Thursday, December 30, 2010

cooked dirt

And now some images from Ceramics I featuring the less round and less vase-like projects:

Adri's ancient style fertility figure


another of Cate's

one by Doris

another by Doris


and Sarah's

Coil built animal project by Jordan

Doris' homage to Perry the Platypus

Adri's gnu

Mr. Beaver by Kelsey

Slab built narrative project by Doris

Doris again, different view
There were many more really well done Coil Animal and Slab Narrative Projects.....but most of those were finished during that final week of chaos and alas I do not yet have photos of those. Rain check on that.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

all the whos down in whoville liked Christmas a lot

The first week off was productive. I secretly shopped and hid surprises. I deep fried a turkey. I watched all the required Christmas movies. Or at least the movies played while I stayed up late drawing.

It's 24" x 48" and I think it's called "To Be Here". That could change I guess. It's still fresh. I wish I had remembered to bring my other prepped wood panel home from Greenwood for the break. It would have been nice to have the stash of Sharpies in my office too.

Photographic proof that one of my brothers really does have 9 kids.

Little Cindy Lou Who playing in the Christmas snow. With a little breakfast left on her face.

Blue has been asking for snow since the day it melted last year. He's been wanting to go out and make a snowman car again (if that sounds weird...find the photos from last winter and you'll get it). It was difficult to explain to him that it was too cold for good snowballs and snowmen. We did manage to fashion one large snowball.

Blue and Violet in the snow on Christmas day. On our side of town it didn't start to stick until almost dark.

The snow enhanced my annoying blue Christmas lights on my Charlie Brown tree.

Christmas morning hula hooping. You know, it's photos like this that make me realize just how much of a freakshow our home decor really is. Wow.

She did eventually play with the toy....but only after working out all the creative possibilities of the box.

It took a while.

I know it's the wrong religious holiday but I can't shake the idea of "The Pieta" when I see this one. Blue and his cousin Logan.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

it's a shirt

I don't really love surprises. Good surprises are fine I guess, but the bad ones....I hate those. And since surprises by definition come unexpected and unplanned, you never really know which kind you're going to get.

As a teenager I developed the gift of figuring out my Christmas presents. Usually just by observing I could figure out some pretty big hints. The more awesome ability though was being able to shake a wrapped gift and immediately announce exactly what was inside. Looking back now I'd say this had something to do with my object and spacial relationships but it was more impressive for people to think it was magic.

I did this gift surprise deciphering far too long though. Apparently it's pretty sad to continue shaking presents after you're a married adult. That's what the wife told me anyway, so years ago I had to put the magic away and just deal with the surprises. Christmas surprises are easy to deal with.

I've been welding since I was 7 years old. My earliest memories of drawing for fun go back to even younger ages. Yet somehow I managed to go through high school art classes and two years of undergraduate art classes before I realized that sculpture was something I'd even be remotely interested in. I remember my first week in that Sculpture I class. It was exactly like the cliche of the light bulb suddenly turning on. It would seem now that a great portion of my life hinged on that surprise.

I can sympathize with my students for this first semester. They were used to specific teachers and their methods. Nice people with very personable demeanors. Most of my students signed up for these classes because of major requirements and the rest signed up because they knew students in the past who got to use the wheel or make specific projects and they thought that would be fun.

I'm not sure I want to know if their surprise was good or bad but I do know they were surprised. This short bald guy showed up to teach their classes and at times he may have even seemed a tad sarcastic. He had some crazy ideas....some good and some pretty bad. But some of those students who may have thought they'd spend their semester in a good chair quickly found themselves controlling a table saw. Others blasted through molten metal with a cutting torch. Still others turned into pretty good welders and fashioned some very big steel sculptures.

I won't bore you with speeches about how rewarding it is to teach or how cool it is to actually be standing there when a student makes that connection and becomes instantly thrilled. I will tell you that there was one student who seemed to hate my class with a passion right up to the last couple of weeks when she finally got a handle on welding and her whole attitude changed. I'll also tell you about the young lady who literally screamed and ran away from the welder during the welding demonstration. This same lady became the first student brave enough to try welding and then went on to make an awesomely large sculpture. And then there's the almost hippie...everything she touched in the sculptural world turned to gold and I seriously think she may be addicted to 3D.

Ok, maybe I did just bore you with those. Sorry. The point was supposed to be that some of these students were pleasantly surprised by the semester.

So how about some photos to brag on my people?

Cate's famous Italian steel church

Sarah's steel apartment

Cate's laminated wood hideaway

Blake's rad death-board cart

...complete with red velvet lining and fancy mustache

Sarah's yellow submarine cart

There are many more amazing students and many more great sculptures but it's Christmas and we all have more important things to be doing. And besides I'll need to post some Ceramics images later.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

holy drawings

One of the two earliest memories I have of drawing involves drawing in church. My mom was careful to provide me with paper and pens each Sunday.

Now of course, I realize she may not have been preparing me for a career as an artist. She may have been trying to keep me quiet and still.

It works for Blue.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Somewhere in the vast expanse of Metropolisvilleburg a mysterious black car sped out of a vacant parking lot. The local authorities had no way of knowing that the evil Mr. Turkeyman was in the back seat of that car.

( yes, that's a real stuffed turkey in the back of that car)

While Mr. Turkeyman was on his way to his next terrible plan, our heroes were relaxing on a Thanksgiving vacation. Violet Flowers, sidekick to world renown secret agent Double O Blue was enjoying drinks on the outdoor patio of the local TGI Thursdays.

It was an unseasonably warm November evening and no one could have expected what would happen next. Mr. Turkeyman was counting on that.

Double O Blue and Violet Flowers laughed and enjoyed their evening until they could barely keep their eyes open. They were sleeping soundly when their secret agent TV phone woke them from slumber. When they were informed of the recent actions of Mr. Turkeyman they just sat for a moment in disbelief.

To gather more information about the evil plan, Double O Blue would need to go deep undercover and infiltrate the inner circle of Mr. Turkeyman's closest known associates. Lucky for us Double O Blue is a master of disguise.

With information in hand our hero set out to lay a trap for Mr. Turkeyman. The evil genius was fond of long walks on the beach and this was just the type of opportunity Double O Blue was looking for. He could hardly contain his excitement when his plan began to develop.

After making a few phone calls and pulling in some backup the stage was set. All that was left was to sit and wait. Soon Mr. Turkeyman would be walking by this exact spot and then......then Double O Blue would rid the world of this menace once and for all. So he waited.

And he waited.

And he had Miss Flowers bring him some coffee and then........they got word that Mr. Turkeyman was spotted in the area. Miss Flowers ran for cover while Double O Blue called in the Bird Team.

Everyone was in place. This was it. The moment had finally arrived. Mr. Turkeyman waddled up the beach and when he was in the exact spot, Double O Blue flew over in his secret agent plane and dropped a metric ton of bread crumbs right over Mr. Turkeyman. And who loves bread crumbs more than the Bird Team? Hitchcock would have been proud of the scene as the Bird Team swept in and devoured the evil monster.

Our heroes had barely begun their celebration when they saw the real Mr. Turkeyman racing down the beach in the opposite direction. The Bird Team had devoured the Turkeyman decoy and the real Mr. Turkeyman sounded the alarm. His Turkey Team rushed in and gave chase to our dynamic duo. Double O Blue stalled the evil turkeys while Violet Flowers escaped. Blue was captured and placed in a modern bungee holding device.
After several days, Blue used his acrobatic abilities and his incredible stamina to defeat the machine and escape with only seconds to spare.
Once again the dashing Double O Blue was going to need a disguise. Using his hipster glasses he was able to pose as a hipster.

Then he quickly slipped into a new disguise in order to infiltrate a dangerous surfing gang.

Mr. Turkeyman and his cohorts got wind that Double O Blue was on their trail again and just as Blue was closing in Mr. Turkeyman climbed in his giant Basterwagon and peeled out of town.
Double O Blue knew that he had brought almost the entire Turkey Gang to justice but he couldn't celebrate knowing that some time, some where Mr. Turkeyman would return.

And Double O Blue would be waiting.

We took our annual Thanksgiving break and had a blast. The kids were cute and the weather was great...I just didn't think that would be all that exciting for internet people.
And I know it was dumb, but come on....."basterwagon"? That was nice.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I got beat by a 69 year old man.

A lot of people beat my 5K race time but this guy stood out by being 30 years older than me and a couple of miles per hour faster as well. Actually, I knew this guy was going to toast me when I saw him before the race and I knew lots of other people would too. I told myself I just wanted to finish the race well, that I wasn’t trying to beat anyone else, I only wanted to improve my time. In other words, I lied.
During the race I found myself accelerating when I’d get behind other runners. Something about running just behind someone else made me want to pass them. And if I’m really honest I can say it felt pretty good to cross the finish line and then watch all the people I passed finish behind me. Perhaps I’m shallow, but I’m honest.

I usually get to have the conversation about competition in art about once a year. Sometimes with a student, sometimes with another artist, but always the same conversation. Usually the other person throws the first stone with something like “I don’t believe in competition in art”. Which to me is like saying, “I don’t believe in trees”. Things do not need you to believe in them in order to actually exist.

Competition in art exists. I can show you documentation. I get emails and snail mail each week offering to let me take part in these competitions for a small fee. Each year I enter several of these competitions, also called “juried exhibitions” just as my artist forefathers have done for ages. It’s part of the deal whether you like it or not.

I realize that’s not exactly the kind of thing the person on the other end of the conversation is saying. Generally they are talking about the idea that art should be seen as the emotional and conceptual expression of an individual and that there’s no universal criteria for judging such a thing. On the surface I’d like to agree with that argument….but I’d also like to win another prize for my art.

Recently my Sparkle City friend Kerry brought this quote to my attention: “The real reason that literary prizes are so prized, however, is that prize-giving is intrinsic to the purposes of poetry. From birds to bards, the urge to outdo the other singer is what makes us sing. Since the first strum on the oldest lyre, literature has been about competition and the possibility of recognition. Pindar, the father of lyric poetry, took as his chief subject the winning of games, and the spirit of the end-zone dance has been with us ever since. Horace satirized everything except his own appetite for fame. Milton mourned Lycidas not because he stood beyond all prizes but because he died before the prizes could be won. The subtlest souls still show up in Stockholm to make the speech. Fame, honor, the laurel, and the bays, this more even than getting back at the girls, or the boys, who left you for another—the writer’s other great motivation—is the poetic passion. (Even the idea of posthumous fame is merely the thought of a prize given while we are sleeping, and have left our muttering to others.)” -partial quote from Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker. (link - )

I’ll admit that it sounds nice to say that no two artists should be judged on how they struggle to reveal inner truths about their own life experience. But to agree with this side of the argument would also mean that I’d have to convince myself to believe that my conversation partner would elegantly and articulately refuse any Best in Show award offered to them. And we both know that’s not going to happen. You can’t hate competition in art when you lose and revel in it when you win. I mean, you can, it just makes you a hypocrite and a bit of a jerk.

I’m barely a runner and there’s no danger of me winning any awards for it any time soon. Still I’ll nearly give myself a coronary to pass you in a race. Humans are competitive. That’s how we got this spot on the food chain. We want to be as good as we can possibly be at whatever we love to do. We want to be great and we want someone else to notice. There’s a word for an artist who does not want to be the best. That word is “hobbyist”.

Of course it’s problematic to judge works of art. Even after you break contests down to one particular field of expression (poetry, music, visual art) and then further break them down into categories (drawing, painting, sculpture) you still have to wade through various approaches to style and content. Then there’s the issue of separating the juror or jurors from their own personal likes and dislikes. I’m aware of these problems each time I enter a contest just like the hundreds of other participants….and still we enter to compete against one another.

Another piece of knowledge we all share is that winning does not mean we are any better at being an artist than the other entrants. It only means our work connected with the juror(s) on a different level than the other work. Maybe we got lucky with one particular drawing or painting. We still may not be as good at drawing as another person. We may struggle to mix that particular color or we may have no idea how someone else goes about the process of casting plastic. Whatever our chosen process, we are simply striving to pass important information along to others. When that connection is made, be it in the form of winning a contest or having an 8 year old tell you they love your sculpture, it feels like victory. And think about it: that 8 year old had a room filled with art to choose from. She probably wouldn’t describe that choice as a competition but by definition that’s exactly what it was.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

five more kays

After getting my forehead a tad toasty during the Raku firing I put in a couple of last minute practice runs getting ready for my second 5k race on Saturday.

My, I guess big is no longer the correct word. My 'older' brother Daniel, the most famous Comic Store owner in the area wanted to run a 5k some time this year. In the last year he's lost over 100 pounds and he's been running and working out like a crazy person.

brother daniel

We arrived early for the race and stood in the cold morning air with a huge crowd of people. My first race last year was attended by around 100 people. This one had several Greenville parking lots filled with cars and a huge mass of people waiting to run.

There's something different about running in a race. You know that you can run the distance and you pretty much know that you're not going to finish first or last but something about it makes you nervous. You start thinking about all the weird things that could happen. You second guess the coffee you had for breakfast. You fear those side cramps that never happen when you do a normal run. You wonder if that man with the walker is going to finish faster than you.

Seeing the ambulance parked in front doesn't help.

Once the race started I forgot most of the fears. There was a wall of slow people at the front of the line...I still do not understand that logic....but after passing them and getting my regular pace down I was fine.
Brother Daniel had been running longer distances on a regular basis so I was not worried about him either.
And then, right on cue....the splitting pain in my side came along. Following that - the very real fear that I was close to losing my coffee. Just as I talked myself down from needing to heave, the guy in front of me peels off to the side, doubles over and loses his coffee.
But the cool thing about running is that the faster you run, the sooner you get to stop and rest.
And I managed to get my sweaty phone out of the shoulder strap fast enough to get this photo of brother Daniel reaching a major goal...

Sure we were beat badly by senior citizens and adolescents alike but we finished well and didn't have to ride in the ambulance. And I managed to shave 8 minutes off my first race time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

fun with fire

Reason # 473 why 3D artists have more fun than anyone else:

Meet the Raku Posse.....

They actually look more like they are preparing to rob a train than create elegant ceramic surfaces. So this is (L to R) Jordan, Adri, Sarah, Doris, Morgan, Kristen, Cate and Kelsey behind the camera. She's responsible for the blurry photos you're about to see.
And this is what they decided to do when I told them the temperature was right and they should get over to their places quickly. They paused for a group photo while I stood tapping my foot impatiently.
After properly preparing for the event with pizza, cookies, and some kind of little kid crackers you're supposed to dip in icing (don't ask me) we took our places and got ready for the opening.

the view inside the kiln

Once the cones fell correctly the temperature was right and we cracked open the lid of the kiln. The idea is to heat the glazed pots to a high temperature and quickly open the kiln and remove the pots from the intense heat. The pots are placed directly into metal cans on beds of newspaper. The newspaper flames up when the pots hit the cans and the lid is slammed on to extinguish the flames. The removal of oxygen from the chamber and the carbon from the fire work to create effects on the surface of the glazes.

Jordan and Doris handled the kiln lid and I used tongs to snatch the pots from the heat.

The rest of the crew handled the cans and lids working like....well, since you were not there I'll say they worked like a ballet group in complete unison with one another. That's mostly true. They were impressive with their response to the flames and heat.

Grabbing fragile and red hot pottery with metal tongs while dodging extreme heat is not an easy task. In fact, all of this process was a bit of an ordeal and there were many obstacles to overcome.

The flames and smoke and protective have to wonder why anyone would go to so much trouble just for clay pots.

And with Raku you don't have to wait long to see why it's worth the effort. We left the pots in the cans for the rest of the night to cool and this is what I found first thing the next morning. Brushing back the ash I found some pretty cool surfaces.

White Crackle glaze and Ferg Blue glaze fresh out of the cans. Add a little water and some soft scrubbing with steel wool and you get this.....

I've overheard people wondering out loud why anyone in their right mind would want to take art classes or better yet...why anyone would want to be an art major.

Aside from the fact that artists learn how to communicate the impossible, the fact that artists find ways to tap into emotions most people can't begin to express, the fact that artists create objects of unspeakable should also know that while artists are working their butts off in those studios they are also having more fun than you could ever imagine.