Scales for Days

This scale texture is very satisfying and tedious. I begin by making various size balls of clay, pressing them onto the sculpture in a random cobblestone-like pattern. Then, working a small section at a time, I use a needle tool to push in a straight line where the circles overlap—transforming the round edges into geometric scales. The last step is to take a small silicone tool with a wedge shape to blend and soften the edges and remove any gouges from the needle tool.

Here’s a video showing one section of scales on the tail.

Magnets

Over the years, I’ve had numerous lighting and camera set-ups, and in all of them, I’m constantly tripping over tripods, stands, and cables. I want to eliminate that clutter on the floor for this new studio set-up, so it feels more like an art studio than a haphazard movie set. My solution is to mount my lights and cameras on the ceiling, using metal tracks and magnets. The rare earth magnets I found will support 100-pounds each, perfect for my LED light banks. I did a little test in the photo above using a metal vent on the ceiling.

All the parts have arrived from Amazon; I’m delighted with how well the magnets support the lights. The next step is to mount my tracks to the ceiling, ensuring I’m securely attaching to the studs.

Hands & Scales

Continuing with the Scuba-Saurus I began working on the hands and reptile scales. I experimented with stamping a texture for the scales but decided I wanted a chunkier look. After some trial and error, I discovered smoosh various size balls of clay then came back over it to blend the seams and flatted the curve edge. The result is a lovely random pattern with different scale shapes.

I formed a mitten shape for the hands, then used a knife to cut three slits forming the fingers and pinching to form the individual fingers, and blended in a ball of clay for each knuckle. Next, I pressed a hole on the fingertips to attach the claws using a ball stylus tool.

Baking Painted Polymer Clay?

My latest sculpture is slowly coming to life as a Scuba-Saurus, a dino with adorable swim gear. Unfortunately, adding the goggles over the eyes will make it incredibly difficult to paint. I usually do all the sculpting, baking, then painting with acrylic. But I have never tied baking AFTER painting.

With my Scuba-Saurus; I would prefer to paint his eyes and face under the mask, then add the unbaked clay mask with bake n’ bond and bake again. Will it work? I have no idea — time for an experiment.

I rolled out a small medallion and baked it for 15 minutes at 275-degrees.

After it cooled, I painted it yellow and white with acrylic paint. I left a ring of unpainted clay near the edge, where I added a bead of Bake n’ Bond then blended in a ring of raw clay, blending it to the already baked clay.

Back in the oven for 15-minutes at 275 degrees.

RESULTS: The acrylic paint and added clay appear to be fused just fine. The only noticeable issue is the yellow pigment does appear more faded. However, I was able to add another coat of paint, and the yellow looks bright and normal.

Baking polymer after applying acrylic paint appears to be okay—no bubbling or flaking, just a slightly faded color. I will repeat this experiment with my Scuba-Saurus and report back soon.

Color the Bird Yellow

Dry brushing is so satisfying and addictive; the key is to know when to stop. I fear I’ve gone too far with my yellow cockatiel accents on Maverick crest feathers. I’m asking myself if I’m okay with his head being so different from his body? When I don’t have a clear next step, I need to let the piece simmer on my bench for a little bit. Maverick will tell me if he needs anything else before he flys.

Below is a time-lapse of painting Maverick’s crest feathers, cockatiel cheeks, inside mouth, and antique wash on feathers.

Robot 318

I wanted to go back in time a little and capture some sculptures I made before starting my daily creative logging commitment. I always learn new things with each sculpting project, and this website is a place to capture those lessons for myself and others. This is a critter I sculpted in December 2020.

Found this interesting piggy bank made from a brass mailbox door. Drilled a round hole in the top where the coin slot was and created a skylight with domes glass. This was the first time I added polymer clay to wood and had several cracks develop after baking. After filling the cracks with spackle and painting the sky – I liked it better than the original plan. I used colored polymer clay for this project and experimented with mixing colors by kneading two colors together. After baking, I used hard pastels/chalks to create weathering and grime on the robot. Project Time: Four Days

Robot 318 has had many failed missions. He did not follow the program dictated by his circuitry. His life his is own. He floats among the clouds, dreaming and plotting his next exciting adventure.

2021 Christmas Card

I decided to design my own Christmas design to showcase the year. Looking back over the months, I still feel the loss of my beloved sausage dog, but I also see growth in myself and my commitment to my art. Thru the year, one thing remained steady, Mooch the Cat and her absolute contempt of me. I dedicate this year’s holiday card to her to honor her consistency.

I illustrated her rotund physique and aloof stink eye using my Wacom board and Photoshop. Added a little holiday flair with Christmas lights and an argyle background. I then composed her origin story for all to read on the back of the card:

Story of Mooch the Cat

As all legends do, she arrived at the ranch on a dark and stormy night. Dad felt sorry for her and gave her food and a variety of beds in which none were sufficient for sleeping. She was skeptical and kept a distance for many years but always returned for the food. Mooch selected the garage as her home, and as loyal servants, we added a private cat door entrance and additional beds for her leisure. She is quite the hunter and likes to de-feather her prizes under the parked cars. Since her reign upon the hill, we have yet to find a mouse alive.

Dad and Mooch take a ritual morning walk to the water tank, and she allows him to pet her affectionately. I, however, am not allowed to stroke her fur, for I’m often accompanied by dogs and wield a garden hose in spring. So this year, I chose to capture Mooch and her aloofness for the holiday card.

-Happy Holidays

Color the Bird Grey

Continuing my painting of Maverick, I needed him to be able to look at me, so I added pupils to his zombie-looking eyes. So much better, now he can tell me what to do next.

I brushed on three tones of grey to the arms, more blue on his jacket, and regal gold details. I learned a trick from Ace of Clay that painting a base color of black under metallic gold adds depth and age. Hands down my favorite gold paint is Deco Glorious Gold DA071. I bought my jar from Hobby Lobby about nine years ago and feel it’s the best shade of gold I’ve ever used.

While painting today, I enjoyed listening to Tim Ferris’s interview with Blake Mycoskie the founder of TOMs shoes. Great start-up story and how he learned his entrepreneur hutzpah from his Mom.

4up Painting Practice

I did this 4up painting exercise for several reasons:

  • Improve my brush control. Printing every day develops muscle memory and skill. 
  • Reduce blank page anxiety, get out of my head, and kill the perfectionist by free hand painting.
  • Practice with acrylic paints and get a better feel for mixing, blending, opacity, and dry time.
  • Connect with the image world thru playful creation. (Lynda Barry)
  • Repetition study, how doing the same step four times allows me to try slightly different things and see the results. 

Below is the time-lapse of this exercise. I found it difficult to silence the inner critic and resist walking away mid-process. However, this is a helpful practice I need to do regularly.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

COVID-19 Virus Ornaments

I wanted to go back in time a little and capture some sculptures I made before starting my daily creative logging commitment. I always learn new things with each sculpting project, and this website is a place to capture those lessons for myself and others. This is a critter I sculpted in December 2020.

What better way to commemorate 2020 than with quarantined ‘Rona’ ornament globes. I made these four as gifts for family and friends. Constructed with polymer clay, wire, foil, and empty snow globe from the craft store. Build time: 3-days

Snail’s Tea Party

I wanted to go back in time a little and capture some sculptures I made before starting my daily creative logging commitment. I always learn new things with each sculpting project, and this website is a place to capture those lessons for myself and others. This is a critter I sculpted in December 2020.

Tea and snails are all about slowing down and noticing your surroundings. Snail is a dapper fellow and has invited Lady Bug to join him for tea and sandwiches. It’s sure to take all afternoon. Foil ball armature and polymer clay. Painted with acrylic paints. Project Time: 4-Days

Artemis the Adventure Owl

I wanted to go back in time a little and capture some sculptures I made before starting my daily creative logging commitment. I always learn new things with each sculpting project, and this website is a place to capture those lessons for myself and others. This is a critter I sculpted in December 2020.

Started sculpting this little adventure owl, named Artemis, while watching the election results. As the night wore on it was helpful to have something to busy my hands. The armature is a glass spice jar. First time using Super Sculpey Firm, harder to knead and work the clay but the firm worked amazingly well for the folds of the scarf. Project Time: 3-Days

Navigation Troll

I wanted to go back in time a little and capture some sculptures I made before starting my daily creative logging commitment. I always learn new things with each sculpting project, and this website is a place to capture those lessons for myself and others. This is a critter I sculpted in November 2020.

Navigation Trolls were a staple upon ships crossing the dark sea. Their navigation tools and instincts guided ships thru safe passages to new lands. Armature constructed of foil, wire, and gourd shell. The gourd came from Jack Creek Farms in Templeton. Polymer clay. Eventually baked then painted with acrylic paints.

Video Production Upgrade

In documenting and sharing my artistic journey with sculpting, I’ve realized I need a better set-up for making daily videos. I want to be able to walk into my creative space, flick a switch, hit record, and then focus on doing my art (knowing it’s being captured on video for me to edit and review later). I’ve been wasting a lot of time setting lights and camera stands to get the correct view of the work. Not to mention tripping over all the cords and tripods crowding the room. 

Searching the internet for a better way to do this, I discovered that artists live-stream their studio work. So anyone can tune in and watch them working in the studio. People watching can type in questions in a chatbox, and the artist responds in real-time — such a fantastic method for sharing an artist’s work behind the scenes. So, I’m in the studio recording it; I might as well go live and interact with the people watching. It’s about connecting with people thru the creative process. If I put my artwork out into the universe, it will begin to find the people who need it.

I learned a lot of production skills by making video tutorials for Download & Print and TubbyWubby. Live streaming is similar but expanding to include multiple cameras, mics, and lights. My inner nerd is thrilled to learn and acquire new gadgets and software. 

The Basic plan of action is this:

  • Arrange the art studio with video recording as a daily function.
  • Get stuff off the floor, mounting all lights, cameras, and mics on the ceiling. I’m going to use metal tracks and magnetic equipment mounts. Route and manage wires, so it’s easier to move about the studio.
  • Diffuse the window light with a DIY screen
  • Set up my iMac as a video production station with OBS
  • Add a video monitor to see what’s recording in real-time.
  • Add two 4k web cameras for capturing POV (point of view) and a wider shot of me at the table.

Foot Notes:

OBS (Open Broadcaster Software)

OBS is a Free and open-source software for video recording and live streaming. OSB connects and switches between multiple cameras, mics, and computers to one broadcast. Then, OBS pulls it all together into a single scene layout that feeds to YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and/or my website. 

Udemy class I’m using to learn OBS

Webcameras: AVerMedia Live Streamer 4k CAM 513

10ft USB-C cables Connect Webcams and iMac

Microphone: Rode NT-USB USB Condenser Microphone

2x Dracast LED500 Lights

2x Angler Diffusers

Painting Maverick

Maverick was baked in the oven for 15-minutes at 275 degrees. Now it’s time to start painting him. I begin by painting the baked polymer clay with heavy body acrylic paints. I prefer the heavy body tube style paints because they cover better and have richer colors than the Folk Art bottle style craft paints.

In this first stage of the painting, I am simply covering the sculpture with blocks of color. Painters often refer to “covering the canvas,” and that’s what I’m doing here too. I’m not concerned with perfectly staying between the lines here, and you’ll notice my “boo-boos” as I go along. The first coat of paint is when I hear the most resistance in my head, but the process is to keep painting and become aware of the fear in my mind.

This base coat will be my medium to the darkest color. In the second pass, I will begin to dry-brush the high points of the sculpture with lighter shades. This first coat is the deeper color in the texture of the feathers.

Time-Traveling Bunny

I have a love-hate relationship with ceramics. I elected to take zero period ceramics an hour before school started in high school because it was the only way to have an art class in my college-prep curriculum. It was the highlight of my day and my first exposure to making three-dimensional objects.

Ceramics is a finicky and heartbreaking medium. Neglect to eliminate all the air bubbles in the clay, and that piece you worked on for weeks will explode in the kiln. Or worse yet, your beloved sculpture becomes collateral damage when another item explodes in the kiln. Even experienced ceramics artists pray to the kiln gods each time they fire. The other tricky bit is the clay’s consistency and workability change as it dries. Dry too fast, and it cracks or add clay that’s not the same dampness and disaster. Ceramics takes lots of practice, timing, and skill.

In comparison working with polymer clay is a cakewalk. There is less mess, consistent clay workability, no explosions, no kilns, and oven-bakes in 15-minutes. I’ve had sculptures in progress on my bench for months, just sitting out, and the worst thing that happens is they attract dust. I can add on to them anytime, no worries, no rush.

With the freedom of vaccination (May 2021), I decided my first social adventure would be attending Anne’s ceramics meet-up. The first time working with ceramics in 24 years was a quick reminder of the love-hate relationship. Love for how it smells and the way earth feels in your hands — hate for how out-of-control the entire process is. Nevertheless, I managed to create my ambitious bunny over a week, and Anne was kind enough to fire it for me. I don’t know how it survived the first firing, but it did.

Working with clay is a spiritual reminder of how life is. To enjoy it, one must resign their ego, go with the flow, and adapt along the way.

Basic shape and structure. Made with slabs, hollow on the inside.

Ready to dry and go in the kiln. (first fire)

Clover the Fox

I wanted to go back in time a little and capture some sculptures I made before starting my daily creative logging commitment. I always learn new things with each sculpting project, and this website is a place to capture those lessons for myself and others.

I sculpted Clover, the book-loving fox, while visiting Sue and Eric in September. I brought my clay tools with me so that in the evening, so I could sculpt after dinner while visiting with everyone. Traveling to new places gets my creativity flowing, so it was nice to have an immediate outlet available. Unfortunately, I don’t have many progress images as I was having fun talking and did not pause to document the process.

Blairsville and Murphy have a thriving art community. The Art Walk event was inspiring, with many different styles and mediums. The highlight was the Murphy Art Center, MAC for short, showcasing a collection of original art from members. I purchased a drinking dragons mug made by Holly Pottery (https://www.hollypottery.com/). It’s become my daily drinking mug!

Clover the Fox took about 15 hours to complete in September 2021. She’s hanging our reading on a shelf in my studio.

Heading South

I wanted to go back in time a little and capture some sculptures I made before starting my daily creative logging commitment. I always learn new things with each sculpting project, and this website is a place to capture those lessons for myself and others. This is a critter I sculpted in August 2021.

I keep looking at these wooden pegs and seeing new critters. I don’t sketch ahead, just knead the clay and start adding bulk to the peg. This one started to take the shape of a plaque doctor or old man dressed as a bird. After adding the hat and cheeks it was clearly a bird in fancy dress, catching the train south. I approach these little sculpts like staring at clouds and guessing the animal. They evolve and morph, I do my best to facilitate their creation and not question or judge the process.

This sculpture took 16 hours to make and is on my shelf in the studio.

Pearl the Mouse

I wanted to go back in time a little and capture some sculptures I made before starting my daily creative logging commitment. I always learn new things with each sculpting project, and this website is a place to capture those lessons for myself and others. This is a sculpt I did in September 2021.

Starting with a wooden peg, I used Sculpty oven-bake polymer clay to form the body of a mouse knitting on a spool of thread. Inspired by the heartwarming illustrations in the Beatrice Potter books. After baking in the oven I finished with acrylic paint, starting with dark colors for the base and dry brushing mid and light tones to create depth of color. Lastly, wash with burnt umber to accent the texture and give an aged look to the piece.

I really loved how her hands and feet joyfully hanging of a spool helped tell her story. I need to explore adding props and hobbies to more of my critters since it adds dimension to their personality.

Approx. Time to complete: 17 hours. Pearl is on a shelf in my studio.

Na-Moose-Tay

I wanted to go back in time a little and capture some sculptures I made before starting my daily creative logging commitment. I always learn new things with each sculpting project, and this website is a place to capture those lessons for myself and others.

Starting with a wooden peg doll as the bulk of the form, I added polymer clay in clumps to form the long snout-shaped head. I set out with the intention to make a purple moose, but his mischievous character emerged from the clay to my delight and amusement. I’m learning to surrender to the moment and let the clay tell me what it wants to be. The process of sculpting is evolving into a second world. I take a deep breath and slip below the surface. Fully emerged, I can spontaneously create in ways that delight my innermost being.

The hardest part of this sculpt was the first layer of paint. It was terrifying to block out the colors and see streaky coats of paint, covering all the details I loved in the sculpture. I experienced several hours of quieting the critic in my brain that is screaming, “you’ve ruined it; it’s a lost cause.” The lesson here is to keep painting. Keep adding color, shadow, and highlights – remembering that the color can always be tweaked after it dries.

I gifted this sculpture to Sue and Eric in Georgia. Sue is a clever lady who loves purple and yoga.