Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mounting "Just Tryin' to Help" and "Tolte" progress

"Just Tryin' to Help" is a bronze comprised of two related sculptures, a filly and a man.  Both are 1/4 lifesized.  The man is looking directly at the filly when they're arranged correctly, but after seeing how other folks move them around, I decided they needed to be on a base to relate to each other properly.  So my basemaker, Diane Soper of Sistermaide Woodworking in Lewisburg OH, made beautiful bases for me (as usual!) and today we mounted the bronzes.  It took a lot more doing than you might expect - I hold the horse upside down in my lap while she makes a template for the bottom of the bronze, marking where the drilled and tapped holes are inside the bronze's base.  Then she marks the wood and drills the holes and we spend a lot of time trying to line up the hole in the bronze with the hole in the wood from the bottom of the wooden base.  It's a lot more trouble than it sounds like, believe me!  And because it's so much physical labor and hard on both of us, I think I may have the foundry (which is full of big, burly men!) put the base on "Tolte" since it will weigh between 60 and 80 lbs!  Anyway, here are pictures of my beautiful Bitsy baby when she was a little one, and my hubby John, in a scene from real life here on our farm.


And now more progress on "Tolte."  These pics show progress made as of 12/27/09.

The toothpicks sticking out of her are markers for joints (knee, hock, fetlock) and her eyes, to help me keep things measured correctly.  The small lump of clay at the top of her right shoulder is a note to myself to build that shoulder up more, since her weight is on it (this after a visit from my daughter, Jennifer Truett of Dancing Horse Farm, Lebanon OH - she's a dressage trainer and FEI level rider with a great eye for conformation).  I wasn't really at the point of building that shoulder up yet, but since Jennifer pointed it out, I put a bit of clay there to make sure I wouldn't forget to build it up.  I try to get her to look at my sculptures at least before they  go to  the foundry so someone who knows what to look for can make sure I haven't missed anything!

Yesterday when I went out to the studio, suddenly that right foreleg (the one that's on the ground) looked too far back.  I messed around with the muscle a bit to make sure my eye wasn't being fooled.  It wasn't!  So I had to rip that leg off - yes, that's what I said!  I had to remove the clay that was over the wax, then soften the wax by warming it with a hair dryer.  Once it was warm enough, I could remove the leg and the pad of wax that was holding it in.  Here's the hole after I removed the leg.

I cleaned out the hole, cleaned off the armature wax I would need the next batch of wax to adhere to, and moved the hole in the shoulder forward so the leg would be about 1/4 inch farther forward than it was before.  Here's the horse with her leg replaced.

I still h ave a lot of repair work to do.  I had to cover the shoulder with clay and build it up again (and add the height to it that indicates it's bearing weight, as my daughter pointed out) and repair the sculpting in the leg itself as well as making it stick to the board with some clay. 

The problem with working with wax is that wax chips (bits that get broken off while working with it or while removing clay that's touched it) get into everything, so I spent quite a while picking chips of wax out of the clay.  If I'd left them there, the bronze would have strange-looking bumps and flat spots here and there because of them, which wouldn't be good at all!

Here's the mare with her shoulder repaired and her leg in better shape.

I'm still not happy with her shoulder, but her foreleg is in a better position.  I will double-check the position of her hind legs now that there's enough clay on them for me to have a better idea how all of her parts are going to relate to each other.

I don't know if I've shown you how I melt the wax.  I use metal cake pans on electric griddles.  I have to be careful to not get it too hot.  The lump you see here is the wax I removed from her shoulder, which I used in her shoulder again once it had softened enough to work with.

And that's where I am now.  Her barrel needs to be filled out a bit on the bottom so it's evenly round and I have to check those back legs, but overall, she's getting into decent shape.  Before I get too detailed on her, I'll have to start her rider.  That's another blog for another day . . .

Monday, December 07, 2009

"Tolte" work in progress

This is the piece I wrote about before, when I was showing how I was doing a different kind of armature than I normally do.  She's a lot farther along now than these pictures show, but I haven't had time to take newer pics of her yet.

After working on her for a while, I realized that pushing on her to add clay was making her armature twist on its post.  I should've glued the post into the floor flange as well as the plumbing T.  Normally, wax should hold the T in place with no problem, but I'm pushing the piece pretty hard, so cold wax could crack and loosen.  Super Glue to the rescue!

I cut her belly open (not such a huge job since she's still mostly a silhouette,  not filled out much at all) to expose the bottom of the plumbing T and cleaned the wax off the metal at the bottom and up inside the T a bit so the glue would be attaching metal to metal, not metal to wax.  It wouldn't be as strong a seal if the glue attached metal to wax.  To get to the bottom of the T so I could put the glue inside the place where the T meets the pipe, I had to lay the horse over on her side.

Once I got the glue in place, using a toothpick to apply it, the piece could be set upright again and I could go back to work.  I think you'll see in the following pictures that I added clay to the wax around the bottom of the leg wires to help anchor them to the table.  There will be a whole patch of ground under the horse, so once I have that in place, the feet will be secure.  With my normal aluminum wire armature, I just staple the wires in place to be secure, but with this heavy copper wire, that's not possible.

I scraped back the clay at the shoulders and hips until I reached the wax so the wax I'm using to hold the leg wires in place will stay put.  Wax makes a strong bond to other wax, but its bond to clay is not as strong.  The legs are firmly in place now. 

The horse is still much thinner than she will be when she's finished, but I made sure I built the wax and clay up so her legs are coming out at the right part of her body.  They aren't set too far inside nor too close to the surface.  More clay will be added over the wax.  Here's how it looks:

I know it looks like the leg bones are too far back in the front leg that's on the ground and too far forward in both back legs, but I promise  you, once the muscle's on it, they will prove to be in the right place!  And if they aren't, I'll move them until they are!

Here she is after I covered the wax with clay:

She's still skinny, but we're making progress!  Here's how she looked a day later:

I've laid on enough clay to thicken her body quite a bit.  I know there are some proportions that are wrong for now, and the line of her back/loin/croup isn't the best, but I'm getting there!

I have clay down the length of some of her legs now.  I'll take more pictures and show you her progress again soon.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

From book to stage or film

We were in New York City for Thanksgiving (saw the Macy's Parade up close and personal!) and saw "Wicked" while we were there.  It was WONDERFUL!  Fabulous singers, interesting set design, good acting, great acoustics in the Gershwin Theater.  I was familiar with the play only from the soundtrack, which I love, being a singer myself.  I highly recommend the show.  It's great fun!

What I don't recommend is reading the book "Wicked" before seeing the play.  They bear nearly no resemblance to each other.  Those of you who know me at all know that I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, so I know that plays/films and the novels they come from often are quite different, but "Wicked" is SO different!  Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) is goodhearted in both of them until fate turns her around, but in the book, she's a political activist of sorts, fighting for the rights of Animals (sentient animals) among other things.  That isn't the case at all in the play, which is much more about the friendship between Elphaba and Galinda/Glinda.  The personalities and motivations of several of the characters is hugely different between the book and the play.

I have read a quote from the book's author, Gregory Maguire, that he's very pleased with how they interpreted his story in the play, and I'm sure it's more profitable as a play the way they wrote it than it would be if they'd stuck closer to the book.  I think they did the right thing in how they reinterpreted the story for the play.

Since seeing "Wicked" on stage and reading the story, I am not as critical as I used to be of Steve Kloves, who did the screenplays for all but one of the Harry Potter films.  Kloves has kept his screenplays (the ones we've seen so far anyway - all but "Deathly Hallows") much closer to the books, and his characters, except for Hermione in several of the films, have all  been very close to what J.K. Rowling wrote to start with.  (Kloves uses Hermione as an "information dump" in several pictures, often giving her lines that were the boys' lines in the books, which annoys me greatly.  There's no benefit in her saying those lines rather than the boys that I can see, and by doing this, Kloves has made me really dislike Hermione - which is not Emma Watson's or J.K. Rowling's fault.  Kloves gets all the blame for this.)

I haven't done close comparisons between books and the plays or films that resulted from them in quite a while, other than my obvious attention to the Potter books and films.  Seeing "Wicked" and then reading it really made me wonder if authors who see their work performed on stage or in film think "Why didn't I think of that" or "Why didn't I do it that way?" or "I'm glad they paid me a bundle for this because I can't stand what they've done to it!" 

J.K. Rowling has every reason to be pleased both artistically and financially with the results of her collaboration with Kloves, Warner Brothers, David Heyman, et al.  Maguire seems pleased with what they did with "Wicked," but the changes are so vast, I just have to wonder how he really felt when he first saw it? 

When I write, I see my stories as films in my head.  If any of them make it to the stage or film, will they resemble what I wrote at all?  And how will I feel about it?

If you want to read about the process of going from book to stage, there's a book called "Wicked, the Grimmerie" which tells how it went from idea to novel to screenplay that didn't work to play that did.  It's interesting reading.  I bought a used copy of it on Amazon and have greatly enjoyed it.

If and when I have to face one of my stories as a film or play, I'll let you know what I think about the changes they made!