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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Boudicca's Last Rest (Sculpture Tutorial)


If you've not followed one of my tutorials before, these are done to allow other artists some insight into the experimental techniques I use to create my sculpture work. This tutorial will take you step by step from concept to the final creation. They are usually done in real time, meaning that as I am creating it I am also taking time to photo document the process and post and write about it as each step is completed. Depending on the sculpture, the process may take a week to two weeks to complete. I appreciate feedback and commentary in the space provided below. I will answer any questions to the best of my ability both during the process and after it concludes. 

  • SCULPTURE NAME: The Druids Playground (Changed to Boudicca's Last Rest)
  • SCULPTURE SERIES: Driftwood Series
  • SIZE: 12" x 12" x 32"
  • BASE: Fired Tile
  • PRICE POINT: Not yet decided


This is a rather odd sculpture. Much more gothic and mystical than I usually extend my art, but I feel a need to create it, so there must be a reason. I think this one may change quite a bit from the original concept, so I am not going to give you an explanation of the piece, but just give you the step by step development for it. 

The original concept like much of my work came from dream-state. Most of my dreams right now involve driftwood concepts because that's where my subconscious is focused in order to create enough of a body of work for a show in March. So I pay particular attention to dream-state images that involve wood. 

Step #1
Component Assembly

The primary components for this piece include:

1 one foot tile
1 one foot by 2 foot tile
4 pieces of driftwood
1 ceramic skeleton hand
2 plastic skulls 
1 roll of jute twine

I will also use natural clay and foaming glue

Step #2
Hollowing Out

First I need to cut one of the skulls in half using a fine toothed saw. I also need to hollow out a space on the larger piece of driftwood the same size as the skull using a Dremel. 

Step #3
Skull to Wood

The next step is to attach the skull to the hollowed out are of the stick using foaming glue. By hollowing out the stick first it makes the glue drip to the inside rather than out where it would be seen. All we need is for enough of the glue to capture the skull and hold it in place. I'll reinforce it later. Drying time about 45 minutes before I can move on to the next step.

Step #4
Creating a Face

Once the glue dried enough to hold the skull in place it was clayed over to create features. When finished foaming glue was applied in a very thin covering to create a solid coat over the clay. The effect is quite striking because the glue not only seals the clay but gives texture and contour to the face. Once paint is applied the face should blend into the tree.

Step #5
Black Basing

The next step is a simple one. Spray painting the complete piece of wood and the face black. As I've said in past tutorials, by giving your base a coat of black it allows the colors (especially metallics) to shine brighter and it allows the natural pattern of the wood to come out later. 

Step #6
Sealing to the Base

Now the black based piece of wood can be sealed to the tile base. Using natural clay to form the root system and make it look like a tree rather than a stick of wood, then overlaying the clay with foaming glue. This will create a concrete base that should the piece in place permanently. The piece of wood is not centered on the tile as it needs room to extend an additional tree branch off of it later. 

Step #7
Adding the Arm

Now that the base is set firmly the arm of the tree can be extended. This is tricky because it had to be balanced from beneath until it was set completely. The arm has to support both its own weight and a certain amount of weight from the hanging swing so it has to be set firmly. Lots of glue was used extending outwards up the branch to make sure it was as solid as possible.

Step #8
Black Basing the Arm and Base

To bring it into sync with the rest of the tree, the new additions must be black based.

Step #9
Painting the Tree

I debated a lot of color schemes for this piece. I wanted something contrary to the creepier aspects of the piece. The final color choice was a combination of purple pearl and peacock pearl. The two colors compliment each other nicely and give it an extra shine. The face was painted the same color except for the eyes which I am still debating on. 

Step #10
Creating the Swing

The swing is created using a ceramic skeletal hand that I bought during Halloween. I liked the shape of it and figured it was worth keeping around until the right use came along. For this I've used jute twine for the swing ropes. I attached them around the base of the hand, tightly knotting it and then overlaying the twine with foaming glue. Once dry I black based the whole thing and then used my color combination used on the tree to paint the hand. I then looped the twine around the upper arm and attached it. I will then use foaming glue to secure it to the arm permanently. We are almost ready to start building the girl who will sit in the swing. 

Step #11
Creating the Girl on the Swing

I will use this jointed skeleton to create the girl. She will eventually sit in the swing. The first step is to clay in the skeleton to create her features. This must be done in sections or else there is no way to support the body once foaming glue is applied. So first her head will be done and then a thin layer of glue added. This will lock her jaw in place also and keep her mouth from opening more than needed. Once her head is done then her front torso and upper arms will be clayed in, locking her arms in front of her instead of flopping down at her sides. Again glue is applied to front before the clay has time to dry or crack. The same process will be repeated for her back. Her upper arms will remain bone for the time being to be clayed in later as will her legs. Her lower torso front and back will be clayed in and glued now in a sitting position. Breasts will also be added separately and glued in. 

Once her upper body is dry then she will be positioned in the swing and literally glued into place to make her a permanent part of the swing. 

Once she is solidly attached to the chair then work can begin on her legs. First her feet will be permanently glued to the tile. Once this dries then her legs will be arched and glued to move her into an upright position on the swing rather than tilted as it is now. 

Getting her into an angle where she was not tilted down was difficult. I had to clay in her legs first with the joints still loose and use a support behind her to keep her in place till everything dried. Then lastly I clayed in her arms. I left both her feet and her hands skeletal. Observers have said this perhaps one of the creepiest pieces I've ever made. I find it sort of sad though. This old woman, near death swings, her mind filled with her youth and her birth, not her impending death. Its a thought provoking piece, which is exactly what I wanted from it. Of course she will change quite a bit yet when color, detailing and clothing are applied.

Step #11

Here you can see that the detailing work is beginning. Our girl has now been painted to match the tree as if the whole thing were just one entity now. A skull was added to the base of the tree and a headpiece was added to the face up above. As I've said before, this piece I am working on from intuition more than from a set plan. It seems to be steering towards a more druidic feel now. She is at one with the tree and a part of it. We'll see if that theme continues. 

I may be adding a distinct twist to the whole thing in the next few revisions. I am considering using this piece as an example of the bridging technique that I recently described in the update to the Assimilation Art theory. If I do, I'll describe it in more depth later. 

Step #12
The Backplate

While I've not decided on the composition yet, I've decided that the piece needs a backplate to give it depth. Using a brass L shaped book end, I attached it using epoxy to the bottom of the base tile. I will later use a 2 foot by 1 foot tile to create a backplate that will be secured to the standing part of the L plate. You can see the L plate sticking up behind the base tile. I may need to secure an additional piece to the back later because the 2 foot tile is quite heavy. But I'll wait until its in place to decide. 

Step #13
Name Changes

As is often the case, this sculpture has taken on a whole new meaning from its original concept of the Girl on the Swing. As we've been developing the backplate some major changes have occurred that warranted a name change. So from this point on the piece is going to be called "The Druids Playground"

Step #14
Backplate Detailing

It took 4 days to create the geometric pattern on the backplate but I think the time was well spent. The backplate will contain a lot more than just the pattern though, as you will see.

Here you can see some of the details of the backplate. It includes a center bar with ruins on it, the two standing stones on either side, a hand with a purple jewel in the center and 4 rows of crypts some with stones, some with symbols. 

The panel is not yet attached until some more refinement goes into it. Here are two angles of it to see the details better. 

Step #15
Final Gluing

Several things have now occurred. First the backplate has been permanently epoxied to the sculpture. Second the baseplate has now been overglued and is ready for detail painting and landscaping. Third, some moss has been added around the bases of the back standing stones and as hair with a crown on the figure in the front who I think just might represent the Irish queen Boudicca at the end of her life.

Step #16
Name Change #2

As I said at the beginning of this tutorial, much of this piece was conceived in dream state and that I was improvising the design as I went along based on the vision in my head. The original name "The Girl on the Swing" lasted through several stages of development. But it emerged that the piece was taking on a distinct druid aspect and I made the decision that the original name no longer fit the vision. The girl was never meant to be young, but an ancient lady, withered and bony. So I made the name change to the Druids Playground because the ancient lady seemed to be almost at play or rest. But two more changes brought something else into being. The merging of the celtic origins of the druids with the later origination of christianity became evident in the piece and on the crypts to the rear. But it was the capping of the old lady with a crown and a hair of moss that she suddenly took on a whole new meaning. I knew instinctively that this lady was Boudicca, the ancient Irish warrior queen. But I did not know enough about Boudicca to be sure. So I watched several documentaries on her. No one knows what really happened to her. She disappeared from history after her last great battle. Some say she killed herself after. Others that she died of old age. I like to think that the druids took her home. So here she is, the withered warrior queen, alone but smiling at the last moments of her life. Her head held high as a queen should be. So the piece is renamed "Boudicca's Last Rest" in memorial to the warrior queen and my own celtic bloodline. 

Step #17
Final Details

At this stage Boudicca is almost complete. Final addons have included a stack of 4 skulls of varying sizes to the front left. A maidens shield in Boudicca's hands. Crowns of moss on the four skulls attached to the front of the crypts at the rear. I also changed the eye color on all faces from purple which was too dark to a bright gold.  And finally I added color to the baseplate. 

The last step will be polyurethane to most of the sculpture.

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