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Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Sword-In-The-Stone, Sort Of....

This week we're looking at another project from my Fundamentals of Sculpture class. This time the objective was to take what is normally a hard object and re-create it using soft materials such as; felt, foam rubber, fabric, cotton etc. My original idea was to make a cinder block or a pile of bricks using foam rubber and paint. This was an OK idea but I felt that the idea needed to be pushed a little further. Then I remembered something my girlfriend had said recently about the Arthurian legend of the sword-in-the-stone, that had stuck in my head. English Literature majors seem to have a way of tossing about these sort of references. She is now on the payroll as the Official Muse. But I digress.

The sword-in-the-stone idea works on a couple of levels. Unquestionably, swords and stones are hard objects. But there is a different type of hardness at work here, and that is the very task of extracting Excalibur was a hard task to say the least. Impossible in fact, unless you are the right person.

Fortunately, I had recently liberated some foam rubber from some discarded sofa cushions, in anticipation of this project. So, I set about the business of carving my "stone". I used a hot glue gun to seal together two layers of the foam rubber for a vertical height of about 18". The finished dimensions ended up as about 2 ft. in length and 20' in width. The foam was randomly shaped using only (the good) scissors and a utility blade. The carving and shaping was done in earnest as I only had one day to fully complete my task. (It seems I had spent an inordinate amount of time on the giant hammer --see previous post-- and my deadline was the next day.) The carving turned out to be the most time consuming portion of the project.

Once the shape was finished it was all down to doing an effective paint job. I was fortunate in that I had an excellent painting professor a few years ago who taught me all the basics plus a few tricks of the trade. Applying thin layers and working darkest to lightest, building up the colors, allowing for the layers underneath to peek through.

Since it was required of me to work very quickly, I decided to do the painting of my "stone" in the bathtub. It seemed like the best way to go because I could work fast and not worry about a difficult clean up afterwards. Acrylic paint does not adhere well to tub or tile and wipes right off easily. The stone was literally painted by hand. I mixed acrylic paint; black, dark gray, light gray, and some green on the underside for "moss". I put on latex gloves and applied the paint in layers. To speed up the drying time between the layers of color, I used the biggest fan I have to push air across the stone, and then rotated the stone every few minutes. My idea was to make the stone as realistic as possible, but then contrast it with a completely fake and flimsy looking sword. The sword was made out of cardboard. I wanted to create a contradiction and an absurdity. The "realistic" looking fake rock with a clearly fake sword stuck into it. The positive reaction from my instructor and fellow students confirmed that my had idea worked.

I wish I was better at documenting my works-in-progress. I get very focused while working and I often forget about pretty much everything else.

All of my projects seem to take much longer to complete than I anticipate, even when things are going perfectly. This piece I can safely guesstimate that it took a total of 8 hours.

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