Sunday, July 2, 2017

17F-2, "Etude, op. 344, (Spaces)" (June 28)


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The report follows the images
 









Summer Sculpture

The early morning is calm, quiet and cool under low clouds. I go a block and a half through the damp air, then return to get the monopod. It helped the last time in taming Sculptor's Palsy.
    The summer day will be long. There's no need to start this early but to catch the low tide. I'd prefer an afternoon-to-sunset sculpture because the light is better for photography. The tide is right now and the sand is good. So, I make my way to the beach and walk out onto the broad expanse of dark and smooth sand.

Build number: 17F-2 (lifetime start #344); monolith on low riser
Title: "Etude, op. 344, (Spaces)"
Date: June 28
Location: Venice Breakwater, isthmus
Start: 0715, construction time approx. 6.5 hours
Size: about 41 inches tall, 21 inches diameter
Technique: Latchform, Box Filter 2, four full loads intertidal sand
Digital Images: 28, EOS-5D Mk IV and 85mm F/1.8, with RRS monopod (safeties and completed)
Volunteer photography: Larry Dudock, hand-held process and complete, and intervalometer
Volunteer videography: Larry Dudock, process and equipment
New Tools: none
New Equipment: none

1. Interior

I'd been looking at images of previous sculptures, with their hollows and graceful internal tendrils. My last several pieces have been more solid, exploring big shapes and how they fit together.
    The process has changed. An arch, which is what I started with, is basically a thin shape of sand around a large void. That idea has guided what I've done ever since. Sculptures have been defined as space surrounded by sand. Shaping the hole shapes the solid pieces, but what happens when one thinks more about the solid parts?
    Well, I ran immediately into the problem of how the solid parts fit with each other and into the sculpture's overall dimensions. For this sculpture I wanted to work more with space.
    The question is always about how to fit a graceful shape within the basic cylinder. First, I have to make the cylinder. The last one required four cart-loads of sand and a partial fifth load, and there was some sand left over. This time I fill the cart as full as is practical and run four loads to see how far that gets me.
    "What are you looking for here?" She's curly-haired, aniimated.
    "Sand." I look back, with a small sly smile.
    "Oh."
    "You see, the sand here is finer than it is up higher." I point to the lighter-colored area near the high tide line. "Finer sand holds together better."
    "Sand is remarkable. I do experiments with clay and sand. People send me sand from all over the world, and I see how the sand works with the clay."
    "I did some of that at Cal State LA, years ago. The sand turned everything red. Low-fire."
    "This is high-fire. Different clays and sands respond differently."
    At first I think I'll be short of sand but the four full loads actually get me within an inch of the form's top, well within the "diminishing returns" area where water and sand splash out as I pack.
    "What are you doing?"
    "Sand sculpture. I'm nearly done packing the sand."
    "I've been working on short video projects of artists in California."
    "Have you heard of Suzi Zimmermann? She was here some years ago and made a short documentary about Venice artists."
    "I haven't heard of her. I'm from Cal State Long Beach, and have various students working on projects. Do you have a Web site?"
    "Yes. A blog, because it's quick and easy."
    "I don't have anything to write on. Can you contact me through CSBLB?"
    "I'll try to remember."
    "And I'll see if I can find your blog."
    This reminds me that I really need to get some simple business cards printed. I used to bring a pencil and scratch paper, but that never worked well in the damp, with sand.
    After some food and water, I start carving to the plan in my mind. Idea is one thing, sand is another, and as people start to gather on this warming summer day the distractions mount. I focus and ignore as much as I can, staying my carving tool until I have considered where the carved surface may go.
    It's another win for the Filter Trivet. There are no shell fragments in the sand to catch on a tool edge. A small thing, yes, but I like this lack of interruption in the sensual process of carving fine sand.
    Everything changes in the making. Translating what the mind's eye sees into the sand's hard reality is a fascinating process of carve-and-respond. Is what I see in my mind really better than what's coming out in the sand? How disciplined do I want to be? Enough, but not too much, and there's always the potential of a design-driven engineering mistake putting the whole piece on the ground in pieces.
    The result is much different from what I set out to make. No real surprise there. Maybe it's a necessary tension, maybe it's necessary exploration, maybe it's a simple lack of interest in excessive direction even from myself. Call it leaving room for the happy accident.
    There are some happy accidents here, traced in the lines of curves that I tried harder to move to something beyond a default connection. The intended delicate connections across the big broadly concave surface became more sturdy than delicate, but it is a summer afternoon, and busy.
   
2. Exterior Distractions

    One thing is sure: I've had enough of the noisy crowds. The sculpture wants more work but the basics are there. I have accomplished what I intended to, and perform a hurried clean-up and then some photography while people yell and spread boom-box simulated music across the isthmus.
    Choosing the 85mm lens was wise. I can set a large aperture and put most of the background clutter out of focus. Experience with the camera has taught me to dial in some negative exposure compensation when shooting the shadow side, to avoid losing highlights in the background. Film responds gracefully to such highlight areas, but digital gets ugly when clipped. The 5D MkIV has lower noise in the shadows so I can boost that in the editing and get a better image.
    "That's all for me, Larry. Thanks for the help." Even if I didn't need to make a restroom run, knowing I could if needed did help.
    "You're welcome. Thanks for telling me you were doing this."
    And with that, I turn my back on the beach and head for home. With the tide high walking the beach would be slow, so I head inland to the alleyway east of the Boardwalk and walk north. Slowly, steadily. Sand sculpture conditioning. I'm in better shape than I'd been after 17F-1.
    The interior lightness of 07F-10 escaped me on this one. I muse on that as I walk. It was 1996 when I started trying to shape the interior of a sculpture as much as the outside and learned, after several months, that this is harder than it looks. I have to think about what's not going to be there as much as what will be left in place, and plan the latter around the former. It requires a subtle concentration that's easily broken, and a feeling in the hands that goes beyond the mental images. There's a reason, I realize, why 07F-10 arrived 11 years after the first thought, and at the end of a series of sculptures done in quick sequence. The fingers forget. Oh, the basics remain but the feeling for subtle shapes becomes stiff. Runners stretch. I need more stretching exercises. This piece was a start.
    Later on, I have another thought about 07F-10: it was made with the Short Form. Smaller, less sand to haul, less time spent packing, less work. Right now it's as much work as I can manage to get the cart up the last hill to my street.
    After some food and a shower, I take a look at the images. The next day I edit them for the blog, and realize these are the best sand sculpture images I've ever had. The larger sensor in the camera makes for lovely smooth gradients, which is what I noticed in going from 35mm film to medium format.
    The rest of the day fades into fog. I put my weary self to bed.

 Official Builder Photo by Larry Dudock
   
Santa Monica
2017 June 29, 30; July 1

Saturday, June 17, 2017

17F-1, "Etude, op. 341d, (Concave)" (June14)


Click on the images to see larger versions.


Build number: 17F-1 (lifetime start #343); monolith on low riser
Title: "Etude, op. 341d, (Concave)"
Date: June 14
Location: Venice Breakwater, isthmus
Start: 0730, construction time approx. 5.5 hours
Size: about 41 inches tall, 21 inches diameter
Technique: Latchform, Box Filter 2, five loads intertidal sand, immersion screened
Digital Images: 23, EOS-5D Mk IV and 24-70 F/2.8 L II, with RRS monopod
New Tools: none
New Equipment: Filter Trivet











Sunday, January 8, 2017

17P-1, "Etude, op. 341c, (Drummer Boy's Mussel Shell)" (January 8)

Elemental Considerations

Within a year, fall 1995 through fall of 1996, my sand sculpture capability changed completely. Tools, forms and working technique were all new. Working style, however, stayed the same. Go to the beach, make a pile, start carving. I'd often go in with some kind of idea but it seldom lasted long. When the idea did manage to center the sculpture I often didn't like it.

The result was unpredictability. Some sculptures were special, some weren't, and I couldn't describe to anyone what I did, or didn't, like about a particular piece. The headlong rush to get a sculpture done didn't lead to careful consideration, and the pattern stayed the same through the ensuing years.

It's not a bad way of working. It's enjoyable, and when there's a hit it tends to be spectacular. At the time time there end up being many default shapes in a sculpture, as the design crowds the remaining sand and leaves no other options.

There were pauses for various reasons. In late November of 2016 I began to get a hazy notion of something else. Simplify. I'd been looking at old sculptures as I edited images to use in Second Life. Why does one thing work and another design idea doesn't work? Could it be the relationship between elements? Maybe I need to make a very simple sculpture, just to see how the surfaces relate. It turned into a series of 3 sculptures, and then the weather closed out the rest of the year.
   
Build number: 17P-1 (monolith)
Title: "Etude, op. 341c (Drummer Boy's Mussel Shell)"
Date: January 8
Location: Venice Breakwater, south side littoral
Start: 1030, construction time approx. 1.5 hours
Size: about 24 inches tall, 18 inches wide, 14 inches deep
Digital Images: none, no camera
New Tools: none
New Equipment: none

I'd walked to the Breakwater on Friday, the day the tide window opened, to sample the sand, with a sculpture intended for Saturday. The sky held only high wispy clouds. Saturday morning I awoke to rain and dark clouds. By mid-day it was clearing so I went for a rain-refreshed walk. The window would stay open for a few more days, so I  headed for the Breakwater again to see how the sand had fared through the storm.

Off in the west, rising above the horizon, were layers of cloud. More rain? I ran into Dennis and his wife at the Breakwater, and they confirmed it. "Heavy rain, starting here about midnight. Supposed to end by 6:00 AM, they say."

Well, rats. Another washout. A window opened after Christmas, and the present of rain was nice but made sculpture impossible. I had to hold onto the ideas for a simple piece with intersecting spaces.

I haven't done a free-piled sculpture since 2013. The idea didn't occur to me on last Friday's sampling walk. Today, something brings the idea to the fore. Sand, sun, receding tide, wet beach with good sand. I'm not dressed for it and have no tools. Not far away, though, is a mussel shell nicely sized for basic carving. I dig in and start piling.

No matter how it's done, sand sculpture requires heavy work. Using a form spreads the work out through time. Free-piling must be done quickly and calls for a lot of bending and twisting. I wondered if I could still do it. There were some twinges in my back as I gradually built the pile up. I compensated by taking smaller handfuls of sand, and making a pile that was only about two feet tall.

As I carved with the gift mussel shell, I realized that this pile was better packed than any of the formed sculptures I did in the 1980s. Those, I could carve with fingers. This one really needs the mussel shell, although I do push one space through with fingers. I miss the small carving tools; what's easy and quick with them is nearly impossible with the shell.

Maybe that's not such a bad thing. By limiting the complexity of the sculpture, the mussel shell makes me think about the larger piece. I smoothly round the western part, with a concave area lower down on the north. The west gets a nearly flat panel whose edges are rounded into the top. I like the look of that.

When a space is cut into a flat surface, it appears as a hole in the surface. It can be shaped in ways to fit. A space carved into a curved surface  is different. it's visible from the side as an under cut whose size is dictated by the hole's size. The line between "hole" and "space" is fine. Some of the holes in this sculpture turn into spaces. It's surprisingly difficult to balance the parts.

I'm also interested in how spaces intersect inside the sculpture. I'm frustrated in working on this because, with the mussel shell and my hand in the way, I can't see how the various surfaces intersect inside.

Still, there's enough here to show that there's room for the ideas to grow. More experimentation is needed. I polish the surface, sign it, and leave the mussel shells on the signature pad.

As I walk north the air cools. The clouds to the west are closer but no thicker. I have made sand sculpture pretty much because I can, and have taken little thought on how the carving happens. Art classes start with the basics and work up from there. I had to invent the basics and all the rest. I assumed that when I needed a skill it would be there, or I'd figure it out in the moment, which seemed a more lively way to do it. Excess discipline tends to kill things.

There is, however, the idea of just enough discipline. Everybody who makes things starts somewhere in the learning process. It feels slow and confining to look at a pile of sand and think about shapes, rather than picking up a tool and carving. The big problem with that approach is that the size of the sculpture, dictated by how much sand I can pile in a day, works with the  size of my hands, the length of my arms, and how far I can reach, along with the fact that I'm mainly right-handed, exerts a very strong influence on the shapes I end up making. Once a shape is cut into the sand it is permanent. Slowing down and being more observant might help me stay out of the default-shape traps. Winter also enforces simplicity because the days are short. Carpenters have a saying: "Measure twice, cut once. Measure once, cut twice." This series of etudes is an ongoing experiment in measuring two or three times. Perhaps... meditative sand sculpture. Part of me is disappointed with the simplicity, and that I did fall into one default-shape trap on this one. Other parts of the sculpture show more promise.

The next morning I awaken to steady rain. It continues well beyond the predicted 0600 cut-off. I'm glad I did the year's first sculpture when the chance came along.

Santa Monica
2017 January 8, 9

Friday, December 9, 2016

16F-7, ""Etude, op. 341b (Surfaces Considered)" (December 9)

Click on any image to see it full-sized.
The report follows the images.










Ways of Working

"Now, where is that thing?" Mental capability tracks the descending sun as I paw through the Tool Tray's contents in search of the one I want. Eventually I find it but the search is soon repeated when the sculpture's needs change. When I had two carving tools, this kind of thing didn't happen.

Early sculptures felt miraculous. Physical objects came out of my imagination through my fingertips. The main question was "What is possible?" and the only overall concept was sand wrapped around space. It was new and it was mine.

Art classes in school seemed to emphasize following paths that had already been defined. That was very much like what I learned at home. Sand sculpture showed that I still wanted to make things, and had the ability. Is this art? That question wasn't relevant to my interest.

Given enough room I can amble my wandering way through things. When crowded I tend to blend my course with those of whoever is around me; calling attention to myself is a bad thing. Even if the pressure is benign, it's still a push away from finding my own way. Sand sculpture came to be defined as art, with all the concepts attendant upon that.

It's a terrible load to place onto an arch made of sand. I can't return to those simple and innocent days of 1984, when my whole kit could be carried in two hands from car to beach and I had no more idea of what I'd make than a bee does of which flower to visit at dawn. Technically I have advanced far from those days. Tools designed and made for the purpose enable careful carving of sand that is chosen and packed with much experience. Design is a different issue. Assumptions, many of them unconsidered, underlie choices.

What is a sculpture? Space and material in balance, I think, and there are many ways to accomplish that. Historically I've usually ended up with a sculpture that only by chance has some kind of balance that pleases me. It's as if there are many horses in the barn, saddled and ready to run. I try to ride them all. Sometimes the resulting sculpture is an interesting amalgam, with an occasional spectacular standout. The alternative, a more closely managed sculpture, has a disappointing design-by-committee look to it.

I feel a need to examine more closely some of the basic ideas. I don't know how to do that. Will the attempt be an insult to whatever part of me enjoys working out design on the fly?
   
Build number: 16F-7 (lifetime start #342); monolith on low riser
Title: "Etude, op. 341b (Surfaces Considered)"
Date: December 9
Location: Venice Breakwater, isthmus
Start: 0900, construction time approx. 5.5 hours
Size: about 41 inches tall, 21 inches diameter, immersion screened intertidal sand (5 loads, Latchform, Rectascreenus B, Waterscreen)
Digital Images: 21, EOS-70D with 50mm F/2.5 macro, construction and site, completed, builder by passerby
New Tools: none
New Equipment: Small Tool Tray

"It seems so simple, to be produced in a shop of such great sophistication." This is about the time the growing grey kitten--more a young cat, now--takes a flying leap onto my sandal-clad left foot. "Oh, I'm vanquished! Mighty hunter!" Message delivered, he struts away. In my hand I hold a small and lightweight wooden tray.

"Some of your problems are, after all, simple. You lose small tools among the others in the standard tool tray. Some thought reveals the potential benefits to be had from spreading tools out. Floor space, if you will. You're holding more floor space. Q.E.D.
"It's a pretty little thing."
"Thank you. And note that it has some non-obvious design sophistication. Its width fits inside the top rails of the Portable Table. I figure space is getting a little tight inside the cart."
"I'll have to check, but I think you're right. There needs to be room yet for the shovel and tamper."

"The thought has come to my mind..." The toolmaker stares off into space as the paws-tucked-up relaxing grey cat smugly watches. "...you know, this was all an experiment. It has grown piece by piece. No plan."
"Responding to one need suggests other solutions."
"Yes. And you have this kind of piecemeal approach that may become overly complicated in use. So, let me know how this works. Perhaps we can simplify it, now that we know more about the parameters of the situation."
"The new cart has made other new things possible. This is a good thing, as is anything else that reduces the workload." I sigh. "Sand sculpture was a lot easier 32 years ago. The first cart, 16 years ago, was more of a luxury item. The new one is simply essential; I would not be able to make a sculpture without it." I remember all those trips with two full buckets of sand carried by hand, and shudder.
"Well, try it out and let me know."

It's really quite neat. The small tray fits underneath the table parts, hardly noticeable. The shovel and tamper go on top with their ends projecting from the other end of the cart. The form goes on top with the buckets and other items inside it. Balanced over the wheels it's an easy load to tow until there's a hill involved; cart-based sculpture is no longer minimalist.

So far, the trade-offs have been in favor of more equipment. Yes, I have to get it to the beach, which is some extra work, but the actual work of making a sculpture is simplified. Some tools haven't made the grade and are now left behind. The ones with me have proven their worth. Rapid change doesn't allow time for things to settle in. I need practice.

Hidden inside the other considerations is the motivation. Why sculpt? For whom, actually, do I made these? Who is expressed in them? Whoever they are, do they really want to be expressed? I think the answer to that last is "Yes," but it's not unanimous. It's not something I have looked into closely. That era seems to be over. The Brothers-in-Fur have become very restive inside their fort of assumptions.

Spread out on the beach where I'm ready to start work, it looks like a lot of stuff. Amazing that it all fits on one cart.




The surf is very low today. One result is that the zone of damp sand is lower than I want to be, so I build the base in the dry zone to get far enough away from the breakwater. Another result becomes apparent when I start picking up sand and find a broad expanse of fine and clean sand. It's the best sand I've had in a long time. I haul five loads to the sculpture site and dump them onto the tarp.

I smack the Rectascreenus B with my hand to knock off the loose sand, and am bitten. Wear though the years has rubbed off the MS Polymer that covered the wire mesh edges. It's now dangerous to use. The Box Filter's design, with aluminum strips to cover the mesh, works better. The Rectascreenus was also designed to a different set of assumptions and is bigger than it needs to be for current practice. I'm sure my tool-making friend will be happy to hear about that. I'll just have to be more careful today.

Four loads were good for about 37 inches in the form. Five get me as close to the top as is practical. It's the tallest sculpture I've made in years. With the form peeled off, it's imposing and solid.

Early sculptures were composed around spaces, at least as much as could be done with the technique of the time. Many of them fell apart.  The 1996 Small Sculpture Revolution enabled, and was enabled by, better sand selection and compaction. This well packed fine sand led to explorations of surfaces that could be subtly polished. How big does a surface need to be in order to express its surface nature? What about concave surfaces? Where does space end and surface begin? That's what I want to explore today, and it starts with a long curve from top to bottom.

There is plenty of time. I started at 0900. Even if a 64-year-old doesn't pack sand as fast as a 44-year-old, the job gets done and there's the afternoon ahead. This allows me to cut, trim, and then step back to take a look. Then I consider how the sculpture's other areas might fit with this established part and come into harmony.

It does take some effort to restrain myself. Broad surfaces invite decoration. Today's experiment is to leave it alone and look into how the surfaces meet and work with some concavities. This hadn't worked out very well in the previous sculpture, so it wants a closer look.

Start small, then expand the cut into apparent balance. A concavity near the bottom serves as a contrast to the long convex surface, and there's a nascent concavity on the other side to which it might connect.

Yet a concavity-with-a-hole-in-it ends up looking like a concavity with a hole it it. It does nothing for the design. How do I address that? The one near the top becomes more of a bubble defined by various edges that are gradually trimmed into shape. The lower concavity turns into two gently curve surfaces that meet and then open up into light. Surfaces, or legs to hold up the rest? They can be seen as either.

There's another concave area on the western side. Currently it's not doing much. I step back, look, and think about it. I feel the surfaces. Light and dark serve as contrast. I cut it through to the opposite loser concavity, and then shape the edges of this space.

The whole sculpture is an expression of restraint. It could have been much more complex; the sand would have supported it but that's not the way I, for whatever value of "I" is currently managing things, want it to go. I've made too many sculptures that were complicated for the sake of complication. Just because I can doesn't mean I need to.

The resulting sculpture, after it has been cleaned up, has a very odd effect upon me. I'm angry, but I also like it. It seems a commonplace throwaway while also being simply revolutionary. I just don't know what to think about it, nor even how to think about it. It engenders conflict.

Well, it is pretty. A nice harmony, with points of interest and shapes that invite the eye to follow them around. The smooth convex surfaces end in interesting ways, sharp edges providing definition and balance. Does any of that intellectual analysis matter? I like looking at it, even as its simplicity disappoints me.

It's hard to start a new way after years of experience. The argument continues on the way home and even after I go to bed. Being a beginner is the only way to learn new things. Being a beginner invites unwanted advice from experts. Advice, however, doesn't have to be destructive. I think about Jane and her painting classes that set assignments in new areas. She is sometimes frustrated by these.

Well, OK. Let's allow the conflict. Do we have to have unanimity in decisions? Yes, it's a great deal of effort. We can still come down and make another, try other ideas. We have a pretty good idea of what things don't work, but no real idea of why they don't. Maybe we need to spend some time with more basic concepts in design.

Today we learned that time taken in looking at things helps in shaping them to fit. Complexity means spending less time on any particular sculptural element; if these fit, fine, but if they don't there's no correction possible and no time for correction anyway. The day of the 12-hour sculpture has probably passed, and not just because Rich isn't there with cookies. This sculpture's relatively few elements allowed time to look at them and refine their fit.

The result could be called deceptively simple. Restraint turns out to be hard. I head for home, trying not to stagger under the onslaught of noise from the Boardwalk.

"Here. Have a cookie. You look like you need one. A friend here just brought them by."
"Thank you. Yes, I'm done in." The young cat remains on his shelf, seeming to realize I have no play in me.
"How did it work out in the real sandy world?"
"The Small Tool Tray is wonderful, when it's in the right place. Having the extra floor space keeps all tools visible and easy to choose."
"But...?"
"Yeah. Now I have to remember to drag both tool trays around with me as I move, and I often didn't. So, I'd have to go fetch it or walk to it when I wanted to put down a tool. Not a big deal, but a low-level irritant."
"Kind of what we thought."
"Yes. It might not be a problem, however. I divided the tools between the trays by size. Logical, yes, but perhaps a better scheme would be to have frequently used tools in the small one, with the big one holding the rest. Then I'd just move the small one. Trips for the other tray would be less frequent. I think I'm babbling."
"Have another cookie. And some water. And I like that latter idea, so long as the frequently used tools fit in the small tray."
"Thanks. I think they will. I'll check when my brain comes back. Oh... there is one more thing. Remember the Quick Filter and its relatives?"
"Yes. The Rectascreenus with stainless mesh is the only one you still use, I believe."
"Yes. It bites me now. The MS polymer has worn off and left bare wire ends See the scratches and dings in my  hands... and leg where I rest it on the way into the form? It's only going to get worse."
"Interesting. The polymer held up well, I think."
"I agree. The aluminum strips on the Box Filter hold up better. What I'd like is a new screen using the stainless mesh, for those days when there's too much coarse sand admixed. It can be smaller, though. Shorter, because I don't use the Tall Form any more (it would kill me) and smaller footprint because I don't shovel sand directly in."
"All right. That should be straightforward. Let me think about designs."
"That's fine. No hurry, because the Box Filter is in good shape and kind to my hands."
"Great. I'll let you know. I prescribe going home and getting some sleep."
"Yes, sir."

2016 December 10
Toolmaker: Small Tool Tray, impending Rectascreenus retirement


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

16F-6, "Etude, op. 341 (Windows)" (November 29)

The dream is more of a vivid fragment coming just before I stop trying to sleep and come forth to face the day. Something about windows, and doors, and hiding within. As I awaken there's an echo of a line from Leonard Cohen: "...there's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in..."

I'm left with the idea of choice. Cracks may let in the light but they come from abuse, battering, overpowering, force internal or external. We actually have a choice in this? Following God is usually presented as "Follow or else," with the implication of force agains the recalcitrant.

Any hope I've had regarding real choices in life has been forlorn: hung onto because there is no other option compatible with continued living. Oh, it probably started out as a real hope. Powerlessness sapped that, year by year. I kept going by will power and momentum, and the lack of any big stoppers. Any day now, God will show his real hand and the illusion of choice will disappear.

I have leaned on the Brothers-in-Fur for many years. They could be depended upon to perform. Better than nothing, but much like using a Ferrari to haul cement. Patterns grow through the years and become the norm. God doesn't care much for norms and expectations, yet how does he unseat them? By being a constant example, a constant light, a constant cool breeze in the desert that whispers "We don't have to do that any more." Eventually, one whose very life has depended upon never allowing change to be imposed begins to change.

What might the Brothers-in-Fur be doing if they weren't busy fending off attacks and hauling cement? An image grows in my mind, and the tidal window is still open. It will have to be fast.
   
Build number: 16F-6 (lifetime start #341); monolith on low riser
Title: "Etude, op. 341 (Windows)"
Date: November 29
Location: Venice Breakwater, isthmus
Start: 1200, construction time approx. 4 hours
Size: about 36 inches tall, 21 inches diameter, immersion screened intertidal sand (4 loads, Latchform, Rectascreenus B, Waterscreen)
Helpers: none
Digital images: 15, EOS70D and 24-70 L, site and completion

The beach is a much calmer place on this non-holiday weekday than it was on Thanksgiving Day. The weather is much more inviting, too, with a slow onshore breeze and benign sunlight from a clear sky. It's about noon, and the sun sets at 1645. I set up and get to work.

Click the image to see it full size. More image follow the report.

The beach is a much calmer place on this non-holiday weekday than it was on Thanksgiving Day. The weather is much more inviting, too, with a slow onshore breeze and benign sunlight from a clear sky. It's about noon, and the sun sets at 1645. I set up and get to work.

To give the tide some time to go down I work on the base, shovelling and watering a flat-topped pile of sand. When that's ready I take the cart and go to get sand. Given the wind of the last few days I hadn't expected much but it's actually good. Well, mostly. There are coarse layers. This is why I brought the Rectascreenus B instead of the finder box filter, and packing goes quickly. It takes four cartloads of sand to mostly fill the form. It'd take another load but it's tall enough for the time available.

The title "Windows" has stayed with me as I've thought about the design. Windowed trees, like ponderosa pines, with interlocking branches. Bringing the idea forth into solid sand soon founders but I'm not sure what's wrong. Maybe the wrong starting point. There's also conflict with other potential ideas.

Any sculpture is sand wrapped around space. Which dominates varies by angle and shape. Most recent sculptures have been more solid than space, with broad curving panels around small spaces. The spaces here are larger, but their shapes don't do much for the whole piece.

Time presses as the earth rotates, bringing the sun ever closer to the horizon. I connect the spaces, as per the original idea, but while it does bring light into the heart of the sculpture there's just not much of interest to see in there.

It has some good angles. And perhaps another look will show this sculpture's strengths. At the moment, all I can think of is that it's still standing. I'm disappointed with the design.

Carving this one started with the spaces. Perhaps that wasn't such a good idea. I thought that making the shapes for the spaces would lead to shapes in the solid parts that I liked. Looking again I realized that one thing that caused trouble was the in-construction design change to a big surface at the top. That itself dictated much of the design below it, as heavy pieces require heavy supports.

With about an hour of light left, I do the clean-up and call it good. For an etude it has fulfilled its purpose. Practice and conditioning, too. I shoot a round of photos and then pack up. The walk home will keep me warm; the westerly breeze has cooled quite a bit and movement is recommended.

As I walk north I think about options. Yes, the heavy top was a problem that more taper and more consideration would have alleviated. I think about making some drawings, too, so I can fix a better idea of the desired shape in my mind.

Today's project did leave me with one very positive impression: the new equipment works very well. The combination of the new cart, table, tool tray and the carried over latchform and Rectascreenus B contributes to a smooth efficiency that makes sand sculpture by an aging one-day-beach sculpture more easily borne.

I'm still very tired. Fast work will do that. The walk home is slow.


Once arrived and fed and cleaned up, I send a brief announcement to friends, mentioning the dream and cracks and windows. One of them responds with:

"Yes. There are cracks we are born with though. And others bash us to make more cracks. We can't ignore those but ask God to as you say, touch us and fill those places with his golden touch.

"The whole idea of windows, doors open and shut, conjure up prosaic and cliched responses. 
There are so many ideas based upon 'God opening windows, closing or opening doors ' that I think the original concept has been skewed.

"The real simple fact is that I believe that God's light gets in anyway. He permeates even where there is no access. It's up to us what we decide to do with that. Cracks, windows, doors are very much dependent on our own responses.

"As we begin to notice the light shining through, we can close the curtains, shut the door, stuff the cracks to stay in Mirkwood. I agree with you, it's a choice.

I agree with her on the Christian cliches about windows and doors. I'm tired of them too, and tend to ignore them. God is a good teacher.

   
2016 November 30











Thursday, November 24, 2016

16F-5, "Etude, op. 340" (November 24)

How much of me is involved in the making of a sculpture? It's easy to see the physical in the digging and the hauling and even the carving. Intellect is harder to see and might require the asking of questions or close watching of the process coupled with thinking about why it's done this way.

Around me are the signs of much thought. Equipment and tools lie on the sand, a large footprint for one man to be making. A lifeguard comments, "I like your style. The right tools, well made."

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None of this probes very hard into the murk of motivations. A friend asked, within the context of photography, if modern tools and equipment were cheating. My answer focused on my own experience with a tool revolution, when my sculptures became overly complicated because, with new tools, I had the ability.

Early sculptures were carved with basic found tools. Coupled with not knowing much about sand at the time, this produced sculptures that were necessarily simple, and that's the front door to elegance. Later sculptures gained the benefit of better sand, better packing, more detailed carving, and became in many cases jumbles of parts.

I've always had the belief that real artists have not only a plan for each work they make, but an overall plan of progression. Testing, learning, step by step along a well marked path. I wonder where I got that impression. I know from experience and reading that most development goes in fits and starts and happy--or not so happy--accidents. In early 2000 I finally began to get the upper hand on my tools and was able to restrain the excess complexity in favor of complexity-within-elegance.

I still didn't have any plan. I'd think about various forms a sculpture could take, and then go to the beach and make something that often started with that mental image but soon diverged.

It all added up to an undercurrent of frustration. I'm an artist, I've been told; I should be able to hew these things to the plan. The process was enjoyable enough that I kept doing it, but the wide-eyed wonder that led to the early sculptures was gone. Too naive.

There's rebellion in the ranks. Oh, it's a quiet rebellion because other attempts have been quashed mercilessly. A nose many-times-whacked is much less likely to poke out from behind the normally closed door. Real rebellion and change, it seems, are born in a place of some safety. Self-betrayal stops everything and allows for no change. Safety has been growing, or regrowing after being lost after the great success of the new Sand Cart earlier in the year.

Like those earlier sculptures whose excessive complexity led to improved skills in using tools, repeated experiences of self-judgment whose threads can be followed lead to learning. "We don't have to do that any more."

The motives for making art are still mysterious.  There is much talk and more mystery, even when artists meet. To me, with my intolerance for blather, bluster and learned baloney, the truth is a mixture of mystery and application. Does "why" really matter? "Why not" may be more important, as in what stops one who has made art from making more? Sand sculpture is both a betrayal of my well learned principle of being invisible, and a promise to my own desire to be creative. I have, at times, sublimated the creative desire into engineering and toolmaking. There is nothing wrong with that, nor with my belief that it is better for me to make something than to sit and fear judgment. Yet the use of force to overcome judgment has engendered hopelessness.

There has been a slowly growing thread of interest in sculpture for the sake of sculpture, as a time for the Brothers-in-Fur to openly express their creativity and their enjoyment of the process. Rather than drop more rocks onto the new tendrils, I let them be. Let's go make a sculpture.
  
Build number: 16F-5 (lifetime start #340); monolith on low riser
Title: "Etude, op. 340"
Date: November 24
Location: Venice Breakwater, isthmus
Start: 0930, construction time approx. 5 hours
Size: about 34 inches tall, 21 inches diameter, immersion filtered intertidal sand (Latchform, Box Filter)
Helpers: none
Digital Images: 20, EOS70D and 24-70 L, completed
Photo volunteer: none
Video volunteer: none
New Tools: none
New Equipment: none

There'd been some rattling of palm fronds and sighing of wind through the pines the night before, but the morning was calm. Still, it was clear, and clear days are often unstable. It could go either way: a friendly onshore breeze, or a dry north wind that would terminate any sculpture attempt. When I start walking with my cartload of equipment the conditions are still calm.

When I'm about halfway to the beach, the wind starts to pick up. From the north, again. Not all that strong, so I keep going. By the time I reach the building site behind the breakwater I've worked up a sweat, the sun is hot, the wind is steady and dry. Well, I'm here. Might as well get started and maybe it'll get better.

By the time the pile is made I'm sweating even more and the sun is pounding my back. The wind blows leaves across the sand, but isn't quite strong enough to pick up sand grains. i eat a Force Primeval Bar and have some water, and then remove the form. How far will I get before the wind rises to the point where I can no longer work?

The sculpture dries out as I watch. The best I can do is regular spraying but I could spend all of my time doing that.

The one Idea I have for this is to make it unrelated to anything else. I want a big concave part at the top. The rest flows and changes around that.

Conditions are as brutal as I've ever faced. Very hot sun and that dry, dry wind. I sweat even sitting still. It never gets worse, though, and I can keep working. It is a better day than the one a few years ago, when I was just testing equipment when the wind came up, cold, and I made a sculpture in about half an hour. For this one I just resist the urge for thin elements and sharp edges.

Design questions come to the fore, but my sun-baked dehydrated brain is having a hard time doing much but survive. Carefully, considerately.

What is a sculpture? Does every one have to be a raving miracle of newness? How does one execute that raving miracle when one's brain is oozing away, minute by minute? Feel the sand, carve a line, hollow it out, connect it to the other hollow.

And then... the wind moderates. It has never been hot but it has been dry and the sun has poured down enough heat to make up for it. Maybe I'll be able to finish this.

I continue shaping. A piece that has been left to define the concave's edge is just kind of hanging there, so I work on giving it more shape, and also fitting another piece against it.

Quite suddenly, I catch the scent of the sea and the breeze becomes damp. The flag on the lifeguard's station has shifted around. The sculpture's salvation comes from the sea.

I have done as much as I can. There are places where more carving could be done, but I wonder. Does it need to be done? I look at it and am reminded of some 1984 sculptures that were short on holes but long on elegance. Hollowness has been the essence of most of my sculptures. Technical challenge, uniqueness, a technique developed to support that kind of carving. Yet... what is a sculpture?

I like this one as it is. Call it a study in possibilities, a freedom from preconceived notions and plans. Is it real art? I don't know, but I still think that making something is better than not. Who am I to dictate what my creativity can make? There's some kind of teamwork involved here that I don't understand very well, and wants more study.

I clean it up, sign it, and shoot a round of shaky photos. I'm badly out of condition for this. And hungry. A man jogs past and asks if I made it. "Can you wait a bit while I go get my camera? I live not far away."
"Oh, I won't do anything with the sculpture. You have plenty of time unless someone else objects to it."
I shoot a few more from various angles, and then creakily load up the cart. This seems inordinately hard. I have to stop and think about it. Oh, yes... this first, then that.

By the time I'm done the man has come back with his phone. "The quality of these things is amazing."
"You're right. They're better now than the first real digital camera I bought."
"I have a friend who wrote to me that if I see anything odd or interesting today, be sure to send her some photos."
"Problem solved."

I leave him lying on the sand, shooting up at the short sculpture. It's short because I just didn't have the oomph to fetch another load of sand. Now I wonder if I'll have the oomph to get home. One foot before the other, northward along the beach in the blessed damp air.

2016 November 25












Monday, February 22, 2016

16F-4, "EngineEars!" (February 22)

Build number: 16F-4 (lifetime start #339); monolith on short riser
Title: "EnginEars!"
Date: February 22
Location: Venice Breakwater, isthmus
Start: 1200, construction time approx. 4.5 hours
Size: about 36 inches tall, 21 inches diameter, immersion screened intertidal sand (Latchform, Rectascreenus B, Waterscreen)
Helpers: none
Digital Images: 18, EOS70D and 24-70 L, equipment, completed
Photo volunteer: none
Video volunteer: none
New Tools: none
New Equipment: none

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