Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dcember 30, 2010: 10F-1

Free-piling is easy in the summer and fall. The beach is stable, with little trash mixed in the sand. Getting on into winter, though, it's less predictable. One day might be clean, the next coarse and rock-strewn. That's when using a form really makes sense, even with the added equipment required.

I got to thinking about doing a formed sculpture. The problem was transportation; the Rolleez wheels on my sand cart no longer held air due to sand in their basketball-style reed valves. I went to the Web site and found that I wasn't the only one experiencing this problem: the Rolleez company had been bought by another outfit, and the wheels were entirely different within the same basic balloon-tire design.

The tires were now made from urethane, which is tougher and more rubber-like than the old vinyl. The bearing races were made from a harder type of nylon. Most important, the reed valve had been replaced by the automotive-type Schrader valve, with caps. I promptly ordered a pair.

When they arrived I found that, while the basic size was very similar, there were variations. To make them work with my cart--I was unable to remove the axle so had to keep it--I had to finesse the spacers and retainers. With careful attention to cutting and drilling the wheel change wasn't much of a problem.

Then it needed to be tested. I loaded the cart with the usual buckets, shovel and other equipment and started walking. I wasn't even planning on making a sculpture, but wanted to test the cart's operation.

The day was cold, dry and windy. I could stay warm only by moving. It didn't get any better.

Larry Dudock wanted to see the new wheels, so he came down to the Breakwater. As usual he had enough cameras to equip a camera club. I had none.

I went to work making a pile of sand, as usual. The cart worked beautifully, better than it ever had. The Wheeleez wheels are better in every way than the vinyl Rolleez ones. In not too long a time I had a pile of sand and had proven the cart. I was ready to leave, being perpetually on the verge of shivering.

But... I already had this pile of sand. It seemed a shame to just walk off and leave it. So, I went to work and made the famous 30-minute sculpture. I had to move fast just to stay in the ballpark of warm.

Larry shot video and lots of photos. He made this image assembly and sent it to me.

For those interested in the cart and wheels, here's what it looks like. The only thing I miss about the Rolleez wheels is that they were bright orange. The new ones are boring grey, but I'll gladly give up color to get quality. In this case.

Here's a detail shot of the wheel retainer.  The retaining pin is a sailboat part. Push the button and pull it out. Slick. The collar is plain one-inch PVC pipe.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

10P-16 through 10P-30 (Nov 2, 2010 through Dec. 28)

Mirjam returned to the Netherlands, and I returned to my camera-less ways for 15 more sculptures. Put a few tools into a backpack, a water bottle and walk. Simple.

November 2, 10P-16. Note in Email archive:
"So, I went off today and did a sculpture. It's the opening day of a new tide sequence. What with the storms I wasn't sure what the sand wold be like, and on the way there I could see the beach had eroded quite a bit. So, I ambled along, almost hot under the clear sun. No clouds, no wind, not much surf rising glassy and the breaking. I was about half an hour later than I wanted to be due to waffling.
     "The Breakwater area had also eroded but there was still good sand. I first sampled out on the bar area. What happens on the south side is curculating water that digs a shallow channel along the storm drain, with higher sand south of it that's only exposed with tides close to mean low, or lower. Usually it's made of coarse sand but today it was pretty good. I found better on the other side of the channel so that's where I decided to work... after more waffling.
     "The project was a big arch. I had the tools with me. The sand was good, and deep, but had lots of shell fragments and some of them were pretty big. For every one that I pulled out there were probably 10 left behind. I need a way to screen free-pile sand. Still, it turned out well, and the arch is such a nice shape. This one was around three feet tall and could have used about six inches more width, but it still turned out well. A simple design can be polished more, but symmetric long curves really have to be right. Flat spots and imbalance are much more apparent. I need to do an arch periodically to remind myself of simplicity and elegance."

November 4, 10P-17: Description from Email archive:
"Words are still elusive... illusive... didn't sleep much last night and then the heat cranked up a notch today. Feels more like August.  But the tide was right and the surf has been calm. I could hope for a breath of the sea... and I got it. Hot walk to the beach but as I proceeded along the boardwalk I caught a whiff of saltwater. It's going to be OK.
     "It was actually better than OK. The sand was cleaner than it had been Tuesday. I didn't break any fingernails this time. Still pretty warm down there but just enough onshore breeze to keep from cooking. The pile ended up being long and narrow, wider than the typical arch pile but not at all round. The sculpture was among the most three-dimensional I've ever done.
     "Hollow sculpture is really odd. An arch is as simple a shape as can be made, and although it's three-dimensional it is really almost 2-D. Everything is on one plane. At the other extreme are my overly complex sculptures of 1998 which had lots of parts and lots of spaces... but the shape was basically cylindric. Since then I have wrestled much with the balance between complexity--lots of parts--and simplicity. I want to play with space. This one did it well. 10P-17, I think. Neet to update the records. Anyway, it had a kind of concave top part with a couple of small spaces but below that were bigger spaces framed by strong solid parts. It was fun to look at.
     "Cameras... there was a woman using a compact, competent-looking camera. I asked her about it. Sony NEX-3. I plan to read up on this. I do like the freedom from photography, but on the other hand there are other people who'd like to know more than can be conveyed in a few words written when post-sculptural.
     "I'll probably be too laid up tomorrow to sculpt again. I'm very tired. Still... it was a  good work."

November 6, 10P-18. no notes but date, no images, nothing in Email

November 8. Tide window open, weather deteriorating. From Email note:
"Your weather people called it right. I woke up around 0400 and there was slow rain. Picked up a bit after that, but tapered off as the sky started to lighten, and by 8 or so sunlight was coming through the clouds. At the time I was raiding Oola's Lab with Kimmie and Mike. We got done a bit after 9 and I walked to the library. Brisk wind, sky washed clear, sparkling. Just a few clouds off to the southeast. Found some interesting-looking books and then walked home on the beach. The ocean sparkled too. The mountains looked to be about a mile away. A few low puffy clouds built over the mountains, typical post-storm behavior. The wind was strong enough to salt my face pretty well. I needed lunch. Got home and cooked ravioli. By the time that was done my guess that it was too windy for sculpture was true. Trees rattling. Enough wind to blow sand into my eyes. So... another day."

November 16, 10P-19. From Email:
"I headed for the beach, even though I thought the tide window would be short. The surf was calm, though, so I had more than enough time. The sculpture was smaller than others--I didn't want to run out of time--but had nice details in the way the spaces and hard parts worked with each other. The idea has been percolating for a long time and it seems that each sculpture gets me closer to a nice balance of space and sand and shape. I don't think it would have photographed very well because of the hard mid-day light."

November 17, 10P-20. From Email archive:
"Yes, I sculpted again today.  A more expansive day, wider window. Plenty of time. Sand wasn't as fine as I'd like, but was still pretty good and didn't have a lot of shells in. This one ended up being taller--about as tall as I am when sitting on the beach, I had to look up to the top parts--and had a kind of leafy plant motif. Hollows took the place of leaves. I got done with it, cleaned it up, realized there were parts not very well integrated with the rest, so I went back and reworked those. It ended up being good, moving nicely, curvy
     "And yet... words are what we have. Not sufficient to themselves to offer more than hints, so long as one realizes they aren't the whole story. There's what's in the book... and there's what's in the world. The old map and territory thing... which is one reason I don't care much about photographs of sand sculpture. I suppose if I were in a studio, and could control the lighting to show the sculpture's shapes better, it might be more attractive. But especially in these mid-day tide windows the light is really hard unless I get lucky and some fog moves in. Can't wait for sunset on these because the tide will be up by then.
     "That's 20 sculptures for the year. Well, 19 sculptures and a start that I'd barely touched before the tide took it away. And it was definitely luminous today... very bright, hazy. Blue waves curling up bigger than yesterday's, breaking in translucent glistening walls that turn to fooam with a roar. A few surfers trying, but low-tide waves tend to break sooner, so any ride is short and tumultuous.
     "Somehow, I doubt there'll be sculpture tomorrow... but Friday looks good."

November 19, 10P-21. From Email archive:
"Didn't keep me from sculpting yesterday. I was wondering about rain, as the sky looked threatening, but I just went on down. If it rains, it rains. It was an interesting piece, trying a few new details. I kind of got backed into a corner at one point and ran out of sand to shape, so some of the holes don't go nicely with the hard parts, but other pieces worked out well. I quit when I got to the edge of shivering and didn't even warm up on the way home."

November 21. A sculpture was planned but wind cancelled it. From Email:
"I awakened today to heavy rain, but it soon tapered off and then ended. I went outside. Clouds breaking, tattered, blowing, brightening. By around 1100 the sky was mostly clear. Wind rattled the palm fronds and squeaked limbs against the house eaves. Maybe it would be better on the beach. Yah, thin hope... but I picked up my pack and started walking. First sight of the ocean showed just how windy it was out there: whitecaps on the whitecaps. Crossing Main Street I felt it, solid wind from the west. On the beach itself sand grains assaulted my ankles. Out in the water a kite-surfer slid back and forth amid spray, leaping off the tops of waves and going 10 feet up.
     "On the sand remnant foam from retreating waves refractted light, sparks in all colors, even many with no name. Strangely, this happened only with "older" foam; new foam didn't do it. I watched, and it took 10 seconds or so for a patch of new foam to start to get colored. I've never seen this before. Sun and foam had to be at the right angle to my eyes. Then patches of foam would be torn off by the wind, blown along the sand, rapidly evaporating to nothing.
     "At the Breakwater the sand was very good for sculpture. I sampled and thought about going ahead and sculpting, but... too much salt and sand in my eyes, too much wind load on delicate sculpture. I turned around and walked home. Briskly, because it was chilly and damp. Had to wash the salt off my glasses when I got here.
     "It's still windy. The tide window stays open through Wednesday (if I'm quick) but at this season it's hard to predict what the weather will do."

November 22, 10P-22. No photos, no report, but a brief note in Email:
"Post-sculptural babbling... the day was sparkly and clear when I left here around noon. Cool, a little breeze. As I walked--it takes about 35 minutes to walk to the Breakwater--the breeze picked up a bit and continued to strengthen as I worked. The sand wasn't quite so good as yesterday's, but quite workable. I had to work fast because it was chilly down there. My lightweight, non-movement-impairing, jacket fell apart a couple of years ago. I need another. T shirt just wasn't doing it, so I cut things short a bit... which may have been good. The sculpture was quite simple, just a big arc from one side bottom to the other side a bit over halfway up, with a front-to-back loop thingy above that. Inside was hollow and I worked on the areas where the parts met. The problem with pieces like this is that they're very subtle with the broad curving panels of sand. there was drama, but not everywhere. I liked it. Needed some detail work, I think, but I was too cold."

November 24, 10P-23. No photos, recorded only in a brief Emailed note:
"Went to Albertson's this morning to get turkey thighs, and naturally they didn't have any. Had to go to Whole Foods. Then to One Life for lotion. Busier a morning than I like, but I headed for the beach into a cool breeze under partly cloudy. The clouds dissipated but it stayed cool. Sunlight was just enough until an hour before sunset, when the temp went over a cliff. I cleaned it up quickly.
     "Nice piece. As I worked on it I didn't care for it very much, but I shivered my way round a couple of times before I left, and it had definite strength. I'm still cold, even after a shower, so I fired up the blankie to warm up my bed, and I'm headed in that direction. Tomorrow... is another day."

November 30, 10P-24. From an Email:
"Today was something of a gift. Cool, but sunny, just some high wispy clouds and jet contrails. Very dry offshore breeze. Enough sunlight to keep me warm enough to sculpt. The amount of time I have is most strongly affected by the tide, but surf plays a part: the bigger the surf, the farther in the waves come. Today was very calm, so when I got there at my "normal" time I didn't have to wait at all. Just went right to work, so there was more time to work than expected, but I I was still thinking short window so I made a smaller pile. I actually had plenty of time. The sand was good, and reasonably clean. Didn't have too much trouble with shells in the works.
     "This was a sculpture of details. Shaping the parts to fit with each other in ways I've not done before, or better than I've done before. Trying to have each part, whether space or sand, contribute to the whole thing.
     "I intend to do another sculpture tomorrow. Weather permitting... it seems there's a storm approaching. Still a ways off from here. Start time of about 0930, and I have until about 1500... assuming the surf is still calm. So, I can slow down and feel my way along. Free-pile sculpture has traditionally been rushed. I'm trying to slow it down, without becoming fussy. Balancing the need to get it done with the need for shapely parts and fit."

A pertinent additional comment:
"I had to go back through Emails to you to update my sculpture records. What a radical idea: The Email program keeps copies of everything I've sent! Automatic records. I used to have forms in a notebook for recording sculpture. Now I just write notes in the Tidelog... if I remember. We're up to 10P-24, as of today. Free-piled sculptures get build numbers even if they fall over, unlike formed sculptures. So, 24 starts, 24 numbers, but 23 completions because one got wiped out by a wave about 20 seconds after I made the first shaping touches on it. Can't do free-piling on a rising tide, and I misjudged it."


December 1, 10P-25. No photos, but found a note in Email archive.
"Today was cloudless, cool, with a fitful breeze that settled into onshore as the morning went on. I got to the beach around 0915 and found a broad expanse of damp sand curving to the Breakwater. The sand was much like yesterday's, clean and while not so fine as it can be, plenty fine enough. So, I made a pile bigger than yesterday's, although not so big as some have been. This one was also less tapered, rising steeply from its smaller base to a bigger top section.
     "The pile always suggests something, and with free-pile it's good to work within that. The shape always varies because of the placement of the layers. This one suggested a concave near the top, then swelling outward and down, then coming back in. That's not how it ended up; I decided I'd done that too many times so I chopped that piece off pretty tightly a few inches from the flat beach, and then built the lowest part out with more wet sand. Then I smothed that off into a curve that projected from the sculpture's bottom, kind of like a clam's foot. That curve reversed and went up nearly to the top. Inside it was a hollow that got complicated enough it was very hard to get inside and shape it.
     "All in all, a very nice piece. Good details, mostly good fit, suprrising angles and some nice tension with long slants going one way or another, and that odd "foot" helped balance the whole thing. It would have been hard to photograph due to very hard noon light. And that's 10P-25.
     "The onshore breeze was just cool enough that I had to leave. I think I ran out of fuel. Solved that problem at the Thai restaurant. I'd love to do one tomorrow, but it's probably better to lay over and do some errands... there is nothing to eat in the house.
     "I'm pretty foggy. Getting home was more work, against that steady wind, and I felt it. Perked up after tom kah guy, though."

December 3, 10P-26: no notes, nothing found in the archive

December 6, 10P-27. Some notes found in the Email archive:
Y"es, I was looking at the ocean myself. The rain ended sometime during the night and the cloudy morning turned to sunlight before noon. I could'nt hear roaring surf so the storm seemed more rain than anything else. I learned that my sprayer will fit in the backpack so I loaded up and walked. A spring broke on the garage door so it's a real back strainer to oopen. The surf was bigger than it has been, which got me to thinking the fine sand would be gone but when I got to 'Venice it looked good. And it was. The top few inches were reallly good, then it got a little more coarse, and then there was a thin layer than had some shell bits. I was down far enough that I could use the fine top sand but then I tried something new: taking the top sand from elsewhere and mixing it with water in the borrow pit, which I dug deep enough to get water. That worked well but was slow. After I got the pile about halfway up I discovered that underneath the coarse layers the sand turned fine and clean, so I used that for the top. Had to work fast to get the fine sand out before the coarse sides fell in.
     "It was a big sculpture by modern standards. I built a wide base and tapered it up. In carving I made the curves concave, spreading down into the areas from which I'd taken the fine tip sand. One on the east, one on the west. Between them I carved space, and the top was a bit wider. All in all a good piece, if not so "musical" as the one I did last week that I liked so much. The window being later now the light was softer and much more kind to the spaces and surfaces.
     "I may try again tomorrow. The day was lovely: cool air, soft breeze, warm sun slightly softened by high thin clouds. Classic soCal December day. A few passersby stopped to chat, including two from Georgia telling me about the black magnetic sand on the Black Sea shore somewhere there. Not sure how much of that to believe, as both of them were pretty well stoned. There was a Japanese man trying to solve my impermanent sculpture problem. A woman who lay down on the sand to take a picture of the sculpture's interior spaces.
     "I walked home considerably slower than the pace coming. I'm pretty tired."

December 8, 10P-28. No photos, note from Email archive:
"Yesterday's sculpture wasn't as much fun as it might have been on a day with more time... but, for the amount of time I had, it was a good piece. I could have spent more time on it as there was still about half an hour of light left when I called it done. Fairly simple, no complex interior, just a long curve from the bottom over the top, a flat panel on the north with some narrow spaces cut for light to come through, and a big space on the southwest for sunlight. The angles didn't quite work out for the kind of light I wanted. That kind of thing is tricky and I'm out of practice on it.
     "The sand had deteriorated. Looks like I need to get back into doing formed sculptures, so today I went out to the garage to look at things. Ordered new wheels for the sand cart and trashed the old ones. I need to build a new cart. I'm thinking about various kinds of forms that might allow more versatility in the shape of the pile, which is one of the things I enjoy about free-piling. Another option is to figure out a way to screen sand for free-piling, but that will require at least one more layer of work. With a form, filtering and piling take place simultaneously. Free-piled, I'd have to filter and then pile."

December 11, new Wheeleez wheels arrive

December 12, rebuild cart with new wheels
"In the morning, though, I went out to see how well the new wheels fit the old cart. I knew they were nearly the same size, but the cart was designed with tight clearances and I wondered which way the variations would go. I slipped one onto the axle... and it came out too far. The ring-and-pin retainer wouldn't fit because there wasn't enough of the axle extending beyond the wheel bearing outer face.
     "It turns out, though, that the extreme wheel width on the new one is less than the old, while the width over the outer bearing faces is greater. The original wheels required a 3/4" spacer between wheel and cart body, but the new ones didn't need that much to keep the wheel from rubbing. I replaced the 3/4" spacers with 1/4" and all is well.
     "Except that I took one wheel apart to see how to grease the bearings. The old wheels had the hub bolted together, and then through-bolts to hold the bearings in place. It was just a plastic cap over the bearing races and loose balls fell out when I took the old ones apart. The new ones are different, with the bearing being an assembly. Couldn't take that apart to grease it. So, I squirted some liquid oil in there to smooth it out, but it's still pretty rough. In general the wheel is better made than the old one, and made of stronger materials, but the bearings are pretty cobby. OK, I've had my look... put things back... and now the bolts that hold things in place aren't long enough. I looked at the wheel I didn't take apart. Looks the same. Hmm... whack on this, push on that, nothing doing. Then I noticed the new hub has no bolts holding its halves together (imagine the hole in the doughnut filled by a spool-shaped hub that is split so one half can come out each way) but the new ones just have the through-bolts. OK... deflate the tire and see... ah, now there's enough bolt. Then I tried to reinflate the tire with the pump they sold me, which turns out to be junk. Fortunately, my bike pump can get just enough grip on the valve to force air into the tire. It only wants about 2 psi.
     "So, it's all together and ready to go. I still intend to build a new cart but it's good to have the wheels ready for that. The old one will work well enough for now."

December 15, sculpture plans cancelled by rain

December 16, 10P-29. no photos, but a note found in Email archive:
"I'm not sure how "real" this will be... i'm post-sculptural. Yesterday's planned sculpture got cancelled because of rain and cold. Rain was light but cold is relentless when on the beach in clothing that permits free movement. Today came up cloudy but sunlight broke out at times, and by my departure time of 0930 (walking) the sky was mostly blue. It got clearer at the day progressed. Reasonably warm, light breeze from the southwest, sunlight... but the afternoons still cool rapidly. I was there for the warmest part of the day.
     "The sculpture, 10P-29, "Complexity in Convexity," was a standout. I've had some ideas floating around for quite a while but I wasn't sure how to keep the shapes from looking like something applied to a flat wall. Relating parts to each other in three dimensions is a challenge, but this time it worked. It was as if you did a paisley design in three dimensions.
     "Unfortunately... the ancillary conditions were very unpleasant. Constant engine roar from the earth movers hauling sand, and then two women parked themselves about 40 feet away and talked incessantly. Sometimes to each other, sometimes on a cell phone. It all just added up to make me clean up the sculpture and leave. I needed some quiet. But it was a fun piece. Nice rhythm and movement, flow... spaces.
     "I think I told you about putting the new wheels on the cart. It's ready to go. What I lacked was a workable form. The Latchform is too big to ride on the cart without rubbing the wheels. The Short Form has seen better days... but then two thoughts came together. PVC pipe cement is a solvent'-based glue. Naugahyde is vinyl on canvas. The V in PVC stands for vinyl. So, I made some patches from Naugahyde and glued them to the tears in the Short Form. Will they stay? We'll find out. This form easily fits into the cart along with buckets and other tools.
     "Trade-off: filtered sand with a form, versus the greater freedom of overall shape with free-piled. I probably won't attempt this until a Sunday when the earth movers aren't at work. I hope to get at least one F sculpture off this year; it would be the first since 2008, I think."

December 28, 10P-30. No photos. Found a note in old Email:
"The tide opening is getting earlier... I left here at 0730 so I could start piling as soon as the tide was off my spot. Assuming the surf was cooperative, which it was. Well, reasonably... I chose a spot pretty low on the beach because it had the best sand but a few overachieving waves gently reminded me how delicate the whole process is. I had to crowd it a bit because the window was short.
     "In the end, I got away with it. Cold morning--yes, walking in shorts, sandals, rain jacket and backpack with tools, and hat--that got nicer as the sun rose. Just  few high wisps of cloud, and lots of jet contrails. Sand was a mixture, which worked out pretty well. Some parts of the pile I built too quickly, so they were soft.
     "The sculpture turned out pretty well. Strong shapes, nice shadows and internal structure, although not as nicely fully three-D as I like. Some subtle things too. Subtle is often hard to pull off in sand, because it's hard to see a sand-colored detail on top of a sand-colored base. Only light and shading show the shape, and that depends upon where the sun is in relationship to the shape. From over here, it's subtle. from over there... it's invisible. At least I could walk around and look for the subtle parts, which usually surprise me.
     "Just after I finished clean-up a wave got into the borrow pit. I left before the inevitable, accepting a handshake from a lifeguard who said "Another beauty!" as he ran past. I ambled on home and made lunch. Thursday's sculpture, assuming the weather does what we're told it will, starts a little later. The window is open longer too, so I think I'll go down with the cart, form and other equipment. Larry will probably be there. I told him I'd be there Thursday and Saturday, but said nothing about today and Monday. Two days are enough of a gift."