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Sunday, April 18, 2010
Sculpting Chairs Part 1 Lines, Shadows and Curves, Oh My!
A graduate of one of the most prestigious woodworking schools in the U.S. recently wrote me to ask for help. I am not sure how he arrived at having constructed a roughed out Maloof type rocker since they were inquiring about my bundle. They were fearful of shaping and sculpting the legs, seat, crest rail ,etc. and then faring one into the other. You know the tried and true FDR saying,"The only thing you have to fear is fear itself!" Sometimes we are afraid of failure and sometimes we are actually afraid of success. It is the old writers block, only in this case sculptor's block.
Let me qualify this as a discussion of art over engineering. The engineering qualities of the woodworker are very necessary as I have written before. This is more about freeing oneself from formula to producing what looks good to you and hopefully other observers.
Does nature or nurture make a wood sculptor? A man sat in the back of one of my Maloof Inspired Rocker Demo Classes for a day and a half before raising his hand and stating, "I can put it together but I can't shape it!" He went on to describe his totally frustrated attempts to do anything art related.
What are the human tools necessary for success as a sculptor of wood? Sight is huge but not totally necessary. If you can see the line or visualize it, you are ready to pick up the tools and sculpt. If not, you must become a student of sight. Try this activity. Most cars are automotive sculpture. Follow the hard lines (they define the edges or movement) and how they pull the eye around the car. Find the softer lines and how they cause transitions to be made from surface to surface or hard line to hard line. Make visual comparisons of two cars that are in a competing group. Observe a Camry and a Honda. This will really work well if both cars are the same color. How are the lines the same? How are they different? Observe how opposing surfaces meet. Is the line caused by the meeting of two surfaces that have different radii? What surfaces are concave? Which are convex? Where are the flat surfaces? Where are the shadows? What causes the shadows? Train your powers of observation. Now describe the lines and decide what their purposes are in the over-all design. Do the same thing with nature. Trees, leaves, flowers all have shapes, lines and surfaces in opposition. How do they work together to form the whole?
The first sentence in the previous paragraph sounds ridiculous and yes, I am sure an overstatement. Touch is huge and can help if you have a vision deficit ! When I started studying Sam Maloof's work I saw them in a museum setting and I explored Sam's chairs kinesthetically. I touched and rubbed them with my fingers every time the security guard turned his head. I was using my fingers to get the details. Just another way to program them to memory. As I sculpt I am always touching and asking myself how does it feel? Is it flat, hollow, round? How does it flow?
Get a ball of modeler's clay and form surfaces in opposition that you like and form a lines at the transition between the two. Visualize , think and feel, you are on your way!
The next post will discuss lines that are satisfying and flowing versus what is not!
- ▼ April (3)