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mavigogun 10-05-2013 04:23 AM

Essence and Development
Here's my conundrum: as oft as not, the essence of a thing that is captured in the sketch is lost in refinement. Drawing allows for conceits of complete fantasy that, were they rendered in the round, would lack conviction. On the page, deceptions are accepted without consideration in exchange for pleasant illusion and...feeling.

I quickly reach this crisis sculpting; the essential gesture is attained with ease- and the struggle becomes retaining it through development of the form. I want truth with an exponent- both in representation AND expression. Is that folly? Accepting the expressive gesture without developed form has the taint of a partial victory- while development that lacks expression is total failure. Is that the risk of reaching for greatness- or just the cost or just the cost of artistic maturity? Or does it reflect a fundamental error of hubris and immature lack of acceptance of personal limitations?

Andrew Werby 10-05-2013 02:34 PM

Re: Essence and Development
I don't think so. There are just certain ideas that are best expressed in a quick sketch, that get lost when you put a lot of work into them. Look for other ideas, which would benefit from deeper investigation and reveal more with further development in three dimensions.

Andrew Werby

raspero 10-05-2013 05:29 PM

Re: Essence and Development
I sometimes envy my painter friends who, as you say, can get away with things that would fall flat in sculpture. The human brain seems to be more willing to give a painting or drawing the "willing suspension of disbelief", that good writers of fiction must master, whereas it demands of a sculpture that it look like something—not necessarily something real, but at least something identifiable.

We sculptors do have a few advantages though, one of which—three dimensionality—I think, makes a good sculpture more alive than a good painting. The tactile sense is quite valuable to a sculptor. I notice that people, women especially, can't keep from touching my pieces at exhibitions.

I think you are right in that there are a lot of things that lend themselves more to drawing than to sculpture, that we are more limited in the scope of the content of our work.


Mack 10-05-2013 08:58 PM

Re: Essence and Development
I say forget the sketch if you can and go right to the clay with the idea...that way there is no comparing. You either find it in the clay maquette or you don't.
(P.S. I can't draw worth a damn.) :D

raspero 10-06-2013 05:20 PM

Re: Essence and Development

(P.S. I can't draw worth a damn.)
Me neither. I thought for much of my life that I had no artistic ability because I can't draw. When I was in my forties I picked up a hunk of oil based clay and made a woman's body. I was amazed at the result.


tonofelephant 10-07-2013 07:16 AM

Re: Essence and Development
It's great to know that I share a trait in this illustrious group other than an illogical love of unwieldy bulky art. I also cannot draw. Take away my drawing implements - straight edge, compass, & other mechanical toys & I am helpless. No freehand drawing here.

obseq 10-08-2013 04:11 AM

Re: Essence and Development
I drew/sketched long before ever thinking to sculpt, yet now, never sketch ideas for sculpture, instead preferring, to "draw" in 3-D during the development of a piece.

For some reason, I cannot bring myself to put an idea, slated for sculpture, to paper.

raspero 10-08-2013 05:17 PM

Re: Essence and Development
3-D doesn't seem to translate very well to 2-D, nor does the reverse. Just try to photograph your sculptures. Some photographs turn out fine, but all of them completely miss capturing the essence and the spirit of the sculpture.


Mack 10-09-2013 08:38 AM

Re: Essence and Development
I was at the great Edward Hopper show at the Whitney in NY last week and talk about drawing...each room was full of his...trying out every aspect of subject: hands, heads, architecture angles and then amidst all these drawings was hung the magnificent result: One of his famous oils. What a guy!
The Whitney also has some iconic sculptures by La Chaise and Elie Nadelman and Calder, photos of which I have seen forever but never close up. Great stuff.

Dries 10-11-2013 12:19 AM

Re: Essence and Development
Drawing allows me to design and develop sculptures that I would like to do in future. I file them in a book and so keep record of my ideas,
maybe one day when I retire or have more spare time available I will attempt to produce some of them. If not for this method I think some of the ideas will be lost.

GarryRicketson 10-15-2013 08:32 PM

Re: Essence and Development
I don't really draw very well either, but I do find it helpful to draw several sketches of the different views of what I am going to make, all though my drawing skill is weak, when I start adding colors, if I am doing a painting, once I start adding colors, it starts taking shape so to speak, in a way painting, is like a sculpture, all though it is only 2d, when I start adding colors, shading, or shadows, the 2d painting begins taking on some depth,
When cutting block of stone, I always draw a "sketch" on each side,and top and bottom, of course the "sketches" get cut away,and often I draw, or mark the stone again, and again, as it developes.
Michaelangelo s drawings are inspiring to me, also his paintings, but even more so his sculptures,..
Drawing some sketches first, allows me to get a rough idea of how it will look, one example, a dancing girl figure I did, I did many sketches first, to see how she looked, witth arms down, and one leg up, crossed over the other, then with one arm up, one down, etc, different positions, once I arrived to a position that I was happy with, I transfered the drawing to the stone, being that it is now 3d, I also did drawings of the view of the back and sides, and looking down,, help get started.
I would agree though, fotos, usually do not reflect or show the true effect of a sculpture, the sculpture needs to be seen in real life, several photos, well taken are better, just 1 photo does not "cut" it, but often this also applys to photos of paintings, too, they really don't reveal the true painting, when one sees it in real life, and can see the texture,etc,..

mavigogun 10-19-2013 07:23 AM

Re: Essence and Development
With no intent to curtail direction, my question was to the retention of vitality present in a sketch- be that in two or three dimensions... not a difficulty in translating drafting to rendering in the round. (Actually, my movement from plans on paper to sculpting has, thus far, only blossomed design.) (Andrew got that.)

It's that energy of expression and vitality that can be killed in refinement that I was speaking to; I'm sure we can all point to a technically skilled sculptor who's work is 'anatomically correct'- yet completely dead. I wonder if any of ya'll have a strategy for guarding against this travesty- or is this just an aspect of truly being able to see, understand, and represent that is developed (or not)? If it is just a mater of development, what would one best be mindful of?

raspero 10-19-2013 05:19 PM

Re: Essence and Development
Here is something I have kept around to read every so often. It may address part of your question.

D H Lawrence

Though known for his literary works, he took up painting at the age of forty. Here are his own words about the creative process:

"I learnt to paint from copying other pictures - usually reproductions, sometimes even photographs. When I was a boy, how I concentrated over it! Copying some perfectly worthless scene reproduction in some magazine. I worked with almost dry water-color, stroke by stroke, covering half a square-inch at a time, each square-inch perfect and completed, proceeding in a kind of mosaic advance, with no idea at all of laying on a broad wash. Hours and hours of intense concentration, inch by inch progress, in a method entirely wrong - and yet those copies of mine managed, when they were finished, to have a certain something that delighted me: a certain glow of life, which was beauty to me. A picture lives with the life you put into it. If you put no life into it - no thrill, no concentration of delight or exaltation of visual discovery - then the picture is dead, like so many canvases, no matter how much thorough and scientific work is put into it. Even if you copy a purely banal reproduction of an old bridge, some sort of keen, delighted awareness of the old bridge or of its atmosphere or the image it has kindled inside you, can go over on to the paper and give a certain touch of life to a banal conception. "

"It needs a certain purity of spirit to be an artist, of any sort. The motto which should be written over every School of Art is: "Blessed are the pure in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." But by "Pure in spirit" we mean pure in spirit. An artist may be a profligate and, from the social point of view, a scoundrel. But if he can paint a nude woman, or a couple of apples, so that they are a living image, then he was pure in spirit, and, for the time being, his was the kingdom of heaven. This is the beginning of all art, visual or literary or musical: be pure in spirit. It isn't the same as goodness. It is much more difficult and nearer the divine. The divine isn't only good, it is all things."

Kilkenny 10-20-2013 06:53 AM

Re: Essence and Development
The first verse of a poem by D H Lawrence, which may be of help:

'The mystery of creation is the divine urge of creation,
but it is a great strange urge, it is not a Mind.
Even an artist knows that his work was never in his mind,
he could never have thought it before it happened.
A strange ache possessed him, and he entered the struggle,
and out of the struggle with his material, in the spell of the urge,
his work took place, it came to pass, it stood up and saluted
his mind.'

I do a lot of drawing, but I've found that sculpture is entirely other, quite a separate thing. Henry Moore once said that he completely stopped drawing as a part of preparation for sculptures. He took to making maquettes only, perhaps at times 4 or 5 for a single piece, I believe. I think he also said that the final piece was only one further step in the process of exploration.

GlennT 11-10-2013 01:48 PM

Re: Essence and Development
mavigogun, if you find your work losing the freshness you are after during the advancement of it, it would be good to put the work aside for a while, perhaps a long while, and come back at it later.

It is not in the finishing of detail that can harm the work so much as it is in losing the freshness of joy and inspiration. So to come at it with a new perspective later may be the way to regain that good positive energy.

robertpulley 01-14-2014 01:34 PM

Re: Essence and Development
I sometimes use drawing to suggest form, but more often I make small models. In either case the model or drawing is just a suggestion and the sculpture comes from that suggestion and is always different. My work is abstract, so I'm after an energy and I try to keep that in mind as I build rather than trying to replicate the original idea.

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