 2012

Smoothing the curves

Surely the last full day of working inside the sculpture. Tomorrow I must do something else, as my eyes are smarting from all the dust that has been thrown at them today. I look like I have been crying for a week! The new lights arrived today and it was wonderful to be able to carry on into the dusk even if my eyes were crying out “STOP”. I rang Pooch and he came round to take some photos in the gloom of the evening. Very dramatic shots in the half light. His photography adds so much to the story of my work. The picture shows me blasting out the dust which has settled on the inside of the sculpture with an air hose.Thanks for this one Pooch.


Wednesday 12 December 2012

The hole gets deeper

I wish I could say that I have finished digging but there is at least one more day on it. Mostly dust now rather than chips or big lumps. naturally I have to proceed with a little more caution as I near the depths that I want to reach. Although the work is pretty rough and unpleasant I am quite excited about the sculpture which is looking like it might be really interesting. It has been cold and clear again which is lovely for working. The roads are like skating rinks and there was a car on its roof near Morwenstow.


Tuesday 11 December 2012

Digging out the inside

A very dusty day today removing stone from the middle of the new piece. Dusty because the stone dust and chips have nowhere to go but to fly up towards my face. I fitted the guard to the grinder which did help reduce the cloud a little. Before digging out the middle I reduced the size of the upper half of the ‘peanut’ in order to balance it. The two halves had been too similar in size and the whole thing looked too top heavy when stood upright. I worked on into darkness tonight by the light of a single lamp. I might get  portable light stand so that I can actually see what I am doing at this time of year past 4.30 in the afternoon. The picture shows me lifting the block with the block and tackle so that I can put the strap in the middle to lift the whole thing up. I was in the process of turning the sculpture upright to have a look at its proportions.


Monday 10 December 2012

Peanut form

A lovely crisp winter morning with clear blue skies and no wind allowed me to start the new larger version  in marble. I cut the outline from the front out which took most of the day and now looks like a peanut husk. Everything takes longer of course on this bigger scale. I also took a couple of hours out to try and source some clear plastic sheeting for my rain shelter. The corrugated sheeting is quite brittle but the alternatives are expensive. I shall think about it some more before buying anything. I found a few small sheets at the dump which will be a start.


Friday 7 December 2012

Still polishing

Not much to say about today except that my fingers have lost their prints because of sandpapering all day. Most of the work is done with an electric sander but the final edges are still best done by hand. All those little wobbly bits and chips have to be removed. Towards the end of the day I cut a big block of marble in half to be ready for starting a new piece next week.


Thursday 6 December 2012

Fine tuning the shape

I have been tweaking the shape of the sculpture all day. I did not like the flat form at the top and back. The bottom half was big and bulbous but the top looked a bit mean in comparison. I try to avoid too many convex areas in my sculptures. Although there was no convex area at the top of the carving there was certainly a flat part. I have removed the flat area and cut back some of the excess bulbous-ness at the bottom. I am much happier with the overall shape now and all that remains is some painstaking sanding to remove all the lumps, bumps and irregularities. I remember my old friend Michael Black of Oxford telling me to spend a whole day on a piece that I considered finished. What brilliant advice it was.


Wednesday 5 December 2012

Heat cracks onyx!

I spent all day digging out the interior of the sculpture and discovered that the stone will expand and crack if allowed to get too hot. Luckily the area damaged was small and i was able to cut the damage away. Onyx seems to be much more sensitive to heat than marble. The sun shone all day although it was too dark to continue at 5pm.


Tuesday 4 December 2012

Change of plan

Standing before my new work this morning I had a change of plan. The square front to the piece looked unsatisfactory and I chopped out a new shape rather impulsively before I changed my mind. The new shape is better with the sides pulling in at the middle.This ‘waist’ gives a little nod towards figuration and the curves now flow in and out really nicely.  In this picture I have not yet rounded the bottom half but have left it squared as it is easier and more stable like that. Digging out the inside will be a big job with the dust spitting up in my face.The translucence is already visible.

I would rather work outside but the frequent showers keep me undercover. I am thinking of making a movable structure that I can work beneath but one that allows the wind to blow through to blow away the dust.



This is a sketch of the idea for my movable shelter. I could get some big wheels so that it could be wheeled out of the way if the sun shone.

Monday 3 December 2012

New ideas

Partly because of threatening skies I started work on a new sculpture indoors today. I normally work on one piece at a time until it is completed but I am full of ideas at the moment and am never quite sure if they are any good until they have been made. I am therefore in a hurry to get them out! I think I have the direction of this new series but am not totally sure. I will have to finish these unfinished works off at a later date. I am remembering one of the delights of my 100 DAY series was that the ideas were turned out daily whereas normally sculptures in stone take much longer to make. I am trying to recover a little of that speed of turnover and the fluidity that comes with it.


Thursday 29 November 2012

Sanding by hand

A frosty morning with the first hour spent clogging sandpaper with melting frost mixed with onyx dust. All day was spent sanding inside the curl by hand. Very slow work but much better by this evening. I stood the piece up for the first time. The sculpture does not quite stand up straight. I will have to make the necessary adjustment to the base. I gave a wild cat an old egg that a chicken had laid in the barn. He was very happy with the treat. He looks much healthier than our house cats.Funny that, it makes me wonder what is in cat food. Pooch my photographer friend turned up hence the lovely picture today.

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Wednesday 28 November 2012

New Website is live

Not only am I blogging for the first time but my new and improved website is launching. The brilliant Tim Stafford has helped us design and make it so wonderful. So thank you Tim. I now feel much more connected to the world. Being an artist is a strange existence as I spend most of my time alone with my work, it is nice to be able to reach out in this way too. Blogging, facebook and a much more connected website too. In the past I have felt that the only time I get to feel any feedback from the outside world is at the opening of an exhibition. Then I am like a rabbit blinking in the headlights with so much feedback all at once.

Today the sun has shone. Cold and clear and absolutely perfect for work. The perfect day was capped off with a giant orange moon coming up behind the shed. The onyx is almost down to its final shape and has not yet fallen to bits. The colour continues to amaze and delight me. It almost looks edible.



The moon looked much bigger than this!

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Health scare

I spent all yesterday at the hospital as I had a sore chest. Of course the moment you mention something wrong with your chest they rush you off to get it checked out as it sounds like a heart attack. Barnstaple hospital gave me a full check and pronounced me very healthy. They found nothing wrong with my heart,lungs kidney or blood pressure. A huge relief as I was terrified for a moment. I now think it was something that has been going round the family and settled on my chest.

Today I worked on the white onyx piece and it is taking shape well. There are all sorts of cracks in it and I wonder if it will hold together. The colour and translucence is very seductive. I think I am asking the material to do a little too much with this piece, better to carve something more solid.


Sunday 25 November 2012

Onyx and rain

The yard is fresh washed from the deluge and I am happy to be back out under clear skies. I have plumped for a simple version of a sculpture that I had in mind although I do have reservations about it. There comes a time when you just have to say, “ to hell with procrastination” and just get on with it. In some way, to do nothing is worse than to do something not quite right. Better to keep on and to gain momentum than to grind to a halt in worry.


Thursday 22 November 2012

Splitting onyx wind and rain

Today was wilder and wetter than ever. The battered tarpaulin blew off and I retreated into the barn. I spent several hours trying to decide what to do with the new block of onyx and ended up splitting it down its fault line with plugs and feathers. These consist of a long thin teardrop shaped piece of metal split down the middle and dropped into a drilled hole.A wedge is then banged in between the two halves pushing the two parts apart. It split perfectly and easily and made me glad I had not tried to make a single sculpture from the block as it would almost certainly have broken. You can see the block just after splitting still with the plugs and feathers attached.



The brown area shows that the stone has split almost exactly down the fault line. I have stood the block upright but still cannot decide what to do with it. It is hard. Harder than marble and brittle like glass, but translucent and so beautiful with subtle orange veining.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Stuck in the mud

More rain overnight and all is sodden. The river has burst its banks. By morning the worst of it had moved off east and I had quite a good day at work. The onyx can be turned by hand now which helps as I can work on all sides. I have cleaned the sides and have decided to leave the top and bottom rough.


I drove into the field to fetch a new block of the clear onyx and almost got stuck in the mud. I left a hell of a mess. It seemed like such a good idea putting the spare blocks out there.. I did not think it would get this wet!


Tuesday 20 November 2012

Depth Measurements

This morning my tarpaulin was full of water from overnight rain and the timbers holding it up were bending alarmingly under the weight.Now my rate of progress on the carving starts to slow as I have to proceed with more caution in order to get an even thickness in the stone. I have done this before in marble but the tensile strength of onyx is very poor and I dare not take it too thin. In the picture you can see the depth marks showing me where I need to remove more material and where to stop. Ten is more than thick enough but five and a half is probably already a bit thin. The strength of the form is helped by its undulations of course giving it the sort of strength an eggshell gets from its shape. You can see my wooden callipers which have been mended many times.


Monday 19 November 2012

Wind and Rain!

A wild day here in Cornwall. My flapping tarpaulin keeping most of the rain out but I still came in a bit soggy. The carving is progressing well however and I am curious to see how it looks when I stand it up. I will have to get some stainless steel pins to float the stone off its base. They will glue into holes underneath. I am wondering about not working the sides as the undulations of the strata of the onyx follow their own line and it might look odd if I were to straighten it out as it would mean cutting in and out of that strata. I think I will wait to decide on this until I can stand the work upright. Perhaps because I have never worked this stone before I find it hard to ‘see’ the piece finished and am not at all sure if it will work…


Sunday 18 November 2012

Installation of LEE and RECLINING FIGURE II

Have successfully installed two large works in a lovely garden. They look really good and it does feel great to know where they are going and to be able to think of them in that wonderful setting. Lee continues to impress me and I am left feeling that there is lots of scope to explore that idea further. There is something so nice about a sculpture standing on the ground outside. No base to complicate matters. We got home very late and am still exhausted by such a long day.

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Thursday 15 November 2012

Onyx undulations

The onyx is even more crazy than I had thought. The patterning and change of colour are completely overwhelming. I am wondering if this will kill the sculpture in its ability to overpower. I have not expressed this very well but I have always been reluctant to use stones with such intense characters for the fear that the form will be somehow lost. I am employing the maxim, ‘ Print and be damned’. I reckon that you don’t really know for sure until you have actually tried. I ran over the surface with 120 grade paper and then threw a bucket of water over the sculpture to have a look at how it could look if polished really high.


Wednesday 14 November 2012

Power cut

The electricity was cut off for the whole day because of some work on the lines. I spent the day not able to get stuck into the onyx. I found yesterday that it is not all that hard and I am able to work quite fast which is lovely. I am always impatient to uncover an idea once I have had it and the relative softness of the material helps in this. I polished a little piece today by hand and the colours begin to shine out. I shall have to be careful not to try to make the structure too fragile as i can tell that it does not have much integral strength. Tomorrow i will get going on it. i must check my mask as I could feel that I had inhaled some dust yesterday. Not good.


Tuesday 13 November 2012

A new blog and a new series of sculpture

This is all new to me. Writing a blog. Perhaps it is like starting a new series of sculpture. Difficult. Actually the hardest part is the starting and then things start to come more easily. Anyway we shall see. This is a good time to start however as I have just had a delivery of marble and onyx from Portugal and am beginning to work on it. The blocks are all lying around on pallets waiting. I have a page full of drawings but I am sure that the stone will lead me in new directions once the work is really underway. I have been organising this series for a while and am really ready to get going on it.


The block I am working on is marble. The block under the drill is green onyx. The colours underneath are amazing and all hidden at the moment by dust and years of lying around.