Sculpting Details in Marble

I have mixed emotions when I look at stone. The excitement of imagining how my vision will look once released is dampened by the doubt in my ability to avoid making any lasting mistakes while carving.  As I start any new project, or new section on an existing work, there is always the lurking fear of failure. I have to constantly encourage myself to just keep at it. Step by step. Take my time. I work alone at my studio, and I often wonder what a passer-by would say on seeing me crawl around my marble, musing to myself.

These contradictions quickly vanish once I’m in the groove and the confidence returns. Stone is unforgiving, in that there is no doubt. However, your eye is very precise, and we instinctively know what looks right, and what needs to go.

From the blank featureless space, I pencil in where Mary’s eyes nose and mouth should go. Then I slowly push the stone back, millimeters at a time, working the entire face. As I only have modest amount of natural talent, I don’t attempt to carve the face to its natural depth straightaway. A little fear is a good thing. And as stone is unforgiving, if I go ahead and carve too deep or slightly off center, there is no going back.

Viewing the statue from all angles and continuing to hatch out stone that needs to go, I continue to carve down until I’m about 90 percent complete. As Mary’s face is nestled within the Statue, it’s important not to finish her completely. First I will need to complete Jesus’ heel and her shoulder to ensure a good fit.

Everything is interconnected. Hands are supported by feet, that position the thigh, that align the back, that angle the shoulder, which anchors the face, and cradles the thigh while centering the face that nestles the soul…. that’s why I work in the round.

The hands and feet are next, and once again there is the excess stone that needs to be slowly worked back. Using kids plastecine as quick models to keep the angles right, I continue to chip, chisel and grind my way around the statue.

The modeling clay really can be helpful when dealing with a limited area of stone. I was doing my best to maximize the overall size of my Pieta while working within a confined amount of stone. In both Mary’s forearm and Jesus’ elbow I really could have used an additional centimeter or two. Hopefully no one will notice.

One problem I have to always keep an open eye on is my tendency to distort perspective. When I carve, my face is typically no more than a foot or two away from the chisel or grinder.  I’m really too close to appreciate the varying proportions of hands vs. faces vs. feet.  Again, this is why I only carve to 90 percent complete. It’s always nice to have a little wiggle room…  Once the work is done, I can always go back and try for a 95.

Pieta Spero is nearly complete. Now all that is left is final details and lots of polishing. I’m satisfied, though I would like the ability to go back in time and redo areas that I know are less than perfect. The act of sculpting stone is a very humbling experience. The artist is forced to confront two very different states of being. The courage to deliver our finest results with the serenity to accept the limits of our human abilities. For me, my best is good enough, I’ll leave perfection to God.

Eve of a Dream Plaster to Fired Clay

Randall Eve of Discovery randy bezeau thumbThere is much effort and planning between the conceptional start of any project and its finish.  When all is said and done, a completed statue looks so natural, and fluid that the degree of difficulty is lost and forgotten..  With Eve of Dream, the mixing of Adam and Eve’s bodies had to appear as smooth and natural as sleep comes to a babe.  The early morning ease that we all have felt when waking.

The Creation of Eve maquette randall aBut the creation of art is never as easy as it looks. And so soft plasticine is the best medium to mould when trying to tease out the form.   This step usually only takes an hour or so,  and can quickly confirm if what you have imagined is pleasing to the eye.  Much better to start with a simple shape before investing months ahead on a design that doesn’t fit.               Click on the images below to view 

Using the plasticine model (red) as a template, a second stronger and larger maquette can be fashioned.  First the main positioning of limbs is perfected, with head and muscle definitions applied last.  By rotating the statue, you can insure individual expressions flow into the whole.  You’ll know your finished when the statue looks natural from all angles.

Similar to my other works, this is going to be a complicated plaster mould.  Using kids clay, cellophane and wood forms, the plaster is slowly build up and around section by section. Simply trust your eye, as you look into the statue from the angle of each cast piece.  Ensure there will be no undercuts.  Each section will need to pull away cleanly.

For more on the Plaster Casting Process, from mixing plaster to planning each piece to building unique forms, just click to read my detailed Pieta Spero blog.  If you look closely, Eve of a Dream required 11 sections to complete.  Drying the plaster will take at a month.

Once the sections have been assembled, siliconed, and taped it is ready for clay slip to be poured.  I left the liquid clay to set in the mould for eight hours to ensure the walls were nice and thick.  Then the excess is drained out with the final whole assembly being left to harden a bit, overnight.

One section is remove at a time, with cleaning and repairing being done with each removal.  Finally, once dry, sanding and water brushing smooths the finish and completes the piece.  Eve of a Dream is now ready for the Kiln.  Once the statue is bisqued in the fire I will continue with the final touches that were too delicate to refine when the clay was still green.  Truly, a labour of love.

Eve of a Dream

Randall Eve of Discovery randy bezeau thumbImagine living alone on an island with only the coconuts and iguanas to keep you company. It wouldn’t take very long before you conjured up an imaginary friend… should we call him Wilson? People need company, and more importantly, we can only be human in the company of others. Like a tree falling in the forest, we need ears to hear, or there is no sound. Love is funny that way… if you don’t work it, you don’t have it. We need each other.

The Creation of Eve Michelangelo Carlo Francesco NovoloneWe all need someone to walk side by side or life becomes pretty bleak. In Genesis Adam first pines for and then dreams of a partner to share life with. Eve is pulled from his side (traditionally translated as rib) The two of them now can face life together.

Carlo Francesco and Michlangelo’s Creation of Eve is the standard interpretation of this story. However I prefer Carpioni’s synthesis of Adam and Eve in their being created with less of a focus on timing. Bouguereau First Mourning really drives home the importants of partnership in living through the hardships of life. Eve and Adam are devastated by the death of Abel and cling to each other for support.

Adam and Eve Evegiulio Carpioni William Adolph Bouguereau

Randall Eve of a Dream the creation of eve randy bezeau topAnd so it is with Eve of a Dream. Drawing inspiration from these masters, I’ve folding all their messages into one statue. Eve is the answer to Adam’s dreams and she will face along with her partner all of life future highs and lows. Side by side.

Randall The Rib Randy Bezeau

Adam & Eve – The Pear

Michelangelo’s vignette The Fall of Man expresses the centuries old interpretation of woman’s involvement with Original Sin.   He continues this narrative through the depiction of the male snake of Genesis painted in the female form.

Adam & Eve Sistine ChapelThroughout history there has been the tendency to excuse man’s lack of self control on woman’s influences…  With countless biblical references including  Adam throwing Eve under the bus, blaming “She gave me the fruit”.

This similar to King David being tempted by Bathsheba as he spied on her while she bathed.  This ultimately led to David ordering the murder of her husband, the ultimate consequence of Original Sin.

It’s a shame how much of the renaissance art promotes these dark misogynistic themes.

I prefer to see Adam & Eve in the supportive role as partners.   Both equally aware and equally responsible.  A pairing of minds and bodies.

The Pair Adam Eve Maquette Randall a

Randall Bezeau … “The Pear”

The Pear captures the moment before the first bite, as Adam is lowering Eve down from the tree. Their eyes meet and for the first time they begin to understand the significance of their pairing.

As the season is still cold and snowy… this is the perfect time to create a maquette for what may be my next marble statue.  Michelangelo would also use the off season to draw or model new ideas, when the heat of the summer would be too great for stone work.

Modeling clay gives you time and flexibility to adjust your work while expressing ideas through your hands… In a very real sense, you’re bringing life to an idea locked in your mind. Reminds me of the poem:

The finest artist cant conceive a thought
that the marble itself does not bind.
within its shell, waiting to be brought
out by the hand that serves the artist mind.

                                                 Michelangelo

The maquette, after much tweaking is now ready to be cast.  Remember 90% finished is good enough…  Finishing touches and realism will be added in the final clay stage.  As figures are standing, this will be the most challenging plaster mold I have attempted.  One single poured piece that will need to stand on three legs while drying.  More on the planning a preparation of this next time….

Michelangelo & Nature in contrast with St Francis

Michelangelo was disinterested in portraying animal life.  Search high and low, and you will only be treated to a small selection.  An uninspired collection who’s purposes is to support some larger allegorical tail.

michelangelo-animals-panther-snake-owl-fish

Rothschild’s collection of Bronze Panthers, supporting the nude male. Michelangelo’s obsession.
The Sistine Chapel’s Adam & Eve – The Fall; The Serpent is portrayed as a woman, conflating women with temptation.
The Sistine Chapel’s Jonah, With the Prophet Jonah’s thigh being mouthed by a common Mediterranean Dentex fish
San Lorenzo’s The Night; with the Marble Owl standing on guard, shielding prying eyes from Nights thighs.

All in all, not his best work.

Today, we understand the combined interdependence of nature with human kind. Wild life is no longer just a supporting structure. In this way, I really appreciate Saint Francis of Assisi and his kinship with our wild wonderers. For Francis, God’s love of nature was reflected in all of creation.

My favourite story attributed to him is how he tamed the Wild Wolf of Gubbio. A terror of an animal described larger than life and may have inspired Grimms’ Riding Hood tale.

This creature killed and ate any unfortunate creature that wandered alone along its path. Be it pig, lamb, or man. Leaving the towns folk quivering at night. In walks Francis, with disregard to warnings, set off into the mountains in search of the wolf. He had faith in that all that was needed was a little mutual understanding. At first sight, the animal charged, just as Saint Francis held out is arm. In that moment, perhaps startled by Assisi’ calm demeanour, the wolf changed his gate from that of attack to rambunctious play… The two become the best of friends, brothers for life.

Now that’s a story… and this is the motivation behind my next statue that captures this very moment.

“Brothers” Continue reading