Monday, August 13, 2012

Behind the Mask

Last week I posted a photo of a mask in-progress, which is now finished and painted. I thought I would show you the successes and failures that led up to that.

This is my first mask sculpture and third ceramic sculpture in my limited experience. As you can see, the close-up on the right reveals a large crack on the nose bridge. This is after firing. Before the firing, the mask looks pretty good. How did this happen? Well, it happened when I decided to slap on a slab of clay for the nose without so much as slightly wet clay binding it to the the mask. I know now about a technique called scoring and slipping, which adheres two pieces of clay much more effectively.

This is my first painted ceramic mask. I used a ready-made mask from a mold instead of sculpting one for time efficiency and painted with a water-based craft paint that seals after firing. Three coats of paint are required for maximum opacity as well as a dose of patience. I was told the colors turn brighter after firing, but I was not expecting....this. I don't know yet whether I like the intensity of the colors or not. I do think the balance between the color of the center leaf and "skin" is much better. Unfortunately, I did not realize another coat was needed for the leaf on the cheek, so that section looks blotchy. Also, I am at loss as to how little black specks appeared on the skin. I think that on one layer I accidentally used paint with sparkles, which somehow crispified.

Success! This time around, I sculpted the mask on top of a smooth rock instead of a plastic bag filled with crumpled newspaper, which greatly helped with symmetry and the process of adding the facial features. I also used the proper clay-attaching techniques. Only a small crack on the back of the mask was visible after firing. For paint, I used acrylic craft paint, which worked so much better. With the acrylics, you can actually make blended gradations between different colors! The only thing I would change if I could is the nostril on the right, which sits a little too low. 

More sketches!

"The clouds are just determined to ruin our picnic."

"She was a flower, young and beautiful, bending gently in the ever-changing winds of youth."

 "Studying the compositions of master artists is the key to success."

Yeah, I cheated here. I needed to take a little break from my imagination and was hankering for some good ol' observation. I struggle the most with making compositions that involve multiple figures and a complex environment. Copying artwork that I find has great composition (and oftentimes, great narrative qualities) sounded like an effective way to learn. 

"Studying the compositions of Russian master artists is the golden ticket to stardom."

"Studying the artwork of Lord Leighton is sure to buy you mad skillz."
(The study is of Invocation exhibited in 1889. 53 x 33 in.)

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