Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.
Saturday, April 7 – This week I wanted to do some clay. I had some big plans. First thing, though, was to finish off an earlier clay project – open the kiln from Friday’s firing of the avalanche of tiles I just finished coloring. Success!
I’m very happy with these results. The colors look great and I got good color coverage. I think the latter is due to the fact that I’ve gotten my technique down – I water down the underglazes so that they are a little drippy, I use a Chinese brush rather than a regular one, and I do not stroke the underglaze on like a paint but work it more like an ink, kind of dripping and gliding with a soft touch.
I will show the whole array later on when I unload the kiln.
Now, back to my plan. I’ve been collecting ideas for a while and writing them on cards to remind me:
I started on one of the ideas today – clay animals. Now, I have made very few animal-type things and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I thought I’d dive in and just experiment. I used white low-fire clay and made a couple of pinch pots:
Stuck them together. Now I have a hollow ball.
I made some more, using various ways to combine the clay to make a “body”. Most amimals are not round like beach balls, but – these will be. Just saying that already reality was out the window, but, I hadn’t been trying for it anyway.
I rolled out some legs.
I went off and left them for a while. The clay is very wet and the legs could not support a body at this stage, plus the bodies themselves are wiggly and prone to misshaping themselves (in an unplanned way, you understand, I’m not objecting to their odd look if I made them that way!) Later in the day I put legs and bodies together, put them under plastic so they would not dry further, and let them be.
Sunday, April 8 – I uncovered the creatures-in-process, let them dry a little more, got out my tools
and made necks and heads. By day’s end – animals in a little herd.
By the way, I made small piercings in their stomachs so that air could circulate and they would not explode when fired.
I then turned my attention to another item on the list – cylinder people. Except that I felt like making rectangle people. OK, same kind of thing. I rolled out slabs and let them dry out a little. Once again, fresh clay is hard to work with as it slumps.
I made figures in two ways. One, I took a section of slab, wrapped it into a cylinder (here is where I would stop for cylinder people), and then patted it into a rectangular shape with my paddle. The person ended up looking like this:
But I was better off creating a box from slabs, I decided. I cut strips:
I put them together, added a top and bottom (hole cut in the base so that air could circulate inside), and then a head and an arm or two.
Please excuse the poor photos, I will try for better ones later. Anyway, I ended up with several figures (they are all women, just so you know).
I plan to color their flat surfaces in the same way I did those recent tiles – lots of pattern and color – and leave their heads and arms plainer for contrast.
Tuesday, April 10 – I’ve been busy the last couple of days, so this afternoon was the first time I’ve had to do anything art-wise. I chose to make cylinder people (from my list) today, the real kind of cylinder people. I’ve made them before and I like them because, like all the projects I am currently working on, they are simple forms but provide a lot of plain surface area to decorate.
I used terra cotta clay today and rolled out a couple of slabs.
A segue – I had an irregular shaped slab. I got the idea to make it into legs, then added some other bits, and there you see it – an odd person.
All right. Back to cylinder people. I rolled cylinders, leaving the seam exposed, because I like the look, and pinched the top closed.
I added bases to them (I like them closed up, and it gives them a nice weight) – then added faces.
Nothing to it. I’ll let them dry overnight and then clean them up a little, but this is pretty much the construction process.
I had cut the remnants of the slabs into strips.
My idea is to make some more square people, but I will do that later. For tonight, I covered them with plastic so that they did not dry out – tomorrow or whenever I work on them next, I’ll uncover them a while before I want to work so that they can set up enough to stand up well. Clay under plastic can stay wet forever, if it is well wrapped.
Wednesday, April 11 – I took a look at my various clay figurines this afternoon – I had only a short time since I’d been out all day. Oops, I noticed a couple of them had split along their head seams as they dried – I had not properly compressed and integrated the seam and as the clay dried it contracted.
I took some fresh clay and smoothed it in – sometimes that will heal the crack. We will see in the firing. But – in case – I made a “hat” for the worst-affected figurine. I am not attaching it to the figure, just setting it on it. In case things don’t work out, he won’t have a giant opening at the top of his head.
I like the way this looks. We’ll see if it stands up to production. If not I’ll knit him a hat or something else will occur to me.
Friday, April 13 – I finally unloaded the kiln. I am really really happy with these tiles. I’ll give them their own post tomorrow, I think, so you can see the whole thing. Here is a preview:
I’ve been giving thought to my clay work this week – what I want to be doing with clay, I mean. You know, I’ve made loads of items over my ten years or so of working with this material. Sculptures and relief tiles were my focus in the beginning. That’s why my mind still runs along those lines – I’ve got a lot of history to draw on.
I have enjoyed this week, making 3-D things – but I don’t have the urge to keep exploring in this direction, I realize. In fact, I was starting to feel…impatient.
What I really like doing is tilework – flat surface tiles with scenes and abstract designs, using the bright underglazes – and that is what my mind keeps going back to.
So I’ve decided to run with this feeling. I plan to cut tiles out of my remaining clay (I especially want to do some more of those 2″ x 2″ tiles, and some abstract face tiles in larger sizes) and be happy. I started off by cutting my remaining rolled out slabs.
Either I use a needle tool and a straight edge, or for larger ones, I have a tile cutter:
You press on the wide handle to cut into the clay, then you press the plunger and lift from the handle to pull the cutter away from the tile. You get nice big tiles (about 6.5″ square) like this:
Here are tiles I cut from my remaining terra cotta clay. I’ll do white clay on a different day, so that I don’t smear them all over each other in passing.
Next, I went upstairs to my studio and worked on the two paintings I started last week. Here’s where I picked them up:
Well, the one with the chair, I was impatient with it, so I turned it upside down and worked it in an abstract way. I’m not sure if it might not go back to being a room portrait, we’ll see. How about this, take a look – first I’ll show you the way I worked on it, then the way it was, and then the other two aspects. See my problem? I kind of like them all.
I also worked on the portrait of the lady reading. She didn’t get obliterated – I like her. Let’s see what happens as I work on her some more.
OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.