Monthly Archives: September 2013

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Between rain storms yesterday, Skating to Fly rolled back into the park. Salt Lake City’s public art caretaker, Glen Richards, dropped by and we headed out to rent tools and etc. We lifted the sculpture into my truck and drove up to the site, and he assisted me as I drilled new holes in the concrete pad, shot the holes full of concrete epoxy, and muscled the sculpture to anchor firmly. There was a big hole in the slab from when the bird was torn out, and Glen filled that with quickset patch.

The neighbor nearest the sculpture allowed us to use his electricity, as Glen’s little generator couldn’t power the big drill or shop-vac. Just as happened at the last installation, I folded the caulk gun up like a tin can while squeezing out the concrete caulk (not as tough a unit as the salesman had made it out to be). The neighbor went back to his shop and brought out his calk gun, an old-school steel unit covered in years of dribbles of all colors. It made short work of the job, then seized on the empty tube requiring a trip back into the shop for some vice & saw dissection.

A few people in the neighborhood came out and took pictures of the Quail, happy to have it back- and surprised to learn it had been stolen by drunken muscle-heads from their own neighborhood; and they were caught by a neighbor who looked over the fence and saw it laying in the next yard and called the police. One of the muscle-heads (of at least three) was charged and fined.

The sculpture was snapped off at the skate, where the back wheel truck enters the skate. There was a chill line there, caused in metal pour, as the thick hot areas draw metal away from thinner areas while simultaneously any impurities in the metal bubble to that point. This area looks normal (so you can’t know it is there), but can fail under stress. With a group of beer-fueled x-football hero’s continuously sacking it, the chill line gave way and they tore it out like a group of hyenas.

The foundry offered to fix it at-cost. They ground out all the compromised metal at the chill line, drilled and set a stainless steel pin, and welded it all back up, and delivered it back to my studio. They even cleaned off all the hard water stains and gave it a new coat of wax.

Lets hope he can ride his skate and teach his little chick to fly indefinitely.

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I was juried into the big Western Masters show in Great Falls, Montana in March. I would like to have a new body of work to bring there, so last week I set about making 5 new modelling stands for 1/3 life size figures. Next I hired a model for the weekend from my figure modelling class at the University. She was a no-show so Elizabeth stood for me. I have been refining the process of creating a wire armature, resolving how to create the top-line of the torso. The traditional top-line will jut out at the clavicle and shoulders and cause all sorts of problems, so I worked from Elizabeth and scratched my head a bit and came up with a plan that will work well with my students at the University, and will work well for me in the future.

After measuring the armature and setting up the wire structure, Elizabeth took a twisting impossible pose. I skinned it with clay, and for something new made the wire follow the skeletal structure- although the Femur was too straight and the trochanter too close in, which threw things off later. Really the wire is so far inside the body, and does not follow skeletal structure, that it is better seen as having a limited relationship to the skeleton.

The pose is a nice challenge for me, as she can only hold it for a few minutes at a time and can go back and forth into it for about an hour. This means I have to know what I see, rather than rely on looking- and I have to work fast and make it count. A big challenge is to find the most dynamic aspects of the pose, capture them, and then work to keep them as she tires and they disappear.

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Trying new things. Here I set up a freestanding wire armature and sculpted following Eric Michael Wilson at New Masters Academy. He was sculpting from his imagination, and I was following his example. Next on the learning curve is going it from my own imagination. This exercise pushes comprehension of the figure as a gestural form, relying on an understanding of anatomical structure. Working small allows a rapid pace, but also requires everything to be correct. Challenging and fun.

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Maharaja in his tent. The tent was my father’s base camp tent for hunting, and family weekender for water skiing. It spent the last 43 years on top of an old water tank in the back of a shop on the Montana ranch. I brought it down last summer to use as my sandblast room, and set eye bolts in the shop for quick set-up and take-down. This was the first time for the tent to act as sand blast booth, and it worked great, making cleanup of all that fine sand a snap.  IMG_0003

Sandblasting removes all tool oil, finger oils, and oxidized impurities.IMG_0004

Next is a blackened cold patina of Liver of Sulphur. This etches the bronze.IMG_0005

The black is scrubbed back with pads and brushes to allow the next patina layer of Ferric to do its thing. The Ferric goes on hot, with a fat mouthed blow-torch attached to the BBQ gas tank.IMG_0006

The jersey is polished to take color evenly.


Ferric layer applied, highlights scrubbed back, more Ferric, more scrubbing back highlights.


Wax is applied to the hot metal, left to sit for an hour, then buffed in. Here the wax is hot and shiny.


This patina is called French Brown. It is one of my favorites, as it allows a lot of variety in tone and responds to the surface of the metal allowing subtle transparency. It is also a very stable patina, and one of the best for outdoor works.

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After chasing out the body and adding four big stainless steel nuts to the underside (for installation), it was finally time for the head. I positioned it and was ready to tack it in place, when I realized I hadn’t chased it yet. It had a few areas that had trapped air in ceramic shell, and these were now solid bronze- under the lip, under the ear- and a few flash lines. Plus the nose and ears needed to be polished out. With all that done the head was repositioned, tacked on all sides, then welded in place.

Chasing is the next step, or making the weld disappear. This is done in stages with multiple tools, ending with some bits of finess here, and some consternation there.

The next step is sandblast / patina. Tomorrow?

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