Thursday, September 25, 2008

Art Inspiration and happy accidents

Bob Ross, a TV show artist, used to talk about happy accidents. By that he meant an unintentional effect that occurred while painting that was useful to the whole and therefore kept.

It's easy to get stuck in a box when it comes to technique, we have a vision in our head and we've learned almost formula ways to express it with our mediums. But sometimes artists are so used to looking into their own mind and at the canvas/clay that their eyes are closed to everything else.

As Obi Kanobi (or was it the sensei master in Karate Kid ?) once said..."Be one with the universe". I may mix up who said what lol, but the point is to not get lost in your own world but to become an interacting part of what you are creating...that is what will open your eyes to possibilities that the universe gives you, as a little added bonus.

For example, this morning I headed into a stage of binding together different elements of the same sculpture. I've designed it so that things are leaning or brushing up against a central theme piece. But as I was working, even though everything was holding together, I realized that having such small appendages that weren't fully anchored to the piece increased the likelihood that something could break in someone's hand when they were touching and looking at it. And I haven't even sculpted and attached the Jammins' character. Every other piece has been more self contained and this was never a worry. 

So I figured I needed a base for this one, so there will be one more point of contact and less possibility of a delicate piece being stressed by too much pressure from someone's hand. At first I thought of a wood base and then I thought that's stupid...I have a material I can make into a base. No lathe I could use but I could cut angles close and then sand into obedience after it's fired. 

Then I thought that I really didn't like the idea of a faux wood finish, so thought I'd go for a granite/stone effect. I had some gray clay so took part of it and some white to make a lighter gray that I could mix with the dark for a little striation. I was just going to make a solid light gray. Then I was going to partially mix the two and use a rolling pin and guides to make a thick base.

So, the quickest way to mix clay is to dot smaller pieces on a square of the base color, fold it into itself and then roll into a snake. I then folded and re-rolled into a snake again about 5 times. Then you put it through a pasta machine, and then you keep folding and re-insert until it's all blended. During this process you can see lots of striations, but they are quite bold in gray and white. A lot of jewelry artists use this technique to get patterns, but that wasn't my intent.

I wasn't paying much attention to what came out of the rollers, just quickly picking it up, refolding and putting it through again, not worried if the piece came out square or distorted, but suddenly the clay and I became one. 'LOOK AT ME!' it screamed...'you didn't plan it but I've come to be exactly what you need!' And, oh boy! was it ever! doesn't just take seeing something, it also requires having a flash of inspiration in how to use it. Now, one of the restrictions to my sculpture was that pieces couldn't stand apart from each other, they needed to be interlocked for support. I really had wished I could place the character a little further away but there really wasn't a way to do it that worked and I didn't want two seperate pieces.

So, not only did I see how a pattern and shape could work as a base, I saw how I could use the strange shape to position my pieces just how I had originally wanted!

Here's my happy accident, which reminded me of a cross section cut of quartz stone...

As you can see it's a lovely base material with an interesting shape. It's fairly thin, about a 1/4 inch thick...enough to be solid, but won't really add weight. It's in neutral tones and the pattern isn't so busy that it will detract from my sculpture. Once this is varnished it will look just like polished stone. It's also something that I can loosely re-create for future bases (a hint of rose in there would have been lovely).

So there you have it..sometimes a mis-shaped blob can be all you could have wanted if you just have the inner eye to see it with. I think all artists have the ability, it's part of what makes us artists, but just as in the rest of life, we're sometimes rushing through and don't even see what it is that we're rushing by. 

I'll show you how the sculpture comes together once it's done. :)


  1. Nice blog. I appreciate you letting us into your thought processes. The base is lush. How do you go about fixing it securely?

    Mello Chello is also an excellent name. I try to get my visitors to think creatively like you and JUST DO IT. More you just let go the more 'happy accidents' occur - you you agree?


  2. Thanks for commenting, Peter, I'm so glad you did...I love feedback but most importantly, you've a great site/blog...I subscribed to the RSS feed on the blog and put your site here on this blog, in my links to the right.

    As to the base, since it's polymer clay I plan to chemically fuse it with the figurines. I'll put a very thin layer of clay and Liquid Sculpey between the two, making sure there's a good bond and re-fire (bake).

    After that I will be putting on a coat of acrylic varnish, heavily at any joints... and since that works as a binder too, I should have a very secure mounting in the end.

    I am going to spend a lot of time at your site...what a wonderful resource! (expect an email at some point lol)

    Thanks again for commenting!


  3. Why, Thanks for your kind words, Sue. I like to give something back as I feel a lucky son-of-a-gun.

    Keep the happy accidents coming.



Please leave your comments, your opinions will help format the content of this site. Comments will be reviewed for content and then posted.