Updated: Apr 20, 2021
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Art as a Life Transition: from being inside people's heads to sculpting portraits of heads
As a lifetime clinical social worker and psychotherapist, people often ask me how I got into sculpting. For me, it was an absolute fluke! My daughter had volunteered at a summer camp for a local Nashville sculptor, Alan LeQuire, and as such, I was on his mailing list and received an e-mail that he was hosting an Open Studio. At 63, I simply went...that was four years ago, and the rest is history, as they say. I began by just drawing, until one night, Alan encouraged me to "just try it." My first attempts at sculpting were pretty abysmal, or at least the faces were, but I loved the process. At first I would joke and say that I was better with posterior views, but I persisted, have gone to various classes over the last four years, opened a studio at The Clay Lady Campus a few years ago, and have recently bought a kiln for my home studio. I've cut back my psychotherapy practice and am spending more time drawing, working in clay, especially enjoying doing portrait and figurative sculpture with the occasional drift into hand built functional pieces that have a bit of sculpture. I can get absolutely lost in the detail of the work as hours will drift by without me realizing it until I'll hear my husband calling me in the background, reminding me to eat. For me, sculpting is truly a meditative experience and in that sense, it's a place where my experience as a therapist calming people meets my own inner space with my life as an artist and sculptor. I find it a great place to be.
I can remember one of my cousins asking me, "How do you think of these things?" Well, I honestly couldn't tell you. The creative process is a wonderful mystery to me. All I know is that one idea will lead to another and then to another. I'll start out with a project, thinking, say, that I'm going to sculpt a woman. Before I know it, the piece will somehow morph into being a man. I don't plan for that to happen. It just happens, like I don't plan the sizes of pieces. For the most part, the pieces just evolve as I melt into the process. I never imagined that I'd be able to sculpt or draw anything from imagination, but as I've learned more about the basics of anatomy through coursework as well as more about three dimensional thinking and drawing, I've actually been able to draw a bit and sculpt a bit without looking at a subject.
On Drawing and Sculpting
I firmly believe that anyone who can draw, can sculpt. One of my favorite sculptors on Instagram, Mario Chiodo, says that the drawing gene is the same gene as the sculpting gene. I haven't researched this, but my artistic gut says that this is true. One sculptor, Robert Boden, who directed the Sculpting Program at the Florence Academy of Art for a time, calls sculpting, "Drawing in Air." One thing that I'm realizing as I take more art classes (and here's a plug for the on-line art program, New Masters Academy) is that there is soooooo much more to learn about art than I would have ever imagined. It's especially important when drawing or sculpting people, to learn a great deal about anatomy. You don't just draw or sculpt what you see, but also what you know from what you've studied and been taught. There is a lot to take in at first, but learning about anatomy makes all of the difference with detail when sculpting or drawing portraits or figures of people. And by the way...your mother was right--improvement happens and we evolve as artists by practicing. Practice may not make us perfect, but it will certainly make us better. In order to perfect portrait or figurative sculpture, working from live models is the most ideal, but working from photos is also good. Beginning work with nude models is just part of it as you progress and improve. Adding the folds and curvature of clothing will come later as you have more of a sense of the base upon which the clothing will rest.