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oddist 01-03-2006 07:02 AM

age and influence
Question for you all...

Do you believe your age influences the choice of figurative subject matter or non-objective imagery you sculpt?????

Have you found as you age that your choices have changed????

ExNihiloStudio 01-03-2006 10:08 AM

Re: age and influence
I personally think that art making and viewing is a cognitive enterprise, so if experience helps expand understanding then sure, that might influence choices. Of course itís entirely possible to grow older and learn nothing.

bluedogshuz 01-03-2006 10:25 AM

Re: age and influence
I am living proof Mark!!!
Actually I was seduced by figurative art animals and people, it is exciting to reproduce what one sees in life. As I have aged I found myself discouraged at times and feeling like people don't care what I display (which may be true). However, my therapy is pick up a pen a small pad and start expressing how I feel with form. I like to combine natural curving forms and give them a human dignity. I may do some realistic study but only to sharpen my abstracts. If I get really lazy I start carving stone and that clearifies to me how easy the constructions are. I think that is a process of aging and dare I say maturing?

manic 01-03-2006 02:31 PM

Re: age and influence
Definitely. Oddly enough, Oddist, in my youth I almost exclusively drew and sculpted in a figurative and more realistic fashion. Now, I am drawn further and further into minimalism as an interprative style. Sleak and elegant lines and curves. I am still searching for my style as I have only recently devoted myself to becoming an indepent artist. Who know where and what style I'll end up. One thing I'm pretty sure of though is, I will be sticking in three dimensional mediums.

GWayne 01-18-2006 03:01 PM

Re: age and influence
Great topic! Personally, my unstable living environment and frustration with my artistic style at the time were the two major factors responsible in my becoming a non-objective/minimalist artist.


JAZ 01-19-2006 09:20 AM

Re: age and influence
Maybe another element that affects our work is not age, but time, the length of time that you have been doing whatever you are doing? I've been making things my whole different media and different scales, but inventing and making things from scratch. I always do all of my own work (no farming it out. Maybe when I get really too old to handle it myself?) I've only been working with steel for ten years. Which outweighs the other: would my work seem to be mature because of my age, because I have always made things, or does it look immature because I've only been doing it for ten years?
If what you are asking (as some people have suggested) is whether age affects whether we work abstractly or realistically, in my case it doesn't. I've always done some realism and some abstraction. Today I will be working on rubber molds for several small pieces I'm playing around with. (Even though I seem to be mildly allergic to something I'm using.) One is a natural form, one is totally abstract, two are figures, and I've started three tiny ones all of which are combinations of found objects with original figurative or abstract elements. this is the same kind of blending of things I did at the Museum School and when I was a little kid, though the materials and processes were different and not so complex.
Pigeon-holing is tough with this group, eh?

G. Murdoch 01-19-2006 12:36 PM

Re: age and influence
Greetings all. Great thread. Speaking for myself, I started out obsessed with the human figure, and mostly disdained abstract and minimalist art as the product of people without the dedication, courage, and skill neccesary to render things realisticly. After about 7 years I had the great good fortune to live and work in the home/studio of Somers Randolph, a modern american master stone carver. he introduced me to the creative possibilities of abstract forms, rendered with great skill. Complicated compositions. Since then I have produced both abstract forms and human figures. I still retain part of my original bias regarding skill though. When I view artwork I want to see evidence of skill as well as original ideas.


Merlion 01-19-2006 07:16 PM

Re: age and influence

Originally Posted by G. Murdoch
Speaking for myself, I started out obsessed with the human figure, and mostly disdained abstract and minimalist art as the product of people without the dedication, courage, and skill neccesary to render things realisticly. After about 7 years I had the great good fortune to live and work in the home/studio of Somers Randolph, a modern american master stone carver. he introduced me to the creative possibilities of abstract forms, rendered with great skill. Complicated compositions. Since then I have produced both abstract forms and human figures. I still retain part of my original bias regarding skill though. When I view artwork I want to see evidence of skill as well as original ideas.

I agree very much with your sentiments. Starting and establishing a firm foundation with modeling the human figure is the correct way for serious sculptors. This takes time, patience and dedication. It is only after gaining good knowledge and skills with the human figure that one should go also for abstract and other art styles.

I think it rarely works going the other way round. It seems difficult to start and be good with abstract, before starting oneself on the human figure. There may be exceptions and I'd like to hear about them.

One problem I see with young art students. Unless they are forced to, they often take the easy way out and start off with abstract sculptures and try to avoid practicing on the human figure seriously.

GWayne 01-20-2006 09:12 PM

Re: age and influence

Hi! Juan Gris is an exception to the rule. He didn't study the human figure in great depth, but he did become one of the most important contributors of the Cubist movement. For the most part, he learned by observing Braque and Picasso while they worked in their studios. His style was very mature and it pushed the boundaries of Cubism.


Chris W 03-21-2006 01:29 PM

Re: age and influence
I have found that even though my work is realistic I study my subjects in an abstract way. Seeing the volumes and negative spaces helps to lay out the form as a whole. I've been building animals in steel and bronze for ten years. Most of them are realistic.

arcdawg 03-21-2006 04:53 PM

Re: age and influence

Originally Posted by Merlion

One problem I see with young art students. Unless they are forced to, they often take the easy way out and start off with abstract sculptures and try to avoid practicing on the human figure seriously.

Im a young artist and I do a good amount of abstract work. (not classicly trained) but I feel that its takes just as much if not more creatitivy to make abstract art -


ironman 03-21-2006 07:37 PM

Re: age and influence
Hi, Good Non-objective art is HARDER to do than realistic work, because you're on your own without the safety net of a model to fall back on.
I've heard it said that artists do non-obj work because they don't know how to do figurative work. I think that in most cases nothing could be further from the truth.
In my case, I was trained to do figurative work first, and also plenty of life drawing (a must), my teacher and mentor would not allow any student of his to go right into abstraction without a background in figurative work.
I can almost always tell a poorly trained artist, whether figurative or abstract, because the good ones know how to see and the poor ones have no idea what they don't know, and it shows.
As far as "Age and Influence" goes, I'm more likely to think that who you study with and what you are exposed to is more likely to influence what direction you go in.
I was born in 1946, and I remember that Look magazine or was it Life Magazine article on Jackson Pollack, "Jack the Dripper" in the early to mid fifties, I wasn't even 10 yrs old yet I still remember it, I also knew about DeKooning, and a few others, Conrad Marca-relli comes to mind.
I studied predominately with a man who, although he had a fantastic grounding in realism, did abstract work, and was introduced to David Smith's and Anthony Caro's work through my classes with him. To his credit, he tried (and I think succeeded) to keep from influencing any of his students to follow his style.
I also grew up in NYC which was and maybe still is the art capital of the world, so I was exposed to TONS of great Art, both realistic and abstract.
I do non-objective welded steel sculpture and over the years my work has changed from a real interest in negative space and how it affects the form and feeling to doing work that is more about form, juxtaposing both straight and curved shapes, light and shadow and most of all, FEELING.
Non-objective art was mostly what I saw in the galleries in NYC in the 70's, and it was and I think still is considered the leading edge, so to speak, anyway, today, anything goes, realism, abstraction, or maybe even both in the same work, so I'm really glad that I'm classically trained, that way, I can do either one, if I choose to.
I thank my lucky stars that I grew up in NYC and studied with who I did, I'm not sure if he's a great artist, but he was a GREAT TEACHER and I am indebted to him for what he taught me and the seriousness that he showed towards this thing we call sculpture.
Have a great day,

oddist 03-22-2006 08:37 AM

Re: age and influence

I think you are one of the lucky ones to have had the exposure you did...

Anyway, back to "Age and Influence"--I came across a book that kind of talks about it....

See for a little review...

Chris W 03-22-2006 10:41 AM

Re: age and influence
I would like to see some of your work. Do you have a site?

ironman 03-22-2006 10:48 AM

Re: age and influence
Hi Oddist, That sounds interesting, experimental artist/ conceptual innovator theory in that book. Thanks for the link to that web site.
Yes, I do feel very fortunate, especially after reading about the experiences of some of our fellow sculptors, who I feel were shot down before they got out of the starting gate and only through their passion and stubborness have they been able to overcome to a certain extent the handicap of terrible art teachers and a lousy art education.
Some do seem to harbor bitterness towards the art teacher/education system that they were exposed to, but I think they are short changing themselves with that thinking.
Of course, that's easy for me to say, considering that I had a few good art teachers and one great teacher/mentor, who I feel forever indebted to.
One thing that I always did was to drop out of any class where I felt the instructor was an A-hole, and I did have a few of them.
I had a painting teacher who couldn't paint as well as I could and we both knew it.
I had a sculpture teacher who insisted that his way (conceptually) was the only way.
Have a nice day,

JasonGillespie 03-22-2006 01:44 PM

Re: age and influence
There seem to be a variety of ideas about this subject and that fits in with my experience. I think our personalities dictate much of what we do...along with our influences as we age. Some artists I have known have struck out away from what they had pursued all their lives, others have known all along what they were meant to do. It seems a very personal process. I have always been drawn to the figure and the desire to be able to manipulate it to my expressive ends. That I have made a jump from 2-d to 3-d in the recent past hasn't had much of an effect on that desire...although I have had to realign my understanding what is possible in the medium. Too, I have kept many of the same thematic concerns as were in my youth, but with a maturation of thought and changes in understanding of those subjects.

An interesting thought is that we(artists) are inborn with certain visual predispositions that eventually lead us to where we need to go. Kind of like a craving for certain foods because our body requires some element it isn't getting. Personally, I believe that to some extent that must be the case...although that makes us seem less in control and that idea might bother some.

This is a really interesting question, Oddist.

Your premise about the difficulty of non-objective to objective is interesting, though I can't help but think too simplistic an analysis.
I can't help but reply.

I would say great objective art is harder myself, though you are right about the model being the sticking point for many sculptors. The difference is that great figurative sculptors were and are able to conceive without the model and understood/understand that the form must be reduced to a mental schematic that can be manipulated sans reference material to become truly great sculpture. You don't really think that there were people walking around that looked like any of Michelangelo's sculptures do you? His was a mental construct designed with his understanding of what the form was capable of and that also used the reference points of the model as a basis for departure. Often times he changed the form anatomically to fit his conception...and made it look right despite that fact. That takes knowledge and skill the non-objective sculptor just doesn't have to have. Logically, a great figurative sculptor like Michelangelo used the same elements/principles of art a non-figurative sculptor would and then had to turn the raw reference material of a model into a sculptural idea.

Too, you speak of the model as a "safety net" and it may be if you only have the simple goal of being purely a documentary sculptor in mind...which none of the great sculptors were. A non-objective sculptor may be working without a "safety net", but it is that very lack of comparison and the freedom that that comes with it that makes his job easier. There is no objective comparison for a non-objective sculptor's work to be judged by and therefore he is free from many of the technical critiques an objective sculptor must endure. Sounds easier to me.

I thought of a simple math problem to visualize the above argument.
Let's say we have a set of three 2's:

The first 2 = the understanding of the elements and principles of art any sculptor must understand to manipulate his chosen sculptural medium.

Then let's say:
The second 2 = the creativity and imagination any sculptor requires to reformulate whatever organic/or inorganic, objective/non-objective forms he/she uses in their design into a sculptural idea.

Then let's say:
The third 2 = the understanding/knowledge/skill both conceptually and empirically to render a objective form.

So then, a non-objective sculptor would be required to possess the first two and would have an equation of: 2+2 = 4 as a cummulative skill level needed.

An objective sculptor would require the first two and additionally the third which would give them an equation: 2+2+2 = 6 as a cumulative skill level needed.

While this is simple, it accurately reflects the different degrees of knowledge each type of sculptor must have operating in their process. Obviously one requires more than the other. You will notice talent was not mentioned as it is assumed that both sculptors possess enough to fill their respective roles.

I will give you that there are large numbers of both types of sculptors that do not have all of the requisite skills and that does confuse matters a bit. They are poor or mediocre, however, and wouldn't be factored in the above argument.

ironman 03-22-2006 09:25 PM

Re: age and influence
Hi, First of all, ALL the great figurative sculptors go way beyond the model to express the emotional equivalent to what they're trying to say. But, they use a model to begin with or they've been doing figurative work for so long that they can pull it off (I don't mean to sound so flippant) without it looking like "Gumby".
You might also, or should I say I might edit the THIRD 2 so that it reads
"The understanding/knowledge/skill both conceptually and empirically to render FEELING into an objective OR non-objective form.
In that case, a non-obj sculptor would rate a 6 also.
Figurative art, to me, HAS many elements of non-objectivity in it, at least the good stuff does.
I don't want to get into a pissing contest with you and I will say, unequivocally that good (I hate to use the term "great" here) art is good art, regardless of whether it's realistic or non-obj.
When I speak of the "safety net", I only mean it as away to check the work against the real thing and possibly alter it one way or the other so as to avoid what I would call "the Gumby effect" yet still retain the feeling that you're after.
You said, " there is no objective comparison for a non objective sculptor's work to be judged by and therefore he is free of many of the technical critiques an objective sculptor must endure.
Well, we have had non-obj sculpture for quite some time now, and I admit that to the non initiated, it's all BS, BUT the non initiated (and by that I mean uneducated) don't know a good realistic sculpture from a bad one either.
Also, us non-obj sculptors have to contend with the likes of David Smith and Anthony Caro, among others, so YES, we do have sculptors who's work we will be judged by.
Suffice is to say that,
Good sculpture is good sculpture AND bad sculpture is bad sculpture and brings us all down, whether realistic or non-objective.
By the way, I prefer the term "non-objective" to "abstract", due to the fact that I consider "stylized" (you know, somewhat figurative but with a definite leaning towards the non-obj) to be abstract and I consider that work to be "fence sitting", so to speak, studentish, and not the work of a mature artist.
Of course, you could bring up Elie Nadelman as someone who did that type of work, BUT, when he did it, it was new. By the way, I hate his work!
I had a friend who did that type of work, he told me that he wanted the all the viewers to understand his work. Well sure, everyone thought his work was great, (he liked his ego stroked) but, I'm the one he came to for advice, which he always took. He had so much intelligence, creativity and potential, yet whenever he got close to doing a totally non-obj piece it scared the shit out of him and he would go back and hide behind his stylized work. He has since passed away, and I always feel bad that he couldn't bring himself to do the work that he was capable of, but, he DID do the work that he was capable of, it's only ME who has the problem.
What a wonderful and sometimes complicated life we lead, eh!
Chris W, NO, I don't have a site.
Have a great day,

JasonGillespie 03-23-2006 11:36 AM

Re: age and influence
To try and boil something this complex down into small digestable bites is really impossible. For the sake of dialogue we still go at it though....don't we.

Yes, the bad sculpture isn't helping anyone...execept those who create it.

Being a big fan of really good/great non-objective art, I know the pitfalls you speak of. But when creating non-objective work, if done well, the non-objective artist is not subjected to rational comparison such as "well we know a leg looks like this and the face should have symmetry like this". They might be compared in an irrational way to other non-objective artists' work, but that is merely a comparison of styles and/or use of positive/negative space, materials etc... There is no formal comparison for non-objective art and that is my point...though I should have been more clear to begin with.

As to the editing of the mathematical is meant to simplify the basic dynamics of creation without bringing in any "grey" topics. What I include is meant to be the necessary abilities each type of artist must possess to create a given type of art. Most likely I was unclear in my descriptions. In an attempt to be more clear.......

the first 2 is meant to represent the elements/principles of art that all artists employ in creating art. We all pull from this same pot.....objective or non-objective. These are unchanging because they exist before we use them in the natural world that is perceived: line, shape, color, form, pattern, texture, etc.... They are the scientific laws that govern perception and the physical realities of what we are limited to in terms of those perceptions.

The second 2 is meant to represent the mental aspect of an artist's imaginative/cognative ability to order the elements/principles listed above into whatever form they desire. If you were to include some ability to create emotive qualities in a would be in this section not the next. I prefer to not include it because not all artists want emotive qualites in their work, therefore it isn't a general necessity for any artist. Talent, which I assume is present, would be in this section as well.

The third 2 is meant to represent those skills that any objective artist must possess by virtue of their intention to draw source material from the natural/observable world. These are skills of rendering identifiable shapes, forms and likenesses and as a result have nothing to do with the non-objective artist. ( Unless the non-objective artist decides to delve into the addition of objective reference material in their work.)

The outcome is that objective artists, good/great ones, must possess all three and the non-objective, good/great ones, only the first two. Now it is obvious that many non-objective artists possess all three....most of the best have to one degree or another anyway. My breakdown, however is meant to only encapsulate those skills/abilites each artist must have. The real world is much less clear cut as people's intentions blur the line between objective and non-objective art.

I have known some very talented objective artists who thought that non-objective art was BS. Try as I might I couldn't get them to see the light. They didn't want to was the problem. Sad cut yourself off from an entire type of art because it isn't "what you do". Actually, for myself, I would like to do some purely non-objective sculpture at some point. To me it is like music. Pure use of form devoid of identifiable does have an allure.
My preliminary sketches of the figurative works I am planning to do actually start out as non-objective drawings that show only the directional and mass relationships. Only after I have gotten those relationships right do I worry about the figure. If it can't work as a simplified form it doesn't matter how many arms or legs it has or how well they are sculpted. A mistake many figurative sculptors make.

Here's a fun test: Anytime you meet a figurative sculptor ask them what they think of Rodin's Balzac. If the don't like it, you know they might not understand form on a fundamental level. Rodin said that the Balzac embodied his whole philosophy on sculpture. It is awesome in its power, simplicity, and completeness. (I don't mean that in terms of finish) It is undoubtedly one of the greatest figurative works ever. If they say they don't like that style or doesn't has nothing to do with style and everything to do with sculpture. I was talking to one of my fellow sculpture classmates at the academy and the Balzac cameup. This was early in the first semester. He said he couldn't stand it. I thought, 'ok', 'let's see what you are all about'. Now after a semester and a half it is pretty obvious. He has talent, but has difficulty seeing how certain relationships are crucial. (At least to date. He is smart he may come around.)
It is those pesky fundamental concepts that will stop you dead in your tracks if you don't make friends of them.

I personally think that at least some of the "fencesitters" want to be in-between and it isn't a matter of not wanting to take the plunge. A good combination of non-objective and objective forms is one of the truly untapped areas left in sculpture, I think. I'll grant you that a lot to date has been uninspiring though. :D

oddist 03-23-2006 01:02 PM

Re: age and influence

Open the picture of Balzac in the previous post...

Cover the head with your hand or piece of paper...

Is what is left non-objective?

And is it still good?

G. Murdoch 03-23-2006 06:22 PM

Re: age and influence
I do non-objective work as well as human figures. The challenge for me in my non-objective sculptures is to see how close I can come to rendering a composition which exists nowhere outside of the realm of my imagination. I succeed / fail to some degree with each carving. The degree to which I succeed / fail is contingent upon the level / limit of my visual thinking skill, my skill with tools, and my understanding of whatever type of stone I am carving. It doesn't really matter if other people can tell whether or not I succeeded. I KNOW. The fact that there is no external point of reference that I, or anyone else, can look to for comparison, makes certain complex shapes more challenging than the human figure.

My goal when carving the human figure is to express emotion by nailing the structural anatomy, proportion, and mass. I do not try for detail. My education is in Traditional Chinese Medicine. I understand anatomy and physiology. Acupunture point location is based on a sophisticated system of proportional measuement, with certain bones acting as landmarks. Whether or not I succeed in getting the emotive content I am aiming for, my personal benchmark for technical success of my figures is; If I were to disect my stone carving, would I find a viable human skeleton? Does the right arm / leg weigh the same as the left? Are the proportions accurate? These things are important to me, in assessing my work.

There is a sculptor (Liardi, maybe?), who breaks every rule there is regarding proportion and mass. His figures are typically dancers / acrobats engaged in extremely dynamic compositions. I love his work, for although the lower legs are typically 30% longer than the torsos in his figures, his understanding of anatomy is obvious to anyone who knows anatomy by virtue of his rendering of muscular origins and insertions, tendons, and articulations (joints).

So both Liardi and myself understand human anatomy. Both of us do figurative work. He focuses on detail, I focus on proportion and mass. I like both styles. The chief thing for me though is the grasp of human anatomy. Go ahead and break any and all rules that you want, but please learn them first.


ironman 03-23-2006 08:44 PM

Re: age and influence
Hi Jason G., Oddist & Graham, It is a pleasure to converse with you guys over this wonderful web site.
As far as the "THREE 2'S" are concerned, yes, I get what you're saying, but I still believe, without formulating something different for the last "2" that good non-obj sculpture is, at least as hard as good realistic sculpture. I do agree that emotive qualities are not every artists aim.
Donald Judd for example, who, I believe was totally against them.
Hey, I'm a NYC native, seen that sculpture in MOMA's garden many times along with
Matisse's backs (not bad for a painter, eh), Gaston Lachaise's figure whose title I forget and one of Mailliol's figures. Balzac has a presence to it that is undeniably powerful.
I hope your fellow student comes around to appreciating Balzac, but, we all learn at a different pace and he might be 50 before he says, "hey, wow, that Balzac of Rodin's is powerful."
JASON, What academy do you go to? How old are you?
Yeah, you're right about those artists, with closed minds to non-obj work, it goes the other way too, non-obj artists who are closed minded about realism.
I still think those, what I call "fencesitters", doing stylized work have to commit to one way or the other.
Most think they are doing abstract work and to a certain extent they ARE, abstracting from the figure, BUT, it's still transitional and studentish in my book.
That friend I spoke of had a huge ego and liked to hear how great a sculptor he was.
He was extremely intelligent and the work he did that was very close to non-obj was sensational, BUT he always retreated into the world of Stylized fence sitting work which was where he got his ego stroked.
That bugged the shit out of me because he was a great guy and didn't need (at least in my point of view) to lower his standards to get the applause of a crowd that had no idea what art is about.
He passed away 4 yrs ago and was 18 yrs older than me, so to a certain extent he was an equal (we studied together) and also a father figure to me. Maybe that's why I can't seem to let go of him, I don't know!
That GOOD COMBINATION of non-obj and obj forms shall remain untapped in my studio, at least for the present.
I've been more interested in combining PAINTING AND SCULPTURE, which to date, I haven't done to my satisfaction as multiple colors seem to destroy the form.
Oddist, I think that Balzac's head, with that look is extremely important to the piece, but it's still not about the figure but about the power of the person and that's where it's greatness lies. You have to see it in person to get that, as, if I remember it correctly, Balzac stands on a pedestal that is on the high side. I may be wrong, and only remember it that way because of the power it evokes.
GRAHAM, Your last sentence says it ALL!!!!!!!!!!!
Have a great day,

JasonGillespie 03-23-2006 10:29 PM

Re: age and influence
I would agree with you about that last statement of Graham's as well. It pays to know what you are deconstructing...just learn it...your work will be better for it.

Maybe the combination I am thinking of with objective/non-objective leans more heavily towards objective so there is no confusing which side of the line you are on. If your sculpture looks like it should be non-objective...maybe you should go the whole way.

Really, to do a good job in either area is very hard work...objective or non-objective. You are right. What matters is caring to do that good job in my book. So many posers out there shortcut and gimmick their way into galleries that it sickens me at times.

Painting sculpture. That is a tricky subject. Figurative work never looks as good to me polychromed. They say the Greeks painted their marbles and I can only say that I'm thankful that the paint wore off. Non-objective sculpture with paint is a different matter. The plasticity of much non-objective sculpture would seem to lend itself to some sort of coloration.

I am in my second semester of a two year MFA program at the New York Academy of Art. I am about to turn 38.

G. Murdoch,

I like the sound of your philosophy regarding the form. That internal structure is what makes the external surface landmarks believable. Much of what we are learning in our Anatomical Drawing class and working on in our sculpture II class is based around this understanding of deep muscles and how they effect the surface muscles, fat pads, skin, etc.... You sound like you're taking a similar approach. We are working on the canon of measurements using 7.5 heads and it breaks down into a whole series of proportional reference points for the entire skeleton much the same as your knowledge of acupuncture proportions might. The Greeks were keen into proportions governing all aspects of making sculpture. My guess is it is why we still regard them as a standard today.

Unrelated to someone educated in a area of medicine that I assume is holistic and naturally based, do you think that our synthetic drug oriented healthcare system causes as many problems as it solves?

G. Murdoch 03-24-2006 09:26 AM

Re: age and influence
Jason, sounds like a great place to learn.

Regarding medicine, western biomedical science is absolutely the best form of care for trauma (car accidents, gunshots, etc..) and for surgery. When it comes to chronic, degenerative conditions (diabetes, arthritis, chronic pain, etc...) western medicine is very often worse than useless, causing many people great harm.

I am very grateful to have recieved the education that I did. For not only did I learn a lot of practical skills, I accepted a different lens through which to see the world. Chinese medical theory is Taoist philosophy applied to human health. So the foundations of Taoism (the theory of Qi, theory of Yin / Yang, theory of the 3 treasures, theory of the 5 elements, etc...) must be learned and understood before any of the technical information (acupuncture, herbs, etc..) can be applied.

The Taoist view of seeing things in terms of pattern, relationship, and change, is different than the Western tradition of seeing things in terms of form and function. Also note that when it comes to healthcare policy, many of the decisions are not medical / scientific, they are political / economic. A complete discussion of the philosophical differences that underpin the various approaches to healthcare is beyond the scope of this thread. Fascinating, contentious, and inspiring great passion, various camps, fierce loyalty, dogmatism, inspiration, hope for the best for humanity, medicine is a lot like art.

Of course, there are differences, chief among them being that the medical professions have a very rigorous and formalised system of peer review. An individual cannot claim the title of Doctor simply because they are compassionate and caring, where as anybody can claim the title of Artist by virtue of having creative desire.


dondougan 03-25-2006 09:16 AM

Re: age and influence
I just came to this thread topic and read all the posts -- so forgive me if I seem to jump back to a quote from Merlion:

"I think it rarely works going the other way round. It seems difficult to start and be good with abstract, before starting oneself on the human figure."

Perhaps I was one of the rare 'other way round' ones . . . though I did one modelled clay 'mask' in high school, that was the only natural-clay modelling/ceramic firing experience I had until just a few years ago.

As an undergraduate I enjoyed the required life drawing classes and did well, and in learning lost wax casting processes I also modelled naturalistic copies of my hands, etc. in wax. But for most of my undergraduate years I worked mostly in carved and fabricated abstract or minimal forms. I was interested in stone as a medium, and none of the faculty in my school could teach me that - though they pointed me at some books and places to get material. So I taught myself to carve stone, working minimalistic organic forms.

I stayed with carving for years, and perhaps eight or ten years later began modelling anatomical details (mostly human mouths/lips) in plasticene clay for transferral via molds to bronze and other cast materials (for the first time began working in some mixed-media ideas). I enrolled for an MFA so I would have access to a foundry - drew it out as long as I could under State law (six years). Then, two or three years after MFA I did my first stone figure-carving (about sixteen or seventeen years after BFA).

About three or four years ago I was asked to teach some live figure-modelling classes in clay and have enjoyed it, and have used the demo pieces as another way of expressing part of myself.
I still work primarily in abstracted carved stone forms, but I also use ceramic modellings and cast metal figurative elements in many of the multi-element mixed-media pieces.

I think as an artist one grows to encompass or explore many paths, no matter which path one begins the journey. Training the eye to see and the mind to perceive can be achieved through any medium or style of work, though I think that for many of my students (I also teach classes in Carving, 3D Design, as well as Modelling) the figure is the best starting point -- even though it wasn't for me.

My understanding of this is that those students who have the most literal of outlooks feel the need to work in a more literal (figurative) manner - and contemporary culture and primary education systems today tend emphasize that 'within-the-box' literalness.

Trying to convey to the prospective artist that anything and everything is fair game, and the only rule is that it has to work is my goal as an instructor, and is my credo as an artist. I don't think age has to have anything to do with subject matter or style of work, though it can.

ilona 04-17-2006 08:18 PM

Re: age and influence
Hey guys...

two comments.

First, if someone is too lazy to do figurative work and learn the meaning of true form (taking the human form as an example) you can usually tell by their work. I tend to think that an artist should start by training their eye, hand and brain to work together and understand what is really there, first, before anything past that point (such as more minimalist work) can be undertaken.

When I was in art school, at the tender age of 18 or so, I didn't "get" sculpture. My attempts at 3D form were clumsy and inadequate, to put it mildly. It wasn't until years later that I understood, perhaps because of age or experience, that sculpture is not the same as drawing or painting. I had been too consumed with surface in school, and with wrapping that surface around whatever material I was working with. Once I grasped the idea of form, years later, I was off and running.

I remember one assignment we had in sculpture class, to create a minimal piece out of a block of plaster. I spent days carving and never got anywhere with it, it ended up a meaningless blob that I gave to my Mother and she unfortunately kept. I still mean one of these days to accidentally drop that thing. :rolleyes:

Now, however, I think I could create something meaningful from that plaster block, because I understand the idea of finding a form within it, of creating a unified piece.

To summarize, when I was 18 I could draw an accurate representation of the human form but I couldn't create a meaningful minimalist piece. And yes, I think age and experience are the reason I could do so now.

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