The length of the Labrador makes a bit of tough going in bronze. The two halves of the body had each flexed a bit as they cooled after casting / or the wax room had flexed them when sectioning the sculpture for ceramic shell. The head doesn’t have this problem as it is a full ring, however the open bottom of the body allows edges to curl in / flex out, as well as a bit of cupping from the front paws on back to the tail. Overall this means the two sides will not fit together easily. Strategy and experimentation are a must before any welding. It is best to try to start with a few solid tack-welds- but where to put them? A weld in the wrong spot will only exacerbate the mismatch. Eventually I can see where it can fit, where it slides apart, why it won’t fit, and where I can make a weld so that I can apply the hammer and clamps, and spot weld again, and hammer and clamp, and spot weld. The weld pulls the form together, and the hammer brings the bottom edge back under from where it had flexed outward. Once the seam was gathered back together I gave a clean weld along its entire length, then flipped the dog over and welded the seam from the inside as well. The seam process took about 3 hours while the day sat at 95 degrees- in leathers/boots/cap/gloves . The cool of the day had been spent prepping the form, then welding closed all the pin holes from ceramic shell and grinding/welding a few spots of shell inclusion. At 3:30 I broke for lunch, and realized forming the seam with the hammer had zoinked my arm more than I had known. With my hand stiffening up, I decided to call it a day so that I could return tomorrow morning in the cool and set a few of the remaining problems before welding the head in place.
The lab was ready to come home yesterday morning. I jumped down to the foundry, brought the sculpture back to the studio and switched out my wood tool making over to TIG welding and bronze chase- with no time to get started. It was up to the university to teach my figure class. The figure class was followed by another section of 3D Design, lasting til 10pm, but the art gods showed mercy and another adjunct was given my 3D night class when one of his classes was cancelled for low enrollment. This morning was my early a.m. 3D Design class, quite full and a fun group. I’d cut my thumb on a sharp bit of metal in the wood shop, almost stitch-worthy; so I let the dog lay as it is for the afternoon for a bit more time for the thumb to heal up.
With classes starting next week Monday, and a commission that will come back from the foundry soon, I thought I’d get as much out of the way as possible so I can flip the shop over to bronze work. I finished the mold for David’s eye Thursday, and started pulling plasters yesterday: 12 eyes from a 20# bag of plaster will have to do.
While I was waiting for the plaster to kick, I started making sculpting tools for the students. The first 40 were made from popsicle sticks, and the larger group are from big paint mixing sticks. I’d made a set from smaller paint mixing sticks along the top- they were too flimsy. These are all for the 3D Design classes, and Figure Sculpture students will make their own tools on the first day.
After buying a plaster cast of the left eye of Michelangelo’s David, I found it was oversimplified and many key anatomical features were absent or misunderstood. I used the plaster as a reference to set the measurements for my new clay original, sculpted to match the plaster, then set about correcting it. I used a nice virtual tool to do this, a scanned 3D image of the eye from an online art school.
Bringing a sense of expression similar to musical Color was my ultimate goal. This is the fierce eye, the eye that is sizing up Goliath: it needs to have passion, strength, and determination- with an underlying sense of concern/worry/fear.
Anatomical understanding must be partnered with the motivation of the sublime muscle of art. I really can’t stress this point enough. When working the figure, these are necessarily synonymous. I generally sculpt from the latter, and as the work matures I bridge to my latent remembrance of anatomical structures, or look things up to check myself. Of course, Michelangelo knew this all so well he sculpted fluidly in a native language of anatomical structure as his pure artistic voice. In marble. 16 feet tall. When he was 24. yikes.
So the lifeless mannequin-like plaster, I hope you can see, is not all there. I intended to use the plaster for my students, which would be a huge disservice to them. Aspiring to mediocrity is already way too common in the arts. I’ll pull a mold from this, and cast some plasters for my students.
The night we arrived there was a bit of a storm. We stood outside watching clouds boiling along the ridges and crazy fingers of lighting erupting across the sky, while it was just breezy for us. I told E about a time my dad had seen something similar and how down below the storm had blown round bails, downed trees, and hailed a foot. Then the power went out. I had just turned it on. We drove down the valley, heading to Belt for ice for the food, and saw a black bottomed anvil cloud eating the sky. Three miles down the road our neighbor’s power was out, we stopped in to say hi, they gave us flashlights and we skipped Belt and headed back up.
Still no power the next morning, so we headed down to Belt for ice, batteries, and coffee. There were trees down everywhere from 70mph winds, and 8 inches of pea hail up Belt Creek. Highway 87 to Great Falls had been closed for downed power lines. We headed back up and started in on taming the yard- the used mower I picked up last year started right up. Next was tree trimming and squaring the bushy hedge. The next day we loaded the Tandem into the truck, drove over the hill to Monarch, and cycled 17 miles from Monarch to Neihart along the upper canyon of Belt Creek. The descent maintained speeds over 30mph. Fun stuff. We planned to do this again at least every day for the remaining 7 days. That would be our only ride, as our activities took another route.
Our Land Manager, Dave, left his 4 wheeler for us to roam the ridges. We headed up through a herd of sub-let Black Angus, a nice purebred group, and watched the sunset.
It had been over 100 degrees in Utah forever, but the ranch is always cool and breezy.
Stanley learned wanting is not having, and the truths of never having and always wanting. Bunnies are quicker than Stanlies.
We had intended to do a little bit of house mending. I’d brought my usual tools and some extras. I thought I’d tackle adding in a new toilet and new linoleum for the bathroom floor, and dealing with the drippy water lines under the house in the earth basement, getting the leaking chimney re-pointed and swept, and having a bee-keeper up to look at our house bees.
Dave was letting his friend Dan (Danny) crash in his old bedroom in his mom’s house. Dan was down on his luck just then, a Bostonian, with a sometimes thick accent- and a cage-fighter, for reals. Dan was looking for extra work. He had done a lot of day-labor jobs in the classic “Jack-Of-All-Trades, Master-Of-None” school. What he was really exceptional at, was tearing things up. He poked around at the ghastly shag carpets and saw they weren’t really tacked down, and below them was linoleum in Art Deco patterns, likely from the 1930’s or earlier: under all that were lovely well preserved hardwood floors original to the 1800’s house. My project list ballooned accordingly, and Dan offered to throw down the gauntlet with us.
The old linoleum peeled up better with boiling hot water to activate the glue- a lifesaving tip from Dan. All the black is a tar-paper glue pervasive through the house. Some of the lino was backed with burlap as well.
You. Have. No. Idea.
Dan wrung the mop out in the tub, and it looked like we had been rendering humans for their tallow.
I cut out the water damaged portion of the floor near the toilet ring (upper area of ring in photo), and set in bondo. Then I used the small orbital sander to cut down to fresh wood, and sealed it with spar-urathane.
80 mile round trip to Home Depot, and we have a toilet and a pedestal sink too small for the plumbing footprint (argh!). The retired plumber in the HD plumbing section told us there was no way to affix the toilet to the old piping without a plumber, in as Lordly a manner as I’ve ever heard. Dan poked around and came up with a plan, and it worked.
20 grit paper on a drum sander. You would think that would cut through it fast. The paper filled with gum quickly and had to be constantly replaced, at $10 per sheet. Sanding began on day 5, after all other rooms were torn out, with E manning the heat-gun to lift off as much floor glue as possible. And 6 truckloads to the dump.
12:30 am: after 5 days of prep, 4 trips to Great Falls for supplies and tools (80 mile round trip), 6 truckloads to the dump (30 miles round trip each), the smallest room in the house is finally ready for polyurethane finish.
I did the laundry room as well, finishing at 2:30am, and up at dawn the next day to sand the kitchen.
Danny moves on to put all the furniture in the entire house into the old parlour in an amazing feat of strength, then goes demolition happy and removes carpet and linoleum from the living room and bedroom. Meanwhile I deal with boiling the goo-layer and scraping it from the kitchen floor= yikes!
And I am kinda crippled in the shoulder/neck/arm/lower back/ region.
Don’t forget, there is still all the lino and glue under the oven and fridge- yeah!
I hired a chimney repairman and chimney sweep to take care of the leaking chimney. The cap had completely deteriorated showering the lawn with bricks, allowing water to seep in and rain down. This had been going on while my father was still alive, he had put cans upstairs to catch the drips- so long ago that the bottoms had rusted out and the water came straight through the floor to run down the stack in the kitchen as greasy black rain. The flashing around the chimney up on the roof had given in after decades of snow and ice, and was letting in water as well. With all that taken care of by the professionals, it was time to patch up the kitchen.
Dan often had to tear out before he could patch up.
At 10pm Elizabeth draws me a bath by boiling water on the stove, revitalized I seal the kitchen floor till 2am.
The old bedroom begins to let go of that particular odor.
E and I went to Great Falls for groceries early, and to pick up the sander. I deemed it useless and swore up a blue streak driving back to Great Falls to switch it out for their burliest sander. I drifted a corner on the dirt road going down, avoiding a truck that happened to be a second cousin who was driving up and had lived at the ranch as a kid before my grandfather took it over, and she spent awhile visiting with Elizabeth. I crossed them again on the way back up, less dramatically, still not knowing who they were. With that afternoon wearing on I put two hours onto the living room floor and hardly made a dent. I decided I’d put my effort into the bathroom/laundry/kitchen portion of the house first, and use whatever sanding pads were left to tackle the rest of the downstairs. Luckily, those areas were a newer edition to the house, and didn’t have as many layers super-shellack tar-gum.
Our chimney repair man is also a chimney inspector, and on his advice we set to alleviating our fire traps. There were no codes when my dad rebuilt the chimney, and the inspector was friendly while relating his anxiety over our historical firetrap. He recommends we ultimately abandon the old chimney, which has a full 90 degree angle inside that traps pitch, for a straight run of chimney pipe- but gave us other methods to reset the stove safely for our periodic use.
Look at all these lovely flamables the stove sat on. That was mitigated by siitting on flammable dry old board wrapped in a layer of tin, pictured with Dan and I above. Plus the piping is single layer and turns in to the wall too close to the ceiling/bookcase. And the stove is set too close to the wall, that although it is decorated with a stone layer, this layer does nothing to alleviate the heat loaded into the wooden trusses behind it. All fire code no-no’s.
Did I mention we took 6 truckloads to the dump. A few of those loads were mouse mess infused pink insulation my father had spread on the upstairs floors. Dan and I opened a few of the windows up there, the first time in 50 years I would guess, and we began chucking everything out the window. Everything but this old bedspring, which was nearly too big for the narrow stair.
Dan isn’t there to help this time. As sanding moved to the older portion of the house, all the furnishings moved from the parlour to the front porch to commune with the bees.
Dan wore his cowboy boots and forgot to bring his work boots, so he was barefoot up there as the day heated up and his cries were pitiful, drawing me from the basement where I was installing new copper plumbing and tying in the electricity for the new water heater.
One of my uncles thought that the creek by the house was the perfect place to dump old barbed wire, machines, barrels, you-name-it. I have found this ecologically offensive since I was a kid, and with a bobcat and an operator I could finally do something about it. We pulled it all out and stacked it for recycling.
I will see about posting a hilarious video of this rodeo.
There were two dead water heaters in the basement. A small one that Dan and I carried out, and a really big one filled with dirt that we toppled and dragged to the bottom of the stair. I found a cinch strap for tying down hay loads on the old Chevy Viking, super industrial strapping, and cinched the big heater up and tied it to the 4-Wheeler. Dave stopped in to pick up Dan, and recommended we use the old swingset slide to ease it up the stairs. The 4-Wheeler in low, popping a big wheelie, it budged the monstrosity. Dan thought he could help by being down on the stair, but got out of the way and we tried again. I put my weight way over the front of the machine to keep the wheelie down and once the heater budged I kept it coming on up. It tore off the #150 cellar door like it was nothing. We were leaving the next day. It was storming up. Dan and Dave headed down. I had a big fix to take care of. I rebuilt the supporting side of the base that had disintegrated. The whole thing was a confusion of half-attempted patchwork for a structure long since fallen away. Luckily, the other side was still intact, so i could see what needed to be done. After scrounging for lumber throughout the ranch grounds I ran out my batteries on my power tools as the hail set in, and switched to a hammer and the only straight long barn nails on the ranch that Elizabeth had found in a pile on the remains of a shattered plastic cup along the fence line by the house.
Prior to bedroom restoration, the cats were finally content with a bed apiece.
A big step down from your own bed 😦