Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mustang Project. How do you go about sculpting a monumental Mustang. Part II: Inspired, the work begins...

The small wax maquette

     Before our journey to view wild mustangs began, I needed to present my sculpture concept to the president and staff of Stevenson University.  Therefore I made a small wax model, a maquette, to show what the monument could look like. They unanimously approved the design,  so I began an intermediate, five-foot tall version in clay.  Purposely, I left it incomplete, since I knew in my heart that what I learned in the Wyoming high desert would change how I perceived these animals.
     I was right! Mustangs are amazing: I knew that before I left, but I did not know how stunningly powerful and athletic they can be. I quickly realized a stallion in the wild is a very different creature from a gelding in a sanctuary.  As soon as I arrived home, I began adjusting the five-foot tall mustang to reflect what I had experienced in the high desert. 
The Five-foot Mustang in Clay.

    When the five-foot version seemed complete, I began moving into temporary studio space within an unused warehouse on Stevenson University's campus. There, I built a large platform on wheels,  and began the enlargement process for my monumental Mustang. 
    Every sculptor seems to have their own technique for enlarging sculptures. Mine is laborious, but simplicity itself. I start by finding points where the sculpture intersects the platform: by measuring from two sides, then multiplying each number by a quotient.  In order to enlarge my five-foot Mustang to twelve feet, I multiplied by 2.37 (using a solar-powered pocket calculator). Since I created my bases in proportion to one another, I have already laid the groundwork to add one more dimension: height. This allows me to find any point in space. By locating these points one at a time, I can weld steel pipe and rebar with confidence, building  a strong  framework  upon which I can apply clay.              
        This framework is called an armature.

My favorite test!
            Measuring, cutting, welding, and grinding, while clambering up ladders and scaffolding, consumed my days over the course of several weeks. Because there was no air-conditioning for the first two weeks, I gleefully told friends and relatives that I was losing weight on the "Mustang Diet program". Thankfully, I had the excitement of time recently spent in the company of wild Mustangs to keep me going.  The steel armature that emerged was strong enough for me to hang from even the nose without significant deflection. 

 Then I began to add thick aluminum wire for the horse's mane and tail. 



     Many sculptors choose to have enlarged armatures made by someone else. More and more, sculptors are even turning to digital enlargement services. I do the work myself because the entire time I am building the armature, I am visualizing anatomy: bones, muscles and their relationships as the figure moves. All that labor while continually visualizing the underpinnings of the finished sculpture seems to build in me an eagerness. It is like slowly drawing a bow and arrow: by the time I am finished with the armature, the bow is under full tension and the arrow ready to be launched. 

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