The head is completed, here's a little view of it so far:
I also made some progress on the body in a short burst of productivity:
The head is completed, here's a little view of it so far:
I also made some progress on the body in a short burst of productivity:
I started a new sculpture just a few weeks ago and while I've kept my Instagram sporadically updated, I have neglected to update this blog with the same frequency. The new sculpture is another figurative piece based on an entity found in the oubliette. The origin of the character comes from my journals of nightmares and fever dreams that I have maintained for the majority of my life. I usually write them while still waking from the experience so the notes are often disjointed, sometimes illegible. Sometimes I will sketch the scene if I can't find the words. The notes I used are as follows:
In the labyrinth again - Narrow streets this time, this way and that but not FOLDING in on themselves like before. Some detail.. the walls of the streets are just outlines of buildings as if they are plans for the future. I'm breathless, escaping and everything is so blue! I can feel eyes upon me from above but my neck wont bend. I see deep recesses in the walls that reach on forever but are too small to climb into. I step into a clearing, a courtyard with a small fountain. Cobbled stone. It wasn't there when I entered, now a figure is suspended in mid-air above the fountain (encased in crackling electricity that spits onto the walls of the courtyard). It's flesh reinvents itself over and over and over, smothering itself, freeing itself. [The] head is a revolving wheel of bones, muscles and faces that suddenly snaps in my direction and emits a terrifying, unnatural howl. I fall backwards, crawling towards the nearest street and similar howls echo in reply around me in every direction. Still blue everywhere but now there's orange coming from the wall recesses.
- 23rd March 2013
In this series of images you can see the evolution from the original, failed armature (made last year) alongside the final working armature, to the progress of the sculptures bulk. In addition to documenting the process of each piece, I want to try and document the changes that occur while sculpting. I make the sculptures from memory and the descriptions that I've noted down, so sometimes I can be working on something for a few hours only to scrape it off and find a different way to interpret it. I think these changes, both successful and unsuccessful, are just as important as the final finished piece.
My original interpretation was to have hands pushing out from under the skin, but changed my mind in favour of a straitjacket effect where the arms are bound, broken and useless. The description and visual was less about something trying to escape and more about the cyclical growth and decay of both the body and the mind. I then had a little trouble figuring out how I was going to sculpt arms in the way that I originally saw them, until I took a trip into the world of polish painter Zdzislaw Beksiński. His depiction of emaciated limbs gave me the idea to cure thin lengths of clay, as opposed to using armature wire, to create sturdy but delicate arrangements for the arms without the headache of bending wire into the body.
Revenant; A Custodian of Shifting Dimensions, 26x10x12cm, 2017
Inside of The Oubliette, beyond the desert, lies a colossal grey cube that waits patiently for the touch of any that survive the journey across those dry, featureless sands. Inside the cube, a city begins its transformation; Ancient gears creak into life while monolithic pieces arrange themselves almost imperceptibly in a glacial waltz.
When the prisoner investigates the still-forming cube city, he glimpses figures moving within the deeper shadows where the light has not yet penetrated. The figures drift about in the gloom, seemingly with purpose and yet their tasks remain unknown to him as they effortlessly evade his pursuit.
I've moved onto the next piece already, but the frequency of this type of character in the narrative and variations thereof, means I can (and will) revisit in the future. If anything this one is a constructive study on what I must improve on, but I'm happy with that.
As expected, when this sculpture was removed from its temporary base, the arm and leg did split from the body. Luckily, the repairs were minor and it is now fixed to a permanent base. Since the last update not very much has changed, the sculpture sat on my desk for months while I battled the age-old conflict of 'Do I leave it and risk not finding its potential? Or do I keep working, potentially overworking it into oblivion?'. I found a middle ground eventually, choosing not to texture the skin and making only a couple of small adjustments. While not a perfect anatomical representation I still felt as if it had to be closer to reality, though in hindsight this has been my biggest hurdle and the reason it has sat idle for the better part of a year. I'm trying to learn this whole 3-dimensional thing, while unlearning academic constraints.
Here is a small series of masks that I am working on as part of The Oubliette. There is an aspect of emotion through motion, as the masks depict certain changes in expression or an evolution within the character during a particular scene. These are fun little projects that I am enjoying working on in between the bigger projects.
Not unlike every other blog I've ever had, this one has been cast aside and forgotten of late. Partly due to an eventful year so far, partly due to adopting a sphynx cat that will not abide by my sculpting and partly due to inspiration coming in waves and troughs.
There is, however, some excellent news! In one month I will have my very first private studio. It's a home studio and with a door between myself and my cats, I can finally start working on my projects unhindered. Having to put tools and sculptures away every time I'm finished associates the creative act as something that isn't spontaneous. It also means that I previously couldn't work on anything bigger than what I could fit in a cupboard ie. set design and large sculpts, because it would be destroyed before sunrise. Enough about my personal chaos.
I've been working on facial musculature, finding a grey area between anatomically correct and what I think looks interesting. As a side-project I'd definitely like to work towards some more academic, classical style sculpture but my current work does not warrant the need just yet. The head needs some cleaning up as some of the clay dried enough to prevent fine detail, once that's done I want to add a layer of silicone skin.
In The Oubliette, the lines between life, death, waking and dreaming are unclear and with this in mind, the human body is not subject to all rules of nature and order.
The prologue primarily features this puppet, so I'm switching back and forth between two different forms of the same character to speed things up a bit. So far I have finished/cured the skull but the pelvis needs some tidying and shaping before it's done. Today I will also be starting the process of musculature and skin over the skull. This is going to be tricky but if it works out I will be very happy - The idea is to build a framework for the head that can be transferred between puppets depending on the story progress, but have removable parts such as the skin to signify a state of decay and change. I'm not concerned about being medically accurate, the important part is having fun!
Once this puppet is fully completed, I will focus all of my attention on set building so that I can start filming the prologue as soon as possible.
Puppet fabrication continued...
The main character for the stop-motion piece now has a body! Or rather, something that is 90% complete but looks significantly better than a metal skeleton. There is still some shaping to do while possibly adding more bulk to some areas, but the time-consuming work of fitting the foam to the metal is done so adjustments will be swift.
I didn't have a body shape in mind when I started trimming the foam down so it's very generic, but I have considered a few ways to give the character more personality such as tapered limbs or a top-heavy approach. Despite the foam being fairly dense to begin with, I have a suspicion that when the puppet is clothed I would be dealing with compressed areas where a real body would not. Working outside of silicone molding I have to be prepared for imperfections so even if I have an ugly (naked) puppet, I should be able to hide my shortcomings with clothing.
Hands have been a source of great frustration for me, as well as feet, but I haven't the patience to even approach feet yet. Luckily, my 'hand-made' hands are easier to work with that hands made with the armature components (attached to the puppet in the pictures) but I am keeping my options open. I have never worked with SFX latex before so my first attempt at building skin on the hands failed quickly. I was applying the latex conservatively and with a sponge, as opposed to dipping the wire armature or layering sheets of latex and spot painting in the knuckles and other details.
I have made some progress on building up the body in all its fleshy glory. The head is temporary, it was originally meant for another piece that ended up on the scrap heap. Either I will re-work this one because I like the enlarged scale of it, or I'll build another from scratch before finishing the neck.
The final stage will be tricky as I have to detach the armature from the temporary base that it's bolted to, onto a permanent fixture. What makes this more difficult than it should be is the fact that this began as a semi-articulated 'puppet' and two of the joints aren't reinforced, so moving it could cause both the arm and the leg to tear away.
I'm not sure how much of a chance I am taking, but I wont be curing the clay when the piece is finished. I'll let it air dry to harden up as much as possible and cover it until a plexi-case can be made for it.
Although the primary function of this sculpture and animation blog is to document my own progress, I will occasionally share media that has inspired my creativity. I am always fascinated to learn about the creative processes and influences of other artists, particularly when it explains the provenance of a piece that I like or gives clarity to the process.
First up, Takahide Hori's Junk Head.
This short movie is fairly new to me, but was pivotal in reviving my interests in animation and sculpture. The characters behaviour and some aspects of the style remind me a lot of Nick Park's Wallace & Gromit animations that I grew up watching on television, although the visual element is vastly different. Junk Head took four years to make on a small budget and was mostly a solo project which is inspiring in itself, with my situation being firmly within that realm of limitations such as time commitment, budget and so on.
I highly recommend visiting YAMIKEN to see some incredible set design for Junk Head as well as other projects.
Next, a long-time inspiration that goes beyond the world of stop-motion, The Quay Brother's 1986 adaption of Street of Crocodiles (Bruno Schulz, 1934).
I first saw Street of Crocodiles while studying Photography at University and it had a profound influence on my interest in studio lighting and set design. It taught me about controlling the environment of a photograph and that controlled approach led me back into wanting to animate. As a newcomer to animation it has been daunting to watch contemporary animation that has large teams dedicated to facial movements and so forth, while the Quay Brothers have given permission to build a static puppets head that relies on light and shadow to convey emotions. They have also widened the parameters of puppet-making for me, allowing me to look at unconventional mechanisms as potential body parts and seeing beauty in the grotesque.
This is a mock-up of an idea I had for the first scene of my stop-motion film. The interior is inspired by Kurt Schwitters' Merzbau and sets the scene for the oubliette, the cyclical setting at the beginning and ending of the story. The original idea for the oubliette was an empty reality, a setting that occurs frequently in my dreams but also a chance to tell a story just by the movements and reactions of the puppet, without distraction from where, when and how.
I'm really excited to be restricted to a single, continuous light source. I'm looking forward to seeing how it collides with the puppet and what emotions and tension will come from this pairing.
The face is starting to become recognizable and I'm happy with the direction that things are going. After the ears are re-worked, I have texturing to look forward to and I may add a little bit of flesh to the top of the head to increase the angle of the forehead.
I've been working on the body quite a bit but not shown here in great detail unfortunately. The open pelvis was covered and the base shape for an abdomen is in its place. I've also mapped out the muscles of the upper arm and thigh, two prominent areas for sculpting where I will make some decisions about the function of the piece as a puppet, or a study. My next update will have some body progress images and shed some light on the background of this little fellow.
Once the eyeballs were in place, I made some light adjustments to the nose before curing the entire head as one piece. For this head I wanted some emphasis on the mouth area, so I started there to set the tone for the rest of the fleshy areas that would follow. In retrospect I might have made the nose smaller in the grey clay so that I'd have more options with the second layer.
The stage where I start to decide what parts will be skin, muscle and bone. A stage that is in a constant state of change as some ideas work and others get rejected. This is the second figurative head that I've sculpted and I've learned a thing or two from working on the face..
Back in 2014, I started to weave together fragments from a dream diary into a flexible narrative, looking for re-occurring themes and places and attempting to communicate with the 'figures' that lurk in the shadows. Themes started to bubble to the surface the more I investigated this world, anatomy and architecture becoming more prominent while others gradually became clear over the next couple of years.
Anatomy has been an educational theme to explore so far, from an artistic perspective as well as how deep the theme runs underneath dreams and nightmares. Prior to this project, my history with sculpture was limited to highly-abstracted work, architectural and conceptual for the most part, so anatomy and figurative work in three-dimensions is still very new to me. It's been a unique experience to go from the idea of a person or creature to being able to touch it and see the musculature and features create shadows under lamplight.
All of the bigger sculptures up to this point are non-moving, but I am simultaneously working on removable parts to go onto jointed armatures in preparation for the stop-motion portion of the project.
The base 'skull' is sculpted around a wire and tinfoil armature, then it is cured before the facial topography is mapped out over it.